Musicals Are Not Fun For The Whole Family

Even though we have a 19-month-old boy, there is still one way I am outnumbered in my own home.

The ratio for the love of musicals does not fall in my favor. We recently showed our son Aladdin, and he loved it. He watched attentively the majority of the movie, bouncing up and down with some of the songs.

Maybe I’m not open to my hopeless romantic side. Maybe the realist in me has never seen two people supposedly in love sing to each other that much about every single thing. Either way, my hope is that Jamie’s interest in the movie had more to do with the animation than singing and dancing to advance the plot line, but it is too soon to tell.

My wife loves musicals. I have fundamental issues with the genre that prohibit me from sharing her passion. Any movie that uses song to show us gangsters about to fight is begging for ridicule (West Side Story). Any movie that uses song to tell us about the character who served a 19-year prison sentence for stealing bread is begging to be considered absurd (Les Miserables).

There is something in cinema called the suspension of disbelief. The viewer needs to be able to accept what they see. It’s the fancy term for a B.S detector. If you are willing to buy what a musical is selling you, it might be time to bring your suspension of disbelief in for a tune-up. I couldn’t expect my son to be born with this innate sensibility. However, it is something that can certainly be taught.

My wife likes to remind me that a lot of cartoons have music in them. With cartoons for young kids, that music is used as a mnemonic device, and not to advance the plot. It is also a cartoon, and not very lifelike. So viewers are willing to show a little more leeway with the plot.

What makes Aladdin different is that it is classified as a musical. I’ll let Jamie enjoy this one for now, but some of the other musical classics would open up too many cans of worms.

“Jamie, that is not how gangsters behave,” is not something I imagined needing to explain to him before the ripe age of 2. I may need to prohibit him from watching West Side Story even when he is older, and have him read Hunter Thompson’s Hell’s Angels instead. This isn’t about language or violence. This is about creating a realistic interpretation of what outlaw life is about.

Finding a Les Miserables substitution is perhaps a little easier. The book would give him a more accurate interpretation of life in a French prison from a bygone era than the musical.

I want my son exposed to as much culture as possible as he grows up. I already know he loves music, and it is looking like he may have the same love for movies. The trick will be to keep his love for these two artistic mediums separate.