Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hip Hop Gatsby

Oh to be an English teacher this Fall.  Anyone fortunate to have a few high school junior classes is in for a real treat.  That's because next month the much awaited release of the latest film incarnation of The Great Gatsby is coming to a theater near you.  Not that we need another film version.  But this much anticipated version should appeal to high school readers because of the people associated with the project.  We've got Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby; how's that for starters?  Toby McGuire has a leading role and the music features the ubiquitous Jay-Z and Beyonce.  Rad!
Hope I'm fortunate enough to have a Language Arts teacher to supervise come September.  Gatsby, viewed by many an the venerable old chestnut of American literature is quite a remarkable novel.  That it stands the test of time well should be abundantly clear with the success of the new film.  I'm assuming, of course that the film will be successful.  The earlier version with Robert Redford, Mia Farrow,  and Bruce Dern was an awful pretty film that didn't quite make it as a box office success.  This 2013 film, slated for release on May 7, just might haul in the wealth that it's predecessor never did.  It just might be the music.  I'll be fascinated to see how contemporary music illuminates the complexities of the text in place of the music of the era.  Not having seen the film yet, I can't imagine the sound track without any "Jazz Age" tunes.  Hopefully it will be a mix.  One of the many trailers on the web right now features a little taste of Beyonce singing about the famous green light on the end of Gatsby's dock.  I hope the multitudes who will be mouthing those lyrics will have a clue about what it all means.
Something else occurred to me too.  I'm interested in how the film will portray race.  F. Scott Fitzgerald's ideas and social comment are all in the text.  And, it's complicated and definitely part of the "what is seen and what is not seen" theme her pursues throughout the novel.  After many readings and discussions of this remarkable novel with both students and colleagues, I've come to see just how clever an author writing in 1926 can be.  Even if the film, with all this hoopla, is a flop it's still all good.  More people will pick up the novel.  Let's just hope that the latest copies will keep the same wonderful cover of the original.

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