Conscience of the King; Fortune Favor the Fool


It’s that time of year again. All the theater geeks and artsy fartsy types are getting all excited and twittering in the corner to each other. That’s right everyone it’s award season again. That time of year when the entertainment industry takes a look back at the last year and gives themselves a great big pat on the back for a job well done. We’ve had the Emmy awards for television way back in September and just finished up what is often considered to be the precursor to the final act. That’s right the Golden Globes which is often said to foreshadow who will win at the most important night of the year (at least according to its own historic advertising) the Oscars.

Although I come from a theater background, having worked in various professional capacities in Chicago’s non-profit, off-Loop theater scene for some 15 years, I am a bit of an outlier when it comes to award season. Personally, I couldn’t care less. I appreciate and understand the need and desire to be recognized for doing a good job and having other appreciate the accomplishments for which I, or others, have worked so hard. I just don’t think we have to spend three to five hours waiting and talking about it. Quite frankly I hate award ceremonies. Even when they are for me. I would much rather get a small ceremony that takes two or three minutes so everyone can get back to what they were doing. Like I said, this does make me an outlier among my arty friends. Although in my defense and to show how well rounded I am; I also don’t care about the World Series, Stanley Cup, World Cup or any of the other sporting events either.

It is also that other time of the year. The time of the year when the number of angry rants from my more conservative friends – yes I actually do have a number of more conservative friends – increases exponentially. For some reason, the award season raises the amount of vitriol contained insides conservatives to a dangerous level. The only relief they seem to be able to get is to spread as much of it as they can onto social media. The completely unsurprising target of all this hate is, of course, the aforementioned members of the theater and film world celebrating their own successes.

These two seasons should coinciding as they do is, of course, not a coincident. The ire of the conservative is usually spawned to something progressive or liberal the artist says, either as part of their acceptance speech or perhaps as a throw-away line on the red carpet. It might be something about healthcare, or gun control, or just their personal thoughts on a ranking political party member. Whatever they say the conservative can’t stand it. It is always the conservative reacting to the liberal as well. I never see one of my liberal friends going off when a conservative performer raises their opinion on these issues. At least no where near with the same intensity or passion. The conservative decides to let the no-nothing, liberal fool have a piece of their mind and tell them to shut up.

This is where I start to have issues.

I don’t know how this cycle started. If it was a conservative reacting to an innocent opinion of a celebrity or if a celebrity intentionally went out trolling for a gullible conservative (although I have a feeling it was the former). I find no issue with either of them expressing their opinion; either of the comments of the other person or the other person themselves. I have no issue with anyone ligitamitally exercising their freedom of speech. Even if that freedom is exercised to say, “I completely disagree with your position” or even “I think you’re a moron.” The issue I have is two fold.

The first is when one person uses their freedom of speech to say the others person’s freedom is not as important. Do they even see the irony in that? Disagreeing with someone’s position and expressing why you think they and their position is incorrect is one thing. It is how discussions start and how compromise can be made. To tell them that they have no right to comment on the issue is another. It is attempting to infringe on their First Amendment rights and simply un-American. Call them an idiot all you like. Say their position and ideas are dumb. That’s not very helpful but that is your right as much as them expressing their opinion is theirs.

The second issue I have is them not understanding one of the primary purposes of the artist and in particular of the “Fool” they are trying to silence. The character of the “Fool” has a long and distinguished history. It goes back at least as far as the Greeks and Romans but perhaps is been best expressed in Commedia dell’Arte and Shakespeare. The character of Harlequin or Pulcinella in the former and the various characters that play the “Fool” or Jester in Shakespearean drama have an important role to play precisely because they have something to say. It is the “Fool” that is able to jibe and jest and joke and make fun of those in power. It is this commentary that points out their flaws and their mistakes. It is what keeps the ruler humble and in line.

This position was not just one invented in literature but was an actual job people had. Yes, they entertained with comedy and jokes; with acrobatics and juggling, but they played an important social function as well. They were the ones to point out the leaders hubris. Even Patton liked to tell the story of Caesar coming in to Rome as part of his triumph. Standing beside him was a slave that whispered into his ear that all glory was fleeting. This is a reminder to the powerful to be humble. That slave is the “Fool” and the artist of today represent a direct line to that position. Because of this position we allow them to come into our lives and as partial payment for the lives they can lead, one of their jobs is to poke fun at the powerful. So when someone gets the urge to go online and say celebrities are just jesters, they should just shut up and entertain us, those making those demands should remember part of an artist’s job is to remind us all that all glory is fleeting.

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