When I was in college, I accompanied some friends to Rocky Horror at the Nuart. They were aging punk rockers, meaning they were twenty and had been going Fugazi shows since they were twelve and were sort of over it all. They still wore twenty-hole Doc Martens, but there was no way they were going to make the effort to dye their hair green and shape it into a mohawk again.
Once upon a time, they’d been Rocky Horror cast members. My friend Jenessa’s boyfriend Bill had played Dr. Frankenfurter perhaps for years. Now they watched a few minutes of the movie and spent the rest of the time smoking in the lobby and making snarky (unscripted, unrelated to Rocky) observations.
I suppose they weren’t actually smoking in the lobby. Even in 1998, I’m pretty sure smoking in movie theaters was illegal. But they were all but smoking.
I was bummed out because I’d never seen Rocky Horror all the way through, and I wanted to know how it ended and throw tortillas. It’s the hazard of being a late bloomer with prodigy friends, which is the story of my life in too many ways.
2. the deceptive simplicity of do-re-mi
I had a similar experience at the Sound of Music sing-along at the Hollywood Bowl Last night. Everyone was there to sing and wave fake edelweiss, but I hadn’t seen the movie in years and I kind of just wanted to know what happens.
Sure, it’s campy and Julie Andrews’ Maria is relentlessly cheery, but I had the same reaction I had the last time I saw Dirty Dancing, which was, Wow, this is a really good movie. Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics are simple and poetic in a way I never appreciated before because 1. my roots are maximalist and 2. the songs favor sopranos, which means I can’t sing them, which means I can’t be bothered.
“To laugh like a brook when it trips/ and falls over stones on its way” sounds like a brook tripping over stones. Edelweiss, “strong and small, clean and white” sounds like an old folk song and captures the beauty of the Austrian alps…even if it also sounds a little bit like Aryan propaganda.
The “Do-Re-Mi” sequence does that amazing thing that only musicals can, which is to transport characters from Point A to Point B in just a few bars. That kind of development would take a hundred pages in a novel. The lyrics are literally as simple as “do re mi,” but as the arrangements grow more complicated, we see the Von Trapp kids finding their voices—discovering that discipline doesn’t have to be dour, but can be paired with playfulness to create something new and beautiful.
When Rolf first sings “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” to Liesl, it’s condescending, patriarchal and a shameless bid to get in her lederhosen. When she sings it back to him, she knows what’s up and makes it a savvier shameless bid to get in his…proto-Nazi pants? In the reprise, Maria sings it to Liesl. When she says “I’ll take care of you,” she means it, and it’s a moment of genuine empathy and mentorship.
Before I declare The Sound of Music a work of feminist genius, I should add that I was annoyed at the portrayal of the Baroness, whom we were encouraged to hiss at because she’s not Maria. Moral of this love triangle: The worldly, independent woman who wears suits and isn’t terribly interested in motherhood doesn’t deserve the guy. Never mind that she also happens to be kind, wise and beautiful.
|Look at that conniving bitch in her smart little jacket.|
3. shut your von trapp
Anyway. So that’s my review of The Sound of Music, just forty-seven years after it came out. As for the sing-along, I’m giving two thumbs down to the family that sat in front of us. Actually, the first family that sat in front of us had a very sweet one-year-old who kept turning around to grin at us. Her parents seemed nice too, even if they had dressed her in baby jeggings. They’d spread out on the bench, as people do before the Bowl fills up.
When Family #2, who had seats on the same bench, came along, the dad immediately started belligerently telling Family #1 to move over, without so much as an “Um, I think you’re in our seats, so if you could just scoot down a bit….” Wow, what a douche, I thought.
“Us” was me, my sister and three of her fellow high-school-teacher friends. They spend fifty hours a week censoring what they say because young people are around. When they’re off the clock—at a campy, gay, wine-infused evening event—they can get a little raucous. Costumes are a big part of the sing-along, and there were more than a few people who dressed as “brown paper packages tied up in strings.” Cathy’s friends Ryder and Adam started joking about how they wanted to plan some sort of dick-in-a-box play on notion of “package.”
Douchey Dad whirled his head around and told them to keep it down. He and his wife had three elementary school-aged kids who probably already know that penises exist, unless they’re home-schooled, which wouldn’t surprise me.
Throughout the show, the mom cuddled with the two girls, pulling them so close you’d think the Nazis might find them any minute. A big stretch of bench away, Douchey Dad cuddled with the son. I was glad he wasn’t one of those dads who thinks boys shouldn’t be hugged, but I decided to judge them on the weird gender division in the family because, hey, they were clearly judging us. The mom shot us dirty looks every five seconds, even when people just chuckled at stuff like the Baroness calling the children “pussies.” At one point she put her hand up to the side of her mouth and whispered something very angry-seeming to her husband. If something went down, I suppose it was the man’s job to initiate.
I sort of felt like Maria, about to get in trouble with the strict nuns for doing something crazy like running, and I half wanted to stand up and say, “Bring it on, bitch.” I have an unfortunate tendency to feel like a second class citizen around all parents, which is probably why the self-righteous ones piss me off so much, because clearly they agree with my internalized shit.
I think the Sound of Music is a great family event, if you’re the sort of family who believes children are capable of growing up in the actual world. A world in which people sometimes drink and swear, and men sometimes dress as nuns. If you think your kids can handle a movie about Nazis, it seems like they can handle the above. I can’t tell you how many adorable little kids came dressed as Gretl and cuckoo birds. I bet some of them heard the word “penis” during the course of the evening and I bet—I mean, I have no proof—but I bet they didn’t immediately start turning tricks behind the park-and-ride buses after the show.