Tuesday, July 08, 2014

the film musical: too gay?

It's "Guys and Dolls," Jerry, not "Guys and Guys"

Exactly when did men begin to define their masculinity by the movies they watch?

I ask because my wife and I both had fathers who loved musicals, either on stage or on film.  No big deal.  Both took their families to tryouts of new musicals in Philadelphia and loved "Oklahoma!," "South Pacific" and "The Music Man" on screen.  A musical was just another type of movie to see.  This week, a Western.  Next week, a musical.  And the week after that, a comedy with Clark Gable and Doris Day.  It simply didn't matter.  A movie was just a movie - and some variety made movies even better.

The decline of the movie musical can be directly blamed on men who refuse to see one with their wives or girlfriends, who worry that "the guys" might find out and who think their sperm count or testosterone level will shrink if they watch Meryl Streep and company cavort in "Mamma Mia!"

This phobia was driven home by Larry David who wrote an episode of "Seinfeld" - episode 17, season four, to be specific - titled "The Outing," in which Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) and her friend Sharon (guest star Paula Marshall) overhear a curious conversation between Jerry and George (Jason Alexander), who are sitting in an adjoining booth in Monk's.  They sound like a gay couple and Elaine decides to milk that impression for all its worth, even though Sharon is interested in Jerry and vice versa.

Matters come to a head when George purchases two tickets to a "Guys and Dolls" revival for Jerry for his birthday. One for him, one for Jerry.

Already uptight that Sharon thinks he's gay, Jerry screams in his unique Seinfeldian way, "Isn't that a lavish Broadway musical?"

To which George responds, "It's 'Guys and Dolls,' Jerry, not 'Guys and Guys'!"

That episode first aired February 11, 1993 and matters haven't changed.


Alex said...

A classic episode of "Seinfeld," but I don't think you can blame it for the denigration of the musical. That was already underway; "Seinfeld" simply mirrored the ridiculousness of it.

Natalie said...

I think you can also blame the Tony Awards for continually pushing musicals in particular - and Broadway in general - as the pervue of the gay community.

joe baltake said...

Good point, Natalie. Neil Patrick Harris, whenever he hosted, was always making references to the gayness of musicals and musical numbers. I think,"How gay was that?," was a line he used repeatedly. None of this helps.

Brian Lucas said...

I guess the fractured logic is that, since largely gay men craft musicals both on stage and for film, it's a gay genre. But one can propose the same excuse for French films made by Frenchmen. They aren't just for the French. But there is no logic here.

jan said...

I never understood why men expect their women to take an interest in every sport imaginable - and a lot of women do - but don't return the favor by sitting through a romcom or a musical, both of which are disparagingly dismissed as "chick flicks."

Elizabeth W. said...

I've never understood why people, men or women, limit their approach to moviegoing. A lot of moviegoers complain about critics be3ing snobs, but critics see everything and are open to everything. The average moviegoer isn't. So who's the snob? Men who won't go to musicals or chick flicks are movie snobs and women who won't see a Scorsese film or a Tarantino movie for fear of being "offended" are also snobs.

joe baltake said...

Amen, Elizabeth.

MikeG said...

Elizabeth, I agree with you on most points, except I think a person has the right to draw the line where their personal limit is for good/bad taste, violence, etc.

I had a GF who expected me to be some kind of man's man and want to see the macho action type movies. I told her I just want to see *good* movies, action, romantic or otherwise. That one didn't last... now my wife just doesn't want to see the weird, off-beat movies I like sometimes.
All that said, I have never liked musicals much, I think it stated seeing the commercials for Annie when I was 10.

Elizabeth W. said...

To Mike G.- I can understand how constant exposure to "Annie" as a 10-year-old boy could put one off movie musicals, even though I think it's a rather good one.