The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project Act 2: Shannon and Jen Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Stephen Belber, a member of the theater company, was at the bar where Matthew Shepard was last seen when he encountered two friends of Aaron McKinney. One of the women, Shannon, tells Stephen that she thought what happened was “really really awful,” but she goes on to say that Matthew had a lot of money, calling him a “little rich bitch.” Jen, the other woman, objects, and Shannon clarifies that she is not saying he deserved it—he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The playwrights include these interviews with friends of Aaron’s, and in doing so reaffirm that their project is not only telling Matthew’s story, but the story of the entire Laramie community, including people who may have more sympathy for the killers than for Matthew. Shannon in particular talks about Matthew fairly callously, only softening when Jen objects.
Themes
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Theater and Representation Theme Icon
Shannon implies, though, that she can understand how, if Aaron McKinney were high on meth, he could have thought about robbing someone. Jen agrees, saying that Aaron had done that kind of thing before with Russell Henderson, though they usually targeted people who looked rich, not gay people specifically. Stephen Belber asks if they think there was any homophobia involved in the attack, and Jen says that there probably was, especially if Matthew Shepard had hit on Aaron. According to Jen and Shannon, Aaron could tolerate homosexuality as long as “it didn’t come up.” Stephen asks if the women think that Aaron knew any gay people, and Shannon says that she thinks he did, and that half the people she knows in the town are gay.
Shannon and Jen’s descriptions of why they think Aaron robbed Matthew and their emphasis on his drug problem casts some doubt on the prevailing narrative that Aaron killed Matthew purely because he was gay, suggesting that the reasoning may have been more convoluted. However, they do confirm that they believe homophobia played a role in the murder. Shannon and Jen suggest that, just like many other Laramie residents, Aaron tolerated LGBT people as long as he didn’t have to actually confront their differences.
Themes
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Stephen Belber then asks what the women would say to Aaron McKinney if they saw him, and Jen says she would ask why Aaron had done what he did, but also would make sure that Aaron was doing okay in prison. They both say they would want to hang out with Aaron and smoke weed. Stephen asks if both Shannon and Jen went to Laramie High, and Shannon says yes, calling them “a product of [their] society.”
Shannon’s comment that she and Jen (and presumably Aaron as well) are “a product of their society” implies that they are not whole or uniquely responsible for who they became. This implies that the Laramie community shares some collective responsibility for what happened to Matthew.
Themes
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
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