Superfudge opens today, another piece of baggage I can wrap in brown paper and stow away in a corner where it won’t clutter my life quite as much. Of course, it would not go away without incident.
In the final days of rehearsal – when I am struggling with being unholy sick of the show and trying to figure out what’s wrong with various scenes, how it can be fixed, and the cast is trying to deal with multiple (far too fast) costume changes and a high-concept set – I get a note from the director of the theatre:
“Did I hear Andrew say something was stupid?”
“If it’s in the script, yeah, he said it.”
“We can’t do that. I get complaints.”
“Now let me get this straight. You chose this script over a year ago. Longer, since it was a year ago that you were begging me to direct it. It’s been in rehearsal for over a month. And just now, at the eleventh hour, you want a script change??!!”
The problem is that I’m never that articulate when I’m angry. And angry I was, since I’ve been dealing with similar problems in the show since day one. Judy Blume seemingly made the error of writing the book from the viewpoint of a sixth grader, and then addressing things like how babies are made and the existence of Santa Claus. The problem wasn’t really with Ms. Blume’s prose, which is quite popular with its target audience, or the stage adaptation of it – the problem was I was spending too much time dealing with Other People’s Problems with the material.
And this is a very, very old pet peeve of mine, which I’ve been dealing with for over a decade now: the demonization of the word stupid. It is a perfectly good word, but having apparently solved all other problems, the prevailing standard in educational circles is that it is a bad word, and is, in fact, referred to as “the S word”. Which was, I had thought, a four-letter word signifying fecal matter. Shows what I know.
I am told that the word is outlawed so that children cannot use it against other children. I suppose this can be viewed as a good thing, as the kids will then have to avail themselves of other adjectives available to them in English language, leading them to increase their vocabularies by including such phrases as “big dummy dumb-head” or “contumacious lickspittle”.
I’m sorry, this reasoning has always struck me as, yes, stupid. Even – to use a word I never use in this context – retarded. Congratulations, you have just made a new swear word, and rendered it even more powerful by placing it in the same category as the old, venerable swear words.
At the very least, this is primitive magic: the hope that by erasing a symbol, you erase the thing it represents.
I wound up cutting the line entirely. There was also a bit associated with it, of all the adults on stage looking at the character disapprovingly, but that was not enough. That was also cut.
But that’s one more brick laid in the stronghold that is an ongoing project, the stronghold that will eventually isolate me from the strange nattering beasts that claim to be the same species as myself, but they ain’t fooling me.
People can’t be that stupid. Not on my lonely little planet, anyway.
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