Jennifer Forever – Two Peas at the Sydney Fringe (Theatre Review)
A Two Peas Production at the Sydney Fringe
If feminists thought they could heave a sigh of relief at the demise of credibility in religious based misogyny, they’ve been appalled (or perhaps indifferent) to find much of the fantasy rich conservative-male-dominant hysteria inherent in religious misogyny has been lovingly picked up by evolutionary biology. Again, women are told that “male behavior” (as if that really exists) is a sacrosanct norm – this time anointed by the irrefutable “facts” of biological theory – and that female behavior is as strange and as much an aberration as the clitoris itself, an organ oddly inaccessible by the penis and therefore condemned to be misunderstood, ignored or in some cases, removed in preference of a more “rational” or “scientific” logic. It’s not that unusual for feminists to see science and religion as happy bed fellows, but there was a brief moment, where this feminist at least, thought the death of god might also mean the death of the decrees of god. It was naive and silly of me of course, a foolish moment where I forgot that god was created in our image and not the other way around. But then, if feminism isn’t an impatience for the triumph of rationality over an impassioned insistence on the irrational, I don’t know what it is, and I now find myself regularly engaged in discussions that argue – for example – that rape is a biological imperative, a sad accident of that overwhelming build up of sperm and the females “natural” passivity and resistance. As if anyone who has ever seen a band perform on a Saturday night could imagine females to be sexually passive. I thought we’d seen the death of those antiquated theories, and there is certainly enough evidence to argue that rape is a criminal act, performed by criminals who more often than not commit other crimes, and all about power – not sperm. But the 80’s and the 90’s hiatus is over, and when it comes to questions of certain types of power plays that involve sex, we seem to have moved back several decades. Along side that conversation is the issue of pedophilia that is a crime when a priest perpetuates it on anyone, and “natural” and “healthy” when we think of thirty or forty-year old men and a fifteen year old girl. We still argue – my god – that a fourteen year old girl looks like a woman, when in fact she is a hip-less, ass-less stick with large breasts, very much the gangley counter-part of her fourteen year old stick figure boyfriend who suddenly grew an enormous (and hidden) penis overnight. Girls whose bodies are developing in their teen years do not look like women; if only every woman over twenty looked like them, we fantasise. In fact, desire is manufactured, and if you really want a “woman”, you will look at she with the curvaceous torso, the childbearing hips, and the ability to choose whether you see “come hither” or “get fucked” in her eye.
Of course, the person all this really offends, is the deep thinking, complex male, who’d like to be left alone to manage his premature ejaculation and his temporary impotency in the privacy of his own committed relationship – but that is a whole other story the world is not at all ready for yet.
It is these motley and difficult subjects Two Peas cover in Jennifer Forever, in a deliciously cool production that confronts issues we’d prefer to think have passed us by, but actually simmer underneath our societal surface. While we ‘know’ that an attraction for younger women might be unpalatable, accommodating it is a defense of sorts against a right to have it in the first place. We’re all fighting for superior DNA – the question that society poses, is what exactly is superior DNA? What is it that informs the answer to this question? Youth and beauty? My family carries a propensity for an overproduction of bad cholesterol – is my ideal mate he who has a superior ability to combat this defect and produce a strong heart? If not, why not? How much of our desire is manufactured and how much of it is implanted in our psyche by billboards and magazine covers? How much of our success depends on the look of envy in our mates (competitors) eye as opposed to the ‘unexplained’ attraction we have for that person whose DNA can defeat diabetes? What the spurious observations of evolutionary biology claim are a clear-headed, unbiased ‘scientific’ consideration of behavior, refusing what we already know, that desire clouds in the realm of the unconscious and we sublimate at our peril. When Tara Clark’s ‘man’ claims he watches young women, but takes his passion out on prostitutes, his assumption is that the unconscious is being met in the rational realms, but Tara Clark asks – is that really so?
Jennifer Forever may be addressing what seem to be easy issues at its surface, but beneath it address a very modern take on a certain kind of thinking that wants to work its way toward permission for something that is being fought out on the bodies of young women. Clark directs Dominic McDonald as MAN and Gemma Scoble as GIRL in a predatorial fight that shifts the balance of power between the youthful female, unaware of her power and yet heady with the might of it, and the older male, wanting something he can’t have and yet ultimately wanting nothing more than to conquer that which is beyond his grasp. The pair form a believable and sexually tense couple, the battle between them interspersed with large-scale projected images and a ‘school room’ relationship McDonald develops with the audience. It’s an exciting production, that never faltered for me, beautifully written, thoroughly up-to-date and challenging for the thinker who might be au fait with this particular issue. There is a lot going on underneath the surface here in an ultramodern tackling of a controversy that to my understanding, is largely unexplored. We all know pedophilia is wrong. But can we really feel bad for that older man who looks longingly upon the ingenue?