Commentaries
The Art of Propaganda

UNC-Chapel Hill's performance series:

By Jay Schalin

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October 13, 2008

The Carolina Creative Campus is in its second year of bringing a theme-based series of performances to the UNC-Chapel Hill Campus. It is an initiative created last year by a grant from the Doris Duke Foundation (The grant was for one year only—the program is now funded primarily by ticket sales and university money).

This year, the theme is entitled “The Gender Project.” If last Thursday’s performance of the series is any indication (and a quick glance at the other 15 scheduled performances suggests that, with a few exceptions, this is likely), the series should be more properly be called: “Art as Radical Sexual Propaganda.”

For “To be Straight With You,” a modern dance performance by the London-based DV8 ensemble, was an unabashed attempt to manipulate the audience into empathy with the gay population, to perceive of gays primarily as a victim class. It appeared to accomplish its purpose, often in spectacular fashion, and the crowd of approximately 600 people showed their appreciation with a long, standing ovation.

The performance was a series of dance and spoken language vignettes set to music. I am most definitely not an expert on modern dance; I know almost nothing of classical dance, or folk dancing, or any other kind of dance, but, except for a few times when the performers lapsed into silliness or weirdness, to my layman’s eyes the dance portion of the show was a riveting display of body control and athleticism. The experience was a mix of pleasing visual sensations and the empathetic emotions evoked by in-your-face tales of injustice, violence and abuse against homosexuals, male and female. The point of the exercise was to lead one in entertaining fashion to the obvious conclusion, that gays are indeed victims of a cruel world—and most commonly, a cruel religious world.

To be fair, much of the criticism was pointed at the Moslem world, where homosexuality is often punishable by death, and families regard a homosexual child as beneath contempt. One of the highlights featured an Arabic dancer creatively jumping rope while giving a monologue about the rejection and violence directed at him by his own family. Yet Christianity’s generally benign disapproval was equated with the overt violence perpetrated in the name of Islam. And an amusing vignette performed by seven or eight seated dancers mocked the idea that sex is best taught by a child’s parents—the image of a father’s concern for his daughters’ chastity was made ridiculous.

Although the show’s billed itself as “shocking,” there is far more shock value in the average Gay Pride parade than in “To be Straight With You.” The dancers kept their clothes on, there was no mock sodomy, and profanity was kept to acceptable levels. There were several numbers that depicted beatings, and one brief scene about an ultra-violent rape of a lesbian. Still, the show did not cross the line into gratuitous vulgarity--this unexpected tastefulness would support the contention that the intent of the show was to seek acceptance and complicity.

Religions have always used art’s emotional powers to attract and enlighten, and the radical left has adopted the tactic—in this case, the gay rights pressure crowd. One might wish that people formed their political opinions based on linear arguments supported by facts and logic. But mankind is just as susceptible, or more so, to appeals to the heart rather than to the head. “To Be Straight With You portrays the gay population in its most sympathetic light, as victims of blind hatred. It would be a hard heart not to feel for the victims of such brutal abuse, sometimes committed by family members. With music and spectacular dancing mixed in, the vignettes do not sum up to a linear argument, but rather to a wall of sentiment. And that sentiment consists of commiseration with gays.

If the dance and musical aspects of the show were removed, however, the spoken portions describing the animosity and violence would quickly grate on the nerves. The performance would devolve into a tiresome litany of endless transgressions against gays, and about gays’ inability to show public affection—it would appear to be whining rather than logical argument or literature.

“To Be Straight With You” and the entire Gender Project raise some serious policy issues. Should a public university present a series of performances that intentionally forwards a particular controversial political agenda that condemns various religions without rebuttal? And if that is deemed acceptable, should taxpayers who may or may not object to that agenda be forced to subsidize it? After all, according to the Carolina Performing Arts Center Web site, ticket sales generally cover only 45 percent of the cost of performances. And that is not taking into consideration the time some UNC employees spend on the Gender Project and the Creative Campus.

To be even more specific, should religious residents of the state be forced to subsidize homosexual propaganda that attacks religion and mocks a father’s desire for his to daughter to wait until she has met a good man to marry before having sex? Exactly how well would UNC’s sexual radicals accept being forced to subsidize a series of religious plays epitomized by the story of a daughter who is brought to tragedy by promiscuity?

Free speech is one thing—one-sided, subsidized political entertainment intended to seduce a philosophically vulnerable population like college students is another. Shows such as “To Be Straight With You” might have artistic merit, but its performance on the UNC campus is in fact just another way in which the left-wing academic establishment tries to impose its values on its charges, on our dime.

 


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