The Devil Made Me Do It

An independent production by Write Me Originals, The Devil Made Me Do It is a theatre piece interrogating the pressures of being an actor/dancer in Hollywood or even just a woman in the 1950s.

Beginning as an intermission dancer, Nancy was offered the chance of a lifetime making films with director Robert Melva. Without much thought for the consequences, she signed on sacrificing not only her name but her independence, her body, and her life to the showbiz industry. Renamed as Nora Hudson, she’s cultivated into a glamorous starlet by the production company and encouraged to take a number of pills to enhance her suitability as at actor (eg pills for weight loss and energy). Eventually she loses herself along the way, realising that nobody in the industry valued her for herself, instead they valued her for being a sex symbol.

Nancy needs to break her contract with the devil – despite the fact he laughed in her face when she suggested it, she is determined to regain her soul. Given a challenge and a countdown, Nancy must revisit memories of her past and uncover what kind of person she truly is. It might be painful, but it’s necessary if she’s ever going to have a shot at regaining her soul.

While the story appears to be Nancy’s, it is more so about the haunting figure in the background. Both Nancy’s past and present selves are overshadowed by the devil. Nancy’s devil is the devil while Nora’s is her infamous manager, Melva, who is not only controlling and demanding, he is the person Nora must please daily to maintain her path to stardom.

With some dark turns this production explores a number of issues including drug-dependence, body-image issues, and gas-lighting. The Devil Made Me Do It is an engrossing piece of performance theatre with several quite talented young actors. The piece is a warning to performers, and people in general, to be wary of what you’re signing up for and the consequences of signing a contract that might exploit you later on/ bite you on the ass.

With costuming a throw-back to the 50s and the iconic blonde-bombshell archetype, the show is a delight to watch.

 

3.5 / 5 stars


Words by Kayla Gaskell

The Devil Made Me Do It is playing at the Bakehouse Theatre until February 22

For more information and to book tickets, click here

Fetishising His Own Sadness: The World of BoJack Horseman

Firstly, I must issue a spoiler warning. I can’t really talk about a series like BoJack Horseman without allowing spoilers into my discussion – that being said, they’ll be kept to a minimum.

 

The series’ protagonist, the eponymous BoJack Horseman, is the product of a poisonous relationship, and has subsequently been nurtured by alcoholism, drug abuse, and irresponsibility to become the well-meaning and deeply damaged man-child we all know and… well, know.

BoJack’s emotionally fractured nature is something the series never shies away from. He’s a damaged man (or horse) and he damages all who encounter him. It shows the remarkable complexity of the series that he doesn’t become the antagonist, even despite its recognition of his emotional failures.

BoJack’s insular spiral of self-destruction affects those who love him and he is held to account for this within the show’s narrative. The fact that he was shaped by his success in the care-free days of 1980s/90s excess with the privilege of a TV star is not used as some weak excuse for behaviour no longer tolerated in today’s updated ethics. A cartoon comedy is rarely so brave in delving the depths of the darker elements of humanity, let alone portray so nakedly the complexities of their situation. He is accused of fetishising his own sadness. It’s a heavy accusation to level but one borne out by the series. BoJack is unwilling to move on and points to his own – very real – damages as excuses in doing so.

BoJack is an individual given to disappearances, binges, and self-destructing spirals, in place of any real therapy. His medication is alcohol and his therapy is recklessness. The series holds separately, but equally, that BoJack has good reason for his behaviour but that it is also not necessarily excusable. Whether by deliberate action or mistake, BoJack has become a part of other peoples’ lives and with that comes a degree of responsibility to which he is not equal.

BoJack Horseman - Todd
Todd Chavez: not a gloomy roomy.

Perhaps the clearest example of how BoJack’s contradictory personality is not given carte blanche due to his own likely clinical depression is the relationship he has with resident couch-surfer Todd Chavez. He may be a victim of an abusive childhood home and trying to find a direction in life but he cannot bank on his once-victimhood for a lifetime excusing him of his behaviour to the friends of his present. The dynamic between BoJack and Todd may initially suggest that Todd is useless and a traditional slacker who offers little to the relationship but the series turns that on its head and continues to show the near-homeless Todd as more powerful than the reckless drunkenness of BoJack. He has an emotionally healthy understanding of the world and while he may not seek to reach the heights of success BoJack does, he goes about his interactions with others in a truly open and uncalculated fashion. Todd aims for little other than a good relationship with his loved ones – and, as the series continues – a better understanding of his own self.

BoJack is neither hero nor villain in his own story as he has shown himself unwilling to take control of the direction his life is taking. He is content to be passive in his own story all too often. He gives his agency over to alcohol, partying, and reckless thrills. So, what does this make him? He’s shown too great an understanding of his connection with the outside world to continue his directionless role as passive victim in his own life story and the collective understanding of his failing would surely be too much for him.

BoJack’s social privilege and financial success does nothing to keep away his own personal insecurities. The series uses this base as a perfect point from which to make brutally incisive commentary on the fleeting nature of fame, the predatory values of Hollywood, and the universal fact that depression, anxiety, and the horde of emotional concern they can bring with them, can find us even in the highest castles and the greatest peaks of success.

Princess Carolyn
Princess Carolyn, Hollywoo(d) agent.

The emotional stability of BoJack Horseman is all too often handed over to those close to him who have a stronger emotional maturity. Whether it be occasional lover and agent Princess Carolyn, biographer Diane Nguyen, or Todd Chavez, BoJack is surrounded by people willing to shoulder the burden of his emotional brokenness, not because they are the Hollywood hangers-on the series makes a profession of taking well-aimed shots at, but because they simply care for him. Seemingly unconsciously, BoJack abuses this connection. All these characters get pushed to the side by BoJack and their

diane
Diane Nguyen, biographer.

own feelings go without due care in his pursuit of his behaviours. The result of this is not some damning indictment on BoJack and all he stands for, nor an acceptance of his own moral frailties. The result is to see that BoJack behaves in a certain way for very understandable reasons and is neither to be condemned nor enshrined for his behaviour. His ability to bring such a tight bunch of determined friends around him shows that he is capable of better than he sometimes shows.

At the end of each progressively intense – and emotionally broad –  series, we have pealed back a little more of what makes this man- horse- horse-man, such a compelling character who speaks not only to the complexities of mental health but to privilege, Hollywood excess, and the absolute mess that relationships of all kinds can quickly become. BoJack Horseman forces you to will BoJack to better, knowing he has the ability (if not yet the strength) to do so. It doesn’t forgive him his failings but offers hope he can better himself. Truly, that is a real and grounded hope it offers its audience – there is always room for growth.

 


Words by Liam McNally.

A Trip Down David Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Drive’ (A New Year’s Suggestion)

Awarded the position of ‘Greatest film of the 21st Century’ by a team of 177 critics, it is impossible to deny the worth of Mulholland Drive. Even someone as critical of director David Lynch’s work as Roger Ebert acknowledged the great achievements of the film, stating his feeling that Lynch had been ‘working toward’ the film his entire career.

It follows Naomi Watts’ Betty Elms as she dives deeper into the glamorous world of Hollywood.  The life she leads has all the wonder and spectacle a bright-eyed aspiring actor could hope for as they start their career. Away from the sun-drenched land of dreams Betty finds Los Angeles to be, there are mysterious goings-on and dark and dodgy deals happening. When at last, these two worlds collide at Club Silencio, the result is devastating for Betty and her lover Rita.

At first promising a loving tribute to the golden age of Hollywood cinema, the creeping malevolence of certain aspects turns the film on its head. Even its name harkens back to Hollywood’s halcyon years, mirroring the title of the famed Sunset Boulevard, a film of the era from which Mulholland Drive borrows, both being significant and famed street of Los Angeles. Another tentative connection exists between the two films as Sunset Boulevard features a minor character called Gordon Cole, whose name Lynch appropriates for a character he himself plays in his famed television series, Twin Peaks.

The stunning success of this riddle-like film was never a certainty, however, as the film was initially produced as a pilot for a television series planned by David Lynch. The television executives rejected it, and so the open-ended nature of the film, whilst a staple of Lynch’s work, was not entirely planned. It also served to connect the film’s content to the reality of Lynch’s experiences as the power of creatives in Lynch’s Hollywood is surrendered to the moneymen and executives.

To help people in solving the film’s central quandary, or perhaps to further cloud the matter, Lynch released the film on home media with a series of ten clues. Whether anyone has truly solved the enigma is  perhaps impossible. The film is woven through with Lynch’s familiar dream logic and denies easy answers. It’s surely fitting that a film set in the city sometimes called the city of dreams, and deals so much in fantasy, is this much of a conundrum. Only here, in this film, the dreams of the city are not all aspirations but also nightmares and horrors lurking around the corners.


Words by Liam McNally.

Ethical Media Consumption: Is it Just a Question of Conscience?

 

It is likely that you have come into contact with media content involving some of the following people: Rolf Harris, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen, Johnny Depp, or Harvey Weinstein. Even if you haven’t, you probably recognise their names. You might even realise why they’re in that list; all of them have been embroiled in sexual harassment or abuse accusations. Some of them have even been convicted of it. Since the tidal wave of voices speaking out against Harvey Weinstein and his subsequent disavowal from sections of Hollywood, there has been groundswell of kickbacks and new allegations from all sections of the media industry. It’s clear that the Hollywood machine is finally beginning to take a public stance against sexual harassment and abuse within the industry. There have been some questions about whether this is only due to the weight of the public eye, but it is an important step nonetheless.

Yet in the wake of these reveals of sexual harassment claims, where does that leave us? Can we still watch, buy, and engage with art and media featuring people who have been accused – or found guilty – of sexual harassment or abuse? Is it even morally right to do so? Criminal justice research indicates that the certainty of punishment following a criminal offence is what matters most when deterring crime. Following this train of logic, by allowing actors, comedians, or artists to be cast, headlined, or promoted after allegations come to light perpetuates a culture of no ramifications. This encourages the continued silence of victims because no consequences have been laid at the feet of the perpetrators. Allowing perpetrators of sexual harassment to appear in new works diminishes – even approves – of their crimes. If this is so, what can do we do about it? On a question of feasibility – forget about moral reasoning for a moment – it is easier to blacklist a solo producer of content. Louis CK and Rolf Harris, the nature of their crimes aside, can easily be avoided and their work shunned. But for actors and producers, more questions pop up.

A movie or a television show is ultimately a collaborative process – and one where not everyone involved has a say about who they must work with. Blacklisting works involving actors or producers who’ve been accused of assault consequently means sidelining the other actors on same project. Often, they happen to be emerging actors whose careers need the support of audiences the most and who can’t afford to turn projects down. This is where we enter a moral quandary as audiences. Do we support the emerging actor, and by association also support the Weinstiens, Allens, Depps and Spaceys of Hollywood? Or do we shun the perpetrators of harassment and abuse and sideline the emerging actor at the same time? The answers hinge on a question; does patronising productions associated with these aggressors condone their past actions and if it does, what do we do?

When responding to this question, we need to accept that as consumers of media we have the power to discourage a culture that creates safe spaces for abusers to hide, thrive, and be publicly lauded. To do this, hard decisions must made about the media we consume. Encouraging a culture where abuse allegations are taken seriously means hitting Hollywood in its pockets; boycotting movies and being loud about the reason that we’re not seeing the new Woody Allen production is because of his alleged – and murkily horrificchild-abusing past. Tweet that the reason we’re not seeing the new Fantastic Beasts movie is because they cast Johnny Depp, an actor who managed to avoid a court case about his alleged emotional and physical abuse towards his now ex-wife Amber Heard in 2016. In order to support an industry that doesn’t excuse sexual abusers, it appears that we need to blacklist these actors and producers. No matter how it plays out, we must be resigned to the inadvertent negative fallout against actors who had no choice in being cast alongside alleged perpetrators, and hope that this does not amount to more than the positive change that shunning these perpetrators will do.

Action begets action. Movement begets movement. Change starts with individuals making collective choices – and through the power of the people, Hollywood will have to change or die. Fortunately, there are good people out there using the power of their own fame and personal pull to input changes. Just see Brett Ratner being pulled from the Wonder Woman sequel through a collective decision from director Patty Jenkins and her team behind the Wonder Women movie. These are positive steps forward for the industry and for cultural attitudes towards abuse. But if positive change is monetarily motivated, what happens when our decision to watch or not watch a film has no monetary consideration?

If the DVD is already bought and in private possession, the question becomes one of ethics not logistics; can we still watch and enjoy their past works knowing that they’ve abused their positions of wealth and power? Should we watch it and boo whenever they come on screen, throwing popcorn and muting their lines? Should we not watch what they’ve starred in, shunning old favourite movies even at the expense of not re-watching the five other amazing actors who haven’t been accused or found guilty of abuse? There’s a line of reasoning here that asks if the DVD is already owned, does watching it hurt anyone? Well… no. No one profits, no one gets paid, and yet… it feels that continuing to watch the work of abusers and sexual harassers also supports them and their art.

If this is so, don’t watch it. This is a hard thing to do. There are movies I adore and have watched so many times that I know the lines off by heart. Yet watching them now, knowing what I do about the one actor in that otherwise faultless cast, the movie itself has been soured. It’s desecrated. Watching it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and maybe that’s a good thing. The other option is sitting there with that knowledge whilst I watch them, doing something akin to going, ‘Gee’ I know Rolf Harris was a paedophile who abused kids, but ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down Jack’ is a banger you can’t not listen to’. Hopefully that thought sits uncomfortably with you because it does with me.

Perhaps the key to ethically consuming art and media lies in deciding how much we want to support a culture within our arts industry where perpetrators of gendered abuse, violence, and harassment have no safe harbour. Once the revelations about an actor’s abuse or sexual misconduct becomes known, it appears that the only ethical thing to do is boycott their work and be collectively loud about why. To do otherwise is tantamount to approval of their actions. But when it comes to their old work, the ethically correct thing to do cannot be dictated by an online article, but worked out according to the demands of the individual moral compass. But at no time should we forget their history or what they’ve done. To do so diminishes the violence of their crimes.

Can art, no matter how good, truly mitigate the actions of a person who takes advantage of their power and privilege to abuse or harm? Perhaps it shouldn’t, even if we can separate the art from their artist. No statement involving, ‘they sexually abused someone’ should have a ‘but their work is amazing’ with a ‘and I support them’. Perhaps we can appreciate their art alone but, to do this ethically, it should be done with the understanding that they must not be lauded for it, given safe spaces, or let their past be forgotten until their victim says so. They might be a great actor or a fantastic artist, but there are better ones out there – both morally and artistically.

The takeaway from this is that collective movement starts from individual choices, and our individual choices about the media we consume has an effect, for good or for ill. It’s down to us, to you and to me, to decide what type of effect we want to have on the media industry.


Words by Taeghan Buggy

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Taeghan Buggy is a writer, a poet, and a performer. Her work tends towards emotional gut punches and dangerous words. Taeghan’s immersion within ‘Arts Culture’ includes the New Wave Audio Theatre project, Flinders’ Speakeasy Creative Readings, and Adelaide’s open-mic poetry scene.