I was watching Taming of the Shrew today with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and at first I was really angry with the way things turned out. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, think Ten Things I Hate About You but at the end, instead of Julia Stiles saying “You know, you can’t just buy me a guitar every time you screw up,” Elizabeth Taylor gives this ridiculous speech about how women are meant to serve their husbands because their husbands expend so much effort caring for their wives’ basic needs. Originally, I was really disappointed that Elizabeth Taylor allowed herself to be “tamed.” Being out-spoken and assertive are not undesirable qualities – rather we have come to think of these as signs of strength. But then I remembered that you cannot tame a wild animal. There’s this one scene where Richard Burton completely destroys a dress that Elizabeth Taylor really likes and then tells her that when she can learn to control her tongue, she can have a better dress. So what does she do? She becomes all sweet and agreeable. And what happens? She gets what she wants. This is essentially what we do with our children and pets. We punish them for their bad behavior and reward them for their good behavior. And I wonder what we’re really teaching them. Yes, they are behaving in a way that we think is appropriate, but who’s being manipulated? If Richard Burton wants Elizabeth Taylor to behave like a domestic house-cat instead of a tiger, then he will have to continually reward her for being docile and obedient. In other words, as long as she does whatever he wants, she gets whatever she wants. I suppose this is a beautiful system in which everyone ends up happy, but I wonder if everyone ends up fulfilled. Are we all just greasy politicians scratching other people’s backs so that they’ll scratch ours? Is it because we’re trained from birth that if we behave in a certain way, we get the things that we want? When do we just start doing things because they’re the right thing to do, instead of doing things because we expect some kind of reward for them? This is not to say that I think becoming an obedient wife was the right thing for Elizabeth Taylor to do, I just question her motives for doing so.
PS In case you’re wondering, the characters down in the bottom right-hand corner say “komento” and then some kanji. This is Japanese for “comment, link.” I don’t know why it is in Japanese, but in case you were confused about where to leave comments, that’s the place. And you can also leave me messages using Japanese writing, apparently.