On Monday, I start a short gig with the local community theater group's high school production of As You Like It.
It's fairly prosaic to notice that new comedy (or romantic comedy, as we tend to call it) sets up the younger generation to make the next generation in socially acceptable ways. Depending on the play, characters may struggle with leaving homosocial/sexual bonds to forge heterosexual bonds, with changing family relations, with ambivalence about sexualities. On some level, it's all about getting the right people married off to the right people, and convincing everyone that things will work out well enough. And, of course, the play ends with marriage (or shortly before or after), so we don't really "know" what happens after. (Except, of course, that in the long term, life is more tragedy than comedy.)
Rightfully, everyone's noticed for a good number of years now that the plays are overwhelmingly heteronormative. Sometimes, in plays, male characters get "left over," reminding us that heteronormativity doesn't work out well for everyone.
Gender choice in marriage is important, but focusing on gender exclusively shifts our focus from other choices made about partnering, especially social status or class (it's awkward to use "class" in non-capitalist economic systems, but you get the idea). But As You Like It reminds us, even while it plays wildly with gendering choices, that gender isn't the only thing to think about, and that class is also important.
It's hard to communicate about social class and mate choice with students, especially high school students, in our culture. Our culture shares a widespread fantasy that "true love" will overcome all other factors, even as we date and marry almost exclusively within our social class. I'm as guilty as anyone. I don't date homeless people. Nor do I date elite people. Neither is within my scope of preference.
I'm thinking about how to talk about that issue with the students in the program. Most of the students are pretty middle class, and a fair percentage are home-schooled.
It's going to be an interesting play to discuss with this crowd!