Daisy Eagan on Ben Brantley's OF MICE AND MEN Review

ray-andallthatjazz86
Broadway Legend
joined:8/2/05
I assumed Brantley was being facetious in his review, but I think Eagan provides an intelligent, well argued perspective:


Eagan on Brantley
"Some people can thrive and bloom living life in a living room, that's perfect for some people of one hundred and five. But I at least gotta try, when I think of all the sights that I gotta see, all the places I gotta play, all the things that I gotta be at"
givesmevoice
Broadway Legend
joined:12/2/07
What an articulate, spot-on response to Brantley's review. I'm sure Brantley meant his comment facetiously, but you really can't be facetious about rape and sexual assault when every word in Eagan's response is true for far too many women.
When I see the phrase "the ____ estate", I imagine a vast mansion in the country full of monocled men and high-collared women receiving letters about productions across the country and doing spit-takes at whatever they contain. -Kad
ray-andallthatjazz86
Broadway Legend
joined:8/2/05
Well said as usual, givesmevoice. I completely agree with you.
"Some people can thrive and bloom living life in a living room, that's perfect for some people of one hundred and five. But I at least gotta try, when I think of all the sights that I gotta see, all the places I gotta play, all the things that I gotta be at"
KathyNYC2
Broadway Star
joined:12/2/10
Rape is never a joke...and Ben Brantley should know better. Good for Daisy.
CarlosAlberto
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/10
Ben Brantley is what James De Franco called him...and then some. There is no excuse for making light of something as serious as rape. It's disrespectful to women. He really should apologize.
Mr Roxy
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
Egan 1
Ben B 0

Old Benny is getting loose with his mouth. Why hasn't there been more of an uproar?

Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth - Lillian Hellman.
Updated On: 4/22/14 at 04:58 PM
bjh2114
Broadway Legend
joined:4/19/06
I feel like I've been a Brantley backer all this week on BWW, which is weird because I never particularly cared about him before one way or the other. But I have to say that, while what Ms. Eagan says is true, I don't see how it's relevant here. I just went back and reread Brantley's review, and nowhere does he mention explicitly or imply less clearly anything with regards to rape. It says that Curley's wife is "said to be slatternly." He also says Meester doesn't come off that way. He then says "We don’t want to be left thinking, “Well, she was asking for it.” in regards to her death, again... no rape here. To me, it's clear that the statement had to do with bad karma. He is saying maybe she wasn't playing the role as described by the other characters so that the audience is more sympathetic to her death rather than flaunting herself so much (as the character is written) that the audience feels that hubris simply caught up to her.

Updated On: 4/22/14 at 05:29 PM
Sauja
Broadway Star
joined:1/7/07
I agree bjh. There's been a lot of Brantley piling on this week, but this seems the least rooted in what he actually says. He notes that Meester plays the character against what the script says of her. She is remarked upon to be slatternly and provocative. She doesn't play that. He then wonders if that choice is in response to the potential for audiences to read it as her "asking for it." He is, in fact, specifically indicating the director's choice to abolish that potential reading. Acknowledging that there are people who think that way and that the director is working against letting them is a far, far cry from suggesting that he himself thinks (or would think) that the character ever was or COULD be "asking for it."
I started a blog! Cause I'm a nerd. http://100showsayear.blogspot.com/
bjh2114
Broadway Legend
joined:4/19/06
Thank you for articulating that far more clearly than I did. Typing on my phone while on the train does not always work in my favor. :-P
perfectlymarvelous
Broadway Legend
joined:5/21/07
Count me among those who think Eagan is making a great point. It's a pretty spot-on takedown of Brantley's comment. Even if he's evaluating the directorial choice, he's still playing into age-old stereotypes of women by indicating that if Meester's portrayal had been more "provocative" that a possible takeaway would have been that she would be "asking for it" (it in this case being her death). Also, if this indeed was a conscious choice on the part of the director, it's important to raise the issue of why she felt that was a choice she needed to make in order to get the audience to feel sympathy for Meester's character.
bjh2114
Broadway Legend
joined:4/19/06
Again though, the "asking for it" is karmically/dramatically, not a question of what is morally correct. Has nobody around these parts read any Greek mythology of any kind? It's standard dramatic fare. If you value yourself over everything else around you, that heightened conceit qualifies as hubris. Hubristic characters always suffer some kind of defeat that is meant to be taken as a warning. Nothing he says in the review is new information. At all.

Updated On: 4/22/14 at 06:23 PM
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Oy... This reminds me of a class a few years ago (Lit) where we were discussing Streetcar Named Desire and I made the HUGE error of saying that I did think Blanche in some ways was trying to provoke Stanley (in many scenes before the rape.) Before I could say anything more (like that I definitely did not think she was "asking for it," "deserved it," that Stanley couldn't help himself, etc,) I basically was shut out from saying anything more by the evil glares and shocked replies from most of the rest of the seminar.

Far be it for me to stick up for Brantley, but I do think his comment in this case was well within the boundaries of, frankly, what a critic or audience member (or director, actor, writer...) could feel free to comment on. I was in a production of Of Mice and Men in high school and know the book--although that was over 15 years since I've been exposed to either-- It's a charged question and it deserves to be discussed, but in this case I think the criticism of Brantley is unfair. (I also think it makes the play seem more simplistic than it is if such attitudes are not addressed and Curly's wife is played as a complete naive about letting Lennie touch her hair, but I have not seen this production.)
devonian.t
Broadway Legend
joined:7/26/04
Returning to the original text, Steinbeck does not describe Curley's wife as "slatternly". She is described as a "tart" by Candy and "jail-bait" by George. But that is their perspective on women, either in general or of "her sort". Neither have any evidence of her moral laxity- their view of women is just as much the target of Steinbeck's critique of intolerance as the Boss' casual racism or Curley's bullying of Lennie.

For Brantley to assume that the character traditionally/ conventionally should be "slatternly" is to make the same mistake as George, Candy or the other men: it is to assume that in some way, she must have been asking for trouble, though in this production, he feels she is less deserving of her fate than usual.

It betrays the old feeling that there are some women who really are asking for it.
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
This is an interesting conversation. Curley's wife in the piece is never given a name and even Steinbeck said she wasn't a person, just a symbol and a plot device. This obviously creates a problem when taken off the page and put on the stage. I imagine Brantley is working from Steinbeck's thinking while Eagen has personified the character.

I think it's a lot like Caroline or Change. Do we humanize the washing machine, the dryer, the radio?
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
The wife certainly isn't asking to be murdered (or raped, or in this case I guess more accurately accidentally killed.) It is, though a valid point that usually she is characterized as somewhat sexually aggressive. I think there could be an interesting directorial/actor decision behind purposefully making her not seem to--simply because it brings up things like what Brantley said, but the way I read his comment was he wondered IF this was the reason for the difference in performance than what we are used to--not that he actually thinks if she had been performed different she would have been culpable in her fate, which I think is a valid question to raise.
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Then again, I never seem able to grasp what Brantley says in his reviews, so...
rjm516
Broadway Star
joined:6/24/09
Wow! What an incredible piece to share publicly. I am just...without the ability to express how amazing she is.

And for all of you doubting whether Brantley did anything wrong: The point is that he used the commonly accepted excuse/blame/explanation of 'she was asking for it', which most people use to explain away rape culture. The thing Daisy is calling attention to is that WOMEN ARE NEVER ASKING FOR IT. Even if they dress like a slut and flirt and get drunk, THEY ARE STILL NOT ASKING FOR IT. It takes picking on something that might seem as innocuous as this review to reach certain people with the message that even this wondering of whether 'she was asking for it' is an unacceptable part of rape culture.
Borstalboy
Broadway Legend
joined:2/9/04
I'm sorry, when exactly does rape happen in OF MICE AND MEN?


In between this and Salon.com's unending outrage party over the recent GAME OF THRONES episode, I'm just a little raped out.
"It's now rather very common to hear people say 'I'm rather offended by that'. As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more than a whine. It has no meaning, no purpose. It has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that'. Well, so f**king what?"--Stephen Fry
bjh2114
Broadway Legend
joined:4/19/06
Returning to the original text, Steinbeck does not describe Curley's wife as "slatternly".

First of all, "slattern" is an exact synonym of "slut" or "tart". God forbid the man use one ounce of sophisticated language in his reviews.

For Brantley to assume that the character traditionally/ conventionally should be "slatternly" is to make the same mistake as George, Candy or the other men.

Secondly, AGAIN, Brantley is NOT calling her slatternly himself. The direct quote is she "is said to be slatternly." He's saying the other characters think she is a slut. This is not factually incorrect. Why is this so hard to understand?

Updated On: 4/22/14 at 06:57 PM
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Exactly, and that's where Eagan's well written and, IMHO, in a different context important point loses me. I am loathe to use the term rape culture, but I get where it comes from. But isn't it then valid to look at whether this play (or any piece of art) is commenting on that at all, if a certain production itself is trying to emphasize or diminish that being a concern of the play, etc? I think it's a dangerous leap to make that any comment about it is used in a play, or any question about it suddenly ads to the rape culture in society. If anything, and I suspect this IS giving Brantley too much credit, I think it should be encouraged to be raised (maybe he could have made whatever point he was making more clear and elaborated on it, but, like I said, that's more than I expect from his reviews.)
ray-andallthatjazz86
Broadway Legend
joined:8/2/05
Eric, I think that's the problem though, that Brantley's writing allows for a certain type of reading that makes people uncomfortable. I understand your point, and like I said in my original post, I was not completely sure about Egan's point, but I do think it's a discussion worth having. If he's going to make a comment like that, I think he should have clarified it or not said it at all.
And bjh, your take on Brantley alluding to classic Greek conventions is valid, but I don't think it's the absolute only way in which he could have meant it.
"Some people can thrive and bloom living life in a living room, that's perfect for some people of one hundred and five. But I at least gotta try, when I think of all the sights that I gotta see, all the places I gotta play, all the things that I gotta be at"
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Then we're in agreement I definitely think Egan's point and reaction is important, but yeah ultimately this probably can be blamed mostly on Brantley's talent for tossing out comments and ideas that can be read a variety of ways without clarification.
The Distinctive Baritone
Broadway Legend
joined:8/28/04
I agree with Eagan's views...except I think she misunderstood Brantley. He was not suggesting that Curley's Wife was or even could "be asking for it." Her blog post strikes me as a knee-jerk reaction that was more passionate than logical. Just my opinion.
Theater'sBestFriend
Featured Actor
joined:3/5/13
Why would Brantley say "we" in the following sentence:

"We don’t want to be left thinking, 'Well, she was asking for it'"? That pretty clearly seems to imply that members of the audience -- himself included -- would think "she was asking for it." If instead he were to have said:

"The characters in the play would be left thinking 'Well, she was asking for it,'" then he would have been commenting more clearly on the world of the play, acknowledging that women are vulnerable to being blamed as victims, and saying the play represents that sad reality.

At best, this would seem to represent a carelessness on Brantley's part. He fails to analyze the structure of the action in the play and distinguish it from his subjective response. It's sloppy and self-referential. And he judges other people's writing for a living?

Updated On: 4/22/14 at 08:10 PM
givesmevoice
Broadway Legend
joined:12/2/07
I still agree with what Eagan says, but I think it's worth saying that I would much rather read a well-written and intelligent critique of Brantley's reviews than an outburst that sounds more like it came from a petulant child than 36 year old. (I would guess most people feel the same.)
When I see the phrase "the ____ estate", I imagine a vast mansion in the country full of monocled men and high-collared women receiving letters about productions across the country and doing spit-takes at whatever they contain. -Kad
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
This does not excuse it, but Brantley tends to use "we" in his reviews all the time, so I do chalk it up as to a lazy habit on his part.

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