Posts Tagged ‘Tabitha Dickinson’

BirdmanIn part one, we explored Riggan Thomson’s (Michael Keaton) departure from the world of comic book movie entertainment to enter the emotionally and artistically richer world of theater, how this shows a desire to move from superficiality to what is genuinely admirable, and how this in turn betrays a deeper quest for love.

But before we divinize Broadway, we should observe that we see the opposite extreme of Blockbuster Hollywood here: An artistic phariseeism peopled by high culture elitists who seem to think themselves better than the general populace.

lindsay_duncanIf we need a tangible embodiment of this atmosphere, we have it in theater critic Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan).  Without knowing anything about Riggan’s play, Dickinson vows to destroy it.  She is disgusted by the thought of “spoiled” and “entitled” Hollywood actors who capitalize on cultural garbage coming into the pristine firmament of the theater thinking they can find success.

Upon encountering Riggan in a bar, she makes her authority felt in no uncertain terms: No one succeeds on the stage unless she says so.

Riggan could easily give up at this point.  This woman is the most powerful critic on the scene, and her opinion alone will make or break the play (regardless even of the audience’s response).  And discouragement is surely only compounded by the fact that Riggan has put everything he has into this project, and has nothing else left.

Okay — so what does Riggan do?  Well, he goes through with the opening performance; and when he gets to the scene in which his character commits suicide, he uses a real gun with real bullets

birdman-2014-movie-michael-keaton-riggan-thomson-gun-screenshot…and fires a real shot at himself.

Riggan_HospitalHe leaves himself alive, but without a nose.

The result is staggering.  The play gets rave reviews all over the place, including that of Tabitha Dickinson!  Commenting on the shedding of blood “both literal and figurative” on stage, she says that Riggan has reinvigorated theater with the lifeblood it has long lacked.

Let’s be clear on something: Bringing a loaded gun onto the stage during a live performance is stupid, and using it to blow your own nose off is stupider still.  But looking past the misguided particulars, what general principle(s) can we see operating here?

A legitimate question we can ask anyone — most of all ourselves — who claims to love someone or something is this: What does it cost you?  If it is love, and not just another accretion on the barque of your ego, you must prove it by somehow pouring yourself into it.

So there, I think, is the principle we are after: There is a part of each one of us that looks for something worth costing us not only sweat, but blood.  (This need not be literal, of course.  Blood is the life of the body, and has been used as a symbol of vitality for ages).  This is how we know that something is important to us, and I think it is how Tabitha knew how seriously Riggan took the theater.

Christ_Carrying_the_Cross_1580“Christ Carrying the Cross 1580” by El Greco – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_Carrying_the_Cross_1580.jpg#/media/File:Christ_Carrying_the_Cross_1580.jpg

Which brings me to my concluding thought for this installment.  Many people think Catholicism, with its focus on the crucifixion and Christ’s Passion, has a pathological obsession with violence and perhaps even sadomasochistic tendencies.  But the east is nearer the west than this is to the truth of the matter.

How do we know that Jesus Christ is the God of the universe, Who holds all created reality and each one of us together (remember, as Being itself, He is to all that has life and existence what the sun is to the world lit by its rays)?  Because He bled for us.  How do we know He loves us and desires our good, and that we can trust Him with our lives (and our blood, if necessary)?  Because He bled for us.

Why are we human beings — flawed as we are — able to worship Him, to do great things for Him, and even on occasion to allow our own blood to be shed for Him as martyrs?  Because His Blood is Life abundant, Life supernatural.  Flowing from its injured Host it reinvigorates fallen mankind, just as Riggan’s blood in a sense “reinvigorated” the theater scene.

I apologize profoundly.  I really, truly thought I would be able to make it in just two posts…but it looks like I’ll need a third one.  Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Movie stills obtained through a Google image search; image of Christ from Wikipedia

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