England’s most famous dramatist, George Bernard Shaw, has placed in the pillory of letters what he is pleased to call “The Disagreeable Girl.”
And he has done it by a dry-plate, quick-shutter process in a manner that surely lays him liable for criminal libel in the assize of high society.
I say society’s assize advisedly, because it is only in society that the Disagreeable Girl can play a prominent part, assuming the center of the stage. Society, in the society sense, is built upon vacuity; its favors being for those who reveal a fine capacity to waste and consume. Those who would write their names high on society’s honor roll, need not be either useful or intelligent–they need only seem.
And this gives to the Disagreeable Girl her opportunity. In the paper box factory she would have to make good; Cluett, Coon & Co. ask for results; the stage demands at least a modicum of intellect, in addition to shape, but society asks for nothing but pretense, and the palm is awarded to palaver. But do not, if you please, imagine that the Disagreeable Girl does not wield an influence. That is the very point–her influence is so far-reaching in its effect that George Bernard Shaw, giving cross-sections of life in the form of dramas, cannot write a play and leave her out.
She is always with us, ubiquitous, omniscient and omnipresent–is the Disagreeable Girl. She is a disappointment to her father, a source of humiliation to her mother, a pest to her brothers and sisters, and when she finally marries, she slowly saps the inspiration of her husband and very often converts a proud and ambitious man into a weak and cowardly cur.
Only in society does the Disagreeable Girl shine–everywhere else she is an abject failure. The much-vaunted Gibson Girl is a kind of de luxe edition of Shaw’s Disagreeable Girl. The Gibson Girl lolls, loafs, pouts, weeps, talks back, lies in wait, dreams, eats, drinks, sleeps and yawns. She rides in a coach in a red jacket, plays golf in a secondary sexual sweater, dawdles on a hotel veranda, and can tum-tum on a piano, but you never hear of her doing a useful thing or saying a wise one. She plays bridge whist, for “keeps” when she wins, and “owes” when she loses, and her picture in flattering half-tone often adorns a page of the Sunday Yellow.
She reveals a beautiful capacity for avoiding all useful effort.
Gibson gilds the Disagreeable Girl.
Shaw paints her as she is.
In the Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen has given us Nora Hebler, a Disagreeable Girl of mature age, who, beyond a doubt, first set George Bernard Shaw a-thinking. Then looking about, Shaw saw her at every turn in every stage of her moth-and-butterfly existence.
And the Disagreeable Girl being everywhere, Shaw, dealer in human character, cannot write a play and leave her out, any more than the artist Turner could paint a picture and leave man out, or Paul Veronese produce a canvas and omit the dog.
The Disagreeable Girl is a female of the genus homo persuasion, built around a digestive apparatus that possesses marked marshmallow proclivities. She is pretty, pug-nosed, pink, pert and poetical; and at first glance, to the unwary, she shows signs of gentleness and intelligence. Her age is anywhere from eighteen to twenty-eight. At twenty-eight she begins to evolve into something else, and her capacity for harm is largely curtailed, because by this time spirit has written itself in her form and features, and the grossness and animality which before were veiled are becoming apparent.
Habit writes itself on the face, and body is an automatic recording machine.
To have a beautiful old age, you must live a beautiful youth, for we ourselves are posterity, and every man is his own ancestor. I am to-day what I am because I was yesterday what I was. The Disagreeable Girl is always pretty, at least we have been told she is pretty, and she fully accepts the dictum.