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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"What's the Use of Wond'rin'?"

I watched The King and I on Sunday night - one of the many Rogers & Hammerstein musicals that wove their tuneful values through my childhood. A DVD collection of them has been re-released, all sparklingly remastered and I bought them for the library. We were a singing bunch of kids. My sisters and I serenaded the house with Broadway tunes all the time - though the video clip in my memory is of we 3 younger ones clearing the dinner table as we pranced and capered - so perhaps this only took place throughout my teens. Besides, it is likely that mama wouldn't let me touch the stereo before I was 12 or 13.

The fairy princess within has always drooled over dresses with great bell skirts and K&I had it's share of them. Watching it again I tried to calculate how many yards were in Debra Kerr's skirts - 10? 15? Lordy - they were enormous.

I admit, I still flutter a bit at the thought of those Scarlett O'Hara skirts and felt it was just too bad when the pulled back bustle dress took their place. Of course, the thought of moving through the day in those clothes smacks of a bizarre sort of torture - but there you have it - beauty, nor fashion, doesn't come cheap.

But what's been sort of nagging me since Sunday is how the theme of women's creepy hopeless, helpless love for domineering, stupid, mean, even criminal men, threads though the Broadway Musical. When I watched K&I as a girl, the parallel between King Mongkut of Siam and my dad were comical - only, it seemed as if King Mongkut was a little easier to deal with. But the women all sing that if you just wait it out long enough he'll do something wonderful.  Which my own mother frequently urged us to do. 

And what about Julie in Carousel? What's the use of wondering if he's good or if he's bad - he's your fella and you love him and that's that? so you love him even though he's so stupid he thinks the only way to earn a living is to rob someone? 

Or Nancy's co-dependent wail  As long as he needs me for Bill Sykes, as bad-news a boyfriend you could find. Shudder. Seems to me she needs intervention and he needs to go to jail.

But I suspect this exhortation to put up with a jerk, in all its musical glory, wrapped in silken hoop skirts and padded sleeve puffs, had a lot to do with the woman's movement. At some point a girl has to shout ENOUGH! And, of course, the backlash is modern cinema (and fiction) where all the men are good looking looser jerks or harmlessly gay, thus freeing the butt-kicking girls from having to relate honestly or deeply with anybody. 

Yeah. I know. It's fiction. But literature, even cinematic literature complete with catchy lyrics, is strung on the important themes of its day and somehow I don't relate to either the eternal maternal forgiveness of the 50's or the tight skirted scowling of today. And that, my dears, is why I don't try to write fiction. 

1 comment:

  1. And why I read so little of what's written today. ;-)