John Cameron Mitchell on the Origin of Love

The “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” creator ponders the “ongoing understanding and quest” of love.
  • Transcript


Question: What is love, and does the experience of love different between LGBT and straight culture?

John Cameron Mitchell: Well, there’s, you know, obviously different kinds of love and the Greeks had all different terms for it.  And in the strongest relationships we have, those kinds of love inter, you know, they are simultaneous, they ebb and flow, sometimes they’re all there at the same time.  You know, eros and agape, which is the more, sort of love of mankind, you know, selfless kind of love.  And philia, which is a kind of deeper, sort of non-sexual affinity.  And, you know, so I don’t really have any, there’s no rules that I’ve learned about the ebb and flow of those experiences.  I mean, we know that, we seem to learn some things from relationships that don’t always seem to work the next time around.  I mean, you try to avoid patterns and we learn about ourselves, you know, over time.  Oh, I married my mom again or I, you know, I made that mistake again.  It’s strange but it’s, you know, you hopefully learn along the way what is useful, what isn’t useful, and then the next time someone comes around, you forget it all.  So, I don’t know.

You know, there’s an understanding of different kinds of connection and as long as you don’t mistake one for the other, I think that’s useful.  You know, there’s an infatuation with someone, there’s the depth of a long relationship or friendship or love relationship that feels very different and in the is perhaps the most valuable.

And there’s, there’s a kind of a hard-won wisdom that maybe comes out of all those, all those relationships, while ultimately, you know, are trying to help you understand what it means to love yourself and to love the time alone.  At the end of "Hedwig," there’s this fragmented face that kind of comes together as she seems to find a certain wholeness in herself internally rather than by defining herself as a half and seeking another half.  You know, when you are defining, when you’re thinking of a lover as someone who completes you, it almost disrespects them and yourself, by calling both of you incomplete or you’re nothing but something to, you know, fill the wound.  You know, to cover the, you know, to, as something complementary rather than respecting someone as a whole.  And that might not always be useful, even though it’s very powerful for people.  So, you know, it’s an ongoing, it’s an ongoing understanding and quest and I hope there’s, what’s nice about Hedwig is that it doesn’t define anything too strongly and seems to have different interpretations across cultures.  You know, being in different countries and people’s reaction to the myth and to "Hedwig" is really interesting, it feels international.

Recorded on May 3, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen