"Chicago" - and the Lady Wizards
"Chicago", the Academy Award-winning Best Picture of 2003, beautifully encapsulates the essence of Lady Wizard - and yet as a reflection of the Past, is also a portent of Things to Come.
The stage production of the musical was adapted by Bob Fosse and others, taken from a forgotten script written by a woman who later was "saved" and repudiated her own work. The authors of the musical basically had to wait until the reluctant author died before they could doctor the script and turn it into the spectacular show-stopper it eventually became.
The movie stars Richard Gere, Rene Zellweger, and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the leading roles of Billy Flynn, Roxie Hart, and Velma Kelly. Queen Latifah gives a spectacular supporting performance as "Mama" Morton, and Christine Baranski is truly respectable as Mary Sunshine.
This essay will precede with the assumption that you've seen the movie. With this assumption, we will draw rather large impressions of the characters and the nuances of the story, rather than debate the plot.
The plot - the least part of any story - yet an ingredient no story can survive without - is basically about a married woman (Roxie) in 1920's Chicago who is a little star-struck, and thinks she's landed her fortune when she runs into a Good Time Charlie who will introduce her to all the right people.
The only thing he introduces her to is the Kama Sutra. He terminates their affair, and she terminates his life. She then persuades her witless husband to take the rap, but the investigator on the murder case sees through the husband's lame confession and books Roxie for murder.
Roxie then begins her education in prison, where it so happens Velma Kelly is also playing an engagement. Ms. Kelly, herself an accused murderess, was one of Roxie's idols on stage.
Billy Flynn is the lawyer who can get Roxie off, and Mama Morton is the one who can book him.
The character of Roxie was loosely based upon the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe as diva archetypes.
The movie, then, is a personification of "All Things Feminine", but especially captures the essence of the true Lady Wizard - and warns us it would be foolish to think of Womanhood as "pure as sunshine." Men may be - and may want to be - pure as sunshine, or dark as night... But Women like to be Night and Day.
"Chicago" brilliantly captures this Duality, and reflects it most fairly.
In a powerhouse performance of "Cell Block Tango", Zeta-Jones and other dancers blow the roof off with an incredibly staged dance of Death, the refrain of "He had it coming" reverberating off the walls and ceilings like so many skeletal fingers rapping upon an ancient coffin, waiting for their turn at revenge.
It is a sight that would make some men cringe, and cup their crotches defensively... and would make others SING - not about the essence of revenge, but about the POWER of women, and what they could do if they only would.
There is no "smack" of Women's Lib in the movie. The movie, based on an older script, does not try to "leap into the future" to placate future audiences. Like Shakespeare, it is classic, but unlike Shakespeare, it's inspired and written by twentieth-century consciousness and form of expression.
Shakespeare, master bard that he was, could not have written these "profiles" in feminism, simply because the profiles had not evidenced - worldwide - until the latter half of the nineteenth century.
If Shakespeare's "craft" was in delineating the nature of men and women as they always had been through history to date, then it is fair to say that bards after him were challenged to re-define the essence of Womanhood reflecting the mutation that form eventually undertook.
Thus, the movie taken at face value is an exercise in risque, bawdy, lascivious pantomimes of Bad Girls trying to be Good. Yet - and especially in Roxie's case - it is abundantly clear that the women ARE good, in their way - but that they are victims of circumstance, and prisoners of convention.
This is how it really WAS in the 1920's. The straitjacketing of the Woman form had been a problem for centuries, if not always, but the crisis seemed to reach its pinnacle in the 1920's, and it's safe to say that it was the dual-crux of Prohibition and the upsurge in national religious fervor - especially among devout women - that seemed to lead to the razor's edge of a societal problem.
The societal problem that "Chicago" seems to reflect, in a classic way, is that women NEED to be accepted for their duality... that they can be "pure" and womanly, yet can also be smart and efficient and effective. The "smart" thing (for women) has been socially unacceptable for centuries, because of this idea that many men have had regarding role placement, and the assumption that men fit into Box A, and women fit into Box B.
For centuries, this was acceptable, but with a serious flaw... Perhaps either sex was capable of manipulating both Boxes A & B.
Women have a natural duality that men do not; the mistake would be to assume that one is positive or negative. The mistake is to assume that either gender cannot "multi-task" if they want to.
It so happens - and this is NO REFLECTION UPON MEN - that women are, for the most part - suited to this multi-tasking - the duality, if you will, in roles. Women do work with both the mental and emotional planes on this planet.
It is only men who condition other men that they can only deal with the physical and mental planes. It does tend to be men who tell women that their "job" is to be emotional, as in "keepers of the emotional plane."
As a majority, men condition both men and women. Yet, in the last couple of centuries, we also see women conditioning men - through religion.
Men through strength, women through idealism.
Are strength and idealism both... (gasp)... WEAPONS?
Why, yes, they are, or can be, depending on how they are used.
So what is this War of the Sexes? Who's at the head of either army? Is this a government-sponsored expedition? Whose government?
There is no plot, that we know of... We ascribe the War of the Sexes to ignorance, repeated ignorance, and perpetual ignorance.
But not quite criminal ignorance. Criminal implies knowledge before the fact, so criminal ignorance would cancel itself out. (Bad joke.) Yet, there's hope, by ruling out "criminal intent" that those who are ignorant are not so deliberately, and might even be salvageable with a better understanding of both Free Will and Duality.
Free Will is that which one undertakes, knowing the choices; Duality is that compatibility of masculine and feminine spirit which resides in every soul. The Free Will that might be applied, in this case, is knowing how to channel and manifest that Duality.
"Chicago" so ably channels the dual-reflection of masculinity-femininity and Duality...
Velma Kelly as the "tough guy" who's nobody's fool and always knows who to pay off; Roxie Hart as the little minx who's just a victim of a bad sweetheart deal; Mama Morton (a curious suggestion of dyke - not just a synthesis - but a meltdown of the masculine and feminine), as a symbol of authority who is sympathetic, yet is also a broker of fortune; Billy Flynn who "lives for love" - after his fee is met...; and the various inmates of Murderess' Row - all women who rebelled against and defied their ascribed female roles - against men that they considered had failed their roles as Men.
Why were these women on Murderess row, then? Two reasons: the first and most obvious is simply they committed a crime and needed a Billy Flynn to help get them off. The subtext to this historic window is these women - in 1920's Chicago - never would have had a chance in the legal courts of men.
How would it be different now?
That's what we're about to find out.
The resurgence of interest in "Chicago", the movie and the play - and the history it was based upon - is going to cause a literary and artistic revolution.
What those people who delve into the past are going to dig up are evidence of parallels between Egyptology (a hip trend in the 1920's, after someone dug up the first mummy and shipped it to America, thereby almost single-handedly creating the "Art Deco" movement); women of the 1920's who somehow, for whatever reason, found their "Priestess" role, and women of the twenty-first century who suddenly feel that they, too, have a purpose to divine and channel.
But, will it be as stuffy as all that?
What we see is a resurgence, more dynamic than ever before, of the Divine Feminine in all its marvelous forms, magnified and myriad. Chicago is not a "warning"; it's a prelude... a sign of wonderful times to come, and those times to be dominated - as never before - by Women, or Womanhood. And the times will be remembered for their feminine strength and Duality, as they haven't been, or as the histories have been rewritten, before.
This time, coming up soon in the twenty-first century, we will KNOW, and we will remember, the Feminine Essence in its wonderful myriad forms. We will come to understand the Duality of the Feminine Nature, and not just appreciate its purpose, but enjoy its form.
We all wrote the script; let us all enjoy the show, and remember why we are here.
If life is a script, darling; it would be gauche of me to give the ending away.