On David Mamet’s Race

A reader sent me a quote from Harry Stein’s review at City Journal of David Mamet’s new Broadway play Race:

Late in David Mamet’s recently premiered Race, something happens that, for those accustomed to the pro forma left-liberalism of typical Broadway fare, is little short of stunning. The play deals with a black-white legal team defending a prominent white client accused of raping a powerless, young black woman. They’ve just learned that the centerpiece of their ingenious strategy to prove his innocence was leaked to the prosecution—the culprit being their stylish, newly minted female black associate, the protégé of the white, liberal attorney (James Spader). The black attorney (David Allen Grier) is irate. He’d warned his partner not to hire her, knowing from the start that she’d be trouble, that she’d put race loyalty above the firm’s interests and even the truth. How could he have known all that, wonders his chastened colleague? Grier stalks over to a file, pulls out the young woman’s college thesis, and begins reading aloud. It’s full of the inchoate, anti-white rage characteristic of such efforts—indeed, it recalls Michelle Obama’s at Princeton. You think you know this woman, Greer tells Spader; you think she likes you, but she’s an affirmative-action babe, a perpetual victim. That’s how she sees herself, and this is her revenge.

I replied:

I’m doubtful. Notwithstanding the description, I’ll bet the play turns out to be disgustingly liberal.

I saw Mamet’s last play, November, in 2008. It ended up being totally, formulaically PC, down the line, with a lesbian as its fount of wisdom and virtue. That play destroyed the notion that Mamet is some kind of non-liberal. I’ve liked a lot of his things. I saw Oleana on stage and many of his movies. But after November I would be very reluctant to spend serious money (i.e. beyond the cost of a movie ticket) to see his works. (Here is my discussion of November and of Mamet’s conversion from “brain dead liberalism”.)

I shared the above exchange with a friend who had also seen Mamet’s November. She wrote back:

Larry, you were right to be doubtful! Your correspondent didn’t print enough of Stein’s piece. Here is how he continues describing the play:

But then something even more surprising happens. Mamet takes it all back. It turns out the young black associate didn’t leak the strategy after all. In fact, she’s actually deeply principled. And oh, by the way, the white guy they’re defending isn’t innocent, as we’ve been led to believe, but an elitist scum who thought he could buy his way around justice. What?!

The question arises: If David Mamet won’t risk offending the liberal provincials who form the backbone of New York’s theater audience, would anyone?

No wonder the Times review mentioned how the play received a standing ovation. The Upper West Side liberals were pleased beyond measure!

And then Stein recommends Jonathan Reynolds as a playwright who really takes on race.

The friend continues

I guess there is a certain amount of excitement for a conservative to hear, even for a moment, an exposure of black victim mentality. But then, what’s the use, if it’s going to be turned on you in a moment!

How deep could Mamet’s conversion from brain dead liberalism be?

- end of initial entry -

Paul K. writes:

It sounds like what Mamet is doing here is bringing brain-dead liberalism to a higher level. Realizing that many liberals may be experiencing a crisis of faith as they see blacks continually reinforcing those horrid stereotypes, he presents the stereotype—affirmative-action baby puts race loyalty above professionalism—only to destroy it by revealing that—no!—she is indeed a moral paragon. The liberal stereotype that the white person must be at fault is in fact the correct one.

So the liberal audience experiences dramatic tension as they are led to fear that their beliefs will be challenged, and then relief as they are reassured that their beliefs are correct after all. A truly cathartic evening of theater in which their self-regard is reinforced.

January 2

Jerry writes:

Of course, and quite correctly, classifying Mamet’s slight of hand as “liberalism” is quite different from that of “leftism.” Mamet’s variety, unfortunately, is of the utterly brainless sort: that is, liberalism. The leftist addresses the issue as an attack on the “other,” and the need to redress the racial/colonialist balance. Mamet, however, just wants to be fair, the glassy-eyed mantra of any lock-step liberal who “can’t condemn everyone” just because of a few: fourth century Christian pacifism gone all wrong. Forget that the preponderance of racial attacks occur in one direction, although the preponderance of charges go in the opposite direction, that of universalizing the desire for sexual conquest among whites, but ignoring the real threat from ubiquitous black animosity.

In left contexts, the liberal view is that of moral equivalence that one finds most often directed against Israel (read “Jews”) rather than Palestinians/Islam, or against Crusanders/Western colonialists (read “whites” or “Christians”) rather than Muslim jihadis.

LA repilies:

I just want to underscore one point of yours, that liberals believe in mere “fairness,” but that under that non-threatening rubric they consciously or unconsciously help advance leftist revolutionary power.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 01, 2010 01:20 PM | Send

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