I love my daughter more than a this stupid keyboard I’m typing on can express. Yet, I cannot stand playing pretend with her using her dolls and action figures.
It has nothing to do with toxic masculinity or embarrassment. I’d put on nail polish, bows in my hair, and glitter blush on my cheeks for her. Hell, I might end up feeling pretty while I’m at it!
No, the problem is that my five year old has NO idea about the classical unities, and that is becoming a deal-breaker.
No matter how many times I try to stop her and explain the three Aristotelian unities, she ignores me and continues playing with her “Teen Titans” figures.
I’ve tried. I really have.
I’ve tried to tell her to establish an overarching theme in her playtime. Is she playing pretend about fate? What is her message?
Apparently her message or theme is getting Beast Boy to fart a lot and make Cyborg yell “BOOYAH!”
That’s when I tried to explain elements from Aristotle’s Poetics, specifically about the need for unity of action. This unity of action means that the action in her little dramas should be complete, whole, and understandable, and that the structure of the action should be such that if any component is removed, the whole of the drama should fall apart.
To which Starfire replied: “poop.”
Since between the farting and Starfire saying “poop” a general fecal theme was being established, I asked her what metaphor she was trying to establish.
Her response was, “Make the dinosaur go crazy!” Then she made Raven ride on the back of the triceratops.
That is when I felt a little bit of me die inside by microscopic degrees.
The good news is that she has the concept of “unity of place” down. It helps that all of this happens around her dollhouse. The whole thing could be seen as a drawing-room play if there were less farts and dinosaur rampages.
“Unity of time” is a whole other issue. Since her sense of time is sketchy to begin with, it is hard to explain concepts like cause and effect, much less the use of time to draw out dramatic irony.
I mean, YOU try to explain the structure of Sophocles’ “Antigone” to a five year old. Do it! I’ll wait for you.
It went EXACTLY as expected, didn’t it?
Now as every seven-year-old knows, Samuel Johnson disputed the unities by stating that they are made to serve drama, not limit it. As in most art, rules are there to be broken. But only by people who know what they are breaking!
I don’t think my daughter even knows about rhetoric, much less things like farce or the use of litotes.
Now admittedly, the concept of the classical unities is a little long in the tooth. Plays certainly don’t need to be compressed into a twenty-four hour time frame. But before you can compete in the Tour De France, you need to learn to ride with training wheels. The classical unities are a great way to simplify dramatic structure.
But it’s almost as if she doesn’t want to know any of this. When she made “Robin” the antagonist of the piece. I tried to explain that this was not within the bounds of the established character, and that a central tenet of drama is for the characters to act in understandable ways that are true to themselves. “Tibi ipsi dic verum!” I said. “It holds true of all people, real or fictional.”
That is when she called me “poopy butt.”
But it is not all bleak. Her whole narrative style is a lovely example of “paradox,” so perhaps there is hope for her yet!