|The Cover of Mamet's new collection of rambling essays, perhaps better titled "Get Off My Lawn!"|
David Mamet, who I have long thought became a parody of himself in terms of his work, is now proving to be a parody of a human being with any kind of rational or sane thought. While promoting his new book of old essays, he made comments accusing teachers of being prone to pedophilia (especially male teachers), all in a discussion ultimately geared toward encouraging the "Don't Say Gay" bill (so much for the Free Speech in his book's title). While these comments are indeed flabbergasting and upsetting, I don't really think anyone should be surprised that Mamet made them, nor should they be surprised that he made them with ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in terms of facts to back them up. One should almost have expected it considering that Mamet, since becoming a relic of a playwright, has spent the last 25 years of his career working hard at being a contrarian, who I'm sure would prefer the terms "iconoclast" or "rebel," a blowhard hoping that there is some connection between notoriety and relevance. Sadly, though, the very aspects of Mamet that enables him to shamelessly make such idiotic comments, were given to him by the theater critics and audiences over the years, the ones who built him up and confused much of is bluster with "bravery" and "genius". I am not blameless in this myself.
It would be a lie if I said I was never a Mamet fan. Like many playwrights (particularly, but not exclusively male) of my generation, I grew up hearing he was the best. The movie adaptation of his play "Glengarry Glen Ross" was electrifying with James Foley's slick direction and a handful of truly wonderful and wonderfully energetic performances by some great actors. I remember buying copies of his plays "Sexual Perversity in Chicago/The Duck Variations" and "Oleanna", and trying to break them down. His Pulitzer-winning "American Buffalo" is perhaps the first example of Mamet being called a master of dialogue, a poet using four-letter words. And indeed, there is no question he has made an impact on American Theatre in a big way--- but it hasn't all been good. In fact, I would say it is arguable that "Glengarry Glen Ross" is his last good play, and that was in 1984. "Oleanna," though immensely popular for college scene work, is a play that doesn't come from character but from theme. In fact, I would say that the playwright's intentions are like a big fingerprint all over that script, making it more of a diatribe than a play. By the end, both characters feel more like husks that are being moved around. As for plays like "Race"--- well, who really needs another rich white guy talking about how complicated race is, except when seen through his own white lens?
Mamet has always had a problem with education. His book, "True and False", encourages young actors to not go to college, and his own daughter, actress Zosia Mamet, told Conan O'Brien during an interview that her father encouraged her not to pursue higher education. Much of what Mamet describes as being the job of an actor in "True and False" is to learn their lines and to say them "courageously". He wrote the slim volume in the height of "Look at me! I'm slaughtering sacred cows!" days. And certainly, the silliness of some method acting needs to be taken down more than single peg, and one can't help but argue that was part of Mamet's intentions with the book. Though one should also remember that Mamet himself went to Goddard College, and also studied under famed acting teacher Sanford Meisner--- he is interviewed for a Meisner documentary and blurbs Meisner's acting book--- and said he was one of the great teachers who was telling the truth. One should also remember that "The Practical Handbook for the Actor" (which I bought when I was in high school and highlighted extensively) was written by STUDENTS of David Mamet and his frequent collaborators William H. Macy and Gregory Mosher. Mamet himself wrote the introduction, calling it the "best book on acting written in the last twenty years"---- this, of course, was before "True and False" came out. The Atlantic Theater Company, founded by Mamet, Macy and their ACTING STUDENTS, still teaches classes based Mamet's thoughts on what actors should know.
So much for a generation of actors who should stay out of school.
And one must wonder how someone who has spent a good deal of time teaching can make statements about male teachers being especially predatory. I certainly couldn't accuse Mamet of being predatory himself, though he seems to have no problem generalizing about the predatory nature of teachers for an interview on Fox News.
Still, he has reason to believe that the verbiage he spews on any topic that crosses his mind is sacred, because so many are quick to call him a genius. He used to get off on it when it came from Hollywood liberals, but, after he very publicly rebranded himself as ultra-Conservative (in typical blustery fashion, saying he was no longer a "Braindead liberal"), he is happy to take the label wherever he can get it. This is why he can call Trump a "great President" and even talk about how the election was stolen--- even though, in a rare moment of walking back, he said he "misspoke". He has propped up by many to be one of the sacred cows he used to enjoy slaughtering so much. One could reasonably guess he prefers actors without training because they make better puppets. One may suggest that he thinks his dialogue, in which people hardly speak in full sentences but are cut off by dashes and ellipses, is realistic because he likely prefers to be the only one talking and not letting anyone else sneak a thought in a conversation.
If Mamet possessed any self-doubt instead of his brash, encouraged narcissism, he might be mortified by how ignorant and absurd his recent statements about teachers came off. Unfortunately, I've no doubt that his ego is steering him to view the justifiable backlash as "cancel culture", probably going so far as to smugly think how it proves his point. And this is the same narcissism that destroyed his work long before it hindered his reputation. It doesn't seem like coincidence that Mamet stopped being a "Braindead liberal" as soon as he was completely affluent and celebrated by New York critics as being "the greatest living American playwright," a title which, even when I was a fan, I never thought was true.
When it comes right down to it, David Mamet is just another hypocrite with too large a platform, an overpraised rich white dude, who believes that what "free speech" means for him (and other overpraised rich white dues) is to never be criticized or ostracized for the "brilliant" things he says, no matter whether they are true or not. Cancel culture only exists when it is directed to people of his ilk. Mr. Mamet wants the rest of the world to be cut off by his dashes and ellipses--- because it really only matters if his speech is free of opposing opinions.