Why did the author mention Battleship Potemkin in The Ohio State Murders?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 silent film Battleship Potemkin was and remains one of the most widely-respected and copied films in the history of the medium. The story of a 1905 revolt aboard the ship Potemkin -- a revolt credited with inspiring many revolutionaries among the anti-Czarist population within Russia -- Eisenstein's film is particularly admired for its depiction of a massacre by the Czar's soldiers against innocent civilians. The passage in Adrienne Kennedy's script for The Ohio State Murders in which the playwright's protagonist, Suzanne, an African American student in the segregated America of 1950, describes viewing Battleship Potemkin is probably intended to draw parallels between the repressed, brutalized Russians under the monarchy and the repression experienced by African Americans for hundreds of years. As the recent massacre at a black church in South Carolina illuminated, the depth of racism among some remains frighteningly high, and Kennedy's use of Eisenstein's imagery of the massacre in Odessa was no doubt intended to resonate with both the audience and with her main character. Suzanne, viewing the film with Iris Ann, her roommate, comments on the powerful scenes to which she was drawn. 

The Ohio State Murders occurs in a retrospective style, with the "current" Suzanne commenting on her earlier incarnation. As such, the protagonist's horrifying experience of having her daughters murdered would conceivably find its literary counterpart in Eisenstein's terrifying sequence, highlighted by the famous and much-emulated scene of the baby carriage rolling down the stairs amid the chaos of the massacre. Critics noted the "horror story" tone of the play, and the use of Battleship Potemkin imagery was no accident. Both the play and the film depict repressed peoples, and both suggest the horrors associated with such repression.

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The Ohio State Murders

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