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Too Many Mother Troubles: Maternal Malevolence in Titus, The Tempest, and the Julie Taymor Oeuvre

A Presentation on Feminism, Spider Man, Shakespeare, And the Potential Power of a Feminist Director

Hillary Fogerty

on 14 February 2013

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Transcript of Too Many Mother Troubles: Maternal Malevolence in Titus, The Tempest, and the Julie Taymor Oeuvre

Maternal Malevolence in Titus, The Tempest,
and the Julie Taymor Oeuvre Too Many Mother Troubles Julie Taymor:

*isn't employed
*isn't a man
*isn't a feminist
*isn't a mother Taymor was fired (spectacularly) for making exactly the types of choices that rendered her earlier productions a success.

Taymor, directing Titus in 1999, became the first woman to direct a feature-length film of Shakespeare for studio release in eighty-five years, making her only the second woman in American history to do so.

Taymor herself denies that her work demonstrates feminism or that she is a feminist.

Her ground-breaking work is often informed by a particularly striking concern with gender and the body, particularly the reproductive body. The Lion King (1997) Oedipus:
From Sophocles
Taymor Film Titus (1999) This presentation explores the depiction of the maternal in Julie Taymor’s work, on stage and on screen, addresses the public reaction to her decision to depict Prospero, the wizard-patriarch of The Tempest, as female, highlights the current state of gender equity with regard to Shakespeare in performance, and speculates what it might mean when the most prominent female director of Shakespeare in the world denies any association with the term “feminist.” Spiderman:
Turn of the Dark (2010) Juan Darien:
A Carnival Mass (1988) The Tempest (2010) Taymor:
"pre-eminent practitioner . . . of the Theatre of Transformation"

The New York Times Initially, I’d like to offer a working definition of “feminism.” “Defining Feminism: A Comparative Historical Approach"
By Karen Offen for _Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society_, 1988

Offen defines feminists as “any persons, female or male, whose ideas and actions (insofar as they can be documented) show them to meet three criteria:

(1) they recognize the validity of women’s own interpretations of their lived experience and needs and acknowledge the values women claim publicly as their own (as distinct from an aesthetic ideal of womanhood invented by men) in assessing their status in society relative to men;

(2) they exhibit consciousness of, discomfort at, or even anger over institutionalized injustice (or inequality) toward women as a group by men as a group in a given society; and

(3) they advocate the elimination of that injustice by challenging, through efforts to alter prevailing ideas and/or social institutions and practices, the coercive power, force, or authority that upholds male prerogatives in that particular culture. Taymor’s life and oeuvre demonstrate all three of these criteria, though she does not call or consider herself a feminist. Among the transformations she frequently stages-—employing masks, puppets, screens, dance, mime, human-animal hybridity, mythology, and canonical texts—-is the reconception and transformation of female bodies and the reconfiguration of bodies as female. Disney's Rafiki Taymor's Rafiki Making the Shaman a Woman "The Mother/Daughter Plot:
Narrative, Psychoanalysis, and Feminism" Marianne Hirsch (1989) Umbilical Cord Noose Blinded And Bloody Eyes Double Vision

Jocasta (Mother Puppet)
Oedipus (Human Actor) Jocasta “is represented by silence, negation, damnation, and suicide. The story of her desire, the account of her guilt, the rationale for her complicity with a brutal husband, the materiality of the body which gave birth to a child she could not keep and which then conceived with that child other children—this story cannot be filled in because we have no framework within which to do it from her perspective (4) "One of the problems I had with the story was that the women’s parts were lousy. They were just terrible, as usual. I say that because in most fairy tales you have to have the wicked stepmother or have to have no mother at all, otherwise the child has no journey to make. If you’ve got a very happy mother-and-father situation, there’s no story to be told. In the same way, Simba’s mother is a lousy character. She is nonexistent. So what I suggested was to have Rafiki, who was kind of a storyteller, shaman, be the center of the piece in a spiritual way" (Taymor Interview: 2012). "The breast, like the other skin, is not human but constructed. . . . that the character proffered the breast to the mouth of the papier-mâché jaguar pressed further any illusion of ‘naturalness.’ The representation broke many taboos, including that of human-animal intimacy” (Cleary, _Theatre Journal_, 1997). "Double vision":
Jocasta, Jocasta Mask, Mother Puppet
Oedipus, Oedipus Mask, Oedipus Masked Dancer Grendel:
Transcendence of
the Great Big Bad 2003 Taymor’s “palette” meant “research-oriented nature walks requiring photos of rocks, roots and earth” an impulse most vividly realized in “the Forlorn Beasts, a group of six creatures (including Grendel's mother) 8 to 9 feet in height that are made up of sticks, roots and mud” (Henerson). Grendel with mother puppets Taymor's mythical Arachne Arachne as guardian angel: the feminine, unthreatening. Stage If you're interested in understanding the debacle that was Spiderman: Turn off The Dark, and Taymor's role therein, I've got plenty of details: it's a long story about a woman getting fired for ambition (lawsuits pending). "Opportunities for women directors in any genre are still relatively rare. San Diego State University's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film routinely reports on trends in the industry, and their findings confirm a major disparity: just 7% of [2010's] 250 top-grossing films were directed by women. That percentage is actually a decline of two points compared to 2008, and the number has held steady within that 7% - 9% range for the past 25 years.

The gender disparity extends, though not quite as severely, to all behind-the-camera crew positions and even to film critics."

Jason Dietz, "Ranked: The Best Women Film Directors (Films)" _Metacritic.com_ (2010) Though Julie Taymor has made only four films, women behind the camera are so rare and their support from studios so slight that according to any statistical measure, she now ranks among the most prolific of female directors. 1999 2002 2007 2010 Frida (2002) Taymor's representation of Grendel's mother, as dark and problematically embodied as it is, is instantly recognizable as emerging from a different, and more conscious, perspective than the one offered a year later in _Beowulf_ (2007) by director Robert Zemeckis. Zemeckis's film contributed to the ancient legend so overtly over-sexualized and sexist an invented subplot as to inscribe all of the infamous monster's power to one source, that traditionally most controlled and feared in human women-- her sex--and to force unwitting instructors of Anglo-Saxon poetry to un-teach his vision and talk about Angelina Jolie's anger (at the representation of her body--five months pregnant when she made the film--every term). Side note on why difference matters: Norton's _Looking at Movies_ (2006) employs _Frida_ as one of three examples in presenting "The Biopic and the Historical Drama" to student readers, noting "in many scenes, Taymor transforms events of Kahlo's life into paintings, moving collages, theatrical celebrations."

On their website, the issue of Frida's feminism, and Taymor's interpretation of it, is addressed directly: "And as I said a little earlier, I really did love the love story. And I think that's accurate to Frida. I think partly what you're saying is that you take whatever you want to take from Frida Kahlo's story, from whatever books you read or whatever stories, but there is no truth. Because the one thing about biography: nobody was in the bedroom; nobody was there. What I have are her diaries. You read her diaries: Diego, Diego, Diego. That is her feminism." (Taymor interview, 2006). Frida's Body Feminists on _Frida_ The Complexity of Representation and Audience Reception Frida's
Miscarriage Was _Frida_ a feminist film? In her 2012 _Feminst Film Studies_, Karen Hollinger offers an extensive exploration on interpretations and critical reception of _Frida_, which serves as her example of a biopic, noting: "it would be easy to dismiss the film as a typical woman's biopic . . . but it is necessary to view it not just as a woman's biopic, but also as an artist biopic and to consider whether it does something more than merely reduce its heroine to a state of victimization and abject suffering" (178).

Taymor's interpretation of Frida, the the critical reception of that treatment, as been conflicted and complex.

Differing interpretations of feminism have been central to that conflict. Artistic Contradictions: Taymor's cinematic images--her ability to essentially paint on the screen--is evident in her densely laden depiction of Kahlo's horrific bus accident. Kahlo's fierce investment in viewing the body of her miscarried child puts her at odds with the (male) medical establishment and belies the cultural assumption that women who miscarry are not mothers. Or: Why Doesn't Julie Taymor
Call Herself a Feminist?

Titania Rising
& the Promise of Mother Magic It would be impossible to discuss this speculative definition of Taymor's feminism without addressing her most frequent collaborator, Elliot Goldenthal, her partner of twenty-five years.

Speaking candidly to Oprah, Taymor noted that, given her career, she'd have had to have a different kind of partner--a "house-husband"--if she were to have had children. She implied, too, that by the time she was ready, it was too late.

(Notably, Taymor's late father was a pioneering researcher and early practitioner of invitro-fertilizatoin.) While criticism has frequently interpreted her later behavior as a reaction to the death of her eldest child, Alarbus, her own bodily violation strikes me as equally relevant, especially in her reaction to Lavinia. While I do not deny that by the end Tamora is depicted as both calculating and cruel, I prefer to interpret both cinematic and dramatic characters in terms of change and development. To view Tamora negatively throughout strikes me as both reductive and problematic, forcing a relatively dynamic character to remain utterly static. “Taymor’s gender switch is provocative, and may lead to other roles for older women in the Shakespeare canon. That, the iconoclastic director says, is something she has long contemplated. Mirren’s remarks . . . characterized the change in feminist terms, but Taymor, a passionate, progressive thinker, nevertheless remains unmoved by such critiques. ‘I think that all the actors who knew the Shakespeare, and those who didn’t know it and just came to it with a woman in that role, preferred it,” she recalls. “Helen had a lot to do with it. She’s a fabulous actress. But it isn’t feminist because I don’t think like that. I put a woman in the role because it could happen and because it works’” (Taymor Interview, with Garcia, Film Journal, 2010). Subsuming Sycorax Husband "allows"
Prospera her power Inventing a Backstory Are Corsets Inevitable? Is gender "blind" casting
of Shakespeare
inherently feminist? Link for interactive content

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/interactive/2012/dec/10/shakespeare-women-interactive Recognizing the Problem Calling for Equity: The Influence of Shakespeare Prospera's Revenge Brilliant thinkers, available online:
Roger Copeland Dancing in the Dark:
Julie Taymor, Oedipus Rex, and the Gaze of Upright Posture

http://philoctetes.org/past_programs/dancing_in_the_dark_julie_taymor_ioedipus_rex_i_and_the_gaze_of_upright_posture http://www.thefreelibrary.com/GETTING+MEDIEVAL+IN+%60GRENDEL%27+DIRECTOR+TAYMOR,+PUPPETEER+CURRY+TEAM...-a0146202320 Taymor based family on her own:

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117971531/ Julie Taymor on not wanting a "traditional" relationship.
http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Oprah-Interviews-Julie-Taymor/5 Artistic Collaboration :
Undermining Claims of Singular Genius "We purposely kept language out of it," Goldenthal says. "There's Spanish and Latin, but you don't need to understand them. The idea was to cross age and cultural boundaries with this piece so anyone can follow it. It frees you from the encumbrance of having to hang on every word."

Because it's a carnival mass, Taymor says, the work suggests "the immediate juxtaposition of the sacred and the profane, of comedy and tragedy, of the jungle and civilization that's what it's about. And it's a requiem mass, and everyone knows what a requiem mass is. It's the most popular form in world music. So there's a link to something that is throughout humanity for all time."

http://www.playbill.com/features/article/64417-The-Power-of-Theatrical-Transformation-Shown-in-Juan-Darien In Taymor's film, Frida's primary audience is her partner: the person, after herself, depicted as most affected by her bodily capacity and miscarriage. Taymor interview (2009) on how good mothers don't make for good narratives and the relevance of being female director. "It was a non-issue, for me," she explains. Noting she "made her own" jobs, and thus never thought of herself as competing with men for work. At the time of the interview, she does not acknowledge that getting the "bucks" to do a show may have as much to do with institutionalized gender inequity as with talent. In explaining and exploring the collaborative relationship between Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, both Elliot Goldenthal and Julie Taymor offered direct reference to their own long term collaborative partnership, which extends to nearly every major production Taymor has directed (Spiderman was a rare exception).
http://www.donshewey.com/arts_articles/taymor_goldenthal.html Tamora: Subjugating The Bad Mother I think what you get with Helen's performance is this unbelievably complex woman who's both powerful and vulnerable, has an incredible maternal side to her, which is very unique, to have this mother-daughter relationship, she's got a sensuality and a humor to her because she's Helen Mirren, and in the end when she puts her corset back on, it's very different than when a man puts on his duke's robes. You see that she is really giving up her life to go back into civilization for her daughter; she's giving up her freedom, because to go back into that courtly society she has to go back into the corseted stays of women of that time. So there's an enormous amount of the various changes that happen by putting a woman into this role, but ultimately the play is the play, and the themes of Shakespeare's play don't change.

(Taymor interview Moviefone, 2010)
http://blog.moviefone.com/2010/12/11/julie-taymor-on-the-tempest-prosperos-sex-change-and-spider/ Encouraging the Logic of Romantic Love:
Un-empowering Daughters Everywhere Given the logic of the diegesis, Miranda, now corseted and ornamented with the virgin Mary, will not find an equal partner, nor a society to welcome her barefoot volcanic explorations, upon return to Milan. The "brave new world" has already taken control of her body. Despite the presence of a female director, the result is identical: women will be corseted and controlled, for, as Taymor suggests, "play is the play, and the themes of Shakespeare's play don't change"--unless and until, that is, someone with power changes them. Feminist Shakespeare? Samuel Crowl

Shakespeare Bulletin, "Review" 29(2), 2012
http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/shakespeare_bulletin/summary/v029/29.2.crowl.html Helen Mirren stars as Prospera—formerly known as Prospero—in this most recent rendering of the Bard’s final original play. Now here is the strong female character with whom feminist critics of The Tempest have longed to identify. But to what ends? To what extent will the meaning of the play turn on the gender-defining last vowel of its protagonist’s name? Emily Beam
"Enter Prospera: Rethinking Gender and Power in The Tempest"
Duke University Student

http://sites.duke.edu/english90as_03_f2010/2010/11/24/enter-prospera-rethinking-gender-and-power-in-the-tempest/ Urbanbeat, Hollywood
http://www.urbanbeathollywood.com/the_tempest_%28julie_taymor_2101%29 "Taymor's first and most significant adaptation is to change Prospero's gender from male to female. . . . she has to reshape Prospera's (Helen Mirren) backstory and with a dozen lines of faux Shakespearean verse she creates a feminist version of Prospera's exile from Milan." This is unlikely to have been how Shakespeare wanted to lead his audience into the calm scene of exposition that follows, where Prospero -- here (adding a superficial feminist touch) changed to Prospera (a worn-out looking Helen Mirren) -- explains to Miranda (Felicity Jones) what happened before she was conscious of things. The decision to gender-bend Prospero, the Duke of Milan, into Prospera, the Duchess of Milan, barely affects the story here, so don't run to the theater expecting revolutionary feminism. Ray Rahman
"10 Critical Thoughts about _The Tempest_"
Nerve.com 2010

http://www.nerve.com/movies/10-critical-thoughts-about/10-critical-thoughts-about-the-tempest Prospero’s past is prologue for plot and point-of-view as he becomes a she in visionary filmmaker Julie Taymor’s feminist, female-centric Tempest. Zimbio, Blu-ray Review: The Tempest, 2011

http://www.zimbio.com/Helen+Mirren+Oscars+Dress/articles/eDpCKiq_AiR/Blu+ray+Review+Tempest+2010 However, her gender changes the effect of the story. Women, in sexist society, are expected to forgive. They rarely get to violently redress the wrongs done to them. By turning Prospero into Prospera, Julie Taymor reverted the unexpected back into the gendered expected. I would much rather have seen Helen Mirren fry her enemies with Circe’s magic staff. Christian Smith,
"Expected to forgive in Julie Taymor’s film The Tempest" (2011)
_Kritical Theory_
http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/christiansmith/entry/expected_to_forgive In Julie Taymor’s hands, Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” becomes a listless feminist parable. The duchess Prospera (Helen Mirren) has been forced into exile, stripped of wealth and position by her scheming brother, Antonio (Chris Cooper), who’s branded her a witch by using her prodigious smarts against her. Taymor, attempting to put her own stamp on the play, has given The Tempest a sex-change and a feminist veneer. Critics at Large
http://www.criticsatlarge.ca/2010/12/waterlogged-julie-taymors-tempest.html Taymor, who staged The Tempest in 1986 and has been thinking about it ever since, has taken this interpretation by the throat and given it a feminist reading. Prospero becomes Prospera, and Taymor does something Shakespeare never did: she shows us a woman of might who assertively wields her power. Alan A Stone,
"Drowned Out: Julie Taymor's The Tempest"
Boston Review
http://bostonreview.net/BR36.2/alan_a_stone_julie_taymor_tempest.php Ernest Hardy,
"Julie Taymor's Other Tempest"
The Village Voice
http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-12-08/film/julie-taymor-s-other-tempest/full/ There's something a little discordant about Prospera's proto-feminist revenge on a male establishment, set against her matchmaker's desire to see her daughter married off. But it is the 15th century. Gary Thompson, Daily News Film Critic

"Julie Taymor puts her spin on ‘The Tempest’: Hits, misses & sorceress Helen Mirren as Prospera" 2010

http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/movies/20101216_The_Tempest.html#ixzz2KWhIs8NE Creating the victim. "In this gender twist, it is partly because Prospera is a woman that her dukedom could be stolen from her, and the bitterness of this fact infiltrates and heightens the tension of all her interactions with the other characters on the island" (Taymor 15, _The Tempest: Screenplay_, 2010)

Prospera's lack of authority or legitimacy is Taymor's invention (or the invention of Glen Berger, her assistant on Spiderman, who literally wrote new verse lines for Prospera).

Further, she argues, "Given that Nature is identified as "The Mother," knowledge of the medicinal elements of the earth has traditionally been the purview of women. . . . At the top of the story, Prospera does not yet recognize or acknowledge her own dark side, but as the play progresses Prospera and Sycorax become mirrors to one another in their malignant and abusive use of the black arts" (Taymor 15). But Sycorax is never depicted, and audience members who don't know who she is will never miss her.

Importantly, in leaving behind her magic to return to Milan, the diegesis suggests it is necessary for Prospera to abandon both "white" and "black" magic, and thus ANY female power associated with such Shamanic traditions. Myth of the mother:
always had time for baby,
though not ruling... Coda:
How A Spiderman Fanboy
(disguised as her assistant)
Killed Taymor's Career,
Wrote the Sexist Backstory For Prospera
The Men With "Bucks" Helped Him Do It. Before the notoriously bad reviews began, Glen Berger was straight forward about his position on the musical, and his work for Taymor. Speaking to New York Magazine he explained how the vision was totally hers:

“I totally get this and dig it as a writer,” says Berger, who “auditioned” to work with Taymor on the book by dashing off a sample scene and has subsequently felt “a bit like Zelig” as he finds himself in meetings at Bono’s villa in Èze-sur-Mer. “It’s not really a question of being a control freak or a perfectionist, or being on an ego trip or having OCD. It’s simply that her vision is so specific that if you don’t get it right, it’s wrong. In fact it’s really wrong."

Jesse Green, "A Web and A Prayer," New York Magazine, Nov 2010)

http://nymag.com/arts/theater/features/69680/ Two years later, in a private e-mail to _Vanity Fair_:

As Glen Berger, the book’s co-author, noted, “I was watching a mother and her young boy walking back from the bathroom sometime in the middle of Act Two. And the expression on the boy’s face told me everything I needed to know. He just seemed disheartened. And it was so sad.”

But to Taymor, even a little boy’s long face meant nothing if it stood in the way of her single-minded commitment to her “pseudo-feminist, somewhat artificial take on the story” and her obsession with “the hubris-filled Arachne.” That word again! Here, a monster saga veers toward classical tragedy. Even Taymor’s personal assistant hoped the director would “ultimately understand that with great power (and great budgets) comes great responsibility,” a riff on Spider-Man’s own hard-won mantra. Or, as Berger put it in an e-mail: “Seeking changes to a show about spider-man?.... It’s a freaking show. about spider-man. It shouldn’t be a problem.”

Perhaps relevantly, Taymor did not write Prospera's backstory: Glen Berger did (_Tempest Screenplay, 14). Copeland describes the production's most prominent property--a symbolic red ribbon. Double Vision "'Feminism’ and ‘feminist’ must be dangerous words representing dangerous concepts" (Offen 119). Stella Duffy: “Theatre is supposed to offer a window on society yet women are treated as though they are a minority. . . . Too many plays performed in theatres subsidized by the taxpayer are dominated by male roles, with female[s] . . . often struggling to find work.”
Further, as many scholars have noted, the roles for women are not particularly good ones... Gender Equity in Performance Is it better in America? The paucity of female playwrights demonstrates the pervasiveness of the issue at all levels of production and performance; as the LA Female Playwrights Initiative noted:

Over the last century, the disparity for women playwrights in America has gotten even worse. In 1908/09, only 12.8% of the productions on Broadway were by women playwrights. Some 100 years later, the percentage of major New York productions written by women was 12.6%. “The plays may be taught [produced/directed] so as to foreground their historical construction in Renaissance England and in the institutions of criticism, dismantling the metaphysical concepts in which they seem at present to be entangled, and especially the construction of gender and sexuality” (Alan Sinfield, _Political Shakespeare: Essays in Cultural Materialism_, 1994, 178). Why Taymor's "feminism" matters.

Julie Taymor doesn't say she is a feminist, and does not consciously think of her work in these terms.

I wish she would. She is the only female feature film director of Shakespeare; I'll bet she secures funding--the "bucks"--for a film version of her stage _A Midsummer Night's Dream_.

I'd like to see her Titania as a triumphant and positive depiction of mother magic. I'd like to see all the play's animal-human (bestial) possibilities for women's sexual appetite explored without a resort to the monster-mother.

Perhaps Taymor has grown enough to manage a sexual mother she doesn't have to punish.

Perhaps she needs a new dramaturg--a declared feminist--to get dangerous with. Thus, regardless of whether you are male or female, "to BE a feminist is to BE at odds with male-dominated culture and society." To call yourself a feminist requires that you acknowledge BEING at odds. Tamora--wearing red, like Saturninus, and assessing the spoils. Taymor’s directorial choices generate the most lurid construction yet in the Shakespeare film oeuvre of mother as monster. (Unlike Shakespeare's version, in Taymor's film no explanation is given as to what happened to the Empress's son.) Post-partum, Tamora shows no signs of pregnancy, but demonstrates a deviant sexual attachment to her adult sons, which simultaneously infantilizes her husband, the Emperor. The PAN sequence demonstrates the most fully realized moment of Tamora as monster-mother (in the genre tradition of horror films), literalizing the notion that “woman in her mothering role is transformed into a human/animal” (Creed 47) and representing her children as human/animals as well. Further, her children are depicted as both transsexual, part male and part female, frightening within by virtue of their indistinguishable sex and gender, marking the inability of patrilineal culture to categorize and control them. If an audience takes seriously Saturninus’s claim (in Shakespeare) that he is exiting with Tamora expressly to “consummate [his] spousal rights,” then upon Tamora’s return to the screen or stage he has already taken physical possession of her body. Focusing on Tamora as a rape victim allows for an alternate interpretation, albeit an uncharacteristically sympathetic one, of the character. Moreover, “as sexual identity in the early modern period was inextricably bound to personal identity, the violation of the body became an invasion and domination of the inner subject, an absolute depersonalising” (Wynne-Davis 132). From this perspective, the Tamora of the latter half of the text is a violated, dominated, “depersonalized” version of her former self. Side Note on How The Personal is The Political
(and the artistic) and Individualist Feminism

Taymor's film, _Across the Universe_ (she has indicated that the familial structure of the narrative was in large part biographical), depicts a strident, protesting female voice: resonant with her elder sister, whom she describes as a "radical," it is evident that Taymor associates "feminist" with a type of activism in which she does not participate. Her mother was a well known political organizer in the democratic party and political science teacher: a feminist. Rather, in practice Taymor's feminism has resembled the feminism she ascribed to Frida--which mirrors a valuation of "reproduction" established not by modern feminist scholars, but by Diotima in Plato's Symposium--a strong collaborative relationship through which partners create beautiful and enduring art. Goldenthal's vitae as a composer demonstrates the extent to which their body of work is deeply collaborative. All roads lead to Shakespeare... In her director's commentary, she explains fliply, “So now Tamora is pregnant. You must not ask about time in Titus Andronicus; you just have to let that go completely.” Needless to say, Taymor facilitates the ability of her audience to “let go” of Tamora’s of nine month pregnancy and the complications it delivers. While the repression of representations of childbirth is common—-in _The Body Embarrassed_ Gail Kern Paster explains that historically “childbirth is especially invisible in dramatic representation, where the act of giving birth has been an offstage event, as unstageable as the other forms of bodily evacuation is so embarrassingly resembles” (163)—-the diegetic contradictions in this scene highlight Taymor’s complete expurgation of materiality. The boy’s naked body was wrapped unceremoniously in crumpled newspapers, like a bundle of wet trash to be discarded, suggesting the nurse’s haste in disposing of the child. Nonetheless, he has been meticulously cleaned: his dark curly hair has been freshly picked and combed; his skin is smooth and supple, its dark tones even; he bears no trace of his traumatic passage through the female reproductive body. Lovingly displayed in close-ups, the newborn is presented to both his father and the audience as spotless and perfect; all vestiges of birthing and physical associations with the mother have been removed. The only parent the audience will imagine him having, for the remainder of the film, is Aaron. The question of what happened to Tamora's baby is never addressed by her husband. In an interview with _The Daily Beast_, Taymor offered: “I think the times are right for a woman, a lead woman role, where she’s enormously flawed” (5-21-12)

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/05/20/broadway-director-julie-taymor-is-back-with-a-vengeance.html Author's note:

Though I am making this Prezi public for the purposes of sharing and feedback, I consider this presentation in progress. Clearly, as an academic, my bibliography is lacking. Further, the accompanying research--which offers connections and explanation--is represented here only in sketched outline form. Thank you for your patience.

Hillary Fogerty, PhD
fogerty-h@mssu.edu Julie Taymor isn’t employed. Although her Tony award winning Lion King—Hamlet two adaptive genres and several generations removed—has earned over five billion dollars in ticket sales, in sixteen countries around the globe (more than all six Star Wars films combined) and is one of the longest running shows in theatre history at over fifteen years on stage, she got fired (spectacularly) for making exactly the types of choices that rendered her earlier productions a success.

Julie Taymor isn’t a man. Despite the fact that the period of 1990-1999 saw more Hollywood and studio investment in feature-length Shakespeare films than in the entirety of previous cinematic output, Taymor, directing Titus in 1999, became the first woman to direct a feature-length film of Shakespeare for studio release in eighty-five years, making her only the second woman in American history to do so. As recent studies in the EU have demonstrated, limited opportunities for women in performance—whether behind or in front of the camera, whether on stage or on screen—are a global phenomenon, especially with regards to Shakespeare, where the employment opportunities for men regularly exceed those for women at a rate of more than three to one.

Julie Taymor isn’t a feminist. Despite spates of reviews and analyses which identify her work as feminist—most relevantly 2010’s The Tempest—and despite the fact that she consistently adapts her source texts to create opportunities for women and better women’s roles, Taymor herself denies that such consciousness of gender and gender equity equals feminism.

Julie Taymor isn’t a mother. However, her ground-breaking theatre work is often informed by a particularly striking concern with gender and the body, particularly the reproductive body. Over and over again, her choices of texts in adaptation and her choices in depicting the body cultivate a strikingly conflicted and often malevolent view of maternity and female influence. Further, across the span of her career Taymor has been notably vocal regarding children and the types of theatre children are allowed to see (Gold 1998). Consistently, in interview after interview, Taymor returns to the issue of children, and the notion that while modern entertainment culturally cheats them, her complex vision offers access to mythology and complex humanity.
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