“But for my bonny Kate, she must with me.
Nay, look not big, nor stamp, nor stare, nor fret;
I will be master of what is mine own.
She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn, My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything;”
-The Taming of the Shrew
I’ve loved Shakespeare ever since I first read an abridged version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Then l watched a Globe production of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, a Shakespeare play I knew very little about, and once the show was over, I was left wondering whether or not to love the play, and consequently, the playwright.
Can you love a play which is all about taming a woman who is everything the quintessential woman should not be- a woman who speaks her mind and refuses to bow down before the man who married her?
But why can’t you?
I loved Disney cartoons when I was younger. I watched ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Snow White’ several times, never once realizing that all the women in them seemed to do was chores and wait around for their Prince Charming to come and sing them off their feet.
I mentally devoured every single ‘Famous Five’ book when I was growing up. Then I realized all Anne ever did in it was make boiled eggs and play with her dolls, while her brothers and tomboyish cousin went out and had all the fun.
Even so, I continue to love the Disney Cartoons and Famous Five books.
But I refuse to stand for ‘Twilight’, the biggest offence of which is also that the female protagonist seems to do nothing most of the time except dream of her vampire boyfriend and wait for him to save her when she’s in trouble.
I also, despite enjoying them at one level, detest the basic ideals that films like ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ are based on- wherein women belong in the kitchen, even if they are well educated, and all unmarried women are desperate, malicious, cunning villians.
What is it that makes me despise certain works in cinema, literature or art for the same ideas that, in others, I prefer to overlook or just accept?
I think a major role in these decisions is played by the times in which these books or films were written or made. Art, including literature and cinema, has always been a reflection of its times.
This is why I can forgive Shakespeare for the otherwise offensive premise on which ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ is based. This is why I can love Anne despite the fact that she is exactly the kind of girl I never was or wanted to be. This is why I love the older Disney princesses despite the fact that they seem like silly, spineless women compared to what I imagine the modern women of today to be. It’s because these works are a reflection of their day and age that what they portray is acceptable- on a stand alone basis they wouldn’t be, but when seen in the context of the society and culture of their time, they make much more sense and can be forgiven their offences.
And this is also exactly why ‘Twilight’ offends me, because it is based in today’s world. The protagonist is supposed to be a school-girl who youngsters her age would, at some level, connect with, and even so, she seems to belong more in the times of the Disney princesses. She may be educated and have much more freedom, but her core is the same- she’s just another girl who spends most of her time swooning and dreaming of the man she loves, waits for him to rescue her each time she’s in trouble, and who goes a step beyond the Disney princesses by attempting to kill herself when her vampire glitters out of her life- not exactly the ideal inspiration for the girls of today.
Sooraj Barjatya movies, including ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’, belong to the same category as ‘Twilight’. They pull women back by several years, once more shutting them up in their homes and leaving them waiting for their to-be-husbands to come home after a hard day’s work so that they can press their legs and serve them dinner.
I loved the ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, I loved the characters, and I loved the coarse yet intelligent humor. But I was deeply offended by the basic premise, and these wounded feelings led to a lot of thought, and to this post, because
‘My tongue will tell the anger of my heart, or else my heart concealing it will break.’
-The Taming of the Shrew