10:55 p.m., Aug. 31
Mac the Knife
And the shark, it has teeth, And it wears them in its face. And Macheath, he has a knife, But the knife one doesn't see.
These are the original lyrics to the well know song, “Mac the Knife” from The Threepenny Opera. The music was by Kurt Weil and the book was by Bertold Brecht.
It’s amazing how popular this song has been over the years when you consider the topic and meaning of the song.
What/Who is “the shark”? The shark is the common, violent criminal. When the shark attacks it is terrifying and there is blood in the water. The shark/thug is obviously a creature of violence, it has its teeth in our face.
How about Mac? He’s also a killer but we never see it coming. Presently we could imagine Mac being on Wall Street or in Congress pushing through legislation that makes sure financial derivatives are unregulated-even by local gaming laws. http://money.cnn.com/2008/09/29/magazines/fortune/varchaver_derivatives.fortune/index.htm
Mac is an archetype of the white collar criminal.
The Threepenny Opera is a critique of capitalism. Brecht was a Marxist idealist and most of his stage material is designed to make the audience think instead of feel. It was not just the script but the actual staging of the play that helped drive home the point. In some cases, the house lights remained on during the “performance”. There is very little sentimentality in Brecht’s stage works.
The version of Mac the Knife most of us know is the Bobby Darin version. It is upbeat and swings and Mac seems almost sexy. It’s interesting what capitalism can do to a piece of theater.
Furthermore, some of us remember the McDonald’s add campaign from the 80’s,that used the Mac the Knife tune but changed it to Mac Tonight, “It’s a good time, for the greatest taste, of McDonald’s. It’s Mac Tonight.”
This was an advertisement that was true to Brecht’s original intention. McDonald’s can be seen as a capitalist killer whose knife we can’t see!
I like Brecht but I’m not a Marxist. Brecht brilliantly pointed out the temptations and shortcomings of capitalism. What he lacked were any viable answers.