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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

BROKEN RELATIONSHIP

You don’t have to read “Outrageous Fortune” to know that the relationship is broken between America’s theaters and America’s playwrights, if you're a playwright. But to understand how this situation came to be we have to step outside of the theater swirl. The fact is, America’s relationship with writers is broken. And, as a result, America's relationship with ideas is broken.

Two factors brought this about. I’m not going to offer judgment on the situation so much as point out what seems obvious to me. The offensive against writers was conducted on two fronts. The first was Hollywood, where the denigration of writers is a given in the movie world. Writers are hacks who have their pathetic efforts saved by The Director and The Actor.

The second place the offensive against writers took place was on university campuses. There the idea the Dead White Male Writers are the problem with our culture was promulgated by the MLA and others. In an effort to expand the horizon of students to include voices not from the perceived ruling elite, it became accepted wisdom that writers who had been held up for years as exemplary practitioners of the craft of writing were politically incorrect and irrelevant in a just world.

These ideas spread beyond the rarefied confines of Hollywood studios and the universities to the “culture” at large. Writers are obsolete. Everyone who owns a computer and starts a blog is a writer. Citizen journalists are better than those of the MSM. Writers are a bunch of losers who want to get paid. How dare they? Anybody can write.

The result of this concerted effort to knock writers off of any and all pedestals is that original ideas are no longer important. A car chase will keep you entertained and engrossed much more than a discussion between Wally Shawn and Andre Gregory, and there are serious dollar numbers to back that up. And, dollars, since the Reagan years, are all that count in American society.

How do we make writers important again? Make ideas important again.

That is a lot easier said than done.

-- Uke Jackson

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