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Gender in “The Laramie Project” and “How I Learned to Drive”
“The Laramie Project” is a play written by Moises Kaufman at the very beginning of the 21st century. It describes the events that took place at the end of the 1990s when a male student was murdered because he was homosexual. “How I Learned to Drive” is a play written by Paula Vogel that describes the life of a woman, Li’l Bit and her sexually abusive relationships in the play. The characters of these stories do not have much in common. However, they are severely affected by their gender identification, which makes them experience numerous problems.
Matt and Li’l Bit were constantly facing gender stereotypes, which prevented them from living their lives as they wanted to. For Matt, “money meant nothing” while his expensive trendy shoes “might have meant something” (Kaufman et al. 19). Matt also did not fit in as he was very intelligent and polite. One of the people who knew Matt personally stressed that the young man had been an embodiment of “absolute mannerisms” that involved manners, “intelligence,” and politeness (Kaufman et al. 19). Matt never “had any problem just striking up a conversation” and tried to be respectful (Kaufman et al. 20). Such behavior was not consistent with the gender stereotypes that existed.
In Li’l Bit’s family, a similar situation can be observed. Her grandfather always made fun of her desire to receive education as she had large breasts. Li’l Bit assumes that she must have “implanted radio transmitters” that make men think like that (Vogel 39). Gender stereotypes also affect the girl’s sexual life as she is taught to be submissive as all females should be nice and beautiful. She also feels “self-conscious” all the time as she believes that someone is constantly looking at her (Vogel 37). The girl stresses that she feels that such stereotypes or “alien life forces” make her feel devastated (Vogel 38).
The two characters can also be associated with a metaphor of a drive Vogel created to tell her story. Li’l Bit’s drive is her life and her memories (Brantley). However, the drive can also be a metaphor for the characters attempts to come to terms with their gender and the way society sees it. Driving a car is related to following many rules and norms. However, living life as a gay in Wyoming or a girl with a very feminine body is also associated with following norms. When people break those laws or rules, they are punished. Li’l Bit was punished as she did not have any healthy relationships with men while Matt was killed.
In conclusion, the plays in question unveil many vices of the modern society. People like Matt or Li’l Bit are often regarded as people who do not want to be like everybody else. However, everyone is different, which is a characteristic feature of the human society. Gender stereotypes make many people suffer as they cannot find their place in the world. In many cases, this inability to fit in results in wasted opportunities or death.
Religion in “The Laramie Project” and “August Osage County”
Religion is an indispensable part of people’s life defining their values, behaviors, dreams, and so on. Religion is one of the topics addressed in such plays as “The Laramie Project” and “August Osage County.” Both works focus on quite controversial things that are regarded as something sinful and unacceptable. Religion plays quite a similar role in both plays. The main characters do not follow the central religious laws, which makes their lives miserable. It is possible to state that the two plays show the negative effects the lack of religiousness can have on people’s lives.
Matt, one of the main characters of “The Laramie Project,” is homosexual. He breaks the laws of love and sexual relationships. Religious leaders of the community noted that Matt “served” them “well” and was a good man (Kaufman et al. 34). Moreover, he had “done more” for the community than many residents of the town (Kaufman et al. 34). Another leader mentioned that the lack of the religiousness was the major reason for Matt’s death. He noted that some people had to talk to him to give him “a chance to reflect on his lifestyle” (Kaufman et al. 34).
In the other play, the entire family is characterized by the lack or rather absence of religiousness and virtue. The Westons engage in the use of drugs, heavy drinking, adulteries, and even sexual relationships with their close relatives. Religious conventions are nothing for young women as Ivy, one of the daughters, does not abandon her relationship or feels and “injured parry” even knowing that it is absolutely wrong (Letts 134). She simply cries, “I won’t let you change my story!” (Letts 134). Such behaviors do not make the characters “entirely comfortable” with them making their lives miserable and also leading to one death (Letts 11). The girls’ father commits suicide, which is also a great sin.
Religious rules are not taken into account at all. The characters act in the ways that are suitable. Some people claim that families cannot possibly be happy as there are so many needs and desires that always hurt someone (Wilkinson). One of the major reasons for this family’s secrets and sorrows is associated with drugs (Fetters). The main characters are intoxicated with pills or alcohol. However, this intoxication can be seen more broadly. Religion is often a means of reconciliation with the self, but not in the plays.
In conclusion, the main characters are not religious people. The characters of the two plays are all intoxicated with their desires that are not consistent with the accepted religious standards. The lack of principles and orientations lead to misery and death. However, people seem to ignore the lessons they get from the universe. The plays show that many people still do not care about religious rules even when they see the horrible outcomes of such lifestyles.
Extra Credit Question
I was impressed by the play “The Laramie Project” as it reveals the vices of the society that are still persistent. People were not ready to accept someone different. For instance, Matt was open, straightforward, and easygoing, which was also regarded as not that male-like. He tried to look nice, but such attention to clothing was disapproved among males who tried to look manly. Of course, his sexual orientation was also different but he never harmed anyone, and he contributed greatly to the community.
I believe Matt’s homosexuality was not the major cause of his death. I think that Matt was an accidental victim as the killer did not care about the exact person to victimize. Matt was a symbol of being different and standing out. People still dislike someone who does not comply with some regulations even though they can be rather controversial. I also think the play shows that diversity and ability to listen to each other is the only way people can choose and help the humanity survive.
Brantley, Ben. “Going Along for the Ride with Uncle.” The New York Times. 2012, Web.
Fetters, Ashley. “The Exhausting Emotional Violence of August: Osage County.” The Atlantic. 2013, Web.
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Kaufman, Moises, et al. The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2014.
Letts, Tracy. August: Osage County. Theatre Communications Group, 2013.
Vogel, Paula. How I Learned to Drive. Theatre Communications Group, 2017.
Wilkinson, Alissa. “August: Osage County.” Christianity Today. 2013, Web.