Exploring the Social Imagination

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Good People ~ The Big Picture that Liberals Miss!

Good People, a play by David Lindsay-Abaire is a story supposed to be about economic disparity and how people living in poverty or at the poverty line have it tougher than anyone else. 

"David Lindsay-Abaire pays his respects to his old South Boston neighborhood with this tough and tender play about the insurmountable class divide between those who make it out of this blue-collar Irish neighborhood and those who find themselves left behind. The scrappy characters have tremendous appeal, and the moral dilemma they grapple with—is it strength of character or just a few lucky breaks that determines a person's fate?—holds special significance in today's harsh economic climate." —Variety. "

Again, the play is about 'Southie' a Boston neighborhood where a night on the town means a few rounds of bingo, where this month's paycheck covers last month’s bills, and where Margie Walsh has just been let go from yet another job. Facing eviction and scrambling to catch a break, Margie thinks an old fling who's made it out of Southie might be her ticket to a fresh new start. Margie is about to risk what little she has left to find out. Lindsay-Abaire explores the struggles, shifting loyalties and unshakeable hopes that come with having next to nothing in America.

I can tell you that the play is much more than that and I even wonder if Lindsay-Abaire even knew it what he was doing; I mean if he really attempted to be so much deeper, letting his audience take in what they can and hoping that some would take in the 'Big Picture'. What is that 'big picture' in view of the play's script and characters? Good question and I am going to tell you and also tell you why liberals often miss the 'big picture'. Though I agree with Lindsay-Abaire for his exploring the struggles and loyalties in a lower class community... in the end, they have more than they think, certainly not next to nothing. And, this is not entirely appreciated when you read the critics.

Yes, the main character is a middle aged woman living with an adult cognitively disabled child, which we are led to believe she gave birth to likely as a teen mother. In the first scene of the play, we are introduced to her in the alley of a dollar store getting fired for being late. Not once, but many times and we are told that she was given many grace periods by the young boss whom she had known since he was a small child. Sadly, she begs him not to let her go but it comes down to his job or hers. He too is from 'Southie'. 

We meet Margie's friends, quite uncouth (vulgar) women  who too are from Southie and have done little with their lives.  One friend tells Margie that she saw her old boy friend and she should seek out him for a job, after all... he is a doctor. The other friend hounds and even threatens Margie that if she doesn't pay the rent (though knowing of her being fired and showing little sympathy) she will kick her out. There is another friend whom is not shown but we come to know her as Cookie and she lives on the streets... 

Margie takes this advice and nearly begs the old boyfriend who seems to feel sorry for her and invites her over to a party and maybe she can socially mingle and get a job prospect. The party gets cancelled and yet Margie goes thinking the doctor lied. The next scene, we meet the doctor and his African - American wife who are discussing their marital problems. Then, Margie shows up first meeting his wife. 

Interesting conversations ensue. Margie is loud and uncouth and tensions rise. At first, on the surface, we think it really is about economic disparity but it comes down to choices. Though Margie defends her choices and the doctor his we still feel sorry for Margie.  But, then Margie does the unthinkable and she declares that her disabled daughter is the doctor's. We never hear from their mouths that it is truly his... only accusations and assumptions. We don't know who to feel sorry for in this moment: Margie, the wife or the doctor. 

As the discussion heats up to a boiling or melt down point, we realize that it is about choices and not only that but sacrifices. It is this that liberals don't like. That a person can make a decison and it can be a willing sacrifice. Liberals want to blame. They want to blame society and economic disparity. They think that only if the State comes to 'Margie's' aide, her existence will be less a sacrifice and more materialisitc.  And, even more ridiculous, that 'the man - the doctor' should be blamed, he was supposed to be her hero.

Maybe he should have been, especially if he fathered the child but we learn something about Margie too and that is if she really had his baby, why wait all these years and throw it in his face and his wife's in order to gain at least rent moneyWe could assume that it was a case of date rape and she felt bad or that she really loved the boy (now doctor) and wanted to spare him the trouble of having a family knowing he was headed to university. 

We learn that Cookie died on the streets and all the women characters could barely express sympathy and one has to ask why they did not take her in at least out of the cold to sleep on the floor. We also learn that the doctor was a bad boy from Southie and almost killed someone. One has to ask how he came up in society having that kind of background. It was told to us in the dialogue between him and Margie and also the wife... the importance of having a Father. Not the State!

Yet, at the end we still have to wonder or ask, 'who pays' and that is the question. Who pays? Are you supposed to pay, or me? Is the State supposed (you and me) to pay for everyone's poor choice or poor circumstance? In the play, at the very end, the young boss from the dollar store paid for Margie's back rent. An act of kindness even in Southie. 

The real message or 'Big Picture' is not about economic disparity as much as it was about individual lives, 'good' people make bad choices, and they may or may not make sacrifices, and yet if they are really good people they can move forward in the place where they are, accepting their life and knowing that among other 'good' people in the same situation or place there is kindness (in the place where you are you can be kind) and hope.  

One thing that I understood clearly about 'good people' is that good people and bad people can be found everywhere and in every economic environment.  I would add that likely the doctor character will eventually experience the greater loss if were were to predict and write the sequel. Why? Because, now his wife (African-American) will always think (be haunted by the idea) that her husband does have a white daughter that he left behind even though it is likely not true. 

And, there is more on the doctor's plate which can go unnoticed as we think he is better off ... thus missing the big picture of his life. His existing marital problems were made known to us and we can assume probably stem from his own 'bad boy' background. Aside of that, he and his wife likely also struggle in their mixed race marriage which tries to thrive in a white collar class (being a doctor) society. Yet, none of the women characters seem to feel sorry for him. 

We are left grieving for them and yet sadly no one is grieving for the doctor of Southie! Though, I myself saw it in the eyes of the character as the curtain came down but then it could have been the actress who caught it who got it ... the message about good people and the big picture.

You see, good people can be anyone and anywhere and not State made!



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