Monday, April 20, 2015

The Militarized Woman: 'Grounded' with Anne Hathaway @PublicTheaterNY

Photo source:
It's an old story: a naïve young soldier runs with open arms toward his generations's war shouting "America, fuck yeah!" There, he encounters the death and destruction of innocents. His own role in inflicting suffering becomes too heavy a burden to bear. He begins to question his former patriotic fervor. He breaks down, and a traumatized veteran struggling to survive replaces the fresh-faced boy.

After her son returned from Vietnam a farm woman in my neck of the woods told a neighbor, "I sent the Army a good boy, and they sent me a home a killer."

But what if instead she had sent the Army a good girl?

In 'Grounded' by George Brant, currently in previews at the New York Public Theater, Anne Hathaway plays an Air Force fighter pilot with all the macho posturing, beer drinking and swearing of a stereotypical warrior. She's the 21st century militarized woman, cannon fodder who no longer needs superior physical force to kill with the best of them. In the mechanized wars, a pretty face will do to push the buttons that rain down Hellfire missiles on "the guilty," over there.

Hathaway's unnamed character rejects traditional feminine wisdom as she makes it in a man's world. Men she meets on leave don't know what to do with her alpha maleness; since she's in the guy role, they don't know where that leaves them. Until Eric, who's turned on by her prowess in the sky and wants to rip her flight suit off to have robust sex with her. By this means the pilot is grounded by a fundamental truth about females: we get pregnant. In the militarized world, the power to create a receptacle for new life is a weakness, not a strength.

Ultimately the pilot's "punishment" for becoming someone's mother is consignment to the contemptible ranks of "the chair force." Now she will operate a drone, a flying killer robot called Reaper, over the sands of an unspecified foreign land. With a team of surveillance operators and interpreters she will locate and destroy military-age males, sending their body parts flying on the grey screen she stares at for 12 hours at a stretch. Driving through her own desert each day from Creech Air Base outside Las Vegas, she will return to a home life that is more alienating than grounding. Eric, in a neat role reversal, couldn't be more nurturing, supportive or understanding -- at least for a while, until his wife begins terrorizing their toddler, Samantha. Mom doesn't want Sam to become "a hair tosser, a cheerleader" but the little girl just wants mommy to play with her.

What's new about warriors unable to reintegrate into the home space? As Hathaway's character observes, she used to transition home once a year. Now she has to attempt it once a day. Once she could let off steam by drinking with the boys. Now she has to pretend she wants to play with pink toy ponies.

What's also new is the role of surveillance, the so-called Gorgon Stare, a high resolution camera mounted on drones that can almost but not quite see its victims' faces. As the drone pilot comes unraveled her perception of being constantly watched by invisible forces becomes unbearable. And when she is the watcher she begins to imagine that it's her car she's following on a road through the desert. That it's her child who runs from the house toward her father, "the Prophet," captive in his own car, peeing into a bottle so that he never has to emerge into the drone pilot's gaze.

Eric, who cries easily, makes his wife go to counseling with him. She's jealous, imagining he's attracted to the  blonde therapist. She's angry at being pressured to talk about her feelings. She can't take off her flight suit anymore, even in bed. It's her armor, and the soft person she is inside it doesn't emerge until her mental deterioration is complete. Then she wanders out into the desert and buries her flight suit in the sand. She's last seen creating crazy memorials to the legions of the dead, clad only in her underwear.

It's the perfect play for a month when the so-called feminist Hillary Clinton, an accomplished warmonger during her time as Senator and Secretary of State, announced her candidacy for president. Expert direction by Julie Taymor can't overcome the fact that Anne Hathaway doesn't quite have the inner cauldron of seething rage that this tragedy needs. Hillary would have been a better casting choice, the poster girl for selling off your feminine soul for a mess of pottage. The Dalai Lama has been widely quoted as saying that it will be Western women who will save the world. Maybe so, but only if they don't forget how to be women.

Photos source: The Children Killed by America's Drones. "Crimes Against Humanity" committed by Barack H. Obama by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky in GlobalResearch, Jan. 26, 2013.

Addendum: A young woman I respect questioned my use of the Dalai Lama's questionable quote. Here is the blog post I wrote about that:  Which Women Could Possibly Save The World?


Pete Sirois said...

I truly believe that it will the children being born today who will save the world. I have already seen small children with insight as to what unconditional love is. The only thing that can mess that up will be adults who will try to drive the goodness out f these children's hearts.

Hopie said...

Great post. I also believe in the upcoming children, born with a new light in them