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Birthday Bash is a consideration of human mortality and the ways in which it becomes indefinable or obsolete in the context of American culture. It is an attempt to reconnect with the fragility of our existence by examining the ways in which we understand ourselves in the world and in the universe.
Early in life, we are taught to cover our eyes when we perceive something which is displeasing to us. By looking away we are able to avoid complex and difficult issues, but we fail to develop the means to understand and confront the violence, rape, and bigotry which exist in our own neighborhoods, and in our own families.
As adults we remain the sheltered children our culture has made us, laughing at television commercials in which people are run over by motor vehicles, fall from three-story buildings, and are struck in the head with blunt objects. These often conclude with the victims springing up to deliver a verbal or visual punchline, free of the effects of the violence done to them moments before. These commercials are little more than the live-action equivalents of children’s cartoons, with anvils and pianos now replaced by true-to-life circumstances and people. Though the scenarios have become more realistic, the characters’ resilience to damage and death remains unfettered.
Our nightly news is loaded with real violence, but it is so tightly packed between police dramas and scripted reality shows that the mall shootings, child molestations, and vehicular decapitations become just another story, the screens of our televisions and computer monitors transforming real-life horror into spectacles which are shuffled among fictional worlds by the clicks of a button.
Birthday Bash is about us in our own backyards, no longer able to understand whether we are real people or cartoon characters, or whether the violence we inflict upon others is harming them or setting them up for an easy one-liner. In this instance, we should not pretend that the little girl is okay, or that she will be joking about her circumstances later. She is dead, and even if those who have inflicted the violence upon her cannot recognize what they’ve done to her, I sincerely hope that we still can.