Like Shia LaBeouf, commercials for the new Parenthood on NBC and speculation that this year’s Mets won’t suck, I’m getting a little tired of all the hype around the life, works and influence of Henrik Ibsen. I see and hear more about that fucker than I do about Justin Beiber, and he had Usher and Justin Timberlake fighting over him. I get it, Ibsen was the Jamie Foxx of the 1890s – playwright, director, tailor, aspiring rapper (one of the first to embrace the form), tailchaser extraordinaire, professional lacrosse player – but enough is enough.
I acknowledge that Ibsen was widely credited with creating or inspiring an astonishingly broad assortment of works/trends/etc – modernism in theatre, Talk Soup, the USFL and not wearing white after Labor day among them – but I think we as a culture have taken Ibsen-Mania a bit too far. Particularly today’s youth; did you know that ibsenfreaks.com gets more daily hits than nytimes.com? Or that, on Facebook, there are over 300 Ibsen-related groups, the most popular of which comprises over 15 million members? It is rumored that both JK Rowlings and Stephanie Meyer both contributed over 75% of their Harry Potter and Twilight earnings to the Ibsen Foundation. Without question it was Ibsen who inspired the works that made them both rich, but shouldn’t the authors look to secure their future, as their earnest protagonists are wont to do? Shouldn’t we move forward as a society, seeking the next Ibsen, rather than remain entangled in this web of Ibsen reverie for another century?
I, for one, feel that some of his impact has yielded negative results. As evidence, consider the The Wild Duck, in which a young man returns from exile full of dark secrets, requiring extreme sacrifice of his potential love interests. Did we as a society really benefit from this inspiration for For The Love Of Ray J? One might suggest that the television producers lost some of the depth and complexity conveyed in the original work, but if the conceit was powerful enough to endure for over 100 years, surely some fault lies with its original composer?
And what of The Master Builder? The middle-aged-man-realizes-his-discontent-with-his-family-turns-to-a-younger-woman-and-falls-off-a-building saga has led to innumerable (and insufferable) navel-gazing family dramas, but didn’t it also have a more distasteful long term impact – the omnipresent architect? How is it that fully one fourth of all characters in television programs and movies are architects, when in real life I’ve never even met one fucking architect? Every other apartment or house depicted on a television set is sure to include an architect’s table, sprawling with blueprints, yet I’ve never once bumped into that setup in real life.
There are countless other examples of Ibsen’s deleterious social impact. I continue to hold out hope that the hysteria will fade, but I fear it will not in my lifetime. More likely I will continue to bump into Whole Foods shoppers who unironically sport the familiar broom-shaped mutton chops, hold the mustache. Perhaps two generations from now, the varied works of 50 Cent or Joss Weedon will be embraced and appreciated in the same manner.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day – watch out for that vomit,