|"Dorian Gray" Fragile Films 2009|
No human is guilty of anything. They try to explain everything away. It’s easier, isn’t it? There is a gay gene that makes you attracted to the other sex. There is a God gene that makes you biologically unable to believe in anything supernatural. Lying is hereditary. Drinking is hereditary. Cheating. I don’t know. All I know is that I suffer from what I’ve seen in every human on earth and I am particularly skilled at it. I should have spotted in me earlier that anyone with three copies of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, all written in, highlighted, bent up, with extra essays in the back highlighted and annotated—this person is looking for something beyond a good story. My graffitied copy of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” agrees. I also have the soundtrack to the London cast recording of the musical “Jekyll and Hyde”. One of the earliest ones, the Broadway version is too tacky. My iPod informed me the other day that I have listened to the album more than 200 times. I could probably sing the whole show by myself. I cannot place my obsession with this story or explain the love and understanding I have for the sad Henry Jekyll.
In the book and musical alike, Jekyll’s friends try to pry him away from his “unholy” work of separating Man’s duel personalities. He is convinced that there are two sides to every person and that if the evil side could be suppressed then the world would be a better place. He ends up having to try the experiment on himself. This creates the other title character of Edward Hyde, an evil man who kills, engages with prostitutes, drinks, and steals. Jekyll is unfair to Hyde when he says that Hyde is pure evil. Close reading shows that Jekyll has already lead a double life since his university years: being the good doctor by day and submitting to his darker urges and desires at night. He must be right; each man does have two identities.
The Story Teller
In my family we have a little phrase that goes like this: Someone says something that doesn't sound entirely true or accurate. The second person says, “Are you telling stories?” or “The bard speaks!” Not the kindest things to say, but we all have thick skins. I’m a story teller. Not just my desired profession and favorite thing to do, but I am a liar as well. Hypocrisy is really just a big lie in my opinion. It’s been said at least a million times that the social and home life of children effect them. For me, I should be a good kid because my parents raised me to know right from wrong and make good choices. Oh, I make good choices for sure. I know right from wrong so well I can look like one and do the other.
Henry Jekyll was so wrapped up in the doings of Edward Hyde that he could justify Hyde’s actions and even partake in them himself. He didn't see the shame or the lie so long as he could be the good doctor once again. Like Dorian Gray, who was so innocent and physically good looking that no one believed it was him when he finally faced his demons and died. He had morphed into the image of his painting and became someone no one knew. He was living a lie. Jekyll was too. I’ve lied to my best friend more times than I remember. I know I have morals because I felt the shame and guilt from lying. A theory of hypocrisy is that you can only be a hypocrite if you have morals.
My best friend (let’s call her Alice) was a horseback rider. She even owned a horse. A beautiful brown one with a white streak on her face and a white sock. Her name was Charisma. Alice took lessons, worked at the barn, and was in shows often. I loved her and coveted her horse. When I visited, I would ride too. I remember thinking that was always a little unfair because at the time I lived in the country and she lived in the city. The country girl was supposed to have the horse. Sorry, I’m justifying myself.
One summer, tired of not being as amazing as she was, I wrote her a letter saying I was to spend the summer working at a stable not too far from my house (the only truth being that the stable really wasn’t that far away). She called me a few days later and we talked. She asked me the worst question a horse aficionado could ask a jealous know-nothing.
“What kinds of horses do they have?”
My face froze. “Uh, purebreds,” I mimicked a word I’d heard her say before.
“That’s all?” How innocent her distant phone-voice sounded.
“And some others. I don’t remember.” Worst lie in the world. I glared hard at the cheap chandelier hanging above me in my parents tiny library, thankful Alice couldn't see my eyes.
“I see.” She could tell I was lying and I knew that she knew! I don’t know how impressive it is that I could tell she knew I was lying. I’ve always been able to know when someone picks up on my lies. I’ve never corrected it though. I just remember that they know and steer clear of them.
I’m also like the frustrating female character in movies who becomes over emotional and icy when she finds out someone is lying to her. Even if she’s been lying. Maybe I get angry that I can’t spot the lying? I’m not special in that way, most people can spot a big fat lie if they want to. Do I feel betrayed? Or are humans just so dimensional that we have to lie and cheat? But we also must function on some plain of honesty as well? We deserve that honesty and we must be good humans. We want to appear good any way. But we also want to win.In the end, Jekyll died, Dorian Gray died. I really hope I don’t die from hypocrisy. I suppose I rather like my morals.