I went to see "Elektra" via the Met HD Broadcast on Saturday, which was SPECTACULARLY amazing. Nina Stemme, Waltraud Meier, and Adrianne Pieczonka held me on the edge of my seat, wrenched in their anguish. "OH MY GOODNESS," I exclaimed after the last note went silent. I wasn't in alone, either. That has to be one of the most astounding things I've ever experienced.
Um and also this, which popped up in the 2016-17 Season preview video that showed before the opera. I also nearly came out of my seat, and texted my cielo immediately, HOLY MOTHER OF GOD.
Where is her other hand?
Fleming. Garanca. All the red.
I'm not sure my heart can take it. Thankfully (or not?) I have a year to get ready. Oh my.
I say that “Carol” is incredibly white, I don’t mean (only) that there are only
3 whole entire people of color in it (a domestic worker, and a couple walking
down the street).
mean, that this story can only exist within the realm and construct of whiteness.That is to say, it is not a
universal love story, as much as the cast and filmmakers and some reviewers
want to think it so.
I mean is, you change the race of either or both of the two women, and you
cannot tell this story.If either or
both of these women are Black, for example, you cannot tell this story.You cannot tell this story of 2 women, one of
them of massive and clearly inherited wealth (at least on her husband’s side),
going road-tripping west on a whim and falling in love.(The falling in love bit, sure, of course,
that’s not what I’m talking about).
around the 3rd time I saw “Carol,” I ran across this article about“Green Books,” guides of safe places for Black folk to eat, sleep, get gas,
etc. while traveling across the US, and to avoid unsafe places including
“sundown towns.”The “Green Books”
started in the 1930s, and were published through the 60s.You can play around with the interactive map
and discover, as I did, that in the early 50s, there were very few places to
stay on a trip from New York to Chicago to Waterloo.The article also mentions Indiana being full
of “sundown towns.”
kind of have to drive through Indiana to get to Chicago from New York, right?
and Therese don’t have to think about this.They don’t need “Green Books.”They
can just go.Carol can even carry a gun
and nobody is really going to think much about that.So even though in one way – being queer –
their freedom is impacted, in another way – being white – their freedom is
privileged.There is a freedom of movement,
and a lack of worry about their movement, that would not be the same (and still
is not) for Black folk.
is one way I see whiteness functioning in the story.I also wonder about the lack of people of
color just on the streets of New York.Surely New York was more diverse? Or is what we are seeing actually
segregation of the time?I wonder about
my own desire, and how I was taught, via these same movies I love, what kind of
woman is most desirable in the white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy
(because, let’s face it:Jessica, Grace, Renée (opera but still), Cate…).
I think about how whiteness claims universality for itself, claims that white
is the universal way to be human, the universal story – when in fact this is a
very particular story about a very particular time that could only exist
because of whiteness and wealth (which exists because of whiteness).This is not a universal love story.
also, yes, it’s not a universal story in that it’s queer.You can’t replace Carol and Therese with two
straight people and have this be the same story. Nope. I get that, too, see
that whole long section about representation.)
So as a white person,
I’m uncomfortable with claims about “Carol” being a universal love story, that
it’s “the movie we [lesbians] have all been waiting for.”I was uncomfortable with efforts to rally a
#CarolWasRobbed campaign or #OscarsSoStraight/Male because when it comes down
to it, we may not get many exquisite queer stories told and celebrated, but at
the end of the day, white people, and white stories, won their awards.“Carol” could have (and should have!) won
All.The.Things and still, white people would have won.
I love “Carol” for the queer anti-patriarchy representation it offers, all the things I wrote about in Parts 1 and 2, AND I also
hold it with an eye towards disrupting whiteness.It’s all those things.
Messy, and unresolved.
* * * * * * *
need so many kinds of stories.We SO
need stories that don’t center cis white men.“Carol” is a step that direction but not enough.We need stories that center Black life – and
not just slavery and suffering, but resistance and celebration and thriving. We
need stories that center trans life (with trans characters being played by trans people, thank you). We need stories that center poor and working class
folk, and undocumented folk, and Black and brown queers and stories that
empower us and embolden us to disrupt and dismantle the white supremacistcapitalist heteropatriarchy, which tries to fool us into thinking there is only
one, universal, white cis heteropatriarchal capitalist story – which is a lie.
want all those stories.We need all
the movie’s canon, Therese works at The New
York Times.And neither of them are
completely disconnected from what’s happening in the world – it’s just that in
the window of time we see them, their world is reduced to each other, and Carol
fighting for her daughter.But there are
hints that they are aware – the McCarthy hearings for example, news on the
radio and TV.
Therese comes home one day with news about the murder of Emmett Till.Carol thinks about her own child, and
something breaks open in her.Children should be safe. Children
should not be murdered, ever. When the Montgomery Bus Boycott begins to make
the news, they send money.Therese and
Carol talk about what is happening in the freedom movement around the south,
and how they can help.They’re appalled
at Orval Faubus, and the abuse of sit-in activists.They keep sending money.
the Freedom Rides begin in 1961, Carol and Therese talk about their own “freedom
ride” of sorts back in 1952 and decide to drive the Packard to Louisville, KY,
where they leave it with Anne Braden to get it to whoever might need it, or to
be sold, or whatever will be most helpful.
Anne Braden emboldens them. Carol picks up the furniture refurbishing business with Abby
again, and they quietly overcharge their wealthy customers and send the extra
money south.Carol sells her Madison
Avenue apartment, sending the money to Birmingham after the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.They take
risks by talking to their friends, convincing them to support freedom work with
time and money, which sometimes works, and sometimes costs them friends.
makes connections via The Times to
local efforts in New York, and they support again with money, and begin meeting
activists and white allies.They
continue trying to shift money, shift wealth into the movement – to SNCC, to
Selma, to the SCLC.They argue about
Malcolm X and the Black Panthers and the Young Lords and end up sending money
there too. They figure out ways to put their bodies on the line – Carol, her
heart rooted in the mutual interest of protecting children, gets arrested at
the 1968 Democratic Convention protesting racism and the Vietnam War, while
Therese provides jail support.
over time, they become more radicalized.Over time, they become accomplices.
Over time, they
realize that until everyone is free, they are not free.