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25 September 2012 @ 06:07 pm
Why is it wrong to be happy?  

We caught the last 40 minutes or so of “Singing in the Rain” on TV the other night. A couple of things really struck me about Gene Kelly’s performance, his body language, and his actions.

The first bit that caught me was when they’re dubbing the vocals for the film-within-the-film. Debbie Reynolds is singing, and Gene Kelly comes to sit at her feet and gaze up at her adoringly. It’s completely sappy, goopy, delightful, and sweet.

I cannot imagine seeing it in a modern film. I can’t imagine seeing the male lead sitting at his partner’s feet, gazing up at her in what we today would likely see as submissive, feminine regard.

And then there’s the titular dance number, which, holy beans, guys, if you haven’t seen it lately, go watch it again. It’s really just the most extraordinarily open, honest, joyful expression of love imaginable…and again, it’s almost impossible to envision a modern male lead performing it with no hint of self-consciousness. I mean, nevermind the actual skill necessary to do the dance: I can barely fathom a modern movie actor opening himself up and showing that kind of pure *joy*.

Misery, yes. It’s not that actors don’t present vulnerability, but they almost exclusively do it in sorrow, rage, desperation, tragedy. It’s all misery, never joy. And I was just talking about this to Mom, who said, “I don’t think happy is lauded much. We’re very much into being pleased with others’ pain so we can feel better about ourselves. “At least I’m not as badly off as THAT guy.”"

And she’s completely right, of course, and I know it, but seriously, what is wrong with being happy? What’s wrong with working toward being happy, with applauding others’ successes and taking joy in them, in seeing what someone else can do and being inspired by it? What’s wrong with being joyful and open and being willing to show you’re excited or in love or want to dance?

I mean, forgive me for going all John Lennon on you, but imagine if people spent half as much energy on being happy as they do on being miserable. It frustrates the hell out of me that we *don’t*. The world needs joy a lot more than it needs any added misery, so why, for the love of frogs, don’t people focus on that?

(x-posted from the essential kit)

Ellen Millionellenmillion on September 25th, 2012 05:19 pm (UTC)

I vow to put some happy into today.
Jannejanne on September 25th, 2012 05:22 pm (UTC)
This recession doesn't seem to have triggered sappy happy escapism to the same degree as the pre-war one. ah well , cheer up, the wurst is yet to come. Which I think is a recession joke punch line, but what do I know :)
hegemony hedgehogagrimony on September 26th, 2012 11:38 am (UTC)
Probably because the pre-war one didn't have a constant barrage of media telling them that they are worse off than ever before and that things won't ever get any better.
UrsulaVursulav on September 25th, 2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
Leaving aside that the happiness thing seems somehow counter to the Protestant work ethic, I think part of the problem is that happiness doesn't seem permanent enough. We get stories of 'happily ever after' not 'hey, I'm happy right this second.' We expect stuff to make us happy FOREVER AND EVER and have very little experience with letting ourselves be happy at the moment (or frankly, even noticing "hey! I'm happy right now! How 'bout that?") And yet happiness is inherently a thing of the present, and you can't bank it for the future.

Misery, on the other hand, bangs on the door all the damn time.
kitmizkit on September 26th, 2012 09:21 am (UTC)
I think happiness bangs on the door a lot, too, but people are so damned determined to be miserable they don't see it. But yes, you're no doubt right.
tamagotamago on September 25th, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
Hrithik Roshan's dance numbers remind me a lot of Gene Kelly's style: muscular grace with pure joy motivating it. Bollywood has not forgotten the art of uncomplicated schmoop.
kitmizkit on September 26th, 2012 09:22 am (UTC)
I've got to get into Bollywood. I suspect I would love a lot of it.
(Deleted comment)
kitmizkit on September 25th, 2012 08:14 pm (UTC)
Yeah. It's wonderful. I hadn't seen it in forever, but it hasn't lost its charm. :)
Alix (Tersa): Xmen - Cyclops (after-four-days)tersa on September 25th, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
I agree with your sentiment EXACTLY, but when you said:

it’s almost impossible to envision a modern male lead performing it with no hint of self-consciousness

I immediately thought "I bet Hugh Jackman could/would." :)

Edited at 2012-09-25 06:37 pm (UTC)
Wolf Lahtiwolflahti on September 25th, 2012 06:43 pm (UTC)


Have you seen him in Oklahoma!?
kitmizkit on September 25th, 2012 08:14 pm (UTC)
I have not, but I saw him in The Boy From Oz!
kit: xmen_sexxxaymizkit on September 25th, 2012 06:43 pm (UTC)
Hugh Jackman is why it's only almost impossible, and not entirely impossible, in fact. He was *exactly* the exception I had in mind.

Antonio Banderas fifteen years ago, too, for that matter, but yes, Hugh Jackman is the one I can currently imagine ... exposing himself ... like that.

Alix (Tersa): Xmen - Cyclops (after-four-days)tersa on September 25th, 2012 06:54 pm (UTC)


I wish. I need just a tenth of your career ambition right now. :)

But because you used a Wolverine icon, I needed to re-pull out the Cyclops because SO NOT BROS. *laugh*

kit: xmen_wolvie_dell'ottomizkit on September 25th, 2012 08:00 pm (UTC)
Here, have some ambition: *dumps* :)
Wolf Lahtiwolflahti on September 25th, 2012 06:42 pm (UTC)
"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
—Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)
silkiemom on September 25th, 2012 07:45 pm (UTC)
The trouble with quotes on the Internet is that you never know if they are genuine. —Abraham Lincoln

Chrysoulachrysoula on September 25th, 2012 10:02 pm (UTC)
So... I think part of it is a very modern culture thing and I think it has to do with news and ratings and money and survival instinct. We want to hear about bad things so we can enable our own survival and that of our loved ones. And the media corporations are happy to oblige. Being happy and being cautious don't easily go hand in hand; it's easiest to be happy when somebody else is taking care of things for you (as with very small children). Heck, that may be related to manic pixie dreamgirls, too. Girls: a lot more allowed to be giddily happy than boys are, especially girls designed to trigger a boy's 'take care of' instinct.

Thinking about Jane Austen, and Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth knew about being happy, knew to cherish it, knew how to seek it out and maintain it. She found happiness in walks, in anticipation of new sights, in actual new sights. She certainly didn't revel in misery. Mind, some of Miss Jane Austen's characters did-- Marianne from Sense & Sensibility reveled in both joy and misery to a dangerous degree. But-- I guess my point is that to some extent it's training. And expectations. And more training. And then kindhearted attempts to temper those expectations which may in fact instead train to expect misery.

Anyhow, we don't train ourselves to let joy linger, to show it and share it, to seek it out. And I say this as somebody with a horrible anxiety disorder that makes me spend way too much time anticipating horrible avoidable and unavoidable ills.

And I do really blame 24 hour news cycles, honestly. They have a big hand in it. Spending regular time on news sites makes me a little bit unhinged.

For what it's worth, while I'm not arguing that the 'pleased with others pain because at least we're not as bad off' thing doesn't happen-- everybody says it does. But it's never been something I've felt, you know? The closest I've come is guilt-- I have so much, I'm so lucky compared to some other people, why can't I appreciate it more, I'm not appreciating it _enough_, how could I ever appreciate my life enough-- but mostly, um. Pain makes me cry.

Gonna link to a favorite quote of mine now. Linking because it's long and tangential, about pain rather than happiness. http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/225221-i-was-walking-along-the-bank-of-a-stream-when

So final answer: it's less profitable to others for you to be happy, but it's not _wrong_. I think people who aren't making money off somebody's fear, misery and/or discontent _do_ value happiness in others, and my evidence for this is _your_ Kickstarter, where your backers were _enthralled_ by your happiness.
Childlightchildlight on September 25th, 2012 10:28 pm (UTC)
Have you ever watched White Christmas?
anthony_lionanthony_lion on September 26th, 2012 04:57 am (UTC)
There's a reason I like old musicals... ;-)

Of course, it is possible to take it too far, too...
(Sound of Music)
Nathaliespacedlaw on September 26th, 2012 05:42 am (UTC)
Indeed, people seem to think that others' happiness might be stealing from their own.

Happiness however is a difficult subject for a movie or a story because of the lack of drama. The beauty of this movie (one of my favourites with An American in Paris) is that it still manages to handle happiness and to spread it along. They don't make that type of movies anymore.
(The only recent-ish movie I can think of that spreads a little happiness in the way those old movies did is Amelie Poulain)

Edited at 2012-09-26 05:43 am (UTC)
pgwfolcpgwfolc on September 26th, 2012 10:20 am (UTC)
I've had similar thoughts watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins. They just don't make them like that anymore. My nieces and nephews love those movies. But they just wouldn't make them in this culture.

(Actually, it reminds me of Everybody Comes To Rick's.)

In part, it's that we've become more cynical as a society. I think there's this idea that happy and sappy are beneath us, that it's just simplistic and childish and we want more "grown up" things. Except that there's more depth and production value to the classics then there is to a lot of the stuff being churned out now. (Not that there aren't good movies being made now, or that everything that was made before was so great. But so much of what's made now is lowest common denominator formulas saturated with product placement. Make something with a DVD cover good enough to sell, and you're done.)

But hey, we've still got happy endings. Heck, we just got (spoiler tag) a grim and "realistic" Batman trilogy with a happy ending like we've never seen before. Not to mention the pure unbridled awesomeness that is Avengers. We may not have happy-go-lucky anymore, but we've got superheroes now. That's where our optimism went.

Anyway, I think I'm getting rambly and incoherent, so I'll sign off with a little factoid about singing in the rain. That titular dance number you were talking about? Water wouldn't show up on the black and white film they were using. The "rain" he's dancing in is actually a shower of milk.
ramurphy on September 26th, 2012 12:55 pm (UTC)
Singing in the Rain was filmed in color in the part that is supposed to be real time. The silent-to-talkie part is filmed in black and white. So Gene Kelly's dance in the rain sequence IS in color. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singin%27_in_the_Rain
katedonovan: governess historicalkatedonovan on September 26th, 2012 04:23 pm (UTC)
I blame Guilt.
Flitterbyflit on October 8th, 2012 07:39 am (UTC)
I've never seen Singing in the Rain! I should remedy this.