What do you make of the fact that the longest-running musical and a successful Broadway play are both Socialist parables, Les Miserables and An Inspector Calls [This was 1999]
… I think Inspector Calls was kind of amazing. It’s an incredibly simple and clear parable about responsibility and about the desire to distance oneself from the evils that afford one the luxury of living the way one lives.
But do you think, it is an indication that people want something more than just complacent entertainment?
Well, The Lion King is a right-wing fantasy about social domination and the supremacy of men everywhere. It’s a completely beautifully packaged, neo-con parable for neo-con times and neo-con audiences and their creepy little children. The ideology Brecht says is there: the absence of an ideology is an ideology. It’s just a conservative ideology and everything that you see has it.
There’s something un-British in [American musicals], which is that they’re optimistic. You’re distinctively American in that respect.
I’ve come to believe that optimism is a moral responsibility in artists. I’m a sentient being who reads the newspapers, and of course I feel great pessimism every day about what’s going to happen to this planet, but I think it’s incredibly important, especially for artists, to search for plausible occasions for hope. That’s very different from the cheesy, Andrew Lloyd-Webber sort of processed, pasteurised hope, which you can tell is mostly a shriek of despair […] I really believe that at any point in history about forty percent of the population of any country is sane and moral and looking for justice. If there is any hope anywhere, that’s where it comes from. And I think if you write about those people and their problems and their struggles with… the other sixty percent, then you write with a certain dimension of optimism. There’s a cliche that Americans have this kind of blind-faith optimism and don’t want to look at the dark side. I don’t think that’s true. There’s no writer more insanely optimistic than Dickens, and the great cornerstone of American literature, Moby Dick is a work of terrible darkness and despair. There’s a real sense that this country has always had of an impending holocaust or disaster where all of us will be wiped out. There’s a great deal of darkness in America. I like to think that my optimism is more internationalist and comes more from a kind of Socialist progressive position – you know, pessimism of the spirit and optimism of the will.
(my note – is Socialism bad faith?)