Toronto Sun Columnist Has a Warning for Artists Who Take On Trump Through Shakespeare

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Toronto Sun Columnist Has a Warning for Artists Who Take On Trump Through Shakespeare

More hot takes in today's Sun, the resident right-wing gay Jewish muckraker goes to pot.

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Trump photo via Wonkette.

The Toronto Sun‘s prolific conservative columnist and Lou Reed fan Anthony Furey delivered a mind-blowing hot take in today’s paper in response to the controversial production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar mounted by the Public Theatre in New York’s Central Park. The play depicts the Roman Emperor as Donald Trump, and the imagery of the President of the United States being murdered by a cabal of conspirators triggered major corporate sponsors, like Delta Airlines, into pulling their financial support due to the content, leading to interruptions of the performances by alt-right protestors that were streamed live on social media.

Furey, a fan of the arts, wrote in his piece, “In The Age of Trump, Artists Risk Losing Their Way,” that he was upset about the nightly depiction of the slaughter of the American President, which conceivably, hints Furey, may have inspired the shooting of Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice in Virginia last week:

Is it dramatic catharsis? Maybe. Although, I’m not sure if this production would have been enough to calm James T. Hodgkinson’s blood lust.

The bigger problem, at least for the artists, is that it’s shoddy art. It’s so direct and in your face that there’s really no room for interpretation.

A single production of Waiting for Godot will mean different things to different people. A finite work of art has almost infinite possible worlds for the audience member to inhabit. There’s absence in the best works of art that allow us to bring our own experiences to it and make it ours.

The Trump-Caesar killing has no room for this. It’s not metaphor. It’s just stabbing Trump. There’s no other way to look at it.(emphasis mine)

Interestingly, here Furey proudly reveals his unfamiliarity with Julius Caesar‘s plot and central themes: the murder of Caesar is not the climax of the production, it takes place about halfway through the show (Act 3, Scene 1). The conspirators expect to be viewed as the saviours of Rome for killing the emperor, but in fact the murder triggers a collapse of Roman society, with the people provoked by the ambitious Roman politician Mark Antony into getting revenge on the murderous traitors. One of the main points of Julius Caesar is a critique of violence as the means to a political end: the conspirators not only don’t achieve the results they want, they also die horrible deaths, and with Caesar’s death the Roman Empire transitions from an oligarchy into a dictatorship. The artistic director of the Public Theatre that mounted the show states the meaning of the play plainly in an open statement on the company website:

“Julius Caesar can be read as a warning parable to those who try to fight for democracy by undemocratic means. To fight the tyrant does not mean imitating him.”

As well, there have been many productions of Julius Caesar that have depicted modern leaders as the doomed Roman emperor, including President Barack Obama, who was similarly butchered on stage on a nightly basis in a Public Theatre co-production in 2012 (a show also sponsored by Delta Airlines). A cursory Google search turned up no 2012 columns by Anthony Furey decrying this production.

Ironically, Shakespeare predicted dumb Toronto Sun columns in one of his later tragedies, Macbeth, in Act 5, Scene 5:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and Furey
Signifying nothing.

***

Like any good investigative reporter worth their salt, the Toronto Sun‘s resident Right-Wing Gay Jewish Muckraker, Sue-Ann Levy, recently decided to demonstrate to her readers how easy it has become to score weed from one of Toronto’s illegal marijuana dispensary storefronts in her Sunday Sun blockbuster article, “Easier To Get Weed Than You Think.” When pot dispensaries started popping up in the city last year, they generally operated on the principle that one needed to present a medical marijuana prescription from their doctor before signing up to purchase from a dispensary but gradually relaxed their standards to the point that only ID and the customer filling out basic sign-up forms were now required.

My latest investigation began at the end of May when I happened upon a man trying to solicit another—someone who looked to be a dealer—outside the illegal Canna Clinic near my home. When I suggested to them that we didn’t want “drug deals” going on in our residential neighbourhood, the suspected dealer—a large man—got in my face and began screaming obscenities at me.

While the encounter was not intimidating to me, I know the illegal clinics—there are 60 in total in Toronto—have been the source of many complaints from residents and businesses, largely due to the pungent odours they emit, the robberies they have precipitated, the legal business trade they’ve driven away and the type of characters they bring into a family neighbourhood.

Levy reported that over the weekend she biked around to several different dispensaries to see how easy it was to sign up (with only one spot, the Canna Clinic at Yonge & Eglinton, turning her down for not arriving with a doctor’s note). She also may have the distinction of being the first person in Toronto to sign up at a bricks-and-mortar pot dispensary without actually buying any marijuana (her excuse was that she would be coming back later with her wife, who suffered from chronic pain and was too shy, even though when you sign up at a clinic you are registering for your own access, not on behalf of anyone else).

What is the point of this article, you may ask, since the federal government is on track to legalize marijuana for personal use by July 1, 2018, and, in the meantime, dispensary operators are constantly getting busted by law enforcement and their product seized? Is Levy at all concerned that her sign-up paperwork containing personal information, filled out at four different (illegal) pot dispensaries, is subject to seizure by the police in their raids? This is perhaps the risk a muckraker is willing to take for a great story.

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