Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
There is a subtle moral fabric to Speed-the-Plow, as there is to all David Mamet’s plays. In Speed-the-Plow, Mamet casts a person at the lowest level of the totem pole—a temporary secretary and a woman—to be the one who attempts to make a difference, to “do good,” to create a film with ethical values instead of one designed to make money.
Within Mamet’s scheme, Charlie Fox emerges as the victorious antihero because Fox has no confusing, contradictory scruples and no self-defeating desire to “do good.” Uncomplicated in his desire for money and power, he will do whatever it takes to get to the top. Since Fox does not seem to possess one admirable quality, moral confusion confronts an intelligent audience which finds itself rooting for this disreputable person’s victory, validating his “money above art” credo, and cheering for his shoddy way of life.
Gould submerges whatever urges he has to “do good” in order to be successful in his dog-eat-dog world. He believes himself to be loyal, but he honors that loyalty only until a better deal comes along. Gould is a happy, self-proclaimed “secure whore” until Karen reawakens his slumbering ideals. Karen’s own idealism, however, is seen to be impure, inspired by her desire for power (unacceptable for women in Mamet’s male world). When Karen consciously uses sex to achieve her goal, she becomes the play’s real whore. Her methods are the worse because...
(The entire section is 346 words.)
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Friendship and Loyalty
The two main characters in Speed-the-Plow, Bobby Gould, the new head of production at a major motion picture studio, and Charlie Fox, a producer, have been friends for over twenty years. This friendship is at the center of the play, and their loyalty to each other makes it turn. Gould and Fox began their careers together in the mailroom at a studio and have remained loyal to each other over the years. When Fox unexpectedly gets the twenty-four-hour option to the next Doug Brown movie, Fox takes the project to his old friend Gould. Fox emphasizes that he could have taken the project ‘‘across the street,’’ i.e. to another studio, but his loyalty and friendship compelled him to see Gould first. Gould seizes the opportunity, though his boss will be unavailable until the next morning.
The Gould-Fox friendship then undergoes a test of loyalty. Karen, the temporary secretary, is good-looking, and Fox bets Gould $500 that he cannot get her into bed. To accomplish this end, Gould has Karen do a reader’s report on a novel and visit his home later to discuss her work. Karen does so, and convinces Gould that he would be doing ‘‘good’’ to make the novel into a movie rather than the Doug Brown project. The next morning, when Fox comes back for their meeting with the studio head, he is appalled to find that Gould has forsaken his loyalty and will go with Karen’s project instead of the prison film....
(The entire section is 806 words.)