Saturday, November 05, 2011


There are times when I could be called nostalgic or traditional, even conservative. However, you are not likely to hear me described as sentimental. "Sentimental" involves remembering stories the wrong way, or changing them in a ridiculous way. For instance--if I'm getting a card for my father for his birthday, I am not likely to buy a sentimental card. Sentimental cards always start with some crap like, "Dad I remember you and I going on long walks blah blah and I'll always be your precious little girl blah blah, etc., ad nauseam". I love my Dad, but it would be utterly ridiculous to give him that kind of a card. Growing up, he worked a lot of overtime, and I only saw him at meals and when he was swearing at the car. We didn't go on long father-daughter walks; he was trying to support 5 children. I could never imagine him referring to me as "precious", for which I am forever grateful. So, to give him a card like that is completely inauthentic and cheesy. In a word--sentimental.

Earlier this week, I was flipping through some old periodicals at work while waiting for someone, and the one I grabbed happened to be "Backstage", a publication for actors. Backstage has casting calls and auditions listed, and I happened to flip to a page where they were seeking auditions for "Carrie : the Musical". I am a big fan of things that do not belong together, so the idea of a Stephen King novel being combined with a musical caught my attention. Only hours later, when I was reading through RSS feeds, I discovered that Teller (of Penn and Teller) is going to produce a musical based on the Exorcist. My first thought was, "If these are done properly, they could make the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade SO much more interesting."

If you've never seen the Macy's Parade (I still watch it on Thanksgiving for some unknown reason; must be that I'm "traditional"), it not only consists of the regular parade floats, but also various troupes doing musical numbers. So, they reach Herald Square, and usually do a number from one of the season's popular Broadway musicals. As soon as these come on, I find myself lowering the volume and walking away from the TV. I am not a fan of musicals. Occasionally there will be something tolerably well-done, but for the most part, I want to avoid being nauseous before Thanksgiving dinner.

My prejudice against certain musicals is probably related to my prejudice against certain types of pop music; it's songs are often bubbly and empty-headed, and have a quality that makes me want to punch the performers in the face. The only time I like bubbly is when it's in champagne or carbonated beverages. I recall one of my professors during my undergraduate years saying how much he hated Disney because all of its movies and characters were "Pre-Raphaelite"--they glorify a way of being that never was, and never will be. Yet, they play into people's ideas of how things should be--and they're usually quite superficial. I don't know if I'd be as hard on Disney as he was, but it's that sense of feeding people a story about "the way things are" that is so inauthentic that resonates with me. There's a used-car salesman quality to the sincerity. Kind of like most love songs.

While I was in London with my friends Garry and Tapio, we had a conversation about famous bands from Finland. Garry mentioned the band Lordi. In Europe, there is a contest called "Eurovision", where music performers compete and get votes from the watching audience. In 2006, this competition was won by a Finnish band called Lordi. Most of the competing bands were the sort of vapid, overproduced pop rubbish that you come to expect from such contests. Lordi was a death metal band, and apparently came out in their full black-metal Kiss-like gear, and roared into the microphone. They won the Eurovision contest by a landslide. I love this story, because a. it adds fuel to my suspicion that Europeans are less clueless than Americans, and b. they absolutely got the joke. If this had happened in America, you'd see evangelists picketing outside the contest venue, because they haven't had a clue about anything, ever. Books would be written about how this is an example of how Satan has taken over popular music.

That may be the problem--Satan isn't present enough in popular music. It's as though we believe that life is like a Jehovah's Witness flier on "perfect life with God" (which also does not, and never will, exist, at least not in that way. Thankfully). We're human beings with a full range of emotions, and why everything has to focus on what's "safe", superficial, and basically a retelling of the same old stupid Disney-esque myths is beyond me. It's as though record companies assume I've had a lobotomy and never passed the maturity level of a 9-year-old. There should be some dark things around the edges; there usually is, and as far as I'm concerned, the best music is that which reflects the complexity of our emotional lives. We should not wonder that children who are raised on nothing but this vacuous, sanitized nonsense grow up to be serial killers, rapists, or otherwise have very serious social problems. (Yes, I'm overgeneralizing, but I hear about enough cases like this, and parents are so surprised, because little Johnny was never exposed to anything "bad"). All it does is perpetuate the artificial good/evil split in our psyches.

So, I hope that both Carrie and the Exorcist are not turned into banal morality tales, and actually have a sense of humor as musicals. I do wonder if the trend will continue (Friday the 13th the Musical, Halloween the Musical, Texas Chainsaw Massacre the Musical, etc.). It would certainly make Broadway a different place.

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