A New Play’s Timely Commentary on American Values
– DIG DEEPER via The Opportunity Agenda’s Alan Jenkins
“the idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.” – Maya Angelou
Art’s great power is to transform what’s possible by making us see and feel the world in new ways.
That power is why I was so pleased to hear that our friends at Act 4 Entertainment are producing a stage version of “American Psycho,” the 1991 Bret Easton Ellis novel and cult film from 2000 (starring a then-unknown Christian Bale). American Psycho is a scorching send-up of the 1980s Wall Street excess that brought us the Savings and Loan scandal, insider trading, and—heaven help us—suits with shoulder pads. The plot revolves around Patrick Bateman, a materialistic New York investment banker with a secret life as a serial killer.
Oh, and the play’s a musical. Awesome.
The timing is perfect for the play, which will open later this year. Our economy is still recovering from the most recent round of Wall Street excess and abuse. And, more importantly, our nation is again locked in a moral debate that’s at the core of American Psycho.
Today’s political arguments over the budget, immigration, financial regulation, marriage equality, and the role of government are, ultimately, debates over the values that should drive our policies and politics.
- Are we all in it together, or is each of us on our own?
- Must we work to keep the ladder of opportunity sturdy for everyone, or are unequal outcomes, by their nature, moral outcomes?
- Are we all created equal, or are some more equal than others?
American Psycho isn’t neutral on these questions. The banker-as-serial-killer theme is pure satire, of course. But at the heart of the story is a generational search for what matters, and for what we owe each other as members of a common society.
The Opportunity Agenda is also grounded in those questions. Our vision is of a nation rooted in opportunity, the profoundly American idea that everyone deserves a fair chance to achieve his or her full potential. Achieving that ideal is not just about national conditions, but also about national values: equal treatment, economic security and mobility, a voice in decisions that affect us, a chance to start over after missteps or misfortune, and a shared sense of responsibility for each other.
Reinvigorating our nation’s policies, politics, and decision making with these values is an ambitious enterprise. But it’s within our grasp. And the power of art and culture is crucial to achieving it. American Psycho comes at just the right time to move us toward that goal.
DIG DEEPER via Alan Jenkins (The Opportunity Agenda) [original post here], Image Compilation & Re-Post Edit by Adam Paul Smith
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