Houssaynatou @ 'Entangled' - I have white guilt

What’s it about?

Tragedy brings two people on opposite sides together, and shines a light on what’s currently going on in America.

My experience.

There are two different theatres in the building where A.R.T./New York Theatres is located. This made finding the box office—which was just a person behind a podium on the third floor—a little confusing. While waiting, I noticed posters plastered on the doors with trigger warnings: gun violence, trauma and suicide. I didn't find these warnings odd—I'm used to them, but I did notice them. I was actually wondering if they were accidentally giving away the ending when it said “trigger warning for suicide,” but it ended up only being a death briefly mentioned halfway through the play.

As we took our seats, melancholic music played. In the theatre, there was a curved screen with stars that stretched over two walls. I was nervous when a noisy group of teenagers walked in and sat directly behind me. The person to my right glanced at me as the teens loudly complained about people they hated and “popping that pussy.” They were so inappropriate, I found it hard not to say anything. Some audience members moved to the other side of the theatre. I was certain they were going to talk during the performance and potentially ruin the experience. Luckily, they were so invested in the show that I didn’t hear another word from that group even when they exited the theatre. Maybe the show had an effect on them much like every other person in that theatre.

The show opened with heavy monologues by two cast members portraying a black mother who lost a child in a mass shooting, and the white brother of the man responsible for the violence. Tension built as the two cast members indirectly interacted with each other. The commentary on toxic masculinity and the racial dynamics of gun violence depicted in the media was spot-on and left the audience members uncomfortably shifting in their seats. For example, stereotypical toxic masculinity was described by the shooter's brother while talking about his homophobic dad. He’d tell his sons to "man up" when they cried or when they wanted to talk about their feelings, and say that "real men go hunting” and misogynistic things like "real men fuck women." Toxic masculinity is one of the main causes of gun violence, and that was the root cause of the mass shooting in the play. Racial bias in the media was portrayed not only by focusing on the white male shooter, giving him more sympathetic coverage than the victims, but also by the mom character going on CNN in the play. The reporter asked her questions about her lifestyle and choices in an accusatory way, and the mom said something like, "I bet you didn't ask the shooter's family these questions" or "You wouldn't be asking me these questions if I weren't black." Then, after the interview, the mom was labelled as just another angry black woman instead of the sympathetic victim that she was...

Note: The next portion of this post was written by Andrea, a colleague of mine. As a vocal advocate and future lawyer, she strives to fight for what is right.

Andrea’s personal note: It was at this very moment that I was reminded of the coverage Brock Turner got when they asked his victim what she was wearing, as it if was her fault he raped her. They covered his story like, "Oh look how he had his entire life ahead of him, he could've been an Olympic swimmer. What a shame, he was such a good kid.” Gender and racial bias in media makes my blood boil. I found myself empathetically sinking in my chair as the characters expressed their trauma and grief as two strangers who were forever connected by the tragedy of a mass shooting. This was not solely because they were literally crying—one at losing her little daughter and another at losing his brother while still trying to grapple with how he could have done such a thing. I was also upset by the racial/media bias. Specifically, I feel like there's nothing I can do to help and I have white guilt. I can’t imagine what it feels like to lose a child or a brother, but the poignant way the characters described their day-to-day struggle, constantly writing unsent emails and messages to each other, it made me feel like I was right there with them in experiencing what they did.

The play ended with the only direct interaction the two characters had. Audience members gasped as they stared at each other, a metaphor for being seen in a world that left them forgotten. It was palpable, and every single person in the audience seemed impacted by this play. I left with a heavy heart and several remaining questions: How can our society overcome toxic masculinity? And how can we overcome racial bias in media? Ultimately, I asked the very question that I am sure is on every feminist’s mind: Can we as a society overcome this?


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