no sleep in heaven or bethlehem

Guys, it is finals. This means that on Sunday I had ice cream for breakfast, and yesterday I had an pan and M&Ms for lunch.  Personal hygiene drops in terms of priority; I went like three days without taking a shower and would usually change either my pants or my shirt, but honestly maybe not both. This is strategic besides being gross; I get infuriated when people try to convince me to do fun things like watch a movie or eat dinner, and being greasy and disgusting keeps that possibility low. But the other night, a friend pulled the “it’s my birthday” card, so long story short, I ended up going into the city to see Spring Awakening. (I did not shower first.)

I literally had to wikipedia it before we left to know anything about it; I just had vague ideas of it being “raunchy” and set in Germany in 1890. What an interesting idea. I mostly had no expectations, and was very pleasantly surprised by the first 40 minutes or so. That girl can sing! Ooh look, Janet-Jackson-style choreography but performed by seventeen-year-old boys in German schoolboy outfits! They just did a musical number about wondering what the clitoris feels like, and it was somehow moving and evocative! How clever and exciting. Here is a basic re-enactment of my thought process:

  • Mama Who Bore Me? Sing it, Vendla!
  • Heather would love this
  • Oh man, that guy looks like the future of the Aryan Nation but he’s totally gay
  • Yep, totally gay
  • I hope he puts “masturbating onstage” on his resumé
  • German names are hilarious.
  • Oh man, I remember being fifteen

So that was the first forty minutes. After that, though, things became rapidly less appealing.  My later thought process:

  • Are we supposed to like Melchior? I don’t like Melchior.
  • Oh really? Sexual abuse of children?
  • Oh damn, they are actually taking her shirt off.
  • Where’d that gay guy go?
  • Do we really need to watch the rape scene twice?
  • I really dislike Melchior

(Spoiler alert, I guess?) What essentially happens is: 1) Vendla gets beaten (but it’s okay because she asked for it?) 2) Vendla gets raped (but it’s okay because they’re totally “in love”?) 3) Vendla gets pregnant and then 4) Vendla gets a sketchy 19th century German backalley abortion and dies.  I don’t even have a problem with those things in and of themselves. I was just thinking the script could, I don’t know, engage with those issues. Instead, we watch: 1) Melchior feel bad about beating her, boo hoo 2) Melchior rape her and then sing about it 3) Melchior get punished for impregnating someone, oh no and 4)Melchior crying like a little bitch about her dying. Note that we don’t actually see her dying, because that’s not important enough to happen onstage. Actually, most of Vendla’s sad story happens on the sidelines while other things are going on.  What the fuck is that?

Maybe this is just me. I’ve been told before that my unfortunate feminist conscience prevents me from enjoying perfectly good entertainment, because I’m crippled by my inability to get past the misogyny saturating it. And I know I’m supposed to like Spring Awakening. I am exactly its target demographic. But something about this really grated on me – it was like there was this incredibly astute and evocatively rendered depiction of how damaged girls are by our ideas about sex, and then we dropped all of it to examine how upset boys must be by this. Am I missing something?

There were definitely enjoyable parts, though (like the sweet gay subplot), and in that spirit I am sharing my two favorite songs. Maybe go see it yourself?

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1 Comment

Filed under Rachel

One response to “no sleep in heaven or bethlehem

  1. Heather

    Oh man!! You saw Spring Awakening? I want to see that! The soundtrack is great. (Though I didn’t realize the Wendla/Melchior sex scene was a rape…)

    On another note, my mom wants to see that because she keeps hearing ads for it on the radio and “it sounds fun!” I then tried telling her it was all about sexual confusion/repression in 1890s Germany and she didn’t quite get it (“We had such a good time at Wicked…”). I had to be all, “Well, there’s a legit sex scene on stage at the end of Act I” for her to stop insisting we see it as a family.

    On another another note, remember two years ago when I went to that Broadway audition and then chickened out? That was for Spring Awakening! How crazy.

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