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Carousel----"sexist"? 
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Tony Winner
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Post Carousel----"sexist"?
I love the show but I've heard many people say that they're against the ideas promoted in the show----they feel that the book is dated and the story overall is too accepting of domestic abuse ("What's the Use of Wondrin").


What do you think?

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Fri Oct 24, 2008 12:32 am
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Post Re: Carousel----"sexist"?
IndigoMedusa wrote:
I love the show but I've heard many people say that they're against the ideas promoted in the show----they feel that the book is dated and the story overall is too accepting of domestic abuse ("What's the Use of Wondrin").


What do you think?


I think that what the characters express in carousel not necessarily reflects the opinions and values of the authors.

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Fri Oct 24, 2008 4:45 am
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I love the show too, but am not sure on this very good question. I do think the show goes a bit easy on Billy at times (especially at the end), but I don't know if I would call it sexist. I don't think that the show is saying that Billy should be forgiven and redeemed because mistreating a woman is only a minor crime. Instead, it seems to be using the (equally suspect?) justification that his crappy life made him the way he is. Anyway, as I said I'm not sure, and vaguely expect to be proved wrong on this one.


Fri Oct 24, 2008 4:29 pm
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Tony Winner
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Yeah. To me, it seemed actually like the play went pretty hard on Billy---he pays a price for what he did; he dies and he has to go back and fix things before he can rest in peace.

And it's not as though the play makes him out to be heroic. He beats his wife, yes, but he is also pretty much portrayed as a seedy failure that can't get his life together.

I don't think we as an audience are ever asked to let go of our judgement of Billy and the deplorable things he does. I think that the audience is supposed to be rooting for him to find the good in himself, which he does eventually do to some degree by the end. (I'm not sure whether he does in Lilliom)


I don't think the problem lies with the portrayal of Billy. The only thing in the show that could make me question the whole "sexist" issue is Julie's seeming acceptance of Billy's abuse:


Quote:
Something made him the way that he is,
Whether he's false or true,
And something gave him the things that are his,
One of those things is you, so

When he wants your kisses,
You will give them to the lad,
And anywhere he leads you, you will walk.
And anytime he needs you,
You'll go running there like mad.
You're his girl and he's your feller,
And all the rest is talk.



You know, I think it's a lovely song but I hate to think that it is morally unsound... :? I'm waiting for someone to come and prove me wrong on this one.

My dad told me that every abused woman who stays in a sour relationship is convinced that their husband really does care about them, and it doesn't matter how much good is in a person, if they're violent it's hard to really forgive them and that jails are filled with people like Billy who probably aren't black-and-white bad people but are too inept to take initiative.

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Fri Oct 24, 2008 6:33 pm
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I can see what you mean about Billy, his flaws are certainly acknowledged and he is made to face up to the consequences of his actions. But the show also seems to want to excuse him on the grounds that "something made him the way that he is". When the angels show Billy his daughter, the exchange goes something like this:

Angel: Something like that happened to you when you were growing up too, didn't it?
Billy: Someone's gotta go down there and help her!
Angel: True that.


Then Billy and the angels 'save' Louise, eventually. So Louise symbolises (among other things) a 'surrogate' Billy, who magically receives the help and reassurance that Billy never got. The show seems to imply that Billy is therefore excused, because he never got this help. Maybe :)

I'm not too worried by what Julie sings, because her first lines in 'What's the Use of Wonderin' ' seem to make it clear that her judgement is seriously impaired. There is no way that judging someone for being "good or bad" is equivalent to judging them for the way they wear their hat! The problem for me is that the show's ending seems to endorse her "something made him the way that he is" line.

In contrast, in South Pacific a person's background and upbring are not seen as excuses for their flaws. Nellie and Cable (?) are sympathetic and understandable because of their backgrounds, but the show still makes it clear that they have to take responsibility for their own beliefs and actions.

By the way, I'm all for redemption and forgiveness and finding the good in people. I also agree that a person's background has a big impact on what they become. I just wonder if Carousel goes a bit too far in that respect.


Fri Oct 24, 2008 7:50 pm
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Barberous wrote:
The show seems to imply that Billy is therefore excused, because he never got this help.


I think this is a very likely interpretation, but that it's wrong. I don't think Billy's past excuses him for his actions, there si a big difference between an excuse and an explanation.

As a sociologist I believe that people can act like they chose, but they can't chose what they chose. (OK, that is perhaps a bit simple, but it's slightly true.)

IndigoMedusa wrote:
You know, I think it's a lovely song but I hate to think that it is morally unsound... :?


I, too, have reacted to that song. What I think, is that it doesn't represent the authors' views or values. It rather presents the character's point of view in a very sympathetic manner, that (in my experience) can cause confusion. It's a bit like the case with Sondheim's Passion - in musicals one somehow automatically take it for granted that the main chatacters are "celebrated". One might be mislead to think that Fosca's views represents Sondheims and Lapine's views, when it's in fact the other way around.

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Sat Oct 25, 2008 3:57 am
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Tony Winner
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Quote:
I, too, have reacted to that song. What I think, is that it doesn't represent the authors' views or values. It rather presents the character's point of view in a very sympathetic manner, that (in my experience) can cause confusion. It's a bit like the case with Sondheim's Passion - in musicals one somehow automatically take it for granted that the main chatacters are "celebrated". One might be mislead to think that Fosca's views represents Sondheims and Lapine's views, when it's in fact the other way around.



I know! I mean seriously, it's just like those people who say that West Side Story glamorizes gang violence...



But anyhow, I can see why one could think that Julie's judgment is impaired during "Wondrin".

But I don't think the song is really saying that she should let herself get beat up by Billy. I think it just means that if you truly love someone, you should love them for who they are, flaws and all.
And if you're going to commit to a relationship you have to accept all the baggage that will come with it.

Julie was smart enough to realize that Billy's abuse was wrong. At least she had the sense to go and stay with Cousin Nettie and get away from Billy when he was being violent.

The reason why she was able to forgive Billy for the wrong he did her was because she knew the whole while that Billy really did love her and want what was best for her, and that when he hit her he wasn't doing it because he meant to harm her.

He beat her because he was in an emotional crisis and because he lacked the confidence and stability to deal with his feelings in any other way than violence:


Starkeeper: Why did you beat her?
Billy: I couldn't get work, and I couldn't bear to see her... to see her...
Starkeeper: You couldn't bear to see her cry? Why don't you come right out and say it? Why are you ashamed you loved Julie?
Billy: I ain't afraid of anything.



Of course, these circumstances aren't an excuse for Billy's behavior. But good people do make mistakes and it is my belief that someone should be forgiven if they meant well. I think that was what Hammerstein was getting at.

It's not like in Oliver where Nancy chose to stay in an abusive relationship. Bill Sykes meant full harm on her.

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Sun Oct 26, 2008 3:01 pm
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in SOuth Pacific Nellie and Cable both confront their deep rooted prejudices. Nellie meets her and overcomes them and marries Emile.
Cable doesnt and crashes and burns.

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