Occupy TchaikovskyWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
It debuted in 1892, but Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” is a perfect interpretation of the 2011 Occupy movement.
The ballet begins in the home of an obvious pair of 1 percenters, The President and his Wife. These rich fat cats share the surname Silberhaus (which I assume would translate as “we live in a house made of silver” in some European language if I got around to looking it up) but are usually referred to simply as “the parents,” as they represent the faceless, nameless minority that enjoys wealth and opulence at the expense of the poor and downtrodden. The oblivious money-grubbers are in the middle of a lavish Christmas celebration, with piles of food and presents and decorations strewn about with careless, wasteful abandon. It is not written into the stage directions, but one can imagine a group of noble 99 percenters pressing their noses against The President’s window, snow slowly turning their clothes and hair to white as they shiver and shake with cold and hunger.
The President and his Wife have two children: Clara, who is also known by the religious-toned alias Marie, and her younger brother, Fritz. Clara is cut from pure 1 percenter cloth. She is dreamy, starry-eyed, fanciful and comfortable. Fritz may be born of 1 percenter parents, but his sprit is that of the revolutionary-minded 99 percent. He expresses his discomfort with his unfair advantages by acting out in a surly manner, pushing and prodding Clara to wake up and understand how their family’s wealth could be more fairly used by sharing it with the unfortunates looking in through the window.
At this point, the eye-patch-wearing Councilor Drosselmeyer arrives. He is the children’s godfather, an ominous title that in a criminal context matches his thuggish black Vaderesque cape and marching boots. Drosselmeyer represents the banking and financial wizardry employed by the 1 percenters to maintain control over the 99 percenters. He brings toys that symbolize working-class people — foolish harlequins and entertainers — that are forced to dance and jerk like puppets for the amusement of the rich and elite.
Drosselmeyer also brings a nutcracker, the literal interpretation of a common tool that serves a utilitarian function. It is cruel irony to use such a hardworking item as a mere amusement for rich children.
Fritz sees through Drosselmeyer’s mocking implementation of the nutcracker, and immediately wrests it from his spoiled princess sister. He defiantly throws it to the floor and breaks it, unapologetic for his illusion-shattering call to arms. Of course, he is whisked away by his authoritarian parents, undoubtedly to be punished for daring to break the conformity that protects his parents’ station in life.
Drosselmeyer, eager to keep Clara in her state of daydreaming, hurries to fix the wounded nutcracker. He encourages Clara to sleep, and while she does, he employs the warlock powers of the uber-rich to fix the nutcracker. Eager to ensure that Clara does not fall for her brother’s Occupy ideology, he sprinkles magic dust, a stand-in for money, to transport her to a fever dream accessible only by the most elite.
Clara awakens and seeks the nutcracker, while Drosselmeyer perches on top of a clock to watch her ease to her destiny.
At that moment, a group of 99 percenters, depicted as lowly mice, invades the house to rescue Clara. They bravely circle around her and try to explain the evils of money and the inherent unfairness in the system. Drosselmeyer quickly conjures an army of gingerbread soldiers, led by a brought-to-life Nutcracker, which proceeds to use Tasers and pepper spray on the mice to force them into submission. The noble and righteous Mouse King prepares to take on the elitist Nutcracker in a sword duel. But the spoiled and petulant Clara throws her undoubtedly soft-as-silk slipper at the Mouse King, distracting him long enough for the Nutcracker to fatally wound the People’s King.
As the 99 percenters mourn the loss of their leader, the Nutcracker is, of course, transformed into a Handsome Prince, a reward for protecting the corrupt status quo.
What follows is a harrowing orgy of over-the-top celebration and wasteful honoring, as the Handsome Prince escorts Clara to the exclusive, rich-only Land of the Sweets. A legion of patronizing sycophants greets them, fawning over their phony heroics in vanquishing those less equipped then themselves.
The Sugar Plum Fairy, who represents an acquiescent mainstream media, helps the Handsome Prince and Clara take their throne, then proceeds to exploit a number of cultures. The trio delight in the capitalistic ravaging of chocolate from Spain, coffee from Arabia, teas from China, candy canes from Russia, etc. In a travesty of societal stereotypes, a two-story-tall woman in a dress with enough fabric to clothe 40 1 percenters takes the stage, and a half-dozen children emerge from her dress. This mocks the notion that poor people produce children beyond their means to care for, in a cruel dance of welfare-state entitlement.
After this parade of contempt, Clara and the Handsome Prince are named rulers of the Land of the Sweets forever, creating another elite fiefdom and closing any opportunity for advancement for those not born into money and genetic advantage.
During this entire charade, no mention is made of Fritz; the true hero of “The Nutcracker” has been erased, a forgotten, silenced protestor relegated to the outside of the system, forever banished to the fate of the 99 percenters.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.