Monday, September 18, 2023

247. Jackie Sibblies Drury speaks } Jimbo.


Fairview comes close to calling for white people to become spectacle only [“…simply ‘Look! A white person!’”]—but draws back, opts for “A Person Trying.” Fairview is a comedy—& thus ends w/ a marriage.

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I’m fascinated by the roughly six-page monologue delivered by Jimbo, Fairview’s villain [or, rather, the play's most obnoxious character]. While Fairview references late 1980s / early ‘90s American television sitcoms, specifically those centered on Black family life, Jimbo’s monologue introduces Hostel (2005) & Hostel II (2007) to the material of Fairview—he explains why both are “kind of good” movies. He doesn’t name the films—perhaps to muffle incongruity of the reference?

Hostel & Hostel II are witty exploitation films concerned w/ gender, w/ American parochialism, &, most of all, w/ class. A wealthy European aristocracy rule over the merely rich who purchase from them kidnapped travelers to torture (not poor people; the kidnapped are young people of leisure—some of modest means, others rich; the only poor represented in the Hostel films are direct or indirect employees of the torture club). Any member of the torture club who break rules / show weakness suffer consequences—they are merely rich.

Jimbo recounts a specific moment from the first Hostel film:

…and so he’s doing that with the chainsaw
and slips in blood or something
and the rich guy decapitates himself
with his own chainsaw.
And it’s pretty obvious what that means.
Do you know what I mean?
It means he’s the victim of his own damn thing.

This scene is misremembered; the rich guy cuts off his leg—his victim, the film's protagonist, shoots the rich guy in the head. Easy to check (search: “Hostel chainsaw scene”). Deliberate? Details don’t matter to Jimbo. & his point weakens if, in fact, “the rich guy” is ultimately the victim of “his own damn thing” + the victim of a victim determined not to die. Alternatively, it’s possible Drury didn’t bother to check. She saw the Hostel films & remembers the impression they made & that was enough for her.

Do the Hostel films appear in Fairview as shorthand? Jimbo isn’t a character but a mouth; he is incapable of subtlety & lacks culture. Hostel is as close to art as he gets. Hostel & American television. Jimbo watches the show w/in Fairview & has a store of sitcom tropes—specifically Black sitcom tropes—well-memorized. Instead of Hostel, is there a less dissonant shorthand Drury might’ve reached for?

I first read Fairview in 2018. Then, I made the following marginal note on the script’s last page: “This play is weirder than the critics say it is.”