POST: Straight White Men. What to do with privilege?

Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Photo by Julieta Cervantes

I took my friend who had never been to theater to this play. He always assumed that theater was a very pretentious thing. I told him he was stupid.And that I would prove him wrong.

That is how I ended up deciding to take this, let me reiterate, stupid person to see Straight White Men. I emphasize his stupidity because he ended up arriving about 25 minutes late. He was seated late during a scene change and somehow ended up closer to the front than I was. Is it obvious that I’m a bit resentful?

After the show I met up with him and was giving him the dirtiest look I could muster. He was walking up to me with a sort of… astonished look on his face.

“That was actually really good,”

He repeated that a few times. He completely forgot that he was late or that I would be upset. And then I thought… that’s exactly what a good show does. It makes you forget about your problems for a bit. It takes you away from them.

As we were walking out I asked what he thought of it. I found that we had very different ideas.

* * * * *

The play was about two brothers who try to explain what’s wrong with the third. Throughout the play Jake and Drew are adamant in what they believe is wrong with Matt.

Jake believes Matt does not want to participate in the privileged world of straight white men because even if he tries to make it better, straight white men can only make it worse. That being a straight white male directly corresponded to being an asshole, even if you weren’t.

Drew believes that Matt is unhappy and needs therapy. That he needs to want to be happy. That everyone needs to work toward being happy.

Their father had his own ideas as well. He thought Matt was unhappy because of his financial situations and thought the best way to help would be to pay off the loans.

* * * * *

My Idea

So I knew it was written by Young Jean Lee. Someone who is Asian and female. For someone like that to break into the playwriting community and be acclaimed is a big deal because it’s mostly a community of straight white men.

So I thought the play was about showing people how straight white men always think they’re right and they’re way is the only way, even when their opponent is a straight white male as well.

The whole time I heard this I was really annoyed. These people just kept putting their idea’s onto Matt and were always absolutely sure they were right. None of them would back down until the end. And when Matt tried to explain they were wrong, they would get angry. Jake even turned to physical violence.

To me this showed how most people in the straight white male community have this need to be the alpha. To always be right, to always be on top. The privilege is to never be questioned.

My Friend’s Idea

He, on the other hand, believed that it was about accepting privilege. As some people are born into racial discrimination, Matt was born into privilege and he needed to accept it whether he liked it or not.

* * * * *

I was surprised, to say the least, when I heard that. I was so sure it was what I had thought when I walked out of the theater, but his idea was just as (maybe if not more) plausible.

One thing we both agreed on was how the play was great with going from funny and light hearted to something really deep. It fluctuated really well. The transitions from joking around to fighting seemed real.

Maybe it was because it reminded me of my own family. Everything is fine and dandy one moment and within the next we’re all yelling at the top of our lungs and we’re not exactly sure how we got there. It also made me like my family a bit more and make me feel like our fighting might just be normal.

$20 General Rush

Straight White Men @ the Public Theater, thru Dec. 14