When Musicals have Good Stories
One musical that has resonated with me for many years is Wicked. Within recent years I have formed my motto ‘intentions matter more than words’, and even to this day the story of this musical stands up to this belief. I was just listening to the song ‘No Good Deed’. In this song Elphaba is trying to use her words to make things better—her words have a physical impact because she is summoning a spell, and that makes things especially dangerous. She starts off by lamenting about how her good intentions don’t lead to good results, and then it gets into deeper levels of philosophy as she begins to wonder if her intentions were ever truly good. Whenever this question is used right, it can help us to adjust our own intentions towards others. But in this song, she gives up. She probably gave up on herself because everyone else gave up on her without questioning their intentions towards her.
The story, and the lyrics in the music of Wicked come together to tell us the story. Through this song we are challenged to think about how the cycle of judgement works. This whole musical also shows us why, as humans, we were never meant to be too powerful because we don’t always know what is good—things will always go wrong if we had the power to control everything around us. It also teaches us not to take other people’s words or actions too seriously or personally because that’s what moves the cycle of judgement, and fosters the delusion of self-righteousness. Did the writers know that they were spreading these messages? I don’t know. Just like how Elphaba was questioning her own intentions, the writers probably didn’t know about some of the true messages they were spreading.
I might as well mention the other musical that stars Idina Menzel: Frozen. This musical movie seems to take a lot of inspiration from Wicked. People, and maybe even the writers for this movie branded it as ‘feminist’, and people use this label to either love it, or hate it. Although Jordan Peterson (my favourite thinker of our time) probably wouldn’t like what I’m about to say, I do not regard this movie as a feminist one. In fact, when I first saw this movie I was not fully aware of this kind of agenda. It surprised me to hear people brand a movie with a label that had the three letters ‘ism’ at the end of it as if it was no big deal, but that doesn’t surprise me anymore–It just creeps me out a little. I don’t want art to be marked with an ism. Isms limit the way we look at things.
This is what I took away from Frozen the first time I saw it: Just like everyone else in the theater, I was captivated by the song ‘Let It Go’. Although this song is good, it does have statements about freedom from rules. I’m not going to deny that this is a dangerous message, but ‘Let It Go’ plays in the middle of the show. That message is discredited by the end when Elsa learns that expressing herself to that extent has been hurting the city with an eternal winter. The message of the story itself overpowers the lyrics in the song.
By the end of the movie, the message about freedom from rules turns into a message of familial love. This was valuable to me at the time I first saw this in my early twenties. Around this time, I clung to my family a lot because I couldn’t understand the outside world. I used to believe that I was uncapable of loving others outside of my own family because of my challenges, and I was only capable of liking other people. Although this belief has been fading away as of recently, I believe that this stemmed from recognizing the limits of my own maturity in an unconscious way. Frozen seemed to be about the journey towards agape love (sacrificial love) that needs to happen before you can genuinely love people from outside or yourself, and outside of your own circle.
I could write about many more musicals such as The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, or My Fair Lady, but I have already written too much.
Stories deserve just as much care as music, and music deserves just as much care as stories. If you take away the goodness of a story, you are left without a foundation. If you take away the goodness of music, you discredit the heart of a story weather it’s man-made, or your own story.
This is the end of the series ‘Musicals, and The Importance of a Good Story’. I hope that you enjoyed it!