Anthony Weiner drama gets worse. Why we follow such shallow things.
Anthony Weiner saw his former online paramour talk to Howard Stern, a former intern trash his campaign, and his spokeswoman launch a profanity-laden tirade. Is it tragedy or farce?
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“Aristotle tells us that tragedy is effective when the protagonist is a good person – not perfect, but basically decent – who, through some error that is more one of judgment than a matter of vice, suffers a downfall,” says Dr. Konstan. “When we see such a pattern, we feel pity, because in some sense we know that the figure is not wholly deserving of such a fate, and also fear, because we know that it might happen to us too – we are not so far superior to that fellow in the play.”Skip to next paragraph
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Hmmm. Basically decent? Before the scandal, when Weiner topped the polls, pundits complained the New York mayoral campaign featured a lineup of milquetoast bureaucrats. It was Weiner who lit up campaign events and seemed to draw the interest especially of black voters and lunchpail union workers.
“We’ve all, younger men our age, have been involved in scandalous behavior,” said an elevator worker to the Yiddish publication Voz Iz Neias last week. Another said, “He does things wrong, but everybody makes mistakes – it makes him human.”
The great Greek dramatists would call this error in judgment “hamartia” – a word that can be translated as a “tragic flaw,” or, in the case of the New Testament, “sin.”
And in one of the few sexts that can be discussed in polite company, the former congressman wrote to his 20-something paramour: “I’m deeply flawed.”
Ms. Leathers responded, quoting Marilyn Monroe: “We all are. Imperfection is beauty & madness is genius.”
If she had finished the famous bombshell’s quote, she would have added, “It's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
After sharing their lurid sexts, Leathers has since gone on to mock the mayoral candidate, and she’s reportedly negotiating to make an adult film that will parody their online tryst.
“I would say that we need to look at a different kind of tragedy: revenge tragedy,” says Leonard Cassuto, professor of English at Fordham University in New York. “Revenge, of course, centers on a vision of retributive justice – or in this case, we might say ‘comeuppance.’ ”
“I think people are fascinated by the spectacle that is Anthony Weiner because he's a serial misbehaver who, in the overall scheme of things, awaits his comeuppance so that equilibrium may be restored to the world,” he says.
Yet perhaps it’s not the tragic hero Weiner represents.
“I don't think he'd qualify as a Shakespearean tragic hero,” says Cynthia Lewis, an English professor at Davidson College in North Carolina. “He hasn't the gravitas or nobility. He's more like one of Shakespeare's truly foolish fools – on the order of Malvolio in Twelfth Night, a figure who takes himself seriously when no one else does.”