The Wednesday Pop Culture Rant has two words for parents lamenting that death occurs in The Good Dinosaur: Bambi’s Mom. We all saw what went down in the forest primeval, and we weren’t old enough to even pour one out for her. We survived. We learned. Understanding life means coming to grips with death. One of the chief functions of a parlor in your home in the “good old days” was to lay out bodies so people could come and pay their respects. Thus the term funeral parlor once those duties got transferred to a distant locale so we could insulate ourselves from our mortality. Perhaps instead of getting all hashtaggy on Twitter you could sit down and have a conversation about grief. What’s that? Your oh sensitive child is busy blowing people away in Fallout 4? Never mind.

Art should accomplish dozens of things at once, but one of its chief ends should involve helping us learn how to live. That’s The Rant’s view anyway. Diversion and amusement are all well and good, but give us a taste of grit so we remember the world hurts and bruises us along with its joys and pleasures.

The amazing Ten Thousand Things theater company in Minneapolis stages Shakespeare, Beckett, and Brecht for prisons, homeless shelters and other marginalized places and peoples. Theater founder Michelle Hensley has a simple premise: “People who have been condescended to all their lives do not need to be exposed to mediocre theater.”1 When prisoners see Waiting for Godot, they immediately identify with that longing for change that never arrives. They understand the tangled relationships of Hamlet will lead to violence, a violence that never solves anything but keeps on occurring according to its own horrific logic.

The Rant wishes those in the arts would stop being defensive about their place in the community. Art has given us a vocabulary to express our deepest sorrows; art provides a window into the desires we cannot name; art delivers the cautionary tale, the nuanced relationship, the alternative explanation; art proclaims multiplicity in a culture of binaries; art, like Molly Bloom, never stops insisting:

yes I said yes I will Yes

The Rant will listen to the echo of the Yes art offers rather than the grinding No so many of our institutions now shout because Yes makes, and keeps us, human.

  1. Thanks to the New York Times for the quote

One Response to “The Good Rant”

  1. Johnny High-Hat

    Hey, Mr. Rant.

    This is really lovely – strong content and beautiful language. Want to use to justify the power of art. A quote – oops, quotation – about the value of art. Very moving, Shawn.

    Hey, did you like “The Good Dinosaur”? The kids went to see it last Sunday but we’ve not spoken. We’re anticipating a crush of newborns named Arlo now.



Leave a Reply