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re: I'm not shutting up, but asking for more information!
Last Edit: Chromolume 09:36 pm EDT 10/17/21
Posted by: Chromolume 09:32 pm EDT 10/17/21
In reply to: I'm not shutting up, but asking for more information! - BruceinIthaca 04:50 pm EDT 10/17/21

Sometimes "emotional labor" is necessary to get by what may feel like an impasse. I think Sheng might have solved it initially by saying, "Olivier wore blackface, which was common for white or other non-Black actors playing Othello in that day, so that may make you cringe, but I think it's the version most faithful to Shakespeare's written text, which was the basis of Verdi's opera." Or would that not be enough?

A good question. Personally, I feel that were this a class about racial issues in the arts in some way, this all might have been different. But to present a film with blackface, even with the explanation you present here, when that's simply not the focus of the class material at all, seems at very least odd and tone-deaf. Had the students known they were signing up to take a class that was going to explore such issues, they would be prepared. But to show this out of the blue, even with a disclaimer like "[this] may make you cringe," one has to ask why it would be shown at all.

For that matter, a similar class where racial elements were going to be openly approached could have led to discussions about practices in opera performance, where even if it's becoming more common NOT to see blackface for Otello, Asian roles such as in Butterfly and Turandot (among others) are still commonly played, appropriation-style, by non-Asian singers. The discussion as to why that is still "allowed" in opera, whereas watching Olivier could "make you cringe" would be a worthy discussion in a class geared toward those kind of topics.

But this wasn't that class. And when the subject is simply comparing Shakespeare to Verdi/Boito, making your students cringe by showing them blackface has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Why go out of your way to make your students uncomfortable??
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