These days people everywhere are standing up for their rights, and with Women’s March that dominated cities all over the world in the beginning of the year, we thought it would be interesting to look at some of our favorite pieces and investigate them for obvious or subtle differences in the representation of the sexes. With that in mind, here we go with gender divided musical works.
1. Les Misérables
This musical shows up on a lot of our lists, but it packs so much into three sections, it fits so many of our categories. Specifically, in gender divides, Les Misérables is exemplary in telling the tales of how women were treated opposed to men in the 19th century. It is all told through the story of Fantine, a young girl who was wooed by the fake love of a man to take her virginity.
Yet Fantine became pregnant, which was all the woman’s fault back in the day. We aren’t sure, but there still might be areas of the world where women are always to blame for a pregnancy, and the man involved is not even considered to have had any fault. Still, back to Fantine.
Because of the great shame, Fantine’s family has turned their backs on her so she is forced to send her child to live with an abusive family and she works like a dog to send them money for taking care of her. Fantine would not be able to get a job if anyone was aware that she’s an unwed mother.
The foreman at the factory where Fantine works finds her attractive and is relentless with his advances. She is not only, not interested, Fantine is trying to fade into the shadows undetected. Of course, because she gets all the attention, all the other women in the factory hate her and, when they find out about her child, they tell the foreman, who throws her out on her ear.
Fantine is desperate to get money for her child so she sells her jewelry, then her hair, then her teeth, and finally her virtue. Fantine is one of the very best characters that serves as an analogy of gender divides in the world of live theater.
2. The Music Man
Gender divides are rather obvious in this musical as well. First we have a swindling salesman who is hated by a group of other traveling salesmen for giving them all a bad name. Harold Hill comes into small towns, points out how their community is becoming corrupt, and says he can help them clean it up by creating a boy’s band. He sells them the instruments and lessons and, by the time he gets their money, he runs out without having taught them a note of music.
Hill also cozies up to a single lady in the town hoping to get some romance before he heads out. In River City, Iowa, Hill meets up with the librarian, Marion, who is constantly being reminded by her mother that she isn’t married nor is she getting any younger. Hill attempts to woo her but Marion is less than interested.
There are so many gender divides in this musical we don’t know where to begin. First, Hill sells them on the idea of a “boys band” because no girls could learn the instruments. Sure, when they march, girls fill the drum major positions, but all in all, only boys can learn to play.
Next, Henry Hill is perfectly fine being single and, if we dare say, rather old, while Marion is continually being reminded of her years and lack of male companionship. Don’t get us wrong, marriage is a beautiful institution, but to fault a woman for not being married while the man just gallivants around, is a divide in treatment due to gender.
This musical is also relatively obvious in its gender divides but it does it without giving total power to one or the other. Gigi is a young girl being trained by her great aunt about what it means and how to act like the perfect lady so that one day she can be a mistress for a great man with wealth. This was set in the turn of the 20th century and filmed in 1958, where gender issues and divides were much more drawn than they are in Westernized civilizations today.
Gigi does not care about being someone’s mistress, and with her opposition, Gigi is, in her own small way, standing up for hers and other women’s rights. Yet, when Gaston falls in love with her and proposes that she be his mistress, she refuses at first claiming that when she tires of her she will have nowhere left to go but into another man’s bed. Still, after they spend some time apart Gigi realizes that she loves Gaston and agrees to be his mistress.
Of course, once Gaston brings her out and the high-society crowd begins to gossip about his “new girl” Gaston drags Gigi home crying. She fears he is angry at her but he is angry at himself for putting Gigi in the position of being made a headline of the local tabloids. Again, after only a few hours apart, Gaston realizes that he is in love with Gigi so he returns and asks her Grandmother for her hand in marriage.
The couple is happy at the end of the musical, socializing but obvious they would rather spend time with each other more than anyone else in the world. The gender divides in this musical fall, into the throws of love. He has power and money; the women have beauty. Women are gold diggers and men are only looking for one thing. These are the themes of this musical, and, while each is fair and degrading when it comes to describing the characters, the sexist ideologies are laid out quite evenly.
4. My Fair Lady
The most gender dividing scene in this musical is when Eliza finally says, “The rain, stays mainly, in the plain, in Spain.” Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering are so proud of themselves they fail to recognize all the work Eliza Doolittle has put in to changing not only her speech but her mannerisms and her normalcy. At one point Professor Higgins pushes her aside to shake Colonel Pickering’s hand.
If you are not familiar with the story Eliza Doolittle is a Cockney flower girl whom Professor Higgins attempts to train to speak so well that folks in high society circles will not even recognize her as low class. Of course, training Eliza to pass as a person of high society required much more than just teaching her to speak differently. Eliza needed to sit correctly, eat correctly, drink and socialize correctly.
This young girl, whose only crime was to be born without wealth to a father who is an overgrown child worked restlessly to please Professor Higgins, and what does she get from Professor Higgins as a thank you? Absolutely nothing. Yet, she falls in love with him anyway and gives up the opportunity to be with Freddy, a sweet nice young man who wants to marry her only to live as Professor Higgins doormat forever. This has nothing to do with gender divides and everything to do with the cliché, “love is blind.”
Learn about these 4 great female conductors!