Categotry Archives: character

Explorations of the internal workings and motivations of the characters, both major and minor.

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Mrs. Hawking’s radical versus Mary’s intersectional feminism

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Categories: character, themes, Tags: , ,

I think it’s pretty clear that this is a feminist story. It engages a great deal with the systemic inequalities in culture against women, and focuses the telling in a way emphasize the female perspective that is all too often lacking in mainstream media. I personally identify very strongly as feminist, and telling the story of dynamic, proactive, and ultimately human female characters was a huge motivating factor in my writing the play.

As such, the central relationship of the piece, and indeed of all the pieces to come in the series, is the friendship between two women who make each other better. Its power is meant to be always at the forefront. They support one another, but they also challenge each other, and the combination of those two things is key. Obviously in this relationship the older, more experienced, more free-thinking Mrs. Hawking is the mentor, while the younger, less radical Mary takes on the role of the protege. Mary of course has much to learn from her– but Mary, with the unique position she acquires of the closest person in Mrs. Hawking’s heretofore solitary life, has a great deal to challenge within Mrs. Hawking as well. She provides a different perspective, a reality check, a sanity check, and a tempering force on her mistress’s fire. Particularly when it comes to their personal expressions of feminism.

The nature of this particular aspect of their relationship was first codified in so many words by Brad Smith, the fabulous actor who read for Cedric Brockton in the Bare Bones staged reading. Both characters are intended to be represented as feminists in a spiritual if not technical academic sense, since that term comes along many years after their time period. But as Brad observed, they do embody it in contrasting forms. Mrs. Hawking represents radical while Mary stands for intersectional feminism.

Mrs. Hawking’s form is modeled as a true second-waver– on the vanguard of the challenge to the flawed system, motivated chiefly by anger. Men are the enemy in her mind, to be overcome and escaped rather than educated. And though she helps women who struggle under the patriarchy, she still carries a lot of contempt for anyone she does not see as taking up arms in the gender war, or who is not smart enough to understand just how oppressed they are.

Mary, by contrast, is supposed to represent more of a third-wave perspective, one based on making allies rather than enemies, with a more nuanced approach to gender equality, and a mind to the ways that oppression compounds on those with fewer privileges. She brings compassion and inclusion to the struggle, and she is meant to bring a voice of critique to her mistress’s judgmental elitism.

This clash resides mostly in the realm of metaphor at the moment, for a number of reasons. Firstly because it’s too early in history for either of these ideologies to literally exist in their minds, it’s mostly meant to speak to the audience’s modern perspective. Secondly, I am aware that while Mary does bring some small amount of intersectionality by virtue of her being working class, there is a definite lack of other axes of oppression currently in the story, such as people of other races. I would like to endeavor to fix this in the future, to make this presence of “intersectional feminism” even more meaningful as I tell more stories in this world. But right now I acknowledge it’s a problem.

But the feminist theme is a major one we’ll be exploring. And I like that even as we tell the story of two very strong female characters, they don’t always get feminism right– and that gives a great opportunity to try and figure it out for ourselves.

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Mrs. Hawking’s name

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Categories: character, influences, Tags: , , , , ,

I chose the title of the play not to name it after the main character, but specifically because it isn’t really her. Her full legal name is Victoria Cornelia Stanton Hawking, and no part of it belongs to her. I had a vague sense of this when I first picked the title of the play, but more I think about it, the more I realize just how completely, tragically true that is.

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries on Victorian times recently, specifically ones about the queen. She was a fascinating lady, that’s for sure, and the more I learn, the more I think Mrs. Hawking would not care for her. The queen was of German extraction, and was likely the first time an English baby girl was given the name Victoria. If my calculations are correct, our heroine would have been born right around the time the queen was crowned. Her father, Gareth Stanton, was a high-ranking officer in the colonies, and so likely would have patriotically named the girl in her honor. So her given name came from a woman of whom I can’t see her having a high opinion. Meaningless.

Her middle name, Cornelia, I see as being her mother’s name. The woman died young and Victoria has no memory of her. And from everything she heard growing up about what a proper lady she was, Victoria would likely not think much of her either. Meaningless.

Stanton is her father’s surname, a symbol of his power over her when she was young. One of the driving forces behind her push to never be caged or controlled, to subvert the patriarchy and the rule of men, is her unending rage at her father, her eternal desire to get back at him. She had no attachment to his name. Meaningless.

And then there is the name she currently uses, has no choice but to use, that of her husband, Hawking. Her feelings for Reginald Hawking are complex, but she did not love him– she is not, I think, capable of romantic love –and she resented him intensely for the life that his love and marriage pressed her into. And now, even though he is gone, she still has his name, the mark of his will imposed over her identity. The name is a small thing to her, I think, in comparison to everything else, but still, the primary name by which the world knows her is meaningless to her.

I mentioned once that one of my all-time favorite Batman moments was one on Batman Beyond. One of the bad guys tries to make Bruce Wayne think he’s crazy by putting a voice in his head. But he knows it couldn’t possibly be from his own mind, because the voice called him Bruce. He doesn’t call himself Bruce. :-)

But as much as Mrs. Hawking is my Batman, she doesn’t have a superhero “chosen name” sort of thing. So… what does she call herself? If she has so little attachment to her given names, who is she in her own head?

I think I need to ponder this.

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