Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cinderella, the Musical and Fat Shaming

This is a review of the musical as it was performed in Denver at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

I went to the matinee performance, so there were many little girls dressed up and getting their pictures taken by the wall poster of the stairway.  It was one of the highlights of the event for me.

The audience was, as might be expected, largely female.  I was sitting in a row that, except for a couple of men, was all women and girls.  In front of me, were six college age women, who seem to have come together.

The "book", as they call the play's script, has been changed some for this version of the Rogers and Hammerstein work.  There was a male protester, who was demanding better treatment of the poor people in the kingdom.  And the role of the advisor to the prince was to shield him from the fact that the plight of the poor was partly due to using the funds for the court.  The prince became a rather lost young man in search of a sense of self.  The fairy godmother was a vagrant, witchy woman - until she was transformed into an Oprah look-alike.

The plot also added the transformation of one of the sisters into a best friend of Cinderella's, when she decides to run off with the protester - reminiscent of both Wicked and Frozen.  It is the best girl friends model of musicals.

And the final meeting of Cinderella with the prince is the meeting of the protester, with his group of poor people, talking to the prince and the prince now finding his purpose in life - to make the plight of the poor easier and, incidentally, to also marry Cinderella.

All of these changes could have worked for me, had I not been expecting the original Rogers and Hammerstein work.  And they probably worked just fine for the audience that was substantially younger, for the most part, than I am.

But one thing has been bugging me and it is enough to jade my feelings about the musical in general. The other step-sister, the one who doesn't run off with the protester, is made up to be hideous.  She is fat and is dressed more gaudily than anyone else.  She is a perfect example of fat shaming.  Of all of the characters in the musical, she is the one who is made fun of, who is held up for laughs.  Two of the male characters are also hefty - but their weight doesn't mean they are held up for ridicule.

Just as a mind exercise, I have been imagining what would have changed, had the fat step-sister been the one who befriended Cinderella and who ran off with the protester.  It doesn't quite work.  It isn't funny enough.

And there we have it.  Making fun of fat people is funny.  We (and yes, I am one of them) are open game for laughs.

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