Throwback Thursdays: 1776 The Musical

It’s almost the Fourth of July, and for those of us here in the United States, we’ll soon be celebrating our nation’s founding. For me, that often meant watching 1776 with my parents, and I have to say that I adored this musical. The film version of the musical 1776 came out in 1972, and the musical itself came out in 1969. It follows John Adams as he tries to get a difficult, cantankerous, and often divided Congress to agree on American independence.

However, if you are a Hamilton fan, this musical might be a disappointment for you. This movie is very white and almost entirely male, with the exception of two female cast members, only one of whom plays a significant role. Regretfully, while there are some great moments in this musical, as far as representation goes, it definitely falls short.

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La La Land, Racism, and the Real History of Jazz

(image via Variety)

Hollywood loves few things more than it loves itself. I grew up watching old musicals with my mom, and many of them were super meta: musicals about actors putting on a show. Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney headlined a whole host of these films, enshrining the “Show within a Show” trope. My dad put it well, when I auditioned for a play in middle school: “Just don’t think you can solve the world’s problems by putting on a show.”

La La Land may not be trying to solve the world’s problems, but it’s certainly trying to save a few people. It won a stupid number of Oscars and was mistakenly announced as this year’s Best Picture (Moonlight actually received this year’s honor). But for all its adulation, La La Land is currently on the receiving end of accusations of racism. And those accusations are well-founded: as Refinery29 points out, one of the two main plots is about a white manic pixie dream boy saving real jazz from the silly Black sellouts. Ouch.

Is La La Land actually racist? The truth is a bit more complicated.

Spoilers abound below the cut.

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#RelationshipGoals? Addressing Fictional Relationships that Should in No Way Be Goals

Harley&JokerSince Suicide Squad came out, I have seen a lot of pictures of Joker and Harley or just blog posts talking about them and occasionally I will see #RelationshipGoals on the posts. People are saying that they want a Joker to their Harley, and I’m not going to lie, that worries me a little bit. I don’t care what people ship necessarily or what they write fanfic about, but it very much worries me when fans look at a canonically clearly abusive relationship and claim that they want a relationship like that. These relationships almost always involve men with female victims, which makes it very disturbing to me as a woman that so many people view such relationships as romantic. It makes me worry for people’s safety and reminds me how much we need feminism.

Trigger warning for abusive behavior and relationships below the jump.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Oklahoma! A Sexist Classic!

I went on a musical binge recently and realized I clearly haven’t watched Oklahoma in a long time, because I didn’t realize how sexist the musical actually was until I watched it again as an adult. None of the women have any agency and the few that do are pretty well shamed for it. You could perhaps argue it’s a product of its time, but I hardly think that is an excuse. Just because some form of sexism was considered acceptable in its time doesn’t make it any less sexist.

Trigger warning for attempted rape after the jump.

Oklahoma!

Oklahoma!

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Angel and the Queer God in Rent

The musical Rent is probably not one that many people associate with Christianity—or with any religion, for that matter. There are only a few irreverent mentions of religion in some of the song lyrics, and if you have seen the play (not the movie) there is a brief scene where a priest yells at Collins for not being able to pay for Angel’s burial and uses the term “queer” to insult him. This seems pretty bleak from the religious end, but to me Rent actually has some amazing Christian themes. The basic message of the musical is to love everyone and to take care of the poor, vulnerable, and outcast in our society. Well, that’s basic Catholic Social Teaching right there. Sure, the religious institutions in Rent (and in real life) don’t always live up that message, but our small band of artists try to. In particular, they are shown how to love and live their lives by Angel. Angel is central to this story and the Christian themes of the musical, as they basically act as a Christ figure who leads the others through their actions. In this way we get an important story not just for queer people, but particularly for queer Christians. In this post, I will be referring to Angel with gender neutral pronouns since the characters refer to Angel with with both masculine and feminine pronouns and it’s not clear how specifically Angel identifies.

Angel

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Virgin/Whore Dichotomy, & Christianity

One thing in our culture that has always bothered me was this idea that sexual repression and Christianity go hand in hand. This idea states that if you are a Christian, you aren’t allowed to express your sexuality in a healthy way. Typically this means that you can only be a married heterosexual couple who only have sex in the missionary position. So if someone ever convinces someone who was (or in some cases still is) a strong Christian to start having sex, they’ll unleash a wild, sexually deviant person because of all that desire the Christian had to repress for so long. There are so many problems with this notion. It simultaneously makes both people who want to stay virgins and people who enjoy certain fetishes into “weird unhealthy people”, neither of which is the case.

Rocky HorrrorYou can see a very clear example of this in one of my favorite musicals: Rocky Horror Picture Show. This movie certainly isn’t entirely bad or evil or anything; I love Rocky Horror Picture Show and I watch it all the time during Halloween. But it’s definitely highly problematic because the show really exemplifies the virgin-whore dichotomy.

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Always a New Musical

It seems that there is always a new musical.

That is, it seems that there is always a new musical based off of some existing property, where the source is often a non-musical entity. I am a lover of theatre from a young age, taking in my first professional theatre shows as a child of seven years. I’ve been seeing Broadway shows since the single digits, and yet, I find myself pulled in two different directions by musical theatre. There are some shows that I’m unreasonably fond of, like In the Heights, Tim Rice’s Aida, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812Wicked, The Scotsboro Boys, and Spring Awakening. In fact, there’s a good list of the best recent musicals over on Buzzfeed (I deem it good because it includes almost all my favorites).

But there is many a musical that is just bad because it attempts to cover a weak or hackneyed story with music and spectacle. Now, certainly this is doable; it’s possible to include enough high notes and bright lights to distract most audience members from the fact that your show is garbage. Musical theatre however, really requires more, not less. An emphasis on spectacle over content can really be the death of a show, like Spider-Man, where other musicals that are just plain bad, like Leap of FaithThat’s not to say that the success or failure of a show is necessarily tied to its goodness or badness.

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