The Taboo Emotion of Feminine Anger – Part 1

***The vocabulary in the current essay that refers to the binary gender system emphasizes the abstract construction and diversity of the gender and includes all who identify as female, woman and femininity.

The Encyclopedia of Psychology, American Psychological Association (APA) describes anger as “an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong”. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross suggests that “anger is rooted in sadness, pain, frustration and fear and is one of the five stages of grief”. Psychological theories place anger together with the elemental emotions of happiness, sadness, anxiety and disgust. These are the basic emotions of the human core and are tied with the basic survival modus. 

The Inside Out Pixar movie (2015) is a wonderful animation directed by Pete Docter and co-directed by Ronnie del Carmen, in which we can see the five basic human emotions as protagonists in a child’s mind. Each of the five emotions –Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger— have unique personalities, illustrated with high measures of empathy due to the movie’s message itself: “There are no right or wrong emotions”. We need all of them. The character of Anger “feels very passionately about making sure things are fair for Riley-the child character. Anger really cares that things are fair”, describes Lewis Black about the illustrated figure. In the movie, Anger intervenes every time the child is triggered by an external threat and reacts with the intention of fighting, verifying the above definition by APA “an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong”. 

However, fighting can have many forms and it doesn’t necessarily mean shouting or yelling; it can also be a significant survival action that includes qualities and gestures of equanimity. The animation shows in a sweet but also humorous way that every emotion is needed and that there is no shame in being sad or angry.

The emotion of feminine anger —along with a few others— are still a great taboo in today’s society, and their representation in performing arts is an ongoing inquiry.

How do the feminine characters address their anger on stage? How do we stage the phenomenon of anger? How can anger be considered as a dramaturgical entryway and what would be the meaning of it? Why do we need to hack the emotion of anger to a greater extent? 

The above questions aspire to conclude the prefatory question regarding “the fortification of patriarchy on the theater stage”, (whereby the current essay has begun). Allying with the description of Anger’s character in Pixar’s movie and the intention for things to be fair—follows the question: How do we stage anger? 

The use of anger as a metaphor on stage can work as the meeting point of a collective truth and can unify communities. We have seen it happening in music, e.g. with the Punk, Rock, Metal and HipHop – genres which according to their “manifesto” sing for the social unrest; and we have seen it in theater dramaturgy as well, of course, e.g. with the In Yer Face English theater movement; and in many more cases in the arts that are inspired by collective anger, which I will not analyze further at the moment. My interest is to imagine concepts of anger that could survive in the dramaturgical realm of a stage performance and could sculpt the personality of the “new woman”. 

A woman’s anger has been often illustrated as a diabolical impulse that requests vengeance. Its dynamic is aggressive, dangerous and even contagious. No one can deny that these are undisputed characteristics that the emotion of anger can evoke. Yet, what if we focus on the dynamic quality of “caring that things are fair”, and integrate dramaturgical decisions that approach the angry feminine character from that perspective. 

Patti Smith mentioned once in an interview that anger helps her find her truth. Since the word truth has too many possible interpretations, I attempted an almost free-associative interpretation myself. In the following sentences, I translate Patti’s Smith quote into how anger helps someone or what it means to be angry: Anger helps someone to recall personal values; anger helps someone to be an active part of a debate conflict; being angry means that someone claims the self and societal respect they deserve; being angry means that someone stands up for the community; being angry means that someone speaks out their perspective freely; being angry means that someone cares about things being fair. 

How and in which way someone can be angry in all the countless cases of this emotional condition is the next question when it comes to stage directions.

To be continued…

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