Friday, September 16, 2016

Anxiety & Resentment, Song & Dance.

I woke up with Lida Rose in my head this morning, not sure why, but it sent me down a Music Man rabbit hole on Youtube and I ended up watching the Rock Island song half a dozen times because once is not enough.

One thing that (kind of, sometimes, temporarily) works for me to stop myself from freaking out for a minute or two about this doomsday election season is to pull the focus back and look at history and culture with a wider lens. (Now that I see that sentence typed out, I realize that's what I try to do to stop myself from freaking out about anything pretty much.)

It's fascinating to me how certain phrases become ubiquitous suddenly in certain elections. People used the expressions "economic anxiety" and "cultural resentment" long before this year but now you can hardly read an article about the presidential election without stumbling over them. (I love Google Ngram Viewer -- turns out "economic resentment" had a big spike in the early 1940s then waned, but is now shooting way up. "Cultural resentment" didn't even appear until 1944, spiked in the late 1960s, and is also way up now.)

I have no great insight to offer, but it occurred to me that many (most?) of the canonical American musicals are about economic anxiety and cultural resentment. Here's another from The Music Man (the original rap musical, btw):

And this, from the great Trevor Nunn production of Oklahoma:


And West Side Story, Gypsy, South Pacific, Anything Goes, Guys and Dolls. Seriously, there aren't many that are not about one or the other or both.

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