A Midsummer Night's Cream
May 16, 2014
Oan: (reading "A Midsummer Night's Dream") Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour– (Puts down the book.) Ah, I'm gonna get personal here. A Midsummer Night's Dream will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first Shakespeare play I ever saw. I was, I wanna say like, eleven or twelve and I saw a local high school production of it. And even for high school production values, it was one of the funniest things I've ever seen up to that point in my life. And every time I watch in any form, it keeps being new. It is one of Shakespeare's genuine masterpieces. A work of comic magic that is quoted by everyone.
(Cut to clip from Animaniacs; Yakko is sitting on the branch up a tree dressed in loincloth. Dot appears in a circle at the bottom left corner of the screen.)
Yakko: If we shadows have offended, Think but this and all is mended.
Dot: If the actors on our show mad you mad, it'll be okay if you look at it this way.
Etta James: (singing) What fools these mortals be!
Paul McCartney: Now am I dead, now am I fled. Oh well, you can't win them all.
Oan: (v/o) The play has been adapted into books, operas, Peking operas, at least four feature films and one animated one. Characters in the play have appeared in sci-fi books, graphic novels, Saturday morning cartoons, countless weddings have ended with music written specifically for the play, Oberon and Titania have given their names to two of Uranus's moons.
Oan: So, why the fuck am I talking about this?
(Cut to title sequence for A Midsummer Night's Cream)
Oan: (v/o) In 1999, Adam and Eve Productions decided to leave their own mark on this albeit joyful masterwork by filling it with butts and mammary glands and such, under the supervision of cinematic craftsman, Stuart Canterbury, whose numerous Canterbury tales include Buttwoman 3, Snatch Adams, My First Lesbian Experience ... 2, and, my personal favorite, This Ain't Curb Your Enthusiasm XXX.
Oan: Yes, I am talking about the porn version. I said that I wanted to do a variety of adaptations and this is an adaptation. Which is why I am talking about it. (Kyle is not looking forward to reviewing it) Fuuhhh.
Oan: (v/o) This is really easy to mock, fish in a filthy, filthy barrel. I mean, no disrespect to Not-Her-Real-Name (Sydnee Steele), Not-Her-Real-Name (Ava Vincent), Definitely-Not-His-Real-Name (Michael J. Cox), Not-His-Real-Name (Evan Stone), and I-Know-for-a-Fact-That-is-Not-Her-Real-Name (Nina Hartley), or to the creative vision of This-Must-be-the-Porn-Equivalent-to-Alan-Smithee (Stuart Canterbury), but this movie sucks.
Oan: Oh, I understand its purpose, mind you. But, that purpose is just to be a disposable piece of matter to fulfill this biological need by ringing your body's internal workings, leaving this feeling of loneliness and regret. It's like reviewing the KFC Bowl (Flash of a picture of KFC Bowl accompanied by a percussion sting.) I went through like five different fast-food chains writing that joke. I don't know why I ended up on KFC, but yeah.
Oan: (v/o) Oh hey, ten points for efficiency. Not a minute in and they get right to a lesbian orgy. Just ... takes a deep breath and dives right between the leg there.
Oan: Trivia time! Hey everyone, did you know that in Shakespeare's day all the parts were played by men? Did you also know that the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream were likely played by BOY actors? YOUNG boy actors? Like, under the age of ten boy actors? No? Well, you know now.
Oan: (v/o) I'm going to kill the mood every now and then to keep you focused. The plot (cut to Kyle laughing nonchalantly) of this one-hour movie is very fairy-ccentric. The Athenian nobles are cut, so the lovers enter the forest without any context. The mechanicals are cut, so Bottom wanders in without any reason. (mock singing) Oh lah-dee-dah, I'm going to weave a basket in the middle of the woods at two in the morning because why else would I be here? Dah-dee-dah-dee-dah. (normal) So, it's really just the various fairies and their actions upon the mortal characters. So, if you have a thing for insect wings and body glitter, drink it all up. Just, leave the sound off.
Puck: Up and down, up and down, I shall lead them up and down.
Oan: Yeah, girl, you earn that Julliard degree.
Oan: One thing that bugs me. This play is a wonderful showcase of some of Shakespeare's most magical poetry, just the imagery he creates is wonderful, like this passage. Oberon is telling Puck to fetch a magical flower and he says: (reading the passage from the AMND book. As he reads further, he grows more aroused by the text.) Thou rememberest/ Since once I sat upon a promontory,/ And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back/ Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath/ That the rude sea grew civil at her song/ And certain stars shot madly from their spheres,/ To hear the sea-maid's music./ That very time I saw, but thou couldst not,/ Flying between the cold moon and the earth,/ Cupid all arm'd: a certain aim he took/ At a fair vestal throned by the west,/ And loosed his love-shaft smartly from his bow,/ As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts;/ But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft/ Quench'd in the chaste beams of the watery moon,/ And the imperial votaress passed on,/ In maiden mediation, fancy-free./ Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell:/ It fell upon a little western flower,/ Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound,/ And maidens call it love-in-idleness./ Fetch me that flower; the herb I shrew'd thee once. (he stops reading and holds the book to his chest) Gorgeous!
Oberon: Fetch me that flower, the herb I showed you once.
Oan: (Sarcastically) Gorgeous, but totally unnecessary apparently.
Oan: (v/o; mocking the the nonchalant tone of the actor's performances) Yo, Puck! Yeah? You know that flower? Yeah. Get it! 'Kay.
Oan: (Sarcastically) Poetry!
Oan: (v/o) I mean, I understand why they cut the verse. They're not selling this movie on the strength of their performer's elocution.
Oan: I mean, if they were, then we just get a bunch of porn stars acting (starts laughing). Sorry, sorry, sorry, tough industry, it's a tough industry for them. They put up a lot of shit already. So, yeah ...... (starts laughing again)
Oan: (v/o) The only two somewhat decent actors are the starriest porn stars: Evan Stone, aka Sir Laurence Porn-livier, has over a thousand credits to his name, including the porn version of Batman, the porn version of Star Trek, and the needlessly expensive Pirates XXX Series.
Female Pirate: You're right, Captain! The ride's just changed.
Evan: Why is it always got to be the supernatural shit? Why can't we just fight the good old pirate with the wooden leg and an eye patch?
Oan: Aww, that's cute. It thinks it's movies. Sorry. Disresp - no, no, no.
Oan: (v/o) And the other being Nina Hartley, a sex-positive activist, an author and a sex educator who is by all accounts a very intelligent woman. (Cut to a clip from Boogie Nights) Also, she once had the privilege of working with Paul Thomas Anderson.
Little Bill: What the fuck are you doing?
Little Bill's wife: What the fuck does it look like I'm doing?
Oan: (v/o) So, it makes sense they keep the verse for those two, while giving the secondary characters ... this.
Helena: Oh, hell, this is all a big joke on me.
Lysander: Demetrius, you like Hermia.
Oan: (v/o) The plot of A Midsummer Night's Dream is in fact very sophisticated with a lot of moving parts. There are three primary sections: nobles and lovers taken from Greek myth, fairies plucked from Celtic lore and Romantic literature, and some amateur actors drawn most likely from the sort of people Shakespeare got drunk with on weekends. And these factions clash and celebrate through the sections of two powerful couples. Theseus and fiancee Hippolyta and the bickering fairy monarchs Oberon and Titania and -- Oh, who cares about the plot? The movie doesn't. It's just a sequence of who bangs who. Titania bangs her fairies, Hermia bangs Lysander, Oberon bangs Titania, Oberon bangs some other random fairy, Demetrius and Lysander bang Helena, even though she explicitly ... states that she doesn't ... want ... to ... Uggghhhh!!!
Oan: What the fu-
Oan (v/o) And of course, Titania bangs Bottom, who has a head of a- AAaaahh!!
Oan: That's not a donkey, that's an Uruk-Hai.
(Clip from Lord of the Rings; An Uruk-Hai growls.)
Titania: What angel awakes me from my flowery bed?
Oan: (v/o) Kill it before it gets to Helm's Deep! So, I'm basically saying it's a porn movie. Everything, plot dialogue, everything, is an excuse to lead one person's genitals to another persons genitals. The plot is simply a skeleton to hang tits on. The text is ignored just to get from bed to bed. And the scenes last long enough to allow finishing and then another scene starts. But I'm including this movie for a reason. Tying back to my larger theme, the gradient of director-text relationships: selling the text (Romeo + Juliet), delivering the text (Much Ado About Nothing), interpreting the text (Richard III), reworking the text (The Tempest), and now exploiting the text (A Midsummer Night's Cream), into a narrative that makes absolutely no narrative sense.
Oan: So, we're supposed to be aroused by this film?
(Cut to the scene where Titania screws Bottom, who disturbingly shouts like a donkey.)
Oan: (v/o) There's a weapons-grade erection killer.
(Cut to a clip from Clerks 2)
Jay: What kind of sick fuck gets turned on watching a guy fuck a donkey?
Oan: So, easy potshots at cheap porn aside, of all of Shakespeare's plays, why Rule 34 this one?
Oan (v/o) Well, with the many characters, there are plenty of potential pairings. And fairies, as well as creatures, have plenty of erotic ties, but just looking at the text, A Midsummer Night's Dream can be done quite celibately, focusing on the magical elements and farcical elements while downplaying the erotic elements. And yes, while the play is all about falling in love wildly and madly and irrationally, no one actually has sex in the play. The Athenian lovers spend all their time chasing each other and no time spent actually with each other and the Bottom-Titania pairing is more chaste than people realize.
Oan: She expresses her love not sexually, but submissively, waiting on him, serving him, doting him, and when they lie down into bed, she kisses not his lips but his long, throbbing...ears.
Oan (v/o) His ears. And yes, these fairies were young boys. Bottom refers to Moth, Cobweb, Peaceblossom, and Mustardseed as "Good masters" and "Good monsieurs," talking to them like one might entertain a servant not a concubine. And it's easy to picture the scene of a smitten Titania stroking the ears of an absurd donkey man while surrounded by winged cherubs and it's...kind of cute, innocent even.
Oan: Then again, some of Shakespeare's dirtiest jokes come from this play like the opening line. The first line of the play, Theseus walks in and says, "Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour draws on apace; four happy days bring in another moon: but, O methinks, how slow this old moon wanes! She lingers my desires, like to a step-dame or a dowager long withering out a young man's revenue." (Thinks about the line for a minute) That's a dick joke! No, seriously, think about it. Like, he's talking about getting ready for his wedding and he's complaining about you know how slow his "old moon wanes" and he's talking about the old lingering his desires and long withering without a young man's revenue...tough crowd.
Oan: (v/o) But, really, there are all sorts of little winks here. This is, after all, a play about a magical love drug: one that was created, if you remember, when young Cupid's fiery penis was quenched in the chaste beams of the watery vagina. And the play ends with no less than three marriages, which are consummated as the fairies declare that they shall go from bed to bed blessing each one. And, of course, the guy named Bottom gets the head of an ass. But still, no sex, none. Romeo and Juliet had sex, Much Ado About Nothing hinged around sex.
Oan: A Midsummer Night's Dream has foreplay.
Oan: (v/o) It opens with a man aching to get married and ends with three marriages. A king and queen bicker and ends with them literally hopping from bed to bed. And between the beginning and the end, desires are tweaked and juggled and amended and teased and tickled but never satisfied. We the audience can see the obvious solution: four people, two couples. But that simple solution is danced around, teased, but not solved until the end. And it takes a lot of innuendo and love potions and using and aching to finally, finally, get to their beds.
Oan: But the reason why there's no porn version of Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing is because the sex in those plays has consequences, lasting consequences. And porn, by design, is consequence-free. There's no STD's in porn, there's no pregnancy, there's no emotional trauma, there's no regret. Sex isn't the cause of problems, it is the solution to problems, all problems. And the only problems people have in porn is that they're not having sex right now.
Oan: (v/o) And so, that sweaty consequence-free environment is superficially, at least, perfect for a weak and idle theme. Now I'm not saying that Shakespeare was necessarily above this. I mean, in his day, plays were performed to the same districts that housed brothels and bear-baiting pits. He worked in low-brow circles. I'm not saying that Shakespeare's above this, but I am saying that this play is smarter and deeper and more meaningful than this director and this cast and this company and this format allow it to be. If this was someone's fantasy like it was a fanfic artwork or rule-34ing the play, I wouldn't mind. I won't deny any individual their harmless fantasies. But here, it's run through the porn industry standard, leaching all joy and merriment and humor out of a masterpiece leading this sticky husk of embarrassment. In short, I demand better porn.
Puck: If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended, that you have but slumber'd here while these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream.
(Puck walks off the sound stage and blows a kiss causing the film to cross-dissolve.)
Oan: (Thinks for a minute) Nope, still offended.