Monday, April 10, 2006

Men and Musicals

I'm sure all of you are familiar with the stereotype. Heterosexual men simply do not like musicals. Indeed, the stereotype is so strong that there is practically an assumption in some quarters that if a man likes musicals, then he must be gay. As a very heterosexual male who happens like musicals (particularly the Hollywood musicals from the Golden Age of film), I happen to disagree with this whole idea.

As a child I was introduced to musicals early. Both of my parents enjoyed music and as a result they enjoyed musicals. Indeed, it was my father who introduced me to My Fair Lady (as a matter of fact, he pretty much forced me to watch it). Of course, as I got older I discovered the musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood and the beautiful women who frequently starred in them. If I am a fan of musicals, much of that credit goes to Cyd Charisse and Ann Miller.

Regardless, I can't say I am an atypical, heterosexual male by any means. While I am not a huge sports fan, I do enjoy watching football games (I am a Rams fan, after all), hockey games (the Blues, of course), and soccer (that's what we Americans call, well, football...) sometimes. I enjoy camping, hunting, and fishing. Among my favourite genres of movies are action movies and Westerns. Indeed, Seven Samurai, The Dirty Dozen, The Wild Bunch, and Fight Club all number among my favourite movies.

Indeed, as a pretty typical guy, I can see a number of reasons why the average heterosexual male should like musicals. The first is as I poined out above--in most Hollywood musicals there is at least one beautiful woman in the cast. And often these beautiful women are very skimpily clad. Just look at some of the costumes Cyd Charisse wore in Singin' in the Rain! I have always thought that if the average, red blooded, heterosexual man could see Cyd Charisse in many of her films, he would entirely forget about his dislike for musicals....

Second, a majority of the musicals from Holywood's Golden Age have a very strong sense of conflict. In many instances (perhaps most), the conflict is over a woman. In Cover Girl song and dance man Danny McGuire (the irrepressible Gene Kelly) finds he has a rival for the hand of Rusty (Rita Hayworth) in the form of big time, Broadway producer Noel Wheaton (Lee Bowman). Other times the conflict may be something other than romantic in nature. In Singin' in the Rain the conflict is between movie star Donald Lockwood and his frequent co-star Lina (Jean Hagen). Essentially, Donald wants to save his own career, save Monumental Pictures, and help his lady love and Hollywood newcomer Kathy (Debbie Reynolds) in her career. This conflicts with Lina's goals, which are essentially to help herself and her own career, whether this is a detriment to everyone else or not. To a large degree, then, Hollywood musicals offer the same thrils that sporting events or action movies do--conflict and competition between one or more individuals.

Third, many of the lead characters in Hollywood musicals were average Joes. This is particuarly true of the great Gene Kelly. His characters are the sort one might encounter in the local bar or at a baseball game. Even Don Lockwood from Singin' in the Rain, although a big time movie star, comes off as just an average guy with the same concerns and interests as any other guy.

Fourth, most of the Hollywood musicals were also comedies. Indeed, I would say that not only is Singin' in the Rain one of the greatest musicals of all time, but also one of the greatest comedies of all time. It has some of the best lines and some of the best schticks to be found in any film. Quite simply, it is absolutely hilarious. Even if someone can't appreciate the music or the dancing, he or she can always find a lot to laugh about in that film. And this holds true for many of the musicals from Hollywood's Golden Age.

Fifth, I guess it is fairly obvious that an important component of any musical is, well, music. The Hollywood musicals were often scored by some of the greatest composers of all time. An American in Paris featured the music of the Gershwin brothers. The music for Holiday Inn was written by Irving Berlin. The movie Kiss Me Kate was based on the Broadway musical of the same name created by Cole Porter. If a man has a love for the songs of the great songwriters of the 20th century, then it seems to me he should be able to appreciate the musicals of Hollywood's Golden Age.

Quite frankly, then, it seems to me that there is quite a bit with regards to musicals that the average heterosexual male can appreciate. Indeed, I have always been puzzled as to where the stereotype that heterosexual men don't like musicals came from. Many of the musicals of Hollywood's Golden Age did enormously well at the box office, and no one can tell me that those audiences were composed entirely of women and gay men. Indeed, my father and many other men of his generation had a genuine love for musicals. And my father was undeniably straight.

At any rate, I suppose it should be pointed out that stereotypes should not be confused with the truth. Not all Irishmen drink. Not all Italians are mobsters. And not all staright men hate musicals. For that matter, not all gay men love musicals. Out of the gay friends I have, not a one of them likes musicals. All of the men I know who love musicals are straight! Regardless, this is one stereotype I would like to see put to rest once and for all.

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