October 23, 2023

this week: a play, an exchange, a movie

a play: Jaja's African Hair Braiding

This play was so much fun, it made me wish it was a movie so I could watch it over and over again. Though without the stage experience, we wouldn't have gotten the crackling, cackling atmosphere of Jaja's salon.
A character that stuck out to me was Bea, a woman who is an interpersonal disaster: she constantly brings the other women down, claims credit for everything under the sun, and throws stones from the most fragile of glass houses. However, she, by the play's end, turns out to be the glue of social cohesion and community for this group of women. When it matters most, she steps up in a way no one else can. 
Bea had me thinking about an admin I worked with during a college summer internship, who had me walking on eggshells all summer, but was probably the main reason I got my first job: she casually mentioned my name to someone who was walking through the office one day and told them to interview me. When it really mattered, she showed up for me in a way few others have. Her summer-long taunts and jabs ended up paling in comparison to the tangible, material way she looked out for me. This play was the first time I'd seen a force of nature like this represented in all her complexity, someone who I think appears in many women's lives. 
The play was also ever-topical with its painful consideration of what makes a home, what it would mean to be forcibly ejected from your home country, why some people get to belong and others don't. Though the play was a riotous laugh throughout, I was gushing tears by the end. 

an exchange: How cruel is nature?


This exchange was related to a previously-published piece by Martha C. Nussbaum. Two letters had been written engaging with various points in Nussbaum's article, and she responds to these letters with an interesting moral framework that I've been contemplating since. She encourages people, when faced with a decision where either outcome will do harm, to start by doing the least immediate harm. With the next (or simultaneous) step being to then work toward a world that doesn't ever recreate that moral conundrum for anyone else. I had recently been thinking about our responsibility to harm reduction, but had been feeling troubled by how endless "harm reduction politics" can end up impeding any real progress. Nussbaum's framework here feels like a useful one, though the issue of harm reduction vs. radical politics seems far from settled for me.

a movie: We're all Going to the World's Fair


I had heard about this movie when it first came out, and had been meaning to see it, which I finally did today at MoMI! It was as unsettling, penetrating, and intense as had been described by others, and I found it overall a very smart, painstakingly considered movie. The way screens and cameras act as conduits between people, yet in some senses are also locked doors barring us from truly knowing one another. How the internet behaves as a mirage of human connection, of reality overall.
As the fantastic film critic Jourdain Searles says of the movie: 
We all are seen and unseen simultaneously; there is no way to reveal the entirety of our souls, not even when we stare directly into the camera wanting desperately to be understood.