Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch Cherry Bomb!

April 28, 2010 at 2:53 pm (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Analysis and Discussion, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , , )

I went to see the movie The Runaways about Joan Jett’s first band last weekend, and I can’t get this song Cherry Bomb out of my head. It may seem like a stretch to find something Shakespearean to say about Cherry Bomb or The Runaways, but I can’t get it out of my mind. So, here’s what I’ve been thinking about.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a very funny play. It’s silly, there are fairies, there’s magic, the four teenagers are great sport to watch, and the ending is happy. But as I pointed out in my post about Titania, there’s darker stuff here, as well.

It boils down to this: misogyny. As Picture This director John Fisk points out in his video about adapting a Shakespearean play, “The world in which Shakespeare lived was a world of misogyny.” Women were made subordinate to men.

This is so true when you start picking through A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Hippolyta is tamed. Titania is tamed. Hermia is her father Egeus’s property and he can do with her as he wants! Theseus advises Hermia:

To you your father should be as a god;
One that composed your beauties, yea, and one
To whom you are but as a form in wax
By him imprinted and within his power
To leave the figure or disfigure it.

This is the law of Athens and Theseus says Hermia will be put to death or forced to become a nun if she doesn’t subordinate herself to her father’s wishes.

So what does all this have to do with Cherry Bomb? The Runaways were an all-female band trying to break into the mostly-male rock and roll world. Manager Kim Fowley cherry picked Cherie Currie at age 15 for lead singer of the fledgling band due to her blonde bombshell looks. She inspired the song Cherry Bomb because that’s what she represented—jailbait.

It’s a catchy tune, but the situation these girls were in was exploitive and misogynist. The band members start out just wanting to play rock n’ roll. During rehearsals, Currie wants to do slower songs and isn’t comfortable with the graphic lyrics or the gyrations. But they all do what Fowley tells them they have to do to get noticed. In an odd way, the girls in The Runaways are tamed in the same way that we see Hippolyta and Titania tamed. They do what they have to do to get by in a male-dominated world.

I see other themes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in The Runaways… defiant youth, impulsive youth, the chaos of youthful love. So, as blog reader Chris pointed out, yes, it all comes back to Shakespeare. 400 years later, the universal themes and issues in his plays are all around us still.

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  1. Tue Sorensen said,

    OK, if you’re BLAMING Shakespeare for STARTING negative gender roles and contributing to perpetuate them, the I most certainly must protest. First, since Shakespeare is dead, it is the rest of culture that perpetuates his work, because the culture itself is like that, and Shakespeare just played into it. Second, the manager of this band was a woman herself, right? And I hope you are aware of the writings of Simone de Beauvoir, who demonstrates that some of the worst perpetuators of the traditions that oppress women are… women? A whole lot of women are themselves drinking the patriarchal kool-aid. Often they don’t even realize it; they just think that this is the way the world works. In fact, most people just adapt to whichever standards the curent culture sets forth.

    Still, I am certainly in favor of gender equality and will argue to my dying day that Shakespeare is, too – despite the apparent fact that he uses seemingly misogynist elements here and there (only in a very few places, I’d argue). But he’s writing allegorically, and quite logically has to disguise his works using the acceptable norms of his time. When you get to As You like It, I trust you will find no trace of misogyny there.

    But the real question of the gendered human condition is this: is there a *reason* for societies mainly being patriarchal? And if so, is this a *good* reason? I know this will be hard for women to swallow, but I’m afraid the answer is yes. As both Shakespeare and many other artists are saying, women are more emotional and men are more rational. It’s a *general* rule, not necessarily an absolute one. It harks back to the physical fact that women bear the children, nurse them, and therefore need protection during pregnancy and nursing. Since women are nurturers and men are protectors, the division of emotion and reason has to be assigned this way: women become primarily emotional and men become primarily rational. It’s a result of natural selection. And in later societies this manifests as patriarchies for several reasons. When cultures are in competition for survival, they need to survive on superior reason. Superior inventiveness, superior war technology, etc. Emotion and passion are dangerous to these processes and so must be suppressed. Humanity is passing from being purely emotional animals to being animals in rational control of themselves. This control is absolutely necessary for our survival and cultural development. Emotion is always there and will be freed once again when it has become fully understood, so that it can be engaged in without losing control; without concomitant insecurity. But as long as it hasn’t been understood, it will remain dangerous because there’s always the risk of it getting out of control. Of course, it often does get out of control on the individual level, but on the cultural level reason/man continues to dominate. And until we achieve full self-knowledge and totally understand our own nature (both its emotional and rational compionents), it is actually a good thing that reason predominates. When we eventual gain full self-knowledge, the genders will be truly equal. In fact, the women will probably dominate, for several reasons, including men’s earnest regret (which I can assure you that I feel very strongly already) at women’s erstwhile oppression and suffering.

    • orwhatyouwill said,

      Hi. Not blaming Shakespeare. See him as a part of the culture he lived in. And the Runaways as a part of the culture they lived in. It’s easy to ignore things that permeate our culture. It’s part of life, and that’s it. It’s easy to judge from a distance. I just saw the (somewhat awkward) connection and thought to post about it. Don’t take it too seriously. The Runaways’ manager was a (pretty creepy) guy. If I had a teenage daughter, I would not want her around people like that. Anyway.

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