Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I put the "Oh!" in Othello

That's right, I be rollin' in murder-suicide love story tragedies where one of my closest ensigns plots and orchestrates my downfall that is also the fault of my intense and generally irrational jealousy. Cuz I'm just a baller like that.

Ok, I'll stop. But seriously, I had actually never read Othello before and it is pretty awesome and by pretty awesome I mean horrific to read but in a good way...ok, I can explain this better. You know when you're watching a horror movie and all the characters are behaving like someone removed their frontal lobes, or at the very least, like they've never seen a horror movie? And they hear a strange knock at the door and you KNOW it's the killer and you KNOW those dipshits are going to open the door and be all like "SHOCK!" as they are sliced into dipshit ribbons but still you yell at the screen in vain, "Don't open the door, you big-breasted imbecile!!" as the character wonders aloud, "who could it be at this hour, and with all these teenagers getting murdered?"

"It's the killer, numbnuts!! Don't open the door!!"

"It might be Johnny, he might need help!"

"Johnny's been decapitated with a hacksaw!! And you know why? Because he answered the MATERNAL-FORNICATING DOOR!!"

"I better see who it is!"

(Sounds of Sugary Cynic attempting to smother herself with her popcorn bag)

Basically, Othello is like that, only instead of yelling at teenagers to not open doors or spontaneously decide to take showers in strange houses, you're yelling at Desdemona to not go to bed because Othello is going to smother her to death. Or, alternatively, you're yelling at Othello to wake the hell up and realize that Iago is not his buddy, pal or ally but a devious ass-butt who wants to ruin his life and also possibly bone him.

"Oh how I hate the Moor! I hate his arrogance, his barbarous nature...his well-defined features, his washboard abs, his dark, soulful eyes like twin pools of mystery and desire...I hate him so!!"

...Yeah. Because if there isn't a strong undercurrent of intense, barely suppressed homosexual lust, well then it's just not Shakespeare. The basic plot of Othello is that he is the "Moor" of Venice, which is an old English way of saying "not white." Much to the shock of Venice, he bags himself Desdemona not through trickery, but because he's just that cool a dude. Meanwhile, he's also a general and he promotes this guy Cassio to be his lieutenant because he helped him snag Dessie. Unfortunately, this means passing over the more qualified and more mentally unstable Iago, who vows to ruin Othello's life (and all the lives around him) to get revenge for Othello having a favorite who is not Iago, and also a wife who is not Iago. Cuz he just hates him so much.

The thing about Othello is, like a horror movie, you know everything the character's don't, you know exactly what's going to happen and you're powerless to stop it (also people give you weird looks when you yell "Othello! Noooo!" at a book) But it's worse in Othello because unlike drunk and horny teens who are just asking to die horribly, Othello and Desdemona are established as good people, a happy couple who haven't really done anything wrong. Even Roderigo, a dude whose love for Desdemona gets him roped into Iago's plot is not a bad guy, just kinda retarded. Iago is our man pulling the strings and the worst part? He is a total stone-cold bastard, and he's also the most fun character in the play. He gets his sick kicks screwing with all the other characters and invites us along for the ride. The worst bit? Rather than not realizing he's in the proverbial horror movie, Othello is actually convinced by Iago that he's in a comedy of all things, playing the role of "old dude whose wife screws around on him with a younger guy." Of course, this is a load of crap, Desdemona is kind of the greatest wife a Shakespearean guy could want, but every time I tried to yell this to the book Othello just kept having jealousy seizures.

So, my professor told us in class that there's a BBC of Othello (of course) but that it's kind of lousy save for Bob Hoskins's turn as Iago. Well, that got me all excited. If you don't know who Bob Hoskins is, slap yourself right now! FOR SHAME! He's a brilliant comedic actor, who is English but usually ends up playing guys with Brooklyn accents (go figure). He played Detective Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a wonderfully hamtastic gangster in the Jet Lee flick Unleashed, Smee in Hook and my personal favorite (and I only say that with the mildest amount of sarcasm), Mario in Super Mario Bros:

I'm cackling evilly right now. If you listen hard enough, you might be able to hear it.

So, anyway, I checked out the BBC production and my professor was right. UGH. Anthony Hopkins plays Othello in blackface (dead serious) and basically sleepwalks through his role. He commits suicide the way people file their tax returns. Bob Hoskins IS great as Iago though. At the end, as he's lead away to prison, looking over all the destruction he caused, he just cackles his head off and it's the last thing you hear before the movie ends. Good stuff. Unfortunately, it's a looooong scene full of Blackface Hopkins making loooooong speeches that are basically punctuated with him yawning, so instead, here's a scene with some emotion :D

You thought I was kidding about the jealousy seizures, didn't you?

Now that I have given you all the pop culture-addicted, ADD sufferer's guide to Othello, I'm going to go get some work done. Or sleep (ha!). This is Sugary Cynic saying goodnight and "how I hate the Moor!"

"I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs" -Iago (bet you didn't know we got that one from Shakespeare)

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