21 April, 2007


I hardly know where to start.

In the wake of Monday’s massacre at Virginia Tech in which a student killed 32
people, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg has limited the use of stage weapons in theatrical productions.

According to students involved in the production, Trachtenberg has banned the use of some stage weapons in all of the University’s theatrical productions. While shows will be permitted to use obviously fake plastic weapons, students said, those that hoped to stage more realistic scenes of stage violence have had to make changes to their props.

This is beyond stupid and ignorant. Replacing swords and guns and other weapons with obvious fakes in a theatrical setting will do nothing to reduce violence, sensitize people to the reality of violence in our world, or increase public safety. A student puts it well:
“Calling for an end to violence onstage does not solve the world’s suffering: It merely sweeps it the rug, turning theater — in the words of this very play — into ‘creamy bon-bons’ under instead of ‘solid fare’ for a thinking, feeling audience,” she said...

What in the world could the dean have possibly been thinking?! And despite the quote above, it's not violence that has been banned from the plays; as one student points out, things like hanging are still allowed. Rather, it's specific instruments of violence that have been banned.

Plays (whether fantasy or reality-based) are almost always about being human. Whether it's a light romp like a musical or a deep exploration of human failings like Macbeth, theatre is a reflection of who we are. To ban realistic depictions of weaponry from a production is to deny their reality in life, and to ignore the awful ends to which they are all-to-often put.

I struggle to explain myself here because this Dean's stupidity is almost beyond words. She's an embarrassment to every true intellectual, regardless of politics. There is just no logic here.

I keep trying to "get inside" her head to understand what was going on in her mind when she made this decision. Her concern can't be the depiction of violence because she banned certain weapons, not violent acts. The only thing that makes any sense in it all is that she is genuinely afraid of the weapons themselves. I'll admit a certain amount of rational fear around weapons, for I know what can happen in the wrong hands. But one has to wonder what she thinks of police, personal security guards, and soldiers, etc., who carry such weapons.

Scratch that last bit. I think I know...

Update: Powerline says, "That has to be some kind of a new low in the avoidance of reality." Mark Steyn also has some thoughts about it, entitled "Let's be Realistic About Reality."

Update II: Over at the Castle, John (who was early on this story) thinks it's the "because something must be done" syndrome [scroll down].