Great Gatsby Reboot?

This December, a new movie version of The Great Gatsby will be released, directed by Baz Lurhmann (Moulin Rouge!) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Why?  This will be the fifth time the novel has been filmed.

Is this a series in need of a reboot?  Has the Gatsby franchise gone stale?  Was there some innovative new breakthrough in our understanding of the 1920s recently that demanded a revised vision of the story’s Jazz Age style? Will this portrait of post-WWI decadence somehow feature stunning CGI graphics?

This bugs me for the same reason I’m irked every time a publisher releases a new edition of Shakespeare or a revised algebra textbook.  What’s the point?  Nothing has changed.

Unless…the new Gatsby movie will be altered to suit a Gen Y audience…putting Kanye West on the soundtrack, adding a few car chases, etc.  Remembering what Luhrmann did with Romeo + Juliet (also, come to think of it, starring DiCaprio), that might not be too far off.

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Two Shakespeare Quotes Dissing School

Some people may think Shakespeare is difficult, elitist, old-fashioned, or whatever else they don’t like, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Like all permanently classic works–Mozart’s music, the Bible, The Simpsons–Shakespeare endures precisely because he’s the opposite of all those things.  Shakespeare speaks the truth of real, universal human experience so powerfully and honestly that he makes us see life more fully. 

Case in point: Shakespeare had no illusions that school was fun or popular.  He makes fun of how much kids hate school.  See?  Hundreds of years later, and people are basically the same. 

I recently finished reading Henry IV, Part 2, which wasn’t nearly as good as the other three plays in that series, but it did have one line that I really loved.  In act IV, scene 2, after being tricked into a truce by the prince, some rebels report that their armies have disbanded.  One leader tells the others just how quickly the soldiers have gone home after hearing the news:

My lord, our army is dispersed already;

Like youthful steers unyoked, they take their courses

East, west, north, south; or, like a school broke up,

Each hurries toward his home and sporting-place.

Heh.  That information could be visualized like this:

Things that run away quickly

A stressed out army after peace is declared

Farm animals after being unchained

Boys leaving school

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I Hate Romeo

I recently finished teaching Romeo and Juliet to my freshmen classes. This is the first time in several years that I’ve read this play, and it instantly brought back one very big reaction: I hate Romeo. He’s a wimpy jerk. Though there could be many more, five examples from the text will suffice to make the case:

We first hear about Romeo when his friend and parents are talking about how worried they are about him. Romeo’s father says that the boy has been moping around all night, sighing and feeling sorry for himself, then locking himself in his room all day, with the windows blocked out:

Many a morning hath he there been seen,

With tears augmenting the fresh morning dew.

Adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs;

But all so soon as the all-cheering sun

Should in the furthest east begin to draw

The shady curtains from Aurora’s bed,

Away from the light steals home my heavy son,

And private in his chamber pens himself,

Shuts up his windows, locks far daylight out

And makes himself an artificial night:

where, I believe, he paints his fingernails black, listens to emo music, and sits in a corner cutting himself.

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