The Jenner Show

Since this is a blog on “Life as Theater” as well as “the authenticity of self”….how can I not write a post on the ESPY award night during which Ms. Jenner took the stage to receive the Courage Award.  Political correctness has prevented the mainstream press from assessing this moment with anything near clarity.  Only in the blogosphere can one indulge in truth as one sees it.

Let’s look at the first part, Life as Theater.  This was a consummate such moment.  Here was a moment in one person’s life made into a gargantuan piece of theater!  This was French Absurdist theater at its best.  Stand back and let’s paint the picture:

Here is a vast hall of thousands of people, but in particular it is a vast hall of athletes….essentially locker room regular jocks for the most part.  They are here to extoll the special moments in a year of athletics.  Moments of physical prowess and excellence.  Moments of extreme effort and mental discipline.  For most of the evening, the videos and audience are rock and rolling with just such focus on events in the spectrum of sports.  But then comes “The Entrance”.  This is not an athletic moment.  This is not an end zone catch or a buzzer beater.  This is an abrupt turn from the night’s theme.  A great athletic champion has decided to cut his dick off.  And he is here to tell you about it.

Now, I am not here to question Bruce’s personal decision to become a woman.  I can never know his internal processes.  But in a vast room of jocks, when suddenly, one of their own, a former Decathlon champion, walks onto the stage dressed as a woman, it has to boggle the mind that times have changed so much that the room didn’t erupt into laughter and catcalls.  It is a testament to the power of our current pc and inclusive atmosphere, that this high risk moment got carried off.  The cameras panned the audience in close-ups.  The slightest slip would have been found and replayed.  There wasn’t a snicker, a smile, an aside, an askance glance in the house.  This was the Supreme Test of liberalism and cultural diversity.  Fill a vast house with locker room jocks and bring out one of their own, Bruce Jenner, in drag, and see what happens!  There he is, alone, walking downstage center, complete with wig, lipstick, eye shadow, earrings, breasts, cinched waist and high heels.  Every facial muscle in a thousand faces is under control.  Not one person giggles.  Instead, they give a standing ovation!  A theatrical triumph!  Jenner and the culture of diversity pull it off.  The moment works!  You cannot help but give it a look of wonderment.  This is Life as Theater at its most extreme.  I would be hard pressed two years ago to imagine this moment, and even if so, give it any chance of success.  He did it!  No matter your personal feelings about the matter, you have to give credit to the risk, the curtain call and this triumphal moment of……. Life as Theater.

Life has large moments of “theater” that often accompany great moments of change.  I think of Nixon’s farewell wave from the steps of the helicopter.  I think of the McCarthy trials when Special Counsel Welch asks Joe McCarthy, “Have you no shred of decency, sir?  At long last, have you no shred of decency?”  This Jenner moment may stand as symbol of one such sea change in a culture.  One could very well call the Jenner moment, tawdry, silly, pretentious, hilarious, dismaying, sad.  But you do so at your peril, and no one on that night betrayed any such thoughts passing across their mind or face.  The theatrical risk worked!  We have to take that fact into account.

Now a brief thought on the authenticity.  Neither I nor anyone else can know what Ms. Jenner’s inner turmoil on gender is all about.  We can only take her at her word or not.  I think he/she is honestly seeking authenticity.  Whether Bruce is now happier as Caitlyn dressed up in women’s clothes, I don’t know.  If there are now new hormones flowing through his body, do they induce a greater authenticity?  I don’t know.   It seems like an effort against the stream, against the grain.  Can it end in happiness for him, time will tell him.  That a person will go through all this social and physical hardship to seek the feeling of authenticity goes to the heart of how important authenticity of self is these days.

Though the theatrical moment was successful.  And that’s probably a good thing for inclusiveness and tolerance.  I, and we, will never know whether is truly engenders an authenticity that wasn’t there before.  That is for him or her to one day assess.  In the meantime, I don’t need an ongoing tv series to follow.  It will tell its audience nothing about the inner truth.  Even he/she may never know.  The tv series is only titillation, voyeurism and commerce.  None of that will aid Bruce in his odyssey, his Search for the Authentic Self.

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5 thoughts on “The Jenner Show

  1. Good observations and thoughts on this. I agree that it certainly was the riskiest of audiences to test! Especially with guys who can barely control themselves in many ways as we’ve seen in headlines- dogfighting, wife beating, random girl in bar slapping, etc, etc.. As you mention, I guess this is a positive statement , even if staged, on our society showing acceptance. I think this serves as a good role model for places where we hear of the homosexual kid being beaten to death in some small town. Although it was definitely good theater I think theater also serves as a learning forum for all. So although agreeably still strange in many of our minds, it could be a useful event . I think the thing that makes it so hard to believe is that Bruce was just such a Macho,Awesome Dude! Now he’s a woman….most of our minds weren’t prepared for this; now it stretches each and every one of our boundaries. Perhaps wether we agree with it or disagree stretching ones mind and thought boundaries is never a bad thing. It sure has given me a few hours of wonderment on the ever complex and screwed up human mind.

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    1. thanks for being a regular reader and commentator. Most of my readers seemed to have side-stepped this one. You are right…at minimum one has to be amazed and confounded by the change and reversals of much of what we came to presume. And the speed of change seems to have picked up in the last few years. Suddenly, so much is upon us. We stagger under the weight of change.

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  2. Thank you for the posts. The staging of this event is one aspect of the greater drama, absolutely. The other point I keep going back to as I’ve chewed over this post is this: what is authenticity? Was Mr. Jenner authentic as a man and an Olympic decathlete or is he now authentic as a woman? Or is his authenticity on a timeline, a continuum? Is authenticity itself dynamic, ever-changing, unfixed? A pursuit and not a state to be realized in some conclusive way? Then, I wondered why did he stay a man so long. Why did he wait? This is no caprice. What inner transformation did he have to undergo in order to realize the outer transformation? Mr. Jenner epitomized masculinity and warrior success. The archetype he embodied could not have been more idealized; the javelin throwing, high-jumping, running incarnation of Aries. It is the archetypical transformation in Epic proportions from Aries to Aphrodite and we bear witness to it. In this drama are we seeing played out the switch from war to love in a single human being? And all the other warriors must watch and wonder. Who’s next?

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    1. Welcome back, Sam….I awaited your comment and am not disappointed. Again you have made me consider my positions. A continuum of authenticity is indeed possible. That makes any position on the continuum as a point of greater authenticity than any point before it. That concept may be like being “a little pregnant”. Two views: one is either authentic or one is not. Or…one can be a work in progress and be increasingly authentic as one conquers one’s own inauthenticities. This brings up something I have often thought about…..is one born totally authentic? Having raised and taught children….I think the answer is yes. No gradient….total authenticity! Now, one might not be ready to accept the child as that “that” ultimately. But there are no subterfuges in infancy and early childhood. If there are, they are part of the authenticity. Somewhere along the line, probably sooner than later, the “total authenticity” is rendered less so and adaptive to surrounding demands. So we lose our original authenticity only to pursue its return for the rest of our lives. (or large part of it) Your idea of authenticity being a pursuit not a state is a interesting one. Quantum physics versus molecular physics. Eastern philosophies would say all is pursuit. Satori is elusive. Back to Jenner….perhaps his perfection of masculinity as you describe his Decathlon prowess was driven to its perfection by the very spectre of the feared femininity he sensed within. Only by such perfect triumph could he hope to defeat it! Was he thus driven by this female spectre? Thanks for your regular and provocative comments.

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  3. Excellent reply! Fundamentally, we are in agreement. I see authenticity as our natural state, just as you described your children’s early years. Mencius, Confucius’s disciple, advocated this view of people. We are born “good” or, using your term, authentic. Successor disciples advocated the opposite; we’re born “bad” and must make ourselves “good”. Nonetheless, along the way, our authenticity still exists, but occluded. Just as you say, our job is to uncover it but now equipped with the healthy power(ideally) of our adulthood.( The flaw of my “pursuit of authenticity” is that it could be a crutch for either inaction or, worse, rejection of the central task of life). The continuum of authenticity… I see it as a sort of dimmer switch, sometimes brighter, sometimes dimmer, but the source remains constant. I also reject the idea of a “little pregnant”, as do you. It’s the issue of how much it shows. The path toward authenticity is an inward journey. As I see it, it must start from within, but it could be misguided. With Mr. Jenner, we can only wonder at what point is his dimmer switch brightest, when is the light of his being reflecting his true authentic nature. His is a radical outward expression, hopefully, generated by the intensifying light of his authentic self.
    With Quantum Physics, what little I’ve read and discussions with my brother-in-law Anthony Zee, a theoretical physicist, the viewer somehow changes what’s being seen. Particles as object and viewer as subject interact in dialogue. It’s strange stuff. WIth Eastern philosophies, the idea of “pursuit” is not an observation of the condition of things but instead a way of being like a child, always open, curious, present. This is so critical that you brought this into the discussion because Mr. Jenner’s physical transformation indicates a conclusive knowing of self. In essence, “I know I am meant to be a woman”. It might run counter to the Eastern way of seeing the world.

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