“They Should Feel That Twinge of Indictment”: More on “Circle Jerk” with Michael Breslin, Patrick Foley, and Ariel Sibert

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Lord Bussy and Jurgen at their screens

(Author’s Note: You can find my interview with the Fake Friends, where we talk more about memes, white supremacy, and queer aesthetics at theLA Review of Books. These are some excerptsfrom our two-hour conversation which didn’t make the final cut.)

In terms of queer aesthetic being reappropriated or weaponized and becoming a tool of white supremacy. Was there anything within the show that you sort of, discussed or hesitated about as far as that also kind of falling into the same trap?

Michael Breslin: Yeah, I mean we can all talk about this in various ways. But that was the main question in every single rehearsal, and every single writing session. Cat, who plays Eva Maria has this really great way of thinking about this, which is, if you’re going to critique something, there’s a very slippery slope to, falling into doing the thing that you’re you think you’re critiquing, right? So we’ve rewritten this play so many times, because that is a real threat. And I’m still wondering how people experience the play and on that spectrum.

Patrick Foley: Then the other danger is that you don’t convey these men honestly and you sort of defang them and in doing that, you sort of exonerate them, and you make it so that you can’t take them seriously. So there is a seesaw of risks, I suppose that’s we’ve been sort of going back and forth on.

MB: Yeah, I would say the plot, like Jurgen and Lord Bussy’s plot to spread misinformation, had many different iterations of what that looked like. And we had to really discuss eugenics, and how that relates to faces and how that relates to algorithms. There were a lot of conversations around that specific part of the show.

PF: And how specific it should be about the genocidal reality or intent or follow through.

Ariel Sibert: There was some moment during production where I [saw] there was an advertisement on my Instagram feed for a kind of application that would scan your face and based on your bone structure, analyze your personality type, which was just straight up phronology. And this was already at a point in the show where we had put a number of FaceTunes, and of the characters actually editing their own appearance, refining it on apps like Manley, and also on FaceTune. And we were thinking a lot about this idea of facial structure, surveillance, optimization for AI.

How much of our way of presenting ourselves and appearing is actually optimized to be read by non-human vision? And now we’re at a point where the show is reaching so many more people than we thought it would. And our own anonymity is something that we’re starting to talk about, how to own digital security in a way that as the show grows, and the infrastructure around how our image gets used, and appropriated and circulated. I mean, for me, I live tweeted the show last night, I had 12 Twitter followers and used it as a private joke. And now it’s become part of my digital identity because of this show, which is great for me in a networking capacity, but it’s also the way that this show circulates has really changed people’s access to the faces, particularly with Michael and Patrick.

You can read the full interview here.

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