Wednesday 2020-06-24

Little Fires Everywhere written by Celeste Ng and Liz Tigelaar

This latest installment of Trainwreck Theatre starts off like a reboot of Six Degrees of Separation, i.e. black people show up in a white neighborhood and then everything goes downhill.

As the story backfills, this top-level racism recedes and a critique of the American Dream emerges, as seen through the parallel intertwined lives of two women. Both grew up middle class but have been derailed into a poverty mindset through either grief or alcoholic role models. This failure to internalize their parents' culture shows up painfully throughout: Mia is a single mom living out of her car despite having 400K in the bank, while Elena has the trappings of wealth but no actual wealth.

Middle class financial wealth is supposed to buy stability, which affords the mental head space to examine one's life and improve it.1 Neither Mia nor Elena have the wherewithal to buy themselves something as simple as time (witness Elena's dysfunctional calendar), despite having parents with both time and money. Consequently, they both simultaneously make poor decisions and feel that they have no options.

It seems absurd to contemplate: 400K in the bank, a nice house, and no options? If these one-percenters can't keep their lives in order, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Finally, all the typical American platitudes are reversed: everyone says they are color-blind and no-one actually is, the one immigrant loses everything and has to repatriate, and to top it all off at the story's end, neither of the two women are able to keep a house, that ultimate symbol of the American Dream.

So, it's not a hope-filled saga, but it gives everyone something to think about.