Shock Value by Micah Mattix

Shock Value

Micah Mattix on Pro-Life Transgressions of the Avant-Garde

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I teach English, two events that took place during the same week last fall provided a stark insight into what may be the majority values of the next generation of Americans.

The first event was a new play put on by the local performing arts group. The play, which was based on Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), was billed as a “gender-bending” play that would push the limits of experimental drama in its exploration of human sexuality. The morning following the premiere, however, a story in the student newspaper, despite carrying the title “Sex Spectacle Shocks,” was careful to note that students were not, in fact, shocked by the play’s content—not even by a scene in which a topless actress simulated explicit sex acts.