UTRECHT UNIVERSITYMOVING BEYOND DYSTOPIASOCIAL CRITICISM AND THE USE OFSTEREOTYPES AND ANTI-STEREOTYPES INANGELS IN AMERICAKaren J. Niekerk0045616Doctoraal Scriptie Engelse Taal & CultuurSpecialisatie Amerikanistiek1stReader: Derek Rubin2nd Reader: Paul FranssenAugust 2005
TABLE OF CONTENTSINTRODUCTION3ROY COHN12LOUIS IRONSON24PRIOR WALTER38JOE PITT49CONCLUSION59BIBLIOGRAPHY632
INTRODUCTIONIn the 1980s, the United States could be characterised as a polarised society due to changingjob markets, increased inequality, drugs and violence, and an AIDS epidemic that caused32,000 reported victims (Norton 939). Although Ronald Reagan, president from 1980 until1988, succeeded in restoring the country’s self-esteem, the United States faced economic,social and political issues that remained unresolved under the Reagan administration. It wasduring this era that Tony Kushner, the openly gay Jewish American playwright, startedworking on Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, the play that wouldmake him famous. The seven-hour play consists of two parts: Millennium Approachesand Perestroika,which are set in New York during the Reagan Era. It raises social issues such ashomosexuality, AIDS, ethnicity, identity, religion, politics, and American social values. Themany themes in the play are frequently linked to America’s history and Kushner implicitlyrefers to Walter Benjamin’s view on history1: the “ruins of history” are important in order tobe able to focus on “progress” (Fisher 54). Inspired also by Bertold Brecht, the central themeof change is at the heart of Angels’ plot; it portrays Kushner’s main message that people havechoices and that therefore “society is capable of improvement” (McTeague 18).In 1992, Millennium Approachesopened in Los Angeles and after a year, the play’ssecond part, Perestroika, was also released.2Critics’ response towards the play was positive1Walter Benjamin, inspired by Paul Klee’s painting Angelus Novus, wrote: [A]n angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His faced turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.” (Illuminations257-58) 2After the successful theatre productions in the early 1990’s, HBO films together with Tony Kushner madeAngels in Americaadaptable for television. In 2004, the DVD was released.