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O


            In this version of Othello, Odin James (Othello) is an all-star high school basketball player. Instead of a war against the Turks, Odin's basketball team has made it to the state playoffs. The nuances of Shakespeare's lines, such as Othello's gradual disuse of blank verse as he grows jealous (lecture), are lost as iambic pentameter has been replaced with contemporary slang. The differences between O and Othello, however, are more than superficial. .
             Where Othello is a story where Othello's race plays a minor role (Kerwin), the story of O hinges heavily on the racial tension between a black basketball player in an all-white prep school. O's discussion with "Desi" about the political correctness of the derogatory term "nigger" highlights this tension. Further, O's producer has made a half-hearted attempt to show the source of Hugo's (Iago) jealousy by showing scenes where Hugo really is the hard-working, seldom-recognized grunt of the team. This is twisted around, however, when scenes of Hugo taking drugs serve to villainize him (an effect similar to Iago's satanic Credo in Verdi's Otello). The producer also throws a shroud over O's background, suggesting some degree of a criminal record and a short temper in a scene where he beats up the Rodolfo-analog. The fact that O starts out as a character with a questionable background detracts from the "tragedy" of a great and heroic military commander (Othello) falling from his high pedestal. .
             There were, however, some elements of O's production that were especially Shakespearian. The movie has several scenes that include images of Emilia observing all that is going on before her "not playing an active role, but just watching. This visually reinforces the idea that Emilia is an observer of all that is going on around her, and she is finally the one who understands Hugo's treachery. This leads up to the crescendo at the end of the film and play where Emilia finally explains to Othello/O what Iago has done.


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