By BRYAN GRAY
The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis County Clipper.
While the rest of Americans were raising their eyebrows and dropping their jaws viewing Miley Cyrus sexually “twerking” on last week’s prime time MTV awards, a Utah woman was seeing lewdness in an unlikely place: the plays of William Shakespeare.
Yes, we’re talking about the Bard himself, the master of soul-burning perdition. In this woman’s view, I suppose Cedar City should market itself as the City of Heathens for hosting its annual Shakespearean Festival.
The complaint came from a Davis County woman who took her children to a performance of the Shakespeare comedy “As You Like It” in the Davis Arts Council’s Shakespeare In the Park series. She wrote the co-sponsoring Davis County Commission that public money should not be provided for drama inappropriate for children and that shunned community values.
Oh, I guess Shakespeare could be considered somewhat naughty in a PG-rated fashion. His “Merry Wives of Windsor” weren’t known for their piety, and the double suicide in “Romeo and Juliet” is not a great role model in a state ranked among the highest for teen suicide.
Then again, some of Utah’s plays depict the dark or bawdy side of life. The masters of the house in “Les Miserables” aren’t running a Marriot; the phantom in “Phantom of the Opera” isn’t luring the young lady to his lair simply to hear her singing’ and in “Oklahoma” the sly “I’m just a girl who can’t say no” is not referring to turning down drugs.
The Utah woman protesting “As You Like It” thought Shakespeare and the local director stepped over the line in at least three ways. In one scene, two men kissed in a comic diversion. (Of course, in Elizabethan times only men acted in plays, so cross-dressing was expected.) In a fight scene, one male actor agonized after being kicked in the groin. (Similar rough-housing can be seen in family-friendly movies from Disney to the Chipmunks.) The woman also referred to an objectionable scene in which a man slaps a lady on her behind.
Let me give the woman her due. A slap on the butt, a kick in a sensitive place, a non-homoerotic kiss may have surprised. Maybe she doesn’t allow her children to watch television – or certainly anything other than “Little House on the Prairie” reruns. If that’s the case, she could have used Shakespeare’s play as a learning tool.
She could have told her children, “See how that woman acted when the man slapped her bottom? That is why we don’t do that. And we don’t kick either; you saw how hurt that man was.”
That’s what she should have said. Instead, she decided to inflict her own standard of behavior on the other 1,500 people who saw the same play and found it entertaining.
Trying to define community standards is a messy business. We all see and hear things that make us wince. (Just walk through any high school hallway!)
I personally find Glenn Beck’s anti-American conspiracy tirades objectionable, but I’d never try to stop him from appearing in a tax-subsidized arena or stadium.
The lady has a perfect right to voice her complaints. Unfortunately, it only takes one or two people to paint an entire state as home to puritanical and peculiar hillbillies.