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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)

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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