Friday, November 25, 2005

Do folks know that the Salem witch trials really happened? (Or is it just as well? Maybe it would just give them ideas)


I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.

By the time I got around to trying to catch up on several days' worth of DWT posts, I was able to multitask with a Thanksgiving edition of The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson. If you haven't been watching The Late, Late Show, you may still remember Craig as Drew's loony English boss Mr. Wick on The Drew Carey Show. Unleashed now as himself--not the least bit English, incidentally, but quite gloriously Scottish--he's hilarious in a giddy, anarchic and often subversive way.

As it worked out, while I tried to keep pace with the antic adventures of Rep. Jean "The Crack Ho" Schmidt in the DWT posts, there was "TV's Craig Ferguson" (as he often styles himself--in part to distinguish himself from Colin Ferguson, the unfortunate fellow who shot up a Long Island Rail Road train some years back, with unfortunately lethal results) talking about witches! Come on now, are you going to tell me it never occurred to you that our Jean looks and talks like she should be auditioning for the Wicked Witch of the West in some regional-theater production of The Wizard of Oz?

Craig had noted in his lilting Scottish accent that he loves Thanksgiving. "It's a very big holiday in Scotland. They celebrate the time when the Pilgrims left. 'Thank God those people are out of here.'"

Now he came back to the Pilgrims. "Actually," he said, "you've got to ask yourself about these Pilgrims. This is a bunch of people who left medieval England, right, because religious practices weren't strict enough. [Long astonished pause.] This was medieval England. How strict do you need it to be?

"This is a society, they had the witch-burning. I mean, that's pretty strict.

"They had this system of how you tell someone's a witch. It was always a woman, and how you tell someone's a witch, you threw a woman--this is true!--you threw a woman in a lake. If she drowns, innocent--not a witch. If she doesn't drown, she's a witch--burn her! That's what they did!

"This strikes me as a flawed system. I'm just saying."

The audience found this hilarious, but in a way that suggested that, despite Craig's repeated insistences, the folks were blissfully unaware that, allowing for some blurred detail ("medieval" England?), the story is true.

"I've been reading up on this," Craig explained, "because I want to be an American citizen, and you have to know all that stuff or you're kicked out. If you're born here, you don't have to know any of it. You don't even have to know the national anthem. But if you come in, whoo! You have to know it."

It's a shame this isn't AOL, or we could run one of those famous polls to see how many people know that the all-powerful Puritan religious loons of the day actually did deal with suspected witches this way. Or better still, we could ask people whether they believe it. After all, haven't we now taken to determining truth by voting? ("Sorry, evolution fans, but your theory just didn't cut it in the polls. Well, it was just a theory anyway.")

I hate to be recommending Arthur Miller's wheezy old play The Crucible, which in any case was less concerned with witches than with the terror campaign being waged against Americans who deviated from right-wing orthodoxies by that loathsome bully Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Now Karl Rove--not to mention Rep. Jean the Crack Ho--has shown us that the only problem with Joe McCarthy, apart from his uncouth style, is that he didn't go far enough.

Maybe what we need, I'm thinking, is an updated version of The Crucible. And I think I know just the man to do it.

I figure along about now Governor Schwarzenegger must be spending more and more time looking at scripts and script proposals, knowing that he's apt to have a goodly block of time free for new projects in the not-too-distant future. With Arthur Miller himself no longer around to raise a fuss, maybe his literary executors are prepared to authorize a crowd-pleasing updating.

I'm thinking: The Crucible as a Rambo- or Terminator-style action drama!

The soon-to-be-former governor could play that stern judge, the Rev. John Hale, who comes to appreciate too late in the game the injustice of the witch trials. Now here's the twist: Instead of resigning himself to this injustice, the way Hale has always done in the lame-ass old fuddy-duddy version, he'll come out with automatic weapons blazing and right the injustice, the way only automatic weapons can!

And this might even be used to provide good career cover for our Jean the Crack Ho. Surely Arnold's screen adapter can find a use for a hideous. loathsome, brain-dead old crone.