That’s what I’d like to say to Dan Conover of the Post and Courier. In today’s preview of Taylor Mac (headline: “Modern ‘fool’ shares truths at his own risk”), Conover talked about the cross-dressing performance artist as “the Fool reimagined for the 21st century” who is “a truth-teller in drag” like “Frank-N-Furter,” Tim Curry‘s meatloaf tranny in the classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
This comes more than a week after I wrote a Spoleto Buzz post connecting Mac’s shape-shifting persona (in his case, shifting genders) with other shape-shifting fools who have license to goad the wise, challenge the virtuous, and act as critic of the world. I even delineate the fool’s genealogy a bit — from Taylor Mac to Eddie Izzard to RuPaul to Frank-N-Furter.
Conover’s article comes more than a week after I wrote a (discursive and perhaps too long) piece connecting the archetype of the fool to Chen Shi-Zheng’s Monkey: Journey to the West. In it, I attempt to see the monkey king as a “global comic hero finding his natural audience in America.”
I try to understand the monkey king as a metaphor for “America’s continued role and purpose in a new globalized world, a revised version of Whitman‘s liberal transcendental self — a multi-national, multicultural, multi-spiritual comic hero perfectly suited to the 21st century.”
And I try to put Monkey and (later on) Taylor Mac in an American context:
We like the risk-takers and mischief-makers, the hustlers and provocateurs. We have soft spots for thick-skinned kidders, visionaries, and con men: the dreamers and schemers, the fakers and fabulists. American history is filled with figures who played shape-shifters, tricksters, impersonators, and anti-heroes. We love them for their foreignness, eccentricities, and power to morally instruct, entertain, and make us laugh.
Tom Sawyer, Freddie the Freeloader, and Mohammad Ali; P.T. Barnum, Florenz Ziegfeld, and Ignatius T. Riley — the list goes on. Yorick and Puck find their modern expressions in Stepin Fetchit, Frank-N-Furter, Andy Kaufmann, and Borat, each exploiting his otherness to tell some kind of truth about us. All emerged from an Anglo-American culture that arose from an egalitarian gumbo of social differences and religious contradictions.
So Dan, you’re welcome.