This is from my new pop culture/media blog.
So, I was looking through Netflix looking for something to watch and review for everyone, and I naturally went to the “musical” section. It’s kind of a good starting point for me because
- I know more than the average person about musicals
- It is a storytelling medium I love
- I have a general idea of how the Broadway community works overall and how any given musical would tie into Broadway history
Five seconds in I realized that over half of the titles were in black and white, as if to shamelessly say that they were made before technicolor became a thing. I found it so bizarre that this medium that had once dominated the screen was something almost rarely seen anymore on our cinema screens.
I have a few theories as to why this is a trend in recent media. First, we have to eliminate the assumption that people assume that musicals are for kids. While most musicals are directed towards kids, there are others that are very clearly geared towards adults, like The Book of Mormon. People mostly have accepted that musicals can be just as much for adults as kids, so why still the box office hesitancy?
I think it has to do with audience. The stereotypical demographics of a broadway musical are rich white people, and that’s not too far from the truth. While I was too lazy to get my readers around the paywall at Time.com, an excerpt from an article they did that fascinated me when they printed it shows that a night at the theatre can add up. That’s not to say that you have to have seen a musical to know about it, because I have fallen in love with musicals I’ve never seen, but it makes people hesitant to see a show less inclined to do so. Then it raises the point that it doesn’t need to have mass appeal to make millions a week, just have a really devoted fanbase.
As for the racism stuff? Totally valid. Look at all of the musicals that have been popular throughout the past few years, the best musical winners, starting from 2001, their protagonists are
- Puppet (usually played by a white guy)
- An interracial couple
I’m not saying that these musicals don’t have POCs as characters, I’m just saying that most broadway musicals tell stories about white people, and while it’s a problem in all media, it’s especially strong in broadway musicals. Again, remember the whole point about how because of ticket prices, broadway only has to appeal to a wealthy minority of people? Well, most wealthy people are disproportionately white. In order for something to cinematically translate, it has to at least pretend to communicate to audiences that aren’t white. Non-latino white people make up 63% of the US population. The other 37 percent have money, too.
Side note: stop saying that glee is a musical. It is a TV show. It has musical tendencies, a cast that has been involved in musicals, but it is not a musical. And stop saying it’s diverse. The screetime will show you it is not.
Also I will not be taking comments on this side note because my love/hate relationship with Glee is something for another day.
*Hairspray does get a lot of credit for some things for which very few things get credit: for example, the acceptance of Tracy’s weight or the fact that it passes the Bedchel test, it loses major points for fitting the plot of “white person helps black person with [insert problem here]”.