Helen Highly Vindicated: Alyssa Milano and Bill Maher Reference Lysistrata, Classical Dramatic Literature

Bill Maher Lysistrata Helen Highly

Helen Highly Vindicated. In the last two days I’ve heard at least two pop-culture references to an ancient play by Aristophanes. As someone who can’t seem to stop writing commentary about popular culture by comparing it to classic theater, it is refreshing to hear someone else finally do it – two people no less! Alyssa Milano and Bill Maher, thank you very much for making me feel less out of touch with the world.

First, Alyssa Milano called for a sex strike until Georgia’s new anti-abortion law is repealed. She didn’t mention the play Lysistrata by name, but I assume (and hope) it was buried in her subconscious and gave her the idea. In famous Greek literature, this character convinces women to refuse sex with their husbands until they end a war. Milano did reference contemporary director Spike Lee, who used the same idea as a remedy for gang violence in his film Chi-Raq.

Then, Bill Maher, on Real Time with Bill Maher, listed a New Rule he called “The Great Wife Hope,” suggesting that two famous ex-models, Melania Trump and Jerry Hall, both married to “super-rich Republican monsters” – Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch, respectively, deny sex to their husbands. Maher specifically mentioned Lysistrata when explaining that getting men to quit their destructive ways by threatening to cut them off in bed is a tale as old as time. He added, “I know they’re rich, but is it worth Western Civilization?” See the clip, below:

So there: I guess American culture is not as disinterested in classic drama as it might seem. I don’t expect this small “win” for intellectual literature to change me from being mostly Helen Highly Irrelevant or to bring more people to my online essays, but I will mention them here nonetheless. I keep writing commentary about pop culture by comparing it to decidedly unhip, old stage plays, or just writing about the most esoteric aspects of culture, I guess. Most people have no idea what I am talking about and the rest don’t care. I am ridiculously irrelevant, and I can’t seem to stop myself.

I know that almost no one wants to see a new, controversial “cinematic memoir” about alleged sex-predator and old Rolling Stone Bill Wyman, much less read an article that compares that film to a vintage Samuel Beckett play – especially not on Mother’s Day! But I posted it anyway. Click here to read my review of The Quiet One, where Helen Highly suggests that viewers might come for the music but stay for the existential irony. If nothing else, it’s an in-depth discussion of the absurdist nature of reminiscence.

Bill Wyman in "The Quiet One" at Tribeca

Bill Wyman in “The Quiet One”

Bill and Suzanne Wyman at Rupert Murdoch's wedding

Bill and Suzanne Wyman at Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall’s wedding

As a not-entirely-irrelevant tie-in, I am going to post a photo I found of the elderly Bill Wyman and his third wife Suzanne at the wedding of the aforementioned Jerry Hall and Rupert Murdoch. I didn’t have space to include the picture in my Quiet One article, but it kinda makes sense here, in a grotesque sort of way. I assume Donald Trump was in attendance as well. I call that triple-down monstrosity.

And before The Quiet One, I wrote about Slay the Dragon, an urgently important advocacy documentary that discusses the least appealing political topic – gerrymandering, a term most people can’t pronounce, much less understand. Although, people’s disinterest in gerrymandering only makes it more the symbol of everything that’s wrong with America. I tried to make my film review seem relatable by referencing Game of Thrones, which I did not do nearly as successfully as John Oliver did this past Sunday when he used GoT to draw interest to the subject of the Green New Deal. Alas, I am not as clever at John Oliver. Click here to read my Slay the Dragon review and interview with the filmmakers. (Really: this is THE most significant and vital political film of the year, and if I can contribute anything to popular culture, it will be in getting people to see that surprisingly compelling movie, directed by Barak Goodman.)

Gerrymandered Dragon

Gerrymandered Dragon

“Us” Movie Poster

Before that, I reviewed the much-anticipated pop-culture phenom Us – the latest horror flick from super-cool Jordan Peele. But I compared it, point by point to an adaptation of Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov. I asked if the two were tethered together like combating doubles of each other. I know; it seems random, but at a time when immigration has become a national emergency in our country, both stories deal with issues of outsiders vs insiders, us vs them (within ourselves and society), and blame vs responsibility, and I thought it was worth discussing. And also, both mix humor into their portrayals of pain, which makes them both meaningful genre-benders. Doesn’t even matter if you’ve seen the film or Chekhov, methinks; it’s all good food for thought. Click here to read that incisive review. (A little scissors humor there. ha.)

Maybe Wikipedia is happy to have me around. I seem to do nothing as much as insert Wikipedia links in an attempt to help people understand what the hell I’m talking about. So it goes. I’m thinking that next I will discuss The Avengers in terms of Henrik Ibsen’s Brand. Just kidding! I promise I won’t. Happy weekend, y ’all!


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