If you’ve read my previous post on the subject, you’ll remember that while I and many in today’s 2019 society greatly enjoy Friends – it doesn’t mean we’re blind to it’s flaws. Indeed, looking on it with today’s socially conscious mindset it is a piece of art with many flaws. Homophobic, Trans-phobic, Sexist, low-key racist; name a terrible thing to be, and friends probably made that kind of joke. But by far the most interesting flaw to discuss, at least from an intellectual perspective, is the show’s relationship with toxic masculinity. With the other kinds of prejudices on display, the show makes a joke about it – has the nerve to think it’s funny – and moves on to the next mildly to extremely offensive joke. However when it comes to the subject of Toxic Masculinity, the show seems on some level to not only be aware of it, but to condemn it. And yet, we still gotta make those jokes.
What do I mean? Well let’s take a look at one episode in particular, to gain a little better insight into this strange phenomenon – the sixth episode of season 9 : The One with the Male Nanny. First, a brief plot synopsis before we get to the real meat of the episode. After slogging through hordes of disappointing applicants, Rachel finally finds the perfect nanny for her Ross’ daughter Emma – but there’s just one problem, he’s played by Freddie Prinze Jr. That’s the main story anyway, there is the secondary story of the Episode with Chandler being upset that Monica called one of her co-workers ‘the funniest guy she’s ever met’; however since it only briefly crosses narrative streams with the titular plot-line, I won’t be going too deep into that .
Ross takes an immediate dislike to the new Nanny – named Sandy ; mainly because he is performing a role traditionally considered part of the feminine domain, child care. However Sandy is also a very sensitive man, he cries unashamedly when he is happy – as when he is accepted for the position – and sad – as when he is remembering his last charge. He also cooks, plays the recorder, and has the audacity to do all this while still being completely heterosexual. Ross can barely stand to be in the same room as Sandy, and laments long and hard to whoever will listen of the weirdness of having a male nanny – although never within said nanny’s earshot, such is the coward’s nature. This is a pretty standard move when it comes to Ross, he is the guy that made such a fuss when his toddler son started playing with a barbie doll. What is strange about this situation however, is Rachel’s reaction. She loves Sandy and whole heatedly endorses his non-traditional version of masculinity, being a factor in her child’s development. This is a stark removal from the Rachel Green who once dumped a boyfriend for crying too much; or regularly belittles her male friends when they step even the tiniest bit off the narrow heteronormative version of masculinity. I mean she was right there with the rest of them glaring down at Ross and Joey, when they’d fallen asleep together. That’s it, nothing sexual, just took a nap on the same couch.
So, what does this sudden turn around in one of the main characters of the show mean? Well probably many things, not least among which Rachel doesn’t find Sandy attractive – and thus doesn’t require him to live up to her idea of the ideal man. But the notion I’m going to focus on here, is the underlying message of the story-line. Namely that Ross is wrong. He is wrong to hate Sandy and he is wrong to try and encourage that hate in others – in other words he is wrong in his Toxic Masculinity. A fact that is underscored in the episode’s ending, when Ross breaks down in Sandy’s arms after recounting the abuse his father heaped on him, for not living up to the masculine ideal . Now I know what you’re thinking, Wee Lassie I thought Friends had a bad relationship with Toxic Masculinity – this all sounds really good. Ross finally realizes that he’s been continuing the circle of abusive toxic Masculinity began by his awful father – and he can finally break free of it and become a better man, nay a better person all round. Except that’s not what happens, this is Sandy’s last episode and these themes, or Ross’ connection to them, will never be brought up again. So what can we really take away from this episode? Toxin Masculinity is bad, yes absolutely, but does that lesson have any impact on the viewer, if it has none on the rest of the series?
Femininity in men continues to be mocked. Chandler continues to be called gay – with the implication that this is somehow a bad thing – if he expresses so much as the barest interest in culture ; and the men can’t so much as hint at their love for each other, without the women implying that their masculinity is somehow lessened from the action. At the end of the episode, Sandy still looses his job because he is a man working in a non-traditionally male occupation, and that is what the audience must take away from it. The Writers’ intention, either good or ill, means nothing if the product as a whole cannot reflect it. Still, even if it was only for one brief moment, at least they tried.
I love to cry. Alright maybe that’s a tad simplistic, I don’t love to cry – I love to be moved enough to cry. Why is this important? Well, my Wee Readers, after I published my last post, I felt lost as to what I should write about next. So, needing a break I partook in one of my favorite past times – listening to depressing musicals. I know, odd thing to do but it’s very cathartic, so I still recommend it. Just as I shed the last of my tears for a particular heartbreaking rendition of ‘Me and the Sky’, I realized that I had the answer right there before me. So thus, with little ceremony I present to you the Wee Writing Lassie’s Top Ten Musicals that will leave you Balling like a Wee Bairn.
10. Les Miserables
Based on the 1862 Victor Hugo novel of the same name, Les Miss tells the stories of the escaped convict Jean Val Jean ; his adopted daughter Cosette and her love for the revolutionary Marius; and most loudly of all the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris. Of course, I most likely don’t have to tell you any of this since Le Mis, just so happens to be one of the longest running and most popular musicals of all time. It is also, as you may be able to guess by the name, one of the most miserable . The most lovable character (Jean Val Jean) dies at the end, in fact most of the characters in Les Miss die at some point in the play – only four people are alive by the end,and shockingly that’s an improvement from the book. Thus with the ringing of the audiences handkerchiefs, Les Miserable proudly earns it’s spot on this terribly depressing list. In fact the only reason it’s not higher on the list, is because I’ve listened to it so often in my life, I’m practically dead inside when it comes to this magnificent musical. Seriously, play me the final song and I won’t cry at all…these aren’t tears, I have something in my eye.
Song I cried at the Most: Final
Created by: Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Baublil, and Jean-Marc Nated (Orginal French Musical) Cameron Macintosh (The Wider known production.)
9. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor dream-coat
Based on a story from the Bible ‘s Book of Genesis – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor dream-coat tells the story of how parental favoritism and neglect can ruin a family. Joseph, as the favorite son of Jacob, is terribly favored over his eleven brothers and his sister isn’t even mentioned in the play. Culminating with the brother’s snapping after Joseph is gifted with the said Technicolor dream coat, and selling their brother into slavery. Despite the overwhelmingly depressing tone of that premise, for the most part this is a fairly up-beat musical. In fact I would have heisted to include it on my ‘weeping’ list at all, if it weren’t for… that song. The song that makes you realize that everything you’ve been watching up to this point, has not t been a bouncy romp round Biblical times, but in fact very, very depressing. Set just after Joseph’s Master (Potiphar) has discovered his wife sexually abusing Joseph and thrown the boy into jail because of it; Close Every Door to Me shows the audience both the depth of Joseph’s despair, and exactly what kind of musical they’ve actually been watching.
Song I cried at the Most: Close every Door to Me
Created by: Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice
Hadestown basically retells the classic tragic Myth of Eurydice (who gets trapped in the Underworld) and Orpheus (who tries and fails to rescue her from said Underworld) in a Great Depression-era inspired post-apocalyptic setting. Which now I’ve said it out loud, is a little weird, but it’s a moving musical so we’ll just roll with it. My only issue with the play, and even then it’s a minor one, is it’s depiction of Hades as the out-and-out villain of the tale. In the original myth he wasn’t – Eurydice just dies, he doesn’t trick her down there at all. Why would he? He’s got enough work with the spirits that are actually supposed to be down in Hades. That being said the play did need some kind of villain – other than Orpheus and Eurydice’s own stupidity – and Patrick Page does such a brilliant job of portraying the King of the Underworld, I’ve even begun to picture him when I think of Hades himself. Plus, the story has such a good build up to the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice, that I’m still going to burst into tears at the first note of that final song regardless.
Song I cried at the Most: Road to Hell (Reprise)
Created By: Anais Mitchell
7. The Hunchback of Notredame
Based on Victor Hugo’s first novel Notre-Dame de Paris and the 90’s Disney Film Hunchback of Notre-Dame, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame tells the story of both the corrupt priest (yeah he’s back to being a priest in this version) Claude Frollo and his severely abused Nephew Quasimodo. Yes that’s right, in this version Quasimodo is the son of Frollo’s brother. Other than that the story follows the same beats as the Disney film – Quasimodo grows up locked in Notre-Dame until he escapes to go watch the Festival of Fools, where he meets Esmeralda. Frollo calls for Esmeralda’s arrest, and she takes refuge in Notre-Dame. Then she falls in love with Phoebus, for some reason. Eventually she’s captured by Frollo, who threatens to burn her alive if she doesn’t sleep with him. Yep, pretty much the same thing as the Disney film. Oh, and *spoiler* Quasimodo dies at the end. Wait…what? Who asked for that back? I know it happens in the book, but so does a lot of other terrible stuff and they left that out. Why? Why? Why do you do this to me Disney? I’m going to go and listen to Made of Stone now, have myself a good cry.
Song I cried at the Most: Made of Stone
Created By: J, Scott Lapp (directed American Production) and James Lapin (book)
6. Dear Evan Hansen
Created by the same minds behind the Greatest Showman, Dear Evan Hansen is a show about social anxiety, loneliness, and most of all teen suicide. Now I don’t really have any experience or proper knowledge of suicide, so I won’t go in-depth with that aspect – but I will just say this, you will be crying from start to finish. Except maybe during the obligatory funny song that every musical feels obliged to include, even if it doesn’t suit the material. Fitever, I’m just going to go listen to ‘Requiem’ in the corner, no one mind me.
Song I cried at the Most: Requiem
Created By: Benji Pasek and Justin Paul
Come on you all know this one by now, sing it with me! How does a bastard, orphan son of a whore…damn it, I swore I wouldn’t swear on this blog. Oh well, I guess it doesn’t count if it’s Broadway. *cough* Anyway, ‘Hamilton’ by Lin Manual Miranda is a hip hop musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton – founding father and complete idiot. I’m sorry but come on, a lot of his problems he brought on himself. I mean for god’s sake, say no to the deadly duel Alexander, say no! There is no outcome where this ends well for you! Sorry, I have very strong emotions when it comes to this musical. But so would you, if you had to listen to songs like ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’, God damn you Lin Manuel Miranda and your brilliant mind. You, beautiful, beautiful person.
Song I cried at the Most : It’s Quiet Uptown
Created by: The One, the singular, Lin Manual Miranda
Based on the ‘Marvin Trilogy’ of one-act Off-Broadway musicals by James Lapine and William Finn – Falsettos (created by the same people) tells the story of Marvine, his ex-wife Trina, Trina’s current husband and Marvin’s former Psychologist Mendel, their son Jason and Marvin’s lover Whizzer Brown. Well that’s the players introduced – most of them anyway – so what’s the play about. Well, it’s about a gay couple in the eighties so…Aids, it’s about Aids. And who dies? Because of course somebody dies. Why, the most likable character – because of course. I don’t mean to sound flippant, or rather I do but it’s for a very good reason. If I don’t tell you about this musical in a light and breezy manner, my keyboard is going to get so wet, from all the tears, and I can’t replace it again. Which was partly why it was so difficult to choose a song I cried at the most, the whole second act makes me cry! But finally I settled on two that tipped the scales from enjoyable tears to abject misery. Enjoy!
Song/s I cried at the Most: You Gotta Die Sometime & Falsettoland (reprise)
Created by: William Finn (music) and James Lapiue (book)
Based on the 2007 Film of the same name, Waitress was created by Sara Bareilles and Jessica Nelson. Jenna Hunterson (played by Keri Russell in the original film) the title Waitress discovers herself pregnant by her abusive husband Earl (played by Jeremy Sisto in the original film); and begins an affair with her gynecologist (played by Nathan Fillion in the original film). Desperate to make a better life for her and her unborn child, Jenna can see no other way out but the prize money from an upcoming pie baking contest. Now, was I first attracted to this musical due to Nathan Fillion’s involvement with the original film…how dare you make that entirely accurate assumption! You are such a cleaver person! But in all seriousness, this a deeply moving musical culminating (at least as far as my exhausted tear ducts are concerned) in the heart wrenching song ‘She used to be Mine’ – in which Jenna griefs for the women she used to be, and reflects on the women she is now. Oh God, I’m gonna start crying again….turn away, don’t look at me!
Song I cried at the Most: She used to be Mine
Created by: Sara Bareilles (music & lyrics) & Tom Kitt (music)
2. next to normal
Well, we’re really in the darker end of the musical thematic spectrum now my Wee Readers. The Rock Musical called ‘next to normal’ is about a women with bipolar disorder and delusional episodes. In soul-tugging efficiency the musical examines the effect this has on not only our main character but her family as well. By doing so it covers uncomfortable topics such as grief, depression, suicide, drug abuse, and modern psychiatry’s ethics. You may have noticed that I’ve been deliberately vague about the actually plot, and no that is not a mistake on my part my Wee Readers – I’m not going to tell you it. Because to do so would be revealing a twist so awesome, it would be an actual crime to story telling as a whole. And as a writer myself I feel I cannot justify doing that – so I guess you’re just going to have to listen/watch the musical yourself.
Song I cried at the Most – that doesn’t give away the Plot Twist: You Don’t Know
Created by: Brian Yorkey (book & lyrics) & Tom Kitt (music)
1. Come from Away
And now we come to the one that started it all. Yes, that’s right my Wee Readers, this is the musical that gave me the idea for this blog post, and why you may ask? Because I cry at every single song on this thing’s soundtrack. Come From Away is a Canadian musical, set in the week following 911. Based on the true story of the 38 planes that were ordered to land in the small town of Gander in the Canadian province of Newfoundland. All the characters are at least partly based on real people, who are probably still alive today, and I can promise you – you’ll cry at every single one of these songs. So if you’re anything like me and enjoy good cry every now and then, then I’ve just turned you on to the perfect musical, however if you’re not then I’ve probably just warned you away from it…so…win all round really
Song I cried at the Most: Me and the the Sky
Created by: David Hein & Irene Sankoff
Well, here ends our tear sodden list my Wee Readers – I know, I know there are so many wonderfully depressing musicals that didn’t even get a passing mention, but such is life. If I included every single musical that ever made me cry, I’d never get this post finished and nobody wants that. But if you can think of some miserable masterpiece that really should have been included – mention it down below in the comments, and I’ll see if I agree. If you’ve enjoyed crying along with me, remember to follow the Wee Blog if you haven’t already, and check me out on Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr; not to mention my Facebook and Goodreads pages. And please sign up to the Wee Mailing List for all new rants, photos and more. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.