Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson (revisited)

In my review of Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, I wrote, "However, the whole of Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson is somewhat less than the sum of its parts, mostly because director and book writer Alex Timbers, while extremely creative, sometimes seems more interested in clever theatrics and cheap (albeit funny!) jokes than in the painful history he is exploring." The more I thought about the show, the more I thought that its politics were offensive. But I wasn't sure, so when a friend wanted to see the show, I joined him for a second viewing. (Warning: I discuss the ending of this show and of Cabaret below.)

Andrew Jackson was responsible for the mistreatment, forced relocation, and deaths of thousands of Native Americans. The show mentions that some people view him as an "American Hitler," and one of its last images is a poignant silent tableau of displaced Native Americans. But then the handsome, energetic Benjamin Walker comes bounding out to sing yet another song as Andrew Jackson, rock star. At the curtain call, one of the white performers is killed by a Native American, and she never gets up to take her bow--the final image of the show is the dead white girl. In other words, the Native Americans are ultimately presented as murderers and honoring them is nothing more than lip service.

Compare this to the end of Cabaret, with its tableau of the victims of ethnic cleansing: prisoners in a concentration camp. And that's the actual end, that lingering image of evil. To have had the Emcee prance out to sing one more "look at me, aren't I funny" song would have been perceived as--and would have been--in bad taste. To have one of the Nazis come out to sing a cheerful, "aren't I lovable" song at that moment would have been unimaginable. Yet what Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson does is the equivalent.

A defense I have heard of Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson is that the hero-ization of Jackson is supposed to be ironic. Okay, I kinda buy that. But (1) the Native Americans still should have had the last word/image, and (2) there was nothing ironic about the dead white girl at the end.

1 comment:

Timothy Childs said...

Okay, so let’s cast a good-looking young guy as Andrew Jackson, have him say “fuck” a lot, and lampoon American politics by showing how they were just as bad back then as they are now; the critics are bound to love it! And did they ever! And did I not! I felt it was sophomoric.