Oh boy - if there's one thing I hope to find in my Easter Stocking this year, it's The Dolls’ Revolution: Australian Theatre and Cultural Imagination by Rachel Fensham, Denise Varney, Maryrose Casey and Laura Ginters. Set aside the fact that a book about Australian theatre written solely by men would be immediately labelled irrelevant, nothing more than further evidence of male hegemony in the Australian cultural landscape, and you’re left with a book that I still can’t imagine anybody ever reading. Theatre is of course the poor man’s BitTorrent, but according to Glenn D’Cruz, who writes the review for this particular book, it turns out that certain theatre artists have “played a crucial role in articulating a new Australian identity, which defined itself against the Anglophile ethos that dominated Australian theatre until the late ‘50s.”
That sounds pretty self-aggrandizing to me. Have you ever met a person who reads mainly comic books and graphic novels, and is eager to announce at every opportunity that they are art of the highest order? I dig comic books, sure, and just knocked over Daredevil: Born Again and V for Vendetta, written by Frank Miller and Alan Moore respectively, who are two of the best writers in the business, and I would probably even go so far as to recommend stuff like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns to people completely unfamiliar with the medium of graphic storytelling, but would I ever claim that Alan Moore and Frank Miller “played a crucial role in articulating a new British/American idendity”? Not even if I was padding out a review of a book about them.
I also used to play stuff like Dungeons & Dragons and Shadowrun, and would possibly consider getting into D&D again if they weren’t constantly revising the rules and forcing you to purchase ten new “core” rulebooks at $60 apiece every three months. It’s good fun, a great way to spend a few hours with some buddies. It gets the creative juices flowing, fires up the imagination (for better or for worse, probably the latter, I would have never “become a writer” if I hadn’t played D&D and read comic books at boarding school), and the old 2nd Edition with its THAC0s even used to help you with your maths. In fact, playing D&D is of more intellectual value than watching any number of plays, and it’s certainly more enjoyable.
But would I say that Ernest Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, creators of Dungeons & Dragons, played crucial roles in articulating national identities? I most certainly would not, but I would certainly say that they played crucial roles in articulating generational identities. The “information age” that we currently wallow in was founded on the back of role-playing nerds from the 70s and 80s. Nobody would give a shit about computers if it hadn’t been for the computer game Doom, released in 1993 (I actually knew that date without having to look it up) and developed by the biggest bunch of outsider RPG-playing geeks that you’re ever likely to meet. I can’t find any evidence of it but I’ll bet you good money that Bill Gates used to be a level 12 elf ranger, awake at nights worrying about getting the 6000XP he needed to go dual-class. And I’ll even go further by saying that if Bill Gates and John Romero hadn’t been picked on when they were kids, we sure as shit wouldn’t be living in the world we live in today.
So what does this have to do with The Dolls’ Revolution? Absolutely nothing. But if you’re going to be a self-important wanker like absolutely every person currently inhabiting absolutely any facet of modern Australian theatre – a thing that absolutely no Australian outside that particular clique has any interest in whatsoever – then you need to go and fuck yourself, because you’re an even bigger loser, riding a train of even less cultural and societal impact, than me and my fat, nerdy, comic-book reading, RPG-playing, graphics card-upgrading mates.