Educating Out Prejudice – Just How Tolerant Are We?

Educating Out Prejudice – Just How Tolerant Are We?

"Why on earth would I want to end my week by going to see a play about a man having sex with a goat?"   This was the question asked by a very dear friend as we set off to the theatre last week.

The play in question was Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? with Damian Lewis and Sophie Okonedo.  Avid theatre goers, we have all enjoyed many a memorable night together, but none quite like last week.

It divided and united us in equal measure which to me at least is an indication of a good play.  Theatre is not about pure entertainment it is about provoking a reaction, encouraging the audience to ask questions of themselves and society and The Goat Play as it is fondly known did just that.

I would be lying if I said the actors weren't largely responsible for getting me through the door, but so too was my natural curiosity.  I was not familiar with the play before attending last week so went albeit with some doubts simmering beneath the surface, a relatively open mind.

Enjoying drinks in the Oscar Wilde bar before the performance, we listened as the waitress regaled everyone with stories on audience reactions since opening, including those about some finding it all too much and leaving mid-performance.  In all honesty as we settled into our seats we were expecting our dear friend to join them.

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The play is a quasi Greek tragedy.  It is the story of Martin, a married, middle-aged man and successful architect and his tragic fall from grace and the consequences upon his family, when he falls in love spiritually and physically with a goat.  Not only is this an unquestionably absurd story line it is evidently repugnant.

Bestiality is not an easy subject matter.  Shock is the predominant reaction of both the other characters in the play and the audience, as simultaneously you find yourselves experiencing the full emotional gamut of disgust, horror and anger, recoiling with every moral fibre in your body.

However, the play is not about bestiality, it is merely a means to an end.  By using a subject matter so unnatural and divisive, what the play does brilliantly is highlight how intolerant as a society we are and question how far we have really come in our seemingly progressive thinking.

The play is not asking us to accept bestiality but it forces us to hold up a mirror and look at our own prejudicial weaknesses.  Who is to say what is tolerable and what is not?  This is accentuated superbly by Martin's own incongruous response to his gay teenage son's sexual preferences, which he finds difficult to comprehend.

Albee said in an interview at the play's New York premiere "I want everybody to be able to think about what they can’t imagine and what they have buried deep as being intolerable and insufferable."

By shining the spotlight on those living outside the conventional, it is a play about the limits of our tolerance and who we really are.

Our tweens and teenagers are growing up in an increasingly more tolerant and progressive society than the one we inhabited at their age, yet still Albee's message is pertinent.

No-one likes to think of themselves as being prejudiced but we all have our own individual views on what is acceptable and what is not and and thereby unless we all share the same views, prejudice in some shape or form will exist and nowhere is this more prevalent than in relation to our sexual preferences.

"How would you feel if one of your friends came out as a Lesbian?" "Who knows what it means to be Gender Neutral?" "How accepting do you think you would be of a transgender woman at school?" were among the many questions asked of my daughter's class during lessons and debates marking LGBT History Month.

Homophobia in our schools is described as being at epidemic levels and it is commendable that there is a concerted effort at breaking down these barriers early, educating out prejudice and encouraging a more open-minded society, yet how easy is it to influence a change in opinion later in life?  Only last week Caitlyn Jenner was subject to transphobic abuse whilst leaving the British LGBT awards, demonstrating that even in an environment where tolerance should be high, there is still a way to go in our seemingly liberal society to being more inclusive.

There is no doubt though that there is a commitment to challenging the limits of our tolerance and even the big consumer brands are getting in on the act.  Heineken's new Worlds Apart campaign partners groups of strangers with a variety of opposing views including a transgender woman and a right-wing guy who thinks it's "wrong," and in doing so attempts to overcome barriers in our polarized world.

In the meantime, plays like The Goat, will continue to entertain and shock in equal measure and force us to question our own moral judgment of a variety of social taboos, not just sexual ones.  As for us, well we left the play agreeing to disagree on whether that is possible, but the mere fact we debated it went some way to achieving Albee's purpose of forcing us to stand back and consider a different stance to the black and white version.

 

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38 Comments

  1. May 29, 2017 / 7:09 pm

    Love that you reviewed The Goat too and in such a thought provoking way. Love that you made the connection of what society sees as acceptable or not. It was certainly an interesting subject matter and superbly acted, although uncomfortable viewing at times. I could feel the audience half gripped but half repulsed. Got to love a bit of Damian too! xx
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    • May 30, 2017 / 2:57 pm

      Yes I was definitely torn too but the acting was so compelling and the message so cleverly portrayed. Loved it actually – Damian certainly helped but Sophie was superb. x

  2. May 21, 2017 / 7:24 am

    At first I was thinking why would anyone attend this play but then I love anything that challenges our thinking and pushes the boundaries. I also love the new Heineken campaign it is such a clever idea! #TweensTeensBeyond

    • May 22, 2017 / 7:57 pm

      Yes it is not a natural fit with anyone at first sight that is for sure and it certainly pushes boundaries. I agree the Heineken ad is genius. #TweensTeensBeyond

  3. May 18, 2017 / 5:40 am

    Fascinating read! There’s nothing like a live play to spark a discussion. Since emigrating to New Zealand I’ve had my eyes opened to tolerance ( or maybe it’s because my kids are now teenagers). We try to be a tolerant as possible but when you are faced with prejudice every day, it’s sometimes difficult to do that. It’s a two way thing isn’t it? It’s so much easier when everyone just respects each other’s views and gets on with their lives accordingly. Perhaps I’m being too idealistic though. Great read:) I’m late to this linky but will definitely try to return next week! ( early!)
    #tweensteensbeyond

    • May 18, 2017 / 4:57 pm

      You are absolutely right Liz it is a two way thing for sure – each to their own is my general motto. Who are we as individuals to judge others? We live in a democratic society and differences of opinion should be tolerated but it isn’t an ideal world. We are thrilled to have you join us and look forward to seeing you again next week. #TweensTeensBeyond

    • May 18, 2017 / 4:42 pm

      It is so wonderful to have you. As such a blogging luminary, it is like having the queen to tea! #TweensTeensBeyond

  4. May 18, 2017 / 5:08 am

    I was enthralled by the Heineken campaign you shared here, it is brilliant. Being tolerant is hugely important to me, and it was important that the man I shared my life with felt the same, we do or best to pass these values to our children, but we are not always perfect. I love the way you look at the meaning of such an extreme play, fascinating read. Thank you so much for linking up with #mg
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    • May 18, 2017 / 4:50 pm

      Oh glad you have picked up on that campaign too, it has been getting quite a bit of support here. Learning to be tolerant of others is tough for us all and sometimes we need to be pulled up on various issues and revisit our tolerance levels again, this play was a good reminder of that. Thanks for your comment. #mg

    • May 18, 2017 / 4:52 pm

      That is a good point Mary. There is a fine line between what is tolerable and what isn’t too and sometimes it is easy to fall over that line even with the best will in the world. #TweensTeensBeyond

  5. May 17, 2017 / 5:15 pm

    Ah how interesting! Funnily enough, I was surprised about those stats around homophobia as I thought that our teens as a generation were far more accepting and tolerant. I’m aware the identity issues are huge amongst this group and I thought perhaps as a result of acceptability so therefore people felt they could question their identity at a younger age. Oh now I don’t know and I’m talking myself in circles! Hmmm, my own tolerant levels – I best ask my children and get back to you? I’d like to think I was tolerant, to be honest. Thank you for the thought-provoking post #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • May 18, 2017 / 4:55 pm

      It is interesting Helen because when I asked my teens how tolerant pupils in their schools were of homophobia it was different for both. My son is at a boys school and says no one blinks an eyelid, whereas my daughter who is at a girls school says there is a way to go and was horrified by the reactions of some of the girls to the discussions during their LGBT debates. Like you if I ask my teens they would say I have my boundaries of tolerance for sure. #TweensTeensBeyond

  6. May 17, 2017 / 1:03 pm

    I want to see this play! I love art that makes you think and is a commentary on society. In answer to your question, I would say, probably not as tolerant as I’d like to think I am! My middle daughter is sitting GCSE Sociology this week and we have had some fantastic debates about feminism, racism and capitalism. If getting older has taught me anything it’s that I have more questions than answers! xxx #TweensTeensBeyond

    • May 17, 2017 / 3:57 pm

      I don’t think you are alone Sharon on that score. Some great debates going on in your house, that is fantastic and so healthy too. I know what you mean about not having all the answers, my teens have been disappointed on a couple of occasions on that score. #TweensTeensBeyond

  7. May 17, 2017 / 11:35 am

    Oh, how I would jump at the chance to see this play, turn the lights up at the end, and have a group discussion. Very intriguing! #mg

    • May 17, 2017 / 12:09 pm

      It is definitely a good conversation starter and made for a lively debate over dinner afterwards. Thanks for your comment Lisa. #mg

  8. May 16, 2017 / 9:11 pm

    Very thought provoking and a great post. In fact my thought pattern is still whirring away. Glad you chose this one. It’s always great to see something like this that offers so much more than what is being played out on stage. The play behind the play. Are we more tolerant – as a whole, well, we say we are as a society? Yet so much judgement still. If we apply this across the board then I would say we have made leaps and bounds in some areas, yet you only have to read the comments above around ‘difference’ to see that some things will always remain. Are we more tolerant of the issues that are brought to our attention more, ie the gender and relationship issues. Would accepting and understanding be enough. This debate could go on. I haven’t answered the question, I’ve chucked some back!! Does tolerance have a shift in power to topical issues and leave other areas wide open to judgement. Any does intolerance make us uncomfortable. I shall continue to think about this one! Well done for giving the show a go – sounds as though you got a lot from it #tweensteensbeyond

    • May 17, 2017 / 9:40 am

      Nicky I could feel the sparks flying from your brain. Great comments and wonderful questions. I think we are still pretending that we are not prejudice in relation to some areas because society is forcing us not to be but there will always be some areas that some feel uncomfortable with and will require alot of effort to attain a shift in attitude and behaviour. It was a great play on many levels. #TweensTeensBeyond

  9. May 16, 2017 / 6:09 pm

    Sounds like a good play for stiring a good family debate, that is one of the joys of older kids, having a good debate with people forming their own opinions about the world and those in it. #TweensTeensBeyond

    • May 16, 2017 / 7:11 pm

      There is always a good family debate going on in our house – just maybe on a wider variety of topics than when I was a teenager. #TweensTeensBeyond

  10. May 16, 2017 / 5:48 pm

    On the whole I’m extremely tolerant – live and let live. We’ve brought our teenagers up saying things like, ‘When you meet a partner’ as opposed to ‘When you meet a girlfriend/wife’. They know we would be extremely accepting of their sexuality. Might struggle with a goat though! Lol! #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • May 16, 2017 / 7:10 pm

      Oh very forward thinking! Yes the goat is bit of an extreme way of making a point but it worked. Thanks for linking. #TweensTeensBeyond

  11. May 16, 2017 / 5:03 pm

    I would say I am pretty tolerant…
    This sounds like a very thought provoking play x
    #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • May 16, 2017 / 7:09 pm

      It was Kim for sure and continues to be so. Glad to see you again. #TweensTeensBeyond

  12. May 16, 2017 / 4:37 pm

    I’d go to see those actors, too! It’s funny, I work at a University where they accept and embrace just about anyone and anything except a “traditional” person or family. It’s swung too far I think to the point of throwing the Christians in the lion’s den again.

    #tweensteensbeyond
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    • May 16, 2017 / 7:07 pm

      That is interesting, I have another very dear friend who has said the same of her own teaching environment, it’s back to that all question of balance again. Thanks for your comment Katy. #TweensTeensBeyond

  13. May 16, 2017 / 4:08 pm

    You are an excellent writer! And while I don’t wish to talk about subjects like this, your post has provoked me to find out more about your other subjects/posts. Kettles on, I’m about to indulge myself in your back catalogue. Pleased to make your acquaintance #teentweenbeyond

    • May 16, 2017 / 7:13 pm

      Ha ha thank you Alex for your honesty and a reaction was the point of the play and certainly the point of my post so I suppose I have achieved that. Hope you find something you like! #TweensTeensBeyond

  14. May 16, 2017 / 12:23 pm

    I always try to be tolerant but it can be difficult, sounds a fascinating play thanks for hosting #tweensteensandbeyond

    • May 16, 2017 / 1:25 pm

      Yes we are all human after all and sometimes it can be testing I agree. Thanks for joining us again Nigel. #TweensTeensBeyond

  15. May 16, 2017 / 12:20 pm

    Sounds an interesting play and a great place to start a discussion. I think we all draw a line. Usually we will tolerate more than we will accept. I certainly don’t think we should tolerate everything in life, especially if it damages others. Sexuality is up to the individual. I’ve been enjoying hearing the questions (and answers) posed at school, which my daughters bring home. Some are deep, some are funny and some are downright frightening. I do wonder how the teacher recovers after a year 10 lesson debate.
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    • May 16, 2017 / 1:28 pm

      It certainly provided food for thought and made me for one question my own tolerance levels not just surrounding issues of sexuality but in everything. Sometimes as you say it is difficult to be tolerant and sometimes I don’t think about why I can’t tolerate something which is really the crux of it I suppose. Ha ha I am with you on the conversations they have at school, to be honest in some situations I am glad they are there doing the groundwork so to speak. Thanks for your comment Cheryl. #TweensTeensBeyond

  16. May 16, 2017 / 11:08 am

    I have no issues with other peoples preferences, but have no tolerance of those without tolerance, if you get what I mean. I judge people by their behaviours towards me and my family and the way they react to things. I’ve had friends cut us out of invites as they’ve felt uncomfortable around our disabled daughter, others who just accept she’s part of our life and they will get hit and biffed if they get to close, some say they don’t like it, but their honestly allows the friendship to continue
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    • May 16, 2017 / 1:31 pm

      That is really interesting. I can imagine that as you say tolerance comes into play quite a lot in your life. It is lovely that some of your friends can be honest with you about how they feel – the sign of a solid friendship. Thanks for joining us again. #TweensTeensBeyond

  17. May 16, 2017 / 10:29 am

    I try to be tolerant, but know I don’t always manage. Every so often my inner Daily Mail reader goes on the rampage. I’m not proud of it 🙁
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    • May 16, 2017 / 10:56 am

      There is a bit of the Daily Mail reader in all of us so don’t worry you are not alone! #TweensTeensBeyond

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