A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about the character I am playing for my thesis and how the qualities of her are forcing me to address qualities in myself. Today I want to talk about one of those qualities.
Image of an Unknown Young Woman deals with acts of violence being recorded and how the contemporary world responds to them through social media. When Elinor Cook was writing the play, she was particularly inspired by the shooting of Neda in the Iran protests in 2009, the blue bra girl in Egypt in 2011, and the woman in the red dress in Turkey in 2013. It is also worth saying that here in the states, there is no lack of recorded violence and killings that have been posted, shared and linked all over our web.
I never watched. Any of it.
It may have started as just a quick browsing through my various feeds, but when violence became more and more predominant, not looking became a choice. One that I am no longer okay with.
In the first scene of Image, three chorus members are made to represent the flurry of internet activity after such an event has been posted. They go through the many different responses: shame for not watching, refusal to watch based on principle, and constant demand to share it. I admit there have been times where I have refused to watch because of being told I had to. Silly, but seems to be a natural response.
Mostly I didn’t watch because I was afraid. I couldn’t handle it. I have a high sense of empathy that I’ve more or less figured out how to manage, and it’s hard enough in my personal life. Adding scenes of graphic violence to my psyche didn’t seem like it would help.
I also didn’t feel like I would actually be doing anything to support whatever people were calling to rally against just by watching something shocking and painful. How was hurting myself going to help?
In Image, Candace doesn’t do well with violence either. As far as I know she hasn’t experienced it firsthand and like me is someone to look away. It makes her uncomfortable. It throws her off balance. It disrupts her world. Which returns me to facing these truths in myself.
The reasons I gave other people and myself for not wanting to look are all shallow. Sometimes yes, I do have to protect myself and what I watch for my own mental health. But there are many times where I use that as an excuse. Much like when I refused to address and start conversations with my right-winged home. I’m not capable. I’m not articulate. I’m not the right one for the job.
All excuses. I didn’t want to because I was petrified of it.
And in a world where the phrase, President-Elect Donald Trump, exists…
That’s not good enough.
It is my job as an artist to turn towards, when everyone else turns away. How can I affect and change the world for good if I act in ignorance? The simple fact is that I cannot act to the best of my ability if I am not facing the world head-on.
As far as not watching to respect the intimacy of dying, there is a certain claim and validity to that. But in times where hate crimes and fear are on the rise, I no longer believe that we, and especially I, can turn away. We have to look.We have to face the reality of what human beings are capable of. Only when we do, can we fight against it.