Men Don’t Go To Broadway: Should We Care?

Real men don’t like showtunes. Broadway producers are desperate to find ways to get guys into the seats. Only 32 percent of Broadway theatre goers were men last year. The interesting problem is that shows still need men in the audience to be profitable. According to Mr. Healy’s article, the Producers for the musical version of the Bridges of Madison County needed to take out emergency loans to keep the show running. Men are unable to put up with musicals for two or so hours to please their wives, girlfriends, and daughters. One insurance executive refused to see Mary Poppins with his wife and three daughters according to the article.

The question is whether we should care about men not going to theatre or not and in many ways, this is like the question about whether we should care about whether art institutions fail or not or whether the local library fails or not. In the grand scheme of things, people have a right to spend their free time and money as they please. There is a theory that producers should stop caring about attracting male audience members and make theatre largely about women. I am going to try and answer why this is a big deal anyway and we should want more gender equality.

My Theatre Background

I seem to be a minority among guys because I am heterosexual and love going to theatre. My major in undergrad was in drama and I have graduate degree in directing. This was before discovering the rough economics of being a theatre artist. The old joke is true: The best way to make a small fortune in theatre is to start with a large one.

Broadway is largely not for me. There are plays on Broadway that I really enjoyed but they tend to be limited run prestige productions like a production of The Seagull with Kristen Scott Thomas or the Pillow Man with Billy Crudup. I am not a fan of most musicals except some classics like Cabaret, Guys & Dolls, Chicago, West Wide Story, or Brecht musicals like The Threepenny Opera.

My tastes tend towards straight plays and I am more comfortable with the off-Broadway and off-off Broadway world. What I love about downtown theatre is often they tell more daring plays and necessity is often the mother of invention. Broadway are Hollywood Blockbusters. Off-Broadway is indie film. There is something amazing about seeing actors turn a small blank space into Elsinore, The Forrest of Arden, A Tropical Rainforest, etc. and having the audience believe it. The most famous stage direction in all of Shakespeare and possibly the world is “Exit pursued by Bear” from The Winter’s Tale. There are justifications for making this funny, scary, or both because of the themes of the play. Anyone can imagine the big-budget solution for this stage direction. I am much more interested in the low-budget way of making it sincerely scary or both funny and scary.

So Broadway doesn’t even know how to attract theatre loving guys like me for the most part.

Theatre and Masculinity

The biggest take-away I took from the Times’ article is that many men seem to think their masculinity will be threatened if they attend a Broadway. One interviewee wouldn’t attend Mary Poppins with his wife and three daughters. Mary Poppins is not my cup of tea but I think I could be pleasant and charming for two or so hours if it made my family happy.

Producers are trying to respond by producing musical versions of Rocky and Spider-Man. This tactic is not working. Rocky was a hit in Germany but is barely breaking even on Broadway. I am personally not interested in a musical version of Rocky because I can watch it on DVD if I wanted to. I am not against adaptations. Many great Broadway musicals are adaptations. Guys & Dolls was adapted from Damon Runyan short stories. Cabaret was adopted from Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories.

I think this is one of the next steps in the gender equality wars. Making men feel more comfortable in pursuing activities that are seen as feminine for whatever reason. I don’t think of theatre as being feminine. There is nothing feminine about Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, Arthur Miller, and many other playwrights. Musicals do have a reputation for being feminine though. My girlfriend loves musicals and she is also semi-serious when she tells me she is glad that I don’t like them very much except the ones listed above which are appropriately masculine or heterosexual. Men seem great at encouraging their daughters into sports and science and engineering. We don’t seem comfortable with the idea of a young boy being more into theatre and/or art than baseball and videogames though. I am curious to hear from the parents on this issue.

We need to care about men feeling uneasy about seeing Broadway shows because it is a stumbling block (but a minor one) in the road to gender equality. I’ve gone to theatre with LeeEsq and our father including musicals like Sunday in the Park with George and a horrible production of The Threepenny Opera (aka How to declaw Brecht.) I’ve seen theatre with other heterosexual guy friends but this seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

My odd-man out status makes it hard for me to answer these questions. I’ve never cared much about sports especially the more violent ones like boxing, MMA, Wrestling, etc. I rarely play video games. Yet at the same time, I would not describe myself as feminine. I am a guy and like being a guy. I’ve never felt less than masculine for being interested in art, literature, theatre, opera, ballet, modern dance, etc. Are there people who would consider me feminine for liking such things? Probably. Do I care about them? Not at all.

I would also like to hear from guys on this issue. Were you brought up to think of art and theatre as being feminine? If yes, how was this idea transmitted to you? Would you feel more comfortable with a daughter who liked MMA and hunting over a son who liked theatre and opera? These questions probably sound more inquisitional than I want but they are serious issues. There does seem to be a tendency for allowing boys to explore their feminine side but it seems very mom driven. I usually see it manifest in facebook posts about letting a boy dress as a Disney Princess for Halloween or some such event. I think it is more shocking when the alleged gender transgression is more subtle. The boy who loves art, hates sport, but still prefers to dress in jeans and such. I don’t know how to prove this but it is a hunch.

I think true gender neutrality will come when two guys decide to go to a play instead of a action movie or sports and don’t feel threatened or bad about this choice. I am willing to entertain theories that I am wrong on this though.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I will probably never be a Broadway Producer. I am not the kind of guy to think Rocky The Musical is a good idea. I’d much rather produce an opera or opera-esque adaptation of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. Musicals will always skew more towards women. The guy who wouldn’t see Mary Poppins with his daughters strikes me as being more of a jerk than anything else. I probably would dislike the production as much as he would but if my hypothetical children really wanted to see it, I would take them and not be grumpy about it.

My general solution to Broadway would be less revivals, more plays, more risks like Avenue Q and Urinetown, and imports from London. However, I probably belong at the New York Theatre Workshop or The Public or Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Can anyone think of any other reasons why Broadway became a gendered form of entertainment?

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232 thoughts on “Men Don’t Go To Broadway: Should We Care?

  1. I never saw Art as feminine nor did my parents believe that. They were old when they had me. They were depression/WW2 generation that saw Art and Learning as good things people should aspire to. Both were lefties, first generation born in the US and grew up poor so education was power and the road to the middle class. Reading (The New Yorker, Sunday NYT, literature, history, philosophy) for pleasure was the norm in my home so the concept of art as feminine seems strange.

    Most musicals dont’ do much for me but i’ll go along with the wife. We saw West Side Story this year. It was certainly a toe tapping couple of hours focusing on racism, rape, and tragic death.

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  2. I am a little bit nonplussed by where you are going with this piece. Men don’t seem to like Broadway musicals much and aren’t that interested in seeing “the musical version of the Bridges of Madison County.” OK, but as you point out, neither do you?

    Is your lack of interest in Broadway musicals a function of not wanting to seem feminine? I’ll assume the answer is no and ask why you assume it is for other men. Is there a lack of male interest in non-musical theater? I regularly attend the opera and there are plenty of men there. I don’t think that men are afraid of the arts. I think men just tend not to like musical versions of movies like Legally Blonde.

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    • Also, I will ask the same question that I ask on all of these types of posts: why does it matter? What is the ethical principal that says we ought to be trying to make the world a place free of any and all gendered spaces?

      Assuming the absence of gender barriers, if individual preferences lead to a world where more women are interested in seeing Broadway musicals and more men are interested in playing first person shooter video games, why does this need correcting?

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      • If men generally don’t *like* musicals for some reason, that would be one thing.

        I mean, men appear to like *music* just fine, like drama just fine. They’ve even tried to do musicals *based on action movies*, and those don’t get men either. Admittedly, a musical is probably not the *best* format for that, but it’s not a horrible one. Men will play video games about guys who fight people, watch movies about guys who fight people, read comic books about guys who fight people, even read books about guys who fight people, so why won’t they watch musicals about guys who fight people?

        Because we appear to be in a world where men don’t feel *allowed* to like musicals, or even try them to see if they like them.

        That is a bit more problematic. And this feeling that they aren’t ‘allowed’ isn’t just something they’ve invented in their head. There really *are* people who think men who like theatre are not real men.

        So the question is less ‘How do we get men to like theatre?’, and more ‘How do we get society to stop inventing completely absurd ideas of masculinity and looking down on men who stray outside them?’

        I think very little of the concepts of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’, almost all examples of behaviors under those groups are stuff we invented for this specific society and almost all the gender-expectations people think is built-in is just learned behavior.

        *However*, even if you disagree with me, even if you think a some of these differences is biological, the idea that somehow what *medium* you like to watch fiction in somehow says anything about gender at all is absurd. I mean, *maybe* I can buy the idea that somehow men are pre-programmed to like punch-the-bad-guy stories more than relationship drama stories. I don’t believe it at all, but it’s a possible argument.

        But saying they’re programmed to like a movie more than a musical…when the hell did either of *those* get in our genetics?

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      • OK, so where is the evidence that men don’t feel “allowed” to like musicals?

        I certainly feel “allowed” to like musicals and I pretty uniformly hate musicals. Saul doesn’t care much at all for doing those things labeled traditionally masculine and he doesn’t like most Broadway musicals either. In the absence of actual evidence, these are all just assertions.

        Also, you may feel that masculinity is absurd and have no use for the concepts of masculine and feminine, but lots of people do. I ask again, what is the ethical justification for enforcing your idea of gender over my idea of gender or for either of us to force our respective ideas on others?

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      • I certainly feel “allowed” to like musicals and I pretty uniformly hate musicals. Saul doesn’t care much at all for doing those things labeled traditionally masculine and he doesn’t like most Broadway musicals either.

        It’s easy to feel *allowed* to like something if that’s not something you actually do like.

        And Saul specifically gave an example of someone saying that they were glad he didn’t like musicals.

        But that doesn’t change the fact that there is a wariness on the part of guys towards liking musicals. Maybe they wouldn’t like them *anyway*, but until that bias is gone, it is *really* hard to judge that fairly.(1)

        If you want to find whether or not guys are looked down on for liking musicals, you have to find *some guys who like musicals* and ask them, not stand there from safe ‘not liking musicals’ ground and say ‘I’m sure it’s fine over there’.

        Like, oh, me. Someone who is actually involved in theatre, in fact.

        And, yes, I’ve gotten a few comments once or twice. Long hair probably doesn’t help.

        In the absence of actual evidence, these are all just assertions.

        Perhaps it would be worthwhile to bring up the *other* biases against mediums that exist, to point out how hard it is to get judged fairly. Until recently, and still to some extent, video games were not looked at as a medium. Better example: Comic books *still* aren’t.

        Do comic books have the correct audience? That is, is everyone who *would* enjoy reading comic books actually reading them? Or have some people never bothered to try them, sure that if they did, they wouldn’t like that, and even if they did like them, they’re *comic books*, they can’t be seen reading comic books!

        It seems pretty intuitive that because of certain opinions people have about comic books, and about people who read comic books, comic books have a smaller audience than they would have in some sort of hypothetical world where comics books were invented a decade ago and no one had any preconceptions.

        But apparently throw *gender* into that and people can’t make same rather obvious conclusion. How crazy to suggest that something invented only a few hundred years ago and the major form of entertainment for centuries for men and women alike is not now something genetically encoded to be different among the genders, somehow!

        Also, you may feel that masculinity is absurd and have no use for the concepts of masculine and feminine, but lots of people do. I ask again, what is the ethical justification for enforcing your idea of gender over my idea of gender or for either of us to force our respective ideas on others?

        I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not trying to ‘force’ my ideas of gender on anyone. There is a difference between judging someone and saying ‘don’t judge’.

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      • And Saul specifically gave an example of someone saying that they were glad he didn’t like musicals.

        Why isn’t that a sufficient answer to the question? I mean, is the suggestion that people’s behaviors aren’t influenced by how they think others will perceive them? If that’s the case, then the theory of signalling can get tossed in the dumpster, yeah?

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      • we appear to be in a world where men don’t feel *allowed* to like musicals, or even try them to see if they like them.?/em>
        It’s easy to feel *allowed* to like something if that’s not something you actually do like.

        Hmm, I like musicals, and I’ve never felt any pressure not to, and I’m a cis hetero race car watching wilderness camping whiskey drinking kind of guy. My friend R, a devout Republican and a guy guy, loves musicals and isn’t afraid to say so. I’m not persuaded by the claim.

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      • David,
        hm. Manga is pretty universally read in Japan (in fact, there’s a well known Nobel prizewinner who is currently using it as his medium).
        Science is pretty conclusive on the whole idea of two genders being pretty much bunk (yes, most people fit pretty neatly into those two buckets. I wager most folks around here don’t, though).

        We can compare modern Broadway to Michael Bay movies (in terms of overuse of predictable tropes). I think such tiredness tends to exacerbate prior biases.

        MOST women will watch a GOOD action film. MOST men will watch a GOOD romance. It’s when the quality drops that you see most people going towards “what they like.”

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      • As a child and young adult my gender was aggressively policed, and I felt it. My “masculinity” was constantly in question, from a thousand little things, the way I twirled my hair, the way I walked, the way I cried at the slightest provocation. (Add to this the fact I completely dissociated whenever I tried to have sex, and rumors of this particular defect spread. But never mind that.)

        Okay, so I’m trans, no doubt an outlier. On the other hand, I see these things in stark relief.

        I recall when I discovered Kate Bush. I read a review in some zine, and she sounded interesting, kinda cool, kinda out there. I thought I might check it out. At the time I was mostly a hardcore kid, a bit emo — Rights of Spring and the like — but still spent plenty of time getting fucked up on cough syrup and listening to Exploited (or whatever).

        And my true gender was hid way down inside.

        So I bought a Kate Bush record (Hounds of Love if you’re curious) and I could not help but love it.

        And I absolutely could not tell my friends.

        (Mid 80’s punk in South Florida was not a queer tolerant place. Not hardly.)

        It was a secret pleasure, and it was intoxicating, and I kept thinking about gender and feelings and how I really wished (so very much) I was a girl.

        But never mind that. Masculinity — it did not feel natural to me and I paid for that.

        So can straight dudes like musicals? — obviously yes, but these things will depend on your particular situation.

        How much is your masculinity already in question?

        So much happens on the margins.

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      • Why isn’t that a sufficient answer to the question? I mean, is the suggestion that people’s behaviors aren’t influenced by how they think others will perceive them? If that’s the case, then the theory of signalling can get tossed in the dumpster, yeah?

        Why…would that make any sort of sense as a conclusion? Seriously, I have a hard time even responding to that.

        The rather obvious reason is that a) one person is not everyone, so obviously one person able to ignore what others think about him is not actually that helpful, and b) as I think I’ve said fairly clearly, my concern is not for *theatre*. I, personally, like theatre, but trying to structure reality so it succeeds, or even so it fails ‘fairly’, would be incredibly egotistical of me.

        My concern is for toxic ideas of ‘masculinity’, the entire concept that men need to be careful and stay away from ‘non-masculine’ things, and prejudices that result from that. Men staying away from theatre is a symptom of that. Men being pressured to stay away but not actually doing it is also a symptom.


        Hmm, I like musicals, and I’ve never felt any pressure not to, and I’m a cis hetero race car watching wilderness camping whiskey drinking kind of guy. My friend R, a devout Republican and a guy guy, loves musicals and isn’t afraid to say so. I’m not persuaded by the claim.

        I’m actually rather wondering if it has to do with where people live. I live in a small town in Georgia, and the theatre *here* is a tiny community theatre that the town loves. (The town is very tourism oriented.) So *here*, it’s all ‘Oh, you volunteer at the Holly? That must be fun.’.

        It’s when I get *outside* the town, or when people talk about theatre in other contexts, that I hear whispering.


        Science is pretty conclusive on the whole idea of two genders being pretty much bunk (yes, most people fit pretty neatly into those two buckets. I wager most folks around here don’t, though).

        Well, yes, you think that, and I think that, but you’re going to get a lot of argument and people ignoring you if you state it that way. A better way to state it in this discussion is, no matter how much people think there are inherit gender differences in nature, liking or disliking a *medium of expression* would be a pretty surreal thing for our hormone to control.

        I mean, what other assertions are there we should invent? Men like oil paintings while women like water colors? Women prefer black and white photos and men prefer sephia-toned ones? Men prefer six-act structures and women prefer five? What? Huh?

        If people want to stand there with a straight fact and tell me the reason women prefer romances and men like action movies is *genetics*, look, those people are wrong, but at least they can come up with some *theory* for their wrongness. The idea that men don’t like musical theatre…when men do like singing and dancing in other contexts, and like those sort of stories in other context, but just don’t like them *together*…seriously? This is somehow *genetic*?

        And, of course, there’s all sorts of data to contradiction this, considering this is an incredibly new prejudice we’ve invented. In almost all of human existence where ‘theatre’ existed, (as narrative musicals, non-narrative singing and dancing, or straight plays) it’s the *men* who mostly attended. (Of course, it’s that’s generally because only men were free to do so.)

        And then, on top of that, that men who *do* like those sort of things are somehow lesser men? That’s just completely idiotic.

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      • I suspect that we are looking at a very Anglo-American* thing. IIRC it is particularly in postwar America where an ideal of working class as masculine took root. The implied contrast to that is aristocracy as effete or feminine.

        Some of the contributing tropes are even older. If you remember Jack London’s Sea Wolf, Real Men(tm) are men who have earned their own way in the world, stand on their own two feet and have the calluses and scars on their hands to show that they have worked. Our hero’s hands which are “as delicate as a woman’s” in the beginning of the book are supposed to be a mark of shame.

        You can see the remnant of such tropes in the way skin care products are marketed primarily at women. The ideal of feminine beauty is one in which skin is fair and unblemished. i.e. skin which bears no mark of toil or struggle. A washerwoman’s hands were raw and red and less feminine than the aristocratic lady’s even though such work used to be “women’s work”.

        Given the strong association with working class-hood with masculinity and aristocracy with femininity, things associated with working classes become coded masculine and things associated with aristocrats become coded feminine.

        So, hose, which was almost exclusively part of aristocratic fashions becomes feminine. Opera, which was primarily associated with the aristocratic and educated (who also tended to come from landed gentry) became coded feminine. Wine became feminine while whiskey and beer became masculine.

        *I initially wanted to say it is an American thing, but then I remembered DH Lawrence. Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a (now classic) tale about an aristocratic woman, paragon of femininity ditching her effete husband (and crippled) for the working class and very masculine lover. The subtext being that it is the right and proper way of things that manly working class men take aristocratic women for themselves. Lawrence’s sexual politics are not pretty.

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      • Murali, Lawrence’s non-sexual politics were rather ugly to. The guy was admired fascism. Lawrence good write beautiful prose and his novels are worth reading for that alone but I wouldn’t use him as a source of deep and important insights.

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  3. I’d really like to see numbers for Las Vegas before I jump to a conclusion.

    I’m guessing, but not certain, that the numbers for the shows there are pretty evenly matched. Perhaps shows like “Menopause: The Musical” have skewed numbers but I betcha that Cirque and whatnot are somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-50.

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  4. 1) no. (to answer your post question).

    2) I really liked Wicked, but that has been the only one of two of Broadway shows I have ever seen. (The Mystery of Edwin Drood being the other). (I have caught a traveling production of Les Mis at least twice, I think. Don’t think I’ve ever seen Phantom or any other Webberverse production)

    3) Doesn’t Broadway itself skew old? Isn’t that part of the gender gap? It’s retired widows and their granddaughters and grandnieces plus the weekend tourist trade. And as you allude to Broadway is pricey. We bought tickets to Wicked because it was a little under 100 bucks apiece (plus the ridiculous box office surcharges) while Book of Mormon was over 200 a ticket (with even higher fees tacked on)

    4) Did any men see the movie version of Bridges of Madison County? Or read the book? How are they surprised at that particular musical’s viewer demographics? from the times article “By comparison, men and women go to movies in roughly equal numbers,” but they don’t go to see the same movies. (and going back to 3., movies iirc skew young. That’s why we have the movies we do).

    5) There seems to be a a lot of retreads among Broadway shows referenced in that article; it makes Hollywood seem like a font of original concepts.

    6) Bert Miranda seems like a jackass. And a very convenient one for the article’s narrative.

    7) From your post “Musicals will always skew more towards women.” From the article “(Some 80 percent of all Broadway theatergoers see musicals.)” Well, then, there’s your answer right there, isn’t it?

    You propose “My general solution to Broadway would be less revivals, more plays” What’s the breakdown between musicals and plays on Broadway? Is it close to 80-20? closer to 90-10 or to 70-30? (in other words, is the 80% musical attendance a demand side or supply side phenomenon?

    8) What’s your own personal observational anecdata about the off- and double-off broadway shows you actually do watch? Is there a gender (and socioeconomic) balance there? If so, that reinforces my first answer of ‘no’

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      • I read the book as part of a book club with my wife, years ago. In a three month period, the group chose Bridges, The Horse Whisperer, and Tom Robbins’ Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas.

        Which, when you read them one after another, are all books written by greying men whose plot centered around the assumption that no matter how successful in her community a woman is, she isn’t really successful till she’s been shtupped by a REAL man.

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      • When Saul and I were in elementary school, our mom used to complain that all the books they assigned were girl books. My mom wasn’t much impressed with the selections in middle school either till they started us on Shakespeare and Dickens in the eighth grade.

        Its a bit of mystery why cis-gender heterosexual men do not like theatre in general and Broadway musicals in particular. Its a no brainer why they are staying away from the Bridges of Madison County: The Musical in droves.

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      • Yah. The girl I was dating at the time read Bridges on the recommendation of her mother and compelled me to read it because it was a something of a revelatory experience for her. Resistance was futile. So I did. It was – and I think I can say this with real confidence – the most painful book-reading experience I’ve ever been subjected to. I actually finished it.

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      • Out of curiosity:

        1. Why do you think the women picked those books for their book club?

        2. Did they like them?

        3. Did any woman in the group make the same point as your second paragraph?

        4. Did you?

        5. What was the reaction of the rest of the group to three and four?

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      • Lee,
        I only ever had one teacher that could not divorce her own biases from “what kids are going to read, enjoy and want to read further”. Her favorite poet was John Donne, so of course we had to do tons on him (I found the ONE poem that was actually refreshing and fun to read to the class).

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    • 3. Most theatre tends to skew old. This will be covered in 8 but Broadway perhaps more so.

      The ticket prices are expensive but I think when people bring this up as an excuse it is a polite way out of saying “theatre isn’t my thing”. People pay for what they value but we feel rude for saying “I don’t value X” so we say it is expensive. Someone with a 2000 dollar or so tattoo sleeve can equally save for theatre tickets. They just choose not to.

      4. Fair point.

      5. I agree and think of it as a problem. The Germans allegedly loved the Rock musical though.
      Original musicals tend to start off-Broadway and then move up if they are really successful. Avenue Q, Rent, and Caroline or Change all started off-Broadway at non-profits. Avenue Q was at the Vineyard. Rent was at New York Theatre Workshop, and Caroline or Change was at the Public Theatre.

      6. True on both counts.

      8. Anecdotally it seems more balanced. It still generally skews older with some young people thrown into the mix. This is true at regional theatres as well. The average age tends towards the 50s or older with a chunk of 20 and 30 somethings. The same is true for modern dance and other downtown/avant-garde stuff. Young people will go see something like a live tapping of This American Life or Dan Savage speak though. I am also trying to figure out why the performing arts seem very good at developing the next generation of artists or want to be artists but not audiences. We need people to just want to see theatre as entertainment.

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      • The performing arts isn’t so good at generating the next generation audience because a lot of people weren’t exposed to them as kids. You can develop a taste for something you didn’t know about when your kid but its not that common. A lot of people in Gen X or younger were probably never taken to a performing arts performance as kids and never saw it as a form of entertainment. They did go watch movies, TV, play video games, and go to pop and rock concerts though. They did go clubbing.

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      • People pay for what they value but we feel rude for saying “I don’t value X” so we say it is expensive. Someone with a 2000 dollar or so tattoo sleeve can equally save for theatre tickets. They just choose not to.

        No and yes. I wouldn’t necessarily compare tattoos to theater tickets. The one is body art that lasts a lifetime (which I would never purchase because tattoos aren’t my thing). The other is a two- or three-hour event. I’m also suspect hat the universe of people who don’t like theater includes a large number of people who couldn’t afford a $2,000 tattoo or even a nice dinner at Outback Steakhouse.

        If price is the only factor, then a better comparison is movie theaters. Theater can be expensive. If tickets are, say, $20 a ticket, then that’s about 2 movie tickets. I imagine excursions to movie theaters involve more incidental purchases of junk food, etc., so then maybe one person ends up spending $20 ($10 ticket + $10 soda). So maybe the amount spent is roughly the same. Now, if theater tickets are, say, $50 a ticket, the calculation is more in favor of going to the movies, instead.

        Of course, a movie and a play aren’t just undifferentiated bulk goods. While there are some very good movies and some very bad plays, I imagine that theater is more challenging and potentially more rewarding to a certain type of discerning mind than the next installation of The Hobbit.

        (For the record, I have never seen a production of Jean Racine’s or, err, Pierre Corneille’s plays, but I would like to. But not at the prices typically charged for theater. (I’m thinking of changing my pseudonym, but I’m a fan of the French 17th century theater, even though my main acquaintance with it is from reading the plays and not seeing performances….except for the obnoxious “Bourgeois gentilhomme,” which I wouldn’t recommend.))

        But you’re right. I would much prefer to spend $30 for a dinner at Outback Steakhouse than $30 for a play, musical or otherwise.

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      • “The Germans allegedly loved the Rocky musical though.”

        Did it star David Hasselhoff?

        (alternatively, you know who else liked beating up on Russians?)

        “We need people to just want to see theatre as entertainment.”

        This seems to be the inverse of your museum views – that they are public goods necessary for community sustainment and individual spiritual growth. Which brings me to something Lee says above.

        “The performing arts isn’t so good at generating the next generation audience because a lot of people weren’t exposed to them as kids… They did go watch movies, TV, play video games, and go to pop and rock concerts though”

        Are not movies & TV ‘performing arts’? They are not live performances, (for the vast majority) and they may lack the intimacy that a in-person stage production possesses, but they are conceived and executed by performing artists (and Chuck Lorre)

        Alan Scott alludes to it below, but we really should not conflate any tribulations in the Broadway scene – which are really the New York Yankees of the (live) performing arts – with problems of the art scene in general.

        If the next generation of artists continues to emerge, I really don’t see any problem. Furthermore the proliferation of singing shows, and especially dancing shows demonstrates that there is an audience for performing arts (at the right price). Finally, anyone under 25 has been able to put together acts on Youtube all their lives.

        (as a postscript, this whole conversation has been very white – we have not mentioned what sort of performing arts ecosystem the so-called hip-hop community possesses or what it provides to the larger national & international performing arts ecosystem. Whereas I’m totally unfamiliar with that scene, I couldn’t be of use anyway. Ditto with any equivalent latin scene, save the occasional Sabado Gigante episode)

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      • Kolohe, there is something different about movies and TV that distinguishes them from other performing arts. There is always a lot of rehersal, at least hopefully, in order to get everything right but the production and technology behind movies and TV allows for something that always seems a lot cleaner and less raw than live theatre. An action movie coems across a lot more like a theme park ride than even the most prop-dependent Broadway spectacular like the Lion King. Even with things like the Lion King, the audience needs to use a lot more of their imagination to see the actors as wildlife than they did with the movie.

        I guess what separates movies and TV from other performing arts is that you can’t show as much even in the most techonology filled performances. The audience has to use their imaginations more rather than just accept the visuals as they are. Thats why they are different.

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      • ND,
        I think theater is in general pretty expensive. I do not have the money to go to a $100 show, even in Pittsburgh — let alone pay the greater than $100 hotel fee to see one in NYC [yes, my fun budget is miniscule — for $80 a year, I can watch nearly unlimited movies/tv with Amazon Prime].

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      • Are not movies & TV ‘performing arts’? They are not live performances, (for the vast majority) and they may lack the intimacy that a in-person stage production possesses, but they are conceived and executed by performing artists (and Chuck Lorre)

        To be ‘performing arts’, they have to be viewed as performed.

        The performing arts don’t have editors, retakes, location shots, or out-of-sequence shooting, stitched together and rearranged before viewing. Doing that changes the ‘artists’ from ‘the actors’ to ‘the people who did all that, aka, editors and directors and whatnot’, and changes it from ‘performing art’ to ‘visual art’.

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      • David, I like that taxonomy. But narrowing the genre takes me even further away from any sort of agreement with Saul’s primary thesis, “why this is a big deal anyway and we should want more gender equality.”

        Like my internet friend DA Ridgley likes to say, the primary word in show business is *business*. ‘Broadway’ is much more an industry than an artistic reservoir. That’s not to deny the artistry and talent it takes to put on a good show – and on Broadway much more than in Hollywood, the market rewards a good show. But I’m not worried that a customer base that is majority women and/or gay men is in any way a negative thing, the way a gender segregation of the broader arts&culture establishment (public and private, popular and boutique) possibly would be. Much less their overall diminishment, the subject of some of Saul’s previous posts & comments.

        Per the times article, I get that Broadway shows that are doing well are doing well (the department of tautology reports), while those that are marginal, not so much. As has been said up and down this thread, Baulmol’s cost disease and the proliferation of other options (both for consumption and as avenues of expression) conspire against Broadway’s business model. That they are trying to widen their audience base is no surprise – that genius at Hasbro figured out fifty years ago that by calling them action figures, they could sell many more dolls; the NFL figured out in the past decade that they could sell many more shirts through (non-Lawrence) tailoring.

        But is this a larger sociological problem? No.

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      • But I’m not worried that a customer base that is majority women and/or gay men is in any way a negative thing, the way a gender segregation of the broader arts&culture establishment (public and private, popular and boutique) possibly would be.

        I’m not sure how you’re using the term ‘gender segregation’ here. Broadway does not, in any way, attempt to separate by gender.

        But is this a larger sociological problem? No.

        The question is this a *symptom* of a larger sociological problem:

        Are men avoiding theatre simply because men don’t like theatre for some (really hard to explain) difference between the genders? I argue there’s no possible way that makes any sense…there’s all sorts of nonsense explanation as to why women and men are biologically predisposed to certain roles (Ignoring the fact that said roles have repeatedly changed throughout history.), but I think it’s pretty telling that, in this entire discussion, no one has pieced together some sort of bogus caveman explanation of why women evolved to like musical theatre more than men.

        Are men avoiding theatre simply because they weren’t exposed to it as much as women when younger? That is, indeed, possible, and that seems to be what a lot of men here thing…except somewhat falls apart when you look at it. I suspect that slightly more little girls than little boys are involved in theatre, but that just sorta begs the question…why?

        Are men avoiding theatre because it’s something that ‘real men’ don’t do? If that is the case, we need to fix that entire idea…not because we need to save theatre for some reason, theatre is never going away. Broadway might collapse, but whatever.

        No, we need to fix it because such complete nonsense about gender is very toxic to people who fall outside such dumbass ‘norms’, much less men who fall outside other gender roles, or are genderqueer in some manner.

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      • “I’m not sure how you’re using the term ‘gender segregation’ here.”

        I’m simply recapping the NYT and Saul’s post’s lead off factoid, that there’s about a 2:1 female to male ratio in Broadway attendance. No, it’s not a Saudi shopping mall or an Orthodox sabbath service, and the whole point is that Broadway is trying to narrow that gap to make more and/or enough money.

        “Are men avoiding theatre because it’s something that ‘real men’ don’t do? If that is the case, we need to fix that entire idea”

        I do agree with this. In fact, from the Times’ article, they are going about it all wrong, trying to bring in ‘manly’ themes and plots. (but still, Bridges? Come on, you had to expect that)

        It’s the flip side of that somewhat famous xkcd cartoon. It’s perfectly ok to say “I don’t like musicals” (Saul says it himself!). It’s not ok to say “(Real) Men don’t like musicals”.

        However, I am not willing to completely discount any and all behavioral differences based on biological sex. That is to say, even with some ideal of socialization, where gender norms are not in fact normative, there still may be a biological gender gap in the attendance profile of any particular genre of entertainment.

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      • However, I am not willing to completely discount any and all behavioral differences based on biological sex. That is to say, even with some ideal of socialization, where gender norms are not in fact normative, there still may be a biological gender gap in the attendance profile of any particular genre of entertainment.

        Meanwhile, I am willing to discount those. ;) Maybe not entirely based on genre, but that’s the wrong word there. Genres are standards of tone, technique, premise, etc.

        Theatre is a artistic medium, not a genre. If you squint really hard, you can call ‘musicals’ a genre of theatre, but generally the term ‘type’ is used for that. A theatre genre is like ‘mystery’ or ‘horror’ or ‘farce’. Musicals and straight plays both generally share the list of genres, although there are a few combinations you’re unlikely to see. (Tragedy musicals, for example. Although mostly that’s because no one writes tragedies anymore.)

        But, anyway, if you want to stand there and tell me there are biological reasons that men prefer comedic movies instead of romance movies, okay, I think you’re wrong, but you can come up with some sort of plausible justification for that.

        But do you really mean to stand there and tell me there’s a plausible biological justification that men like comedic movies instead of comedic plays? What could that possibly be?

        Or a biological reason that men don’t like narratives and music at the same time, when they appear just fine with narratives and music separately, or even music that tells a narrative outside of theatre? (Men don’t seem to particularly dislike Bohemian Rhapsody, for example.)

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      • we need to fix it because such complete nonsense about gender is very toxic to people who fall outside such dumbass ‘norms’, much less men who fall outside other gender roles, or are genderqueer in some manner.

        If “we” need to fix it, then we probably all we “need” to do is try not to shame men who like things that “real men” allegedly are supposed not to like and leave it at that. I’m fine with that. But I’m not sure what else “we” have to do.

        Now, if “we” includes people who are in some undifferentiated “theater” community (producers, concerned fangoers, critics, et al.), then maybe “we” have to do more outreach or better advertising or busting the actors unions or whatever. And even though I have some vague sense that the existence and survival of a “legitimate theater” scene might be somehow good for our culture, none of this is really my concern because that’s not a form of entertainment I consume.

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  5. Well, I don’t much like most show tunes, either. And I’m definitely into the arts, love good theater production, and music. But most Broadway musical =/= my cup of tea for any of those (though I’d love to see Mary Poppins). I’m tempted to make some wise crack about Andrew Lloyd Webber spoiling the form so refined by Rogers and Hammerstein, but I’ll refrain since he does seem to bring great joy to so many girls, given the frequency his tunes show up in vocal auditions.

    But I do believe that the difference in composition between a Webber musical and R&H musical may be at the root of it things; at least for me.

    And the ticket prices.

    And there are probably some few males who worry that proximity to anything remotely gay may make rub off, but they’re more than likely just living in deep denial.

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    • See my comment above on prices to Kohole. If someone is willing to get an expensive tattoo or chef’s menu plus wine pairings at a world class restaurant. They can afford theatre tickets. I’ve certainly heard my share of people ask “How can you spend so much money on X?” and then talk about how they spent equally much or more on Y.

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      • The guy who spends $100 on a bottle of wine has bought enough $20 bottles of wine and $50 bottles of wine that he’s confident that it’s worth paying the high price.

        You’re telling that guy, who’s organically developed an appreciation for wine and is willing to spend that money on something he loves “Hey, why not spend the money on something that you might hate instead?” That’s not going to get men to a Broadway show.

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      • LIke I said, I think it’s a product problem not an audience problem.

        They’re not selling enough tickets to enough people to profit from the productions Now there are lots of reasons that women might find what they are selling more compelling.

        Plus, a tattoo is forever.

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      • There is always laser removal :)

        I picked tattoos because they seemingly are getting more and more popular and I have an interest in tattoos that approximates less than zero. This seems to make me out of place with my cohort of 20 and 30 somethings. I think part of it is cultural Jewishness…..

        The product thing is interesting because everyone seems to be talking about netflix being cheaper. I am the only one who seems to like the low tech of theatre and live performance.

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      • Saul,
        I could say the same about books from the local library.
        (as a sidenote: I consider all dramas to be about as far removed from books as they are from visual arts — theater and TV seem in the same category to me)

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    • “low tech of theatre”? What is this I don’t even.

      I assume you’re using a rhetorical flourish here, because anyone who actually thinks theater is low tech is not paying attention.

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      • Low-tech is a relative term. Yes computers get used for seamless lighting and sound cues but you still need to make the audience believe that the small little black box can stand for the entirety of Renaissance Verona or the Forest of Arden.

        I thought my examples made sense.

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  6. Funny thing, I was in a local bar tonight for “Show Tunes Night,” and it was totally full of men! So this thesis is completely bogus.

    They (and me) particularly like the Hedwig number.

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  7. Huh. It wouldn’t occur to me to not like musicals on account of femininity. I say that as someone who has historically not cared for musicals but for other reasons. I’ve actually been more interested in them lately. I loved Evita and watched it again last year. True that watching the movie of a musical is not the same as watching a stage musical, but I make no particular distinction between stage and film. I don’t get out to many plays, though I’d like to.

    I do have a double standard to the extent to which I will encourage masculine and feminine hobbies for my daughter but primarily masculine for my son (though I wouldn’t actively discourage anything on the basis of femininity if they showed an interest). I just don’t put art into that category, though. Theater would be no problem. Nor would orchestra, if they were musically inclined. I’d be thrilled fo them to be musically inclined. Heck, I’d even be cool with ballet. Art is a good thing (so long as they aren’t going to college and majoring in it…).

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  8. I’d be careful about tagging this as about masculine men, since one trip to a gay bar on bear night would disabuse you of the noting that gay men are automatically femme.

    Oh my god, no. Dudes are as butch as fuck.

    Anyway, if you mean straight men, just say so.

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  9. I’ve enjoyed lots of big-budget Broadway plays. Seen lots of guys there, enjoying them too. Smaller, more experimental stuff? I’ve been to a few shows, sometimes “bringers” and a few times tipped off by friends. Liked it all just fine. About equal distribution of men and women in the audience each time.

    I presume the pros have better info, but it isn’t harmonious with my experience is what I’m saying. Is there a distortion bubble around NYC?

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  10. First off, I just don’t care for the showtune style of music. And I rarely care for what the musical style of performance does to music I do like.

    But more to the point I just find the whole concept of musicals… well, dumb. People are doing stuff and saying stuff like any other movie or play and then… for no particular reason, one or more or everyone break into song and dance. If you’re going to make me suspend disbelief to that extent then make the effort worthwhile with some science-fiction or horror. But that’s just me and if it has anything to do with gender it’s not a conscious choice.

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    • This used to be my objection. I’m not sure exactly what changed, but at some point somewhat recently I started viewing them as a kind of combination between movie and music video (or play and musical performance, maybe).

      The first two musicals I ever liked were Evita and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The former is entirely musical and told in such a way that I just don’t think I would have enjoyed it nearly as a straight-up movie. The fact that it was entirely music meant that it was more about concepts and emotions than story specifics and scene-story telling.

      Hedwig, on the other hand, is internally logical. Which is to say that the songs are sung on stage (though it does move away from scene-story storytelling towards the end). The theatrical version (which I actually saw in Deseret) is basically a music concert with stories attached in between songs. That made it more digestible. The music is just phenomenal so I go through/back and watch the songs. Then I go back and watch the movie. Despite the internal logic, I think it may have inoculated me a bit from what I didn’t like before.

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      • I’ve seen Evita on stage. Pretty damn good. I’ve seen Joseph and his Coat, Phantom, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Cats on stage too. I liked – like, *really* liked – all of em. Cats especially. (Well, the one about Jesus…) For Cats I caught the Broadway cast doing their thing in Chicago. If I was standing during the show I think my knees would have buckled. Pretty dang fine.

        Andrew Lloyd Webber. He doesn’t suck.

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      • Oh, I probably shouldn’t be quite so categorical about it. After all, Pink Floyd’s The Wall counts as musical theater, right? Or at least theatrical music or something. And I’m sure I’d enjoy Hedwig. And JCS as well (Jesus, rock & roll, and tits; yeah, buddy). But those are outliers.

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      • Heck, we’re not even talking about actual ‘things that don’t exist in reality’, we’re talking about *medium rules*.

        Seriously, I think the fact the characters in a musical, instead of actually moving from place to place, have people dressed in black run out and rearrange the furniture while they’re not looking, a much harder thing to suspend disbelieve about then their *singing*. I mean, I’ve actually sung in real life, I’ve never stood there while ninjas turn my living room into a painted representation of the town and then thought I really was in town!

        And all those people *staring at them*. That would creep me the hell out, but they just ignore them!

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    • That’s kind of my objection to musicals, too, but I go back and forth. My wife and I recently netflixed both seasons of “Smash” and we enjoyed it. I thought, however, some of the songs were contrived and not particularly organic to the story, and some of the plot twists were too twisty and deus ex machina for me. But sometimes the showed nailed it.

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      • I really wish they’d spent less time with the drama and more time with the craft. I went into that show hoping we’d see people doing things, creating things, instead of just having affairs and blackmailing and whatnot.

        I’m a fan of what John Rogers calls “competence porn” in television–and I was hoping we’d get a show where for once people were competent at creating art and not just catching murderers.

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    • The showtune style of music is an interesting point. Showtunes used to be the dominant form of popular music and this was true for most of the 20th century. It did not really change until the advent of rock and really the change happened around when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. During the early days of rock, you would see Chuck Berry and Rogers and Hammerstein on Billboard together or played back to back on the radio.

      I wonder what happened that turned guys off from the showtune type stuff while women listen to both rock and showtunes.

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      • I wonder what happened that turned guys off from the showtune type stuff while women listen to both rock and showtunes.

        Maybe nothing. As you say, there weren’t many choices back then and now there are. It might be that men haven’t changed.

        But really, let’s be honest here: the stereotypical Broadway show tune is a pretty hideous thing.

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      • But really, let’s be honest here: the stereotypical Broadway show tune is a pretty hideous thing.

        It’s less a ‘hideous thing’ than ‘a musical style stuck in the 30s which is completely unknown outside of theatre and hence sounds really stupid to modern audiences’.

        Even *modern* musicals often do this. I finished that that sentence with ‘for no explicable reason’ at first, but there actually is a reason. Namely, musicals are written by people who watch musicals, and hence those people are familiar with that style of music and it no longer sounds odd to them.

        I admit, I am one of those people. I like showtunes…but I am aware enough to notice they are *damn odd*. Like really boring jazz or something.

        And while some modern musicals have managed to move away from this, it doesn’t help that the audience of musical theatre as a whole appears to be trapped in the 1960s (Which, yes, still have 1930s music in them.), demanding rerun after rerun of the shows they grew up with.

        But all art has its odd self-referential quirks. I’m reminded of those songs that certain pop singers sing about how hard it is to be rich and famous, or, rather, assuming we already *know* how hard it is to be rich and famous.

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  11. 1) We live in an age where each member of the household has their own Netflix profile. I regularly lie in bed watching a TV show on my laptop, while my boyfriend lies next to me watching a different TV show on his phone. Broadway’s business model has been to create shows that appeal to women who will bring their Men along. That business model won’t survive in today’s world of compartmentalized entertainment.

    2) I’m in no way surprised that men didn’t want to see spider-man. From what I can tell, the musical had a post-modern pop-art sensibility which fundamentally relied on the idea that comic book superheroes are unserious and childish. In the age of The Dark Knight, it gave us something that was a lot more like Adam West’s Batman. That’s not an invitation to male audiences: It’s a slap in the face.

    3) In general, I think the idea of “action hero” musicals is probably not the way to go to attract a male audience (they made a Rocky musical? Really?). I mean, why spend $100 on a stage version of an action movie when you can just spend $10 on the movie? You know what will actually get men into the theaters? Comedy. I’ve seen four or five stage musicals. The only one one of those where my straight male friends came with was Avenue Q. My boyfriend is obviously not straight, but he’s someone with zero interest in musicals–or he was, until South Park started featuring commercials for The Book of Mormon. My generation of males may watch Iron Man, but we’re defined by youtube comedy clips.

    4) We live in a Golden Age of television. Theater used have less convenience but more quality than TV. Now it just has less convenience. Broadway has Musical Versions of Legally Blonde and Rocky while five seasons of Breaking Bad run on basic cable.

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    • 2. I can’t find it now but I once read an article that made a convincing argument that Adam West’s Batman had to be campy in order to get on 1960s television because there was no way that TV producers would have allowed for a more gothic Batman like we all know him. They simply wouldn’t have gotten the concept. It also fit with the entire Silver Age ethos.

      I somewhat disagree with you on the idea of compartmentalized entertainment in only that couples should ideally do things together at times. This might mean one partner has to do endure something he or she doesn’t like for a bit.

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      • Or better yet, find things in common. My wife hates football, but loves basketball. So rather than force her to endure football, we enjoy a hoops game together. She also loves movies of all sorts, but only makes me go to ones that she thinks I will like. So serious far, comedies and superhero movies – yes, rom coms, no.

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      • Except that 60s comic-book Batman wasn’t gothic, either. He was dedicated and morally upright, and cared as much about helping victims as about catching bad guys. The Dark Knight wasn’t written until he 80s.

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      • It’s true that TDKR wasn’t written until the 80’s, but shortly before Batman66 there was a Silver Age Reboot that was more seriousminded and less hokey than the TV show. B66 went goofy in a way that the comics weren’t exactly, even if they weren’t Milleresque at the time. They were actually moving towards Miller before Miller came along. He mostly wrote the seminal works. The specific thing that people could point to that was easier than pointing to Detective Comics #469-476, 478-479

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      • Sure. My point is that the TV show didn’t have to go camp as an alternative to darkness, because things weren’t that dark yet. They could have chosen straight-up crime fighting, like the old Superman series.

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      • I’m not saying 60s batman was a slap in the face in the 60s, or even that it would be a slap in the face today–after all, you have to be pretty soul-less to dislike Batman: Brave and the Bold.

        But it really felt like they’re not even trying. For starters, I’m not sure they even read any comic books. When I look at the creative forces for superhero movies and TV shows, I see a big long list of comic book people, even if it was something as basic as “yeah, we discussed this for five minutes over coffee”. Why is there none of that for the musical. When a silly kids cartoon gives Brian Michael Bendis a producing credit, it seems like the musical was written by someone whose only concept of Spider-Man came from the first Raimi movie.

        I mean, Straczynski did a whole arc about how spider-man was a mythological figure, which seems to be the theme of the musical pre-retool. But instead of Morlun and Ezekiel, we get a greek chorus with the names of public domain superheroes.

        And here’s my take on the Nolan trilogy:

        Batman Begins, with it’s Ra’s al Ghul and ninjas and poisoned water supply was a 70s Denny O’Neil comic. The Dark Knight, with it’s Dark Take on the joker and angst about the moral ambiguity of superheroes was an 80s Alan Moore riff. The Dark Knight Rises, with Bane and Gotham as a warzone and Catwoman as a hero was a 90s Chuck Nixon thing.

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      • I don’t think they were actual public domain superheroes. I just looked at the description of the old version of the show on wikipedia, and it described a greek chorus whose names look like they were taken from obscure 40s comic books. Which is a bit of an anachronism when it comes to spidey, of course.

        Keep in mind, my complaints here could be way off-base, since I haven’t actually seen the show.

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      • The Spider-Man musical used traditional Spidey villains like Electro and the Lizard, if I remember correctly. But they were sort of a Greek chorus.

        It was pretty awful. The stunts were impressive, the music by Bono and the Edge felt really misplaced, and the story wasn’t coherent.

        I went because some New York friends knew I was a superhero fan and didn’t realize I’d much rather have seen “Once”.

        I’ve gotten to see some real stinkers–Spider-Man, The Vampire Lestat, a Beach Boys jukebox musical. On the other hand, I’ve also seen Urinetown, Avenue Q, Wicked, Pacific Overtures, Rent, and Sweeney Todd. On balance, I’ve done very well.

        (Freakin’ humblebraggers! It’s catching! Run away!)

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      • , there are two different versions. They completely re-wrote the show because it was doing so badly, and the greek chorus I’m talking about was only in the first version. Did you see the one where Green Goblin is defeated before the intermission? Or the one where he’s defeated at the climax?

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      • , I didn’t realize the two versions were so different. I’m not sure which of them I saw (the plot just didn’t make much sense to me), but it was probably the second one–it wasn’t especially early in the run. I think I was familiar with each of the villains, though, so more evidence for the second one? I wasn’t thinking of an actual Greek chorus, but there were times all the villains were clumped together in the middle of the stage.

        My real takeaways were that when the multiple Spider-Men swinging up to and landing on the balconies was pretty thrilling, and that the music annoyed me. (Even though I’m generally a fan of U2.)

        Okay, after writing all that, I went to read the synopses of the two versions on Wikipedia. I definitely saw the second one.

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    • Alan,
      Yeah, I think you’re right on Comedy.
      Thing is? it takes talent to write good comedy.

      [Note: I have been to comedy in NYC. I think the
      audience was mostly men. This, um, might have been
      because they were there to take notes (go to an actual
      underground theater, and the only folks who show up
      are comedians, I guess)]

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    • You know what will actually get men into the theaters? Comedy. I’ve seen four or five stage musicals.

      If we want to seriously discuss what will save theatres, okay. Yes, comedy is a really good start.

      My local community theatre just did Moon Over Buffalo, which for people that don’t know is a comedy that descends into outright farce, and the young people loved it.

      All 800 of them or whatever amount attended. In our 250+ house. Over nine performances. Ouch.

      Put on a classic musical like Oklahoma!, and we’ll come close to selling those performances out. But selling them out with an audience where the average age is 60. This is, rather obviously, not sustainable.

      To save theatre, people need to be introduced to theatre young. But it’s become a negative feedback loop…young people are not the market for theatre, and hence no one markets theatre to them, and hence they don’t attend. Better just go with the assure crowd of older people who want to watch reruns of 1940s-1960s musicals they grew up with.

      Which would be all well and good, except, at some point, there will be nothing *but* young people, or rather people who are young *now*.

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  12. Men Don’t Go To Broadway: Should We Care?

    Seems we’re being asked to care about everything lately, but mostly being asked to care about the cultural artefacts others care about. I really like theater, too, but, no, I don’t care. Broadway’s a business. If it fails, let’s all shrug our shoulders and move on.

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    • I can understand worrying that there are strictly sociocultural reasons that men don’t like particular types of art, types of art that they may get a great deal of enjoyment out of if those sociocultural barriers weren’t in the way. It seems like an interesting topic to discuss, and one that could provide us with both personal insights and larger cultural ones. I know I sometimes wonder if the fact that I hate musicals has something to do with the fact that I was raised in Redneckville, Redneckstate, where, back when, men didn’t like musicals.

      Of course, any time I hear show tunes I remember why I don’t like musicals. ;)

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      • I too think it’s a legitimate question, but more one internal to theater as a discipline or scene. Not that there’s no relation to the non-theater world/scene. Some people who otherwise might enjoy theater might in some way find it more difficult because of social presumptions (although I really do think sticker price along with the uncertainty that any given play will be good is a much bigger factor).

        It’s kind of like academic disciplines such as history. There are a lot of internal conversations that are usually of interest only to historians or likeminded people, and most of the likeminded people are also academics. It’s not that there’s no relevance for non-historians or non-academics, but one feature of, for example, a serious monograph is a conversation with other historians.

        All that said, I kind of like showtunes. In moderation.

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      • It’s a legitimate question, certainly. I just don’t find it an interesting one.

        So what if there are sociocultural reasons men don’t go to musicals? Sure, they might enjoy them if they could get over their sociocultural biases, but there’s no indication that they’re not enjoying what they do instead of going to Broadway shows. As a purely intellectual question, no problem, but that doesn’t get to the “should we care” question. The “should we care” element suggests that maybe there’s something wrong with men not liking musicals, something wrong with them preferring something else. And that’s not interesting, just irritating.

        Why doesn’t Saul like NASCAR? Should we care that people like him don’t like it? Surely there’s nothing but sociocultural reasons for that, right, so presumably if the Broadway question is important, so is the NASCAR question? Or are we beginning the conversations with a bias that dictates the outcome, an assumption that Broadway should be more broadly liked, but not NASCAR?

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      • I’d say that the “so what” is that there may be men and boys who are pressured not to pursue things that interest them. It also plays into the greater issue of imposed gender roles, which harms men and women, boys and girls.

        Do we need to specifically care about Broadway? No, probably not (maybe a little), but there are greater issues lying under the surface.

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      • Eh, I don’t think it’s a purely intellectual question, because it gets to issue of gender and culture and socialization that could have broader implications. It should be the sort of thing that’s of interest to anyone who’s interested in things like the culture of sexism. Of course, musicals are just one of many such topics, and I suspect both you and I are more likely to be interested in others, but musicals are likely to be a pretty productive avenue of investigation because the gender differences in preferences are so stark, there is a clear association with homosexuality, and the gender gap has developed, in essence, over the last 40 or so years, meaning it should be pretty easy to trace its development.

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      • James,
        i’d prefer it if folks didn’t like Nascar, personally. It’s a sport folks watch to see car wrecks (at least from my limited sampling).
        Now, I hear that tractor-pulls are a great deal of fun, and mostly nobody dies during ’em… (haven’t actually been, myself, mind)

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      • I get tired of your never-ending inanities. You spew more bullshit per line than any other commenter on this blog.

        To say people watch racing for the wrecks is a bigoted stereotype indulged in by smug assholes who never make a smidgeon of effort to understand what the sport is about. People who probably couldn’t distinguish an F1 car from an Indycar or a stock car from a sports car.

        The deaths per mile driven in racing has plunged in recent decades, due to on-going efforts to improve the safety of the various series. The HANS system, breakaway parts on the cars, tethered wheels, the SAFER barriers, rebuilding of racecourses, etc.

        So, please, STFU until you’ve at least managed to learn your ass from your elbow.

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      • ,

        Bourbon is a drink best enjoyed by slow sipping, not downing shots.

        Anyway, I’ve seen plenty of woman doing shots that had about as much alcohol content as a shot of bourbon.

        It’s a taste issue. Women have lousy taste, but why? ;)

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      • James,
        you realize, I don’t have a tv?
        I listen to people, and that’s what they were saying — as fans.
        I’ll readily retract what I’ve said, and gladly too. Thank you for
        increasing my sample size! (yes, seriously).

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      • I’ve been to tractor pulls and even a monster truck rally. (And I’ve seen both kinds of drag. Heh.) And yeah, it was cool enough. However, I can’t see going now, since I would not fit in and would likely experience tons of harassment and even violence. And even if someone could guarantee I’d be safe, why surround myself with the cultural signifiers of people who hate me, even if the activity is “fun”?

        Likewise, I rather like MMA, given that I’ve done a fair amount of grappling (I’m a BJJ blue belt). But still, I avoid the sport these days, given that many high profile people in that world hold me in contempt. Plus, in general, I have a low tolerance for douchebags, and the sport is certainly (and unfortunately) marketed to such guys.

        So, yeah. I’m not sure what this tells us about straight guys and musicals. Probably something.

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      • Well, taste varies. I know plenty of men who like wine coolers; but they like them with tea — twisted tea.

        I no longer drink, it’s a migraine trigger for me. Haven’t had a drink in nearly a decade, now. I miss the social grease, in particular; I’m not good at small talk. But when I did drink (and I had years of life where I drank quite a lot,) I preferred dark red beer, very expensive red wine, or scotch.

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      • , yes and yes, because both things are likely to provide insight into gender roles and the way our culture genders things and socializes that information. Like I said, there are a lot of things that we could study, because gender norms run through our entire culture. Some things are likely to be more profitable, as objects of study, because the development of gender norms for those things is easier to trace (the color pink is another example, because a century ago it was seen as masculine, and now it is feminine, though I see that slowly changing as well).

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      • the way our culture genders things and socializes that information.

        Yeah, that’s where as a political scientist who’s somewhat disdainful of sociology, I just get real bored. I don’t think cultures “do” things. I think individuals do things, and I remain unpersuaded of the value of group-level analyses.

        There’s a pretty fundamental methodological gap there. I think we’ve called to each other across it before, but I don’t see that its ever shrunk.

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      • Why doesn’t Saul like NASCAR? Should we care that people like him don’t like it? Surely there’s nothing but sociocultural reasons for that, right, so presumably if the Broadway question is important, so is the NASCAR question? Or are we beginning the conversations with a bias that dictates the outcome, an assumption that Broadway should be more broadly liked, but not NASCAR?

        First, I’m not sure that Saul doesn’t like NASCAR. At least, he didn’t say so in his post.

        Second, NASCAR is not an art. It’s a sport. You’re not comparing apples and oranges here, you’re comparing apples and tuna.

        Third, I’m not even really sure it’s a sport…I mean, it technically is, but it’s a sport that seems to mostly be enjoyed as an event, instead of the sport itself. From what I understand of how it’s watched, It seems to be roughly akin to going to football games to tailgate. It’s not treated as a sport as much as an excuse to hang out. (And, I must emphasize, I’m not judging or anything. Hell, that’s how I treat *all* sports, I can’t get emotionally invested in anything till near the end, so until then, I’m just hanging out. Not that I go to sports often, and I’ve never been to NASCAR.)

        Fourth…do you have a theory that certain groups of people don’t watch NASCAR, or possibly sports in general, due to biased assumptions about gender?

        Presumably, it would be *women* discouraged from NASCAR, as they are from sports in general. Except I thought that women were actually pretty well represented in NASCAR attendance, at least compared to other sports. Being treated as an ‘event’ instead of a ‘sport’ mean families often make a day of it, at least so I’ve heard.

        Or are you talking about biased assumptions, and, if so, do these assumptions hit at deeper problems like the problems with gender and theatre? Like, are black people staying away from NASCAR because if they tried it out, they would be thought of as not black enough? (This is just a wild guess as to what you’re saying.) If so, that clearly *is* a problem, or, rather, a symptom of a problem.

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      • I think there are group dynamics that are not explainable via reference to individual behaviors. That is, the sum is often greater than the parts when it comes to social dynamics. That’s not to say that looking at individuals is not important (I’m a psychologist, after all), but that looking at individuals won’t give you the whole story.

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      • I think there are group dynamics that are not explainable via reference to individual behaviors. That is, the sum is often greater than the parts when it comes to social dynamics.

        I believe in emergent properties. They’re not explainable by reference to any one individual’s actions, but they are explainable by reference to the interactions of individuals. Interactions are in fact at the very heart of much of the social sciences–the responses of individuals to other individuals, or more accurately, their perceptions of other individuals. And individuals can react to their perceptions of a group, or a social dynamic, because they–however wrongly, imo–do in fact view groups and dynamics as having the properties of individuals.

        But in the end, it all comes back down to how individuals perceive things. In the end, no social dynamics can be fully explained without at least implicit reference to that. Too much of sociology, imo, treats people as objects that are just pushed around and unresponsively shaped by social forces. That’s far too simplistic, as it ignores agency, so it can’t properly explain anomalies. It’s like bad statistical work that only looks at measures of central tendency and ignores measures of dispersion and never really delves into a regression analysis.

        Tying this back to your favor topic of evopsych, humans are by nature group animals, and attendant to our long adolescence we develop our knowledge largely through social learning, rather than instinct. So we’re very receptive to both other individuals and to group dynamics (as we perceive them), to the extent that those who aren’t–the socially awkward types–are often seen as broken. But it’s still an individual with agency that’s responding. Lose that and we’re not actually talking about human beings anymore.

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      • Second, NASCAR is not an art. It’s a sport. You’re not comparing apples and oranges here, you’re comparing apples and tuna.

        It depends on what level we’re doing the analysis. Apples and tuna are both food, so if we’re asking why group A likes this food but not that food, we can totes compare apples and tuna.

        For my part, I think the distinction between art and sport just highlights the assumption being made, that people ought to be liking this thing we call art, but without a similar assumption for this thing we call sport. I want to question that assumption, so I’m looking another level up–art and sport are both cultural artefacts, so why is it we care about group A not liking this-here cultural artefact, but don’t care about group B not liking that-there cultural artefact? If the response is along the lines of “because this-here artefact is art,” then we can ask for a justification for why we should care in particular about certain groups not liking art, but at least then we’re actually trying to justify it, rather than assuming it.

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      • , you’re wrong. (Hrm. Seems obvious, now that I say it.) WWE is a performing art, although one that’s not really well studied. Sort of an improvised, *very demanding* dancing, combined with melodrama, best as I can figure it.

        NASCAR, however, is a sport. I suspect you’re trying to claim that *physical* competition is a requirement for a sport, and argue that NASCAR doesn’t met that requirement it. And thus NASCAR, like chess, is thus a ‘game’, not a ‘sport’. (What that has to do with WWE, which clearly *is* incredibly physically demanding, but is not a sport, or even a game, because it’s not a real competition at all, is unknown.)

        However, a) that definition is only one possible way to define ‘sport’, and b) NASCAR is pretty physically demanding, even if the equipment (a race car) is more than in many other sports. Equestrian competitions have been generally regarded as sports throughout history, and the basic concept is the same.


        For my part, I think the distinction between art and sport just highlights the assumption being made, that people ought to be liking this thing we call art, but without a similar assumption for this thing we call sport. I want to question that assumption, so I’m looking another level up–art and sport are both cultural artefacts, so why is it we care about group A not liking this-here cultural artefact, but don’t care about group B not liking that-there cultural artefact? If the response is along the lines of “because this-here artefact is art,” then we can ask for a justification for why we should care in particular about certain groups not liking art, but at least then we’re actually trying to justify it, rather than assuming it.

        If you want to get into that, as an aside, I will argue that there really is a good reason to care fiction more that competitions. Namely, that we create stories as a reflection of what we think the world is like, so what happens in fiction is more meaningful, culturally, than what happens in sports. Or at least *explains* more. (Note this applies to ‘narrative fiction’, not art in general.)

        Now, we do create *sports* also, but we do that a lot less often, a lot of them are fairly old. And you can understand the basics of a specific sports without having to see them more than a few times. I mean, I’m sure there’s some cultural significance to the new-ish popularity of roller derby, but I’m not sure I need to be a roller derby frequent viewer to understand what that is, or if even *being* such a viewer would cause me to understand it. You might need to attend one or two to understand the audience and the energy, but that’s about it. Whereas it’s fairly hard to understand what a work of fiction is about without learning the fictional narrative. (Granted, it could be summarized or put in another medium, but normally people just experience it.)

        Or to put it another way, almost all sporting events are nearly identical to other events in their genre. Sports do not demonstrate much internal variation. Yes, sports *slowly* do evolve, and different teams have different ways to play the game, but there is a very tight framework.

        It’s like, if narrative art was sports, a play would only allow 5 characters, two women three men, and ten specific scenes in the same order, and just allow some dialog changes and a different ending. And a TV show had different rules, with 10 characters, only 8 of which could appear an episode, etc, etc. And all these rules were *decades* old, with only slight tweaks over time. That might be interesting as some sort of experiment, but it’s sorta limited in the amount of information it can tell us about us.

        That said, just because something is more important about what it says about society, doesn’t mean people should like it because it’s important, or not like things because they’re less important. I like plenty of things that aren’t important.

        But I’m not sure there’s anyone here arguing that Broadway is objectively more important to save than NASCAR. Both of those are businesses *around* certain cultural artifacts. While people who like those things don’t want the business to fail, because that would cause less of them to be around, but neither ‘car racing’ or ‘plays’ can disappear. (Although if we were in some sort of apocalyptic situation where all human knowledge of one of those things disappeared, as I said above, we’d lose less with losing car racing.)

        I think people here are just mostly suspicious that more people would like plays if there was not a bias against WRT men, and to examine said bias and what we can do about that. And, like I said, it’s a perfectly valid claim that more people would probably like NASCAR, or even sports in general, is there wasn’t some cultural bias against that and what we can do about that. That’s not really a ‘counter’ claim as much as an additional claim, and it’s certainly possible to be in favor of fixing both.

        Not because we particularly want more people to watch NASCAR *or* want more people to go to plays, but because we don’t want bias randomly floating around. Gender or cultural.

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      • — I think I pretty much agree on the “emergent properties” stuff, at least on some metaphysical level. Nature surely works something like that. And while I cannot comment on academic sociology, since I really don’t know much, I still think we need to be able to name these broad social forces that we encounter, such as “cis-normativity” or “patriarchy” or “marginalization,” which clearly mark my agenda (but I would insist that a term such as “government power” is similarly abstract, but critical for libertarians to name their concerns). I see such things not as substances (if you’ll forgive my philosophical naïvety), but instead as reinforced, reoccurring patterns of social behavior.

        The danger is, of course, that people reify these concepts, and they really do. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been perusing some feminist text and the author seems to be talking about (for example) patriarchy as if it were a substance. And at first I try to read this metaphorically; I want it to make sense. But soon it becomes clear that I cannot, that they mean it. Which is awkward and weird and how can people be so daft?

        Anyway, there is better stuff. For example, the best gender theory these days (in my opinion) comes from Julia Serano, not only because she is trans and speaks to me on a personal level, but also because she is a professional biologist first. This empirical foundation gives her theories teeth. Contrast this with Judith Butler’s approach, continental flimflam, which is just garbage.

        Anyway, I cannot comment on the actual methodology of sociology, since I know virtually nothing about how it is done. That said, we need, I insist, to name and analyze this stuff on a level above the individual.

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    • What Chris said. I care for socio-cultural reasons, not business ones. I don’t really care whether Rocky the Musical is financially successful or not. I do think it is a concern that there do seem to be guys that think their masculinity will be at peril if they sit through two hours of Marry Poppins or The Bridges of Madison County.

      Suppose your daughters really wanted to see Matilda: The Musical. Do you think it would threaten your masculinity to see it with them?

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      • Dude, I took my wife to see Wicked for our anniversary last year. I’d read the book, loved it, and was eager to see the musical, and loved it.

        I took my daughter to the movieplex to see Twilight, fergodsake. An awful, horrible, excruciating experience. But a threat to my masculinity? Pshaw.

        I’ve been in the orchestra for musicals and even performed in one (I even had a tender duet, which was terrible not because it was tender but because my voice is charitably described as “not terrible”).

        I think “threat to their masculinity” is academic-leftie talk. Masculine is no longer a descriptor, it’s become a pejorative. To act masculine is to be bad, by definition. So “threat to their masculinity” is hard to say without at least the faint echo of a sneer hinting that men cling to their masculinity like fearful conservatives cling to their guns and religion.

        I’m not saying you intend to do that. I’m saying that in our current era, it’s damn near impossible to say that phrase and not have that be a part of the received message.

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      • I think “threat to their masculinity” is academic-leftie talk. Masculine is no longer a descriptor, it’s become a pejorative. To act masculine is to be bad, by definition.

        This leftie would suggest “masculine” is only considered a pejorative because it’s forced on people who might like other options. It’s the forcing that’s the problem, not the “masculine.”

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      • I think “threat to their masculinity” is academic-leftie talk.

        That’s unfair. There are a lot of people, not just academic lefties, who look down on masculinity, because it is suffused with a lot of sexist baggage. If we lived in a world where masculinity were significantly less sexist, and less exclusive, and less enforced as a gender norm rather than as a description of certain preferences, behaviors, and lifestyle choices not necessarily associated with gender (at least not in a strict way), I suspect that “academic lefties” and other folks who look down on masculinity would be significantly less critical of it.

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      • I disagree on multiple points, Chris. I think the idea/term came from academia, and to the extent non-academics have picked it up, that’s where they got it from. Second, from my own interactions with feminists,* it appears to me that they are the ones who are loading down masculinity with sexist baggage. That is, I’m not saying it never had any before they started pointing it out. They’re often pointing to real things. But they’ve often stripped the term of anything except sexist baggage. The term masculine is often used as a pejorative–once the label is applied, the behavior it’s applied to is delegitimized, defined as inherently bad. For many–certainly not all–there is no redeeming quality in masculinity (as they define the term).
        ____________
        *I’m a feminist myself, and it doesn’t threaten my masculinity to say so. In fact I’m regularly discouraged by the number of students–including female ones!–who say, “I’m not a feminist, but…” But I’m a second-wave feminist, which for some third-wave and/or post-modernist feminists makes me retrograde. I understand their arguments, and don’t entirely disagree with them, but on the whole I’m not in that camp.

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      • But they’ve often stripped the term of anything except sexist baggage. The term masculine is often used as a pejorative–once the label is applied, the behavior it’s applied to is delegitimized, defined as inherently bad. For many–certainly not all–there is no redeeming quality in masculinity (as they define the term).

        That’s fair, and like I said, the reason is probably because it is filled with sexist nonsense, and some people, particularly lay feminists, might have trouble separating the parts, because they’re not the ones doing the formal analysis of such things (whereas the academic feminists are). But I don’t think there is any doubt that the culture of masculinity is also a deeply sexist culture.

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      • Back in the early ’80’s, there was this phrase, spineless worm boys that got used to describe un-masculine men. As I recall, a more recent variation was metrosexual. I’m completely unaware if it has vogue phrasing now.

        But the meaning is clear; girly man. As an insult; a way branding sissy. Somehow, I don’t hear the suggesting that someone is manly (and a lot of men are manly, and it’s pretty damned wonderful) any where near as insulting and judgmental.

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      • I dunno if, in general, lefties look down on masculinity, but I know in the queer spaces I occupy masculinity is rather celebrated. In fact, is has serious social value, far above femininity.

        Of course, if we discuss who is expressing this masculinity, the conversation gets complex.

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      • As you note, there are good things about “manliness” or masculinity. For some academic feminists, either those things you like are condemned, or else they are excluded from the definition of masculinity. “Masculine,” in other words, is often used to denote only those things a particular group finds objectionable. To allow in those other things would be to diminish the pejorative power of the term.

        I guess we all need terms to define the things that concern us. But I think the use of masculine this way is worse than useless. Guys may not want to be dude bros, but they still want to be masculine. And they may attach a different set of concepts to that term than feminists do, and not recognize that feminists are critiquing only a limited set of behaviors–it comes across as an assault on maleness, period, rather than a critique of certain types of dominance behaviors that these men may not even like (once they recognize them).

        It’s a bad co-optation of a good term.

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      • Guys may not want to be dude bros, but they still want to be masculine.

        Huh. Just thinking out loud here: One of the big feminist complaints is that women are often defined by how they’re feminine; for instance, girls are told how pretty they are, as if that verifies their worth; an objective measure not rooted in accomplishment but in desirability.

        Sometimes, I suspect (some?) men want more of this; they long to be objectified as manly. I don’t know; but my anecdotal observations suggest it might be more common then is perhaps considered manly to reveal.

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      • — To me the sticking point comes from the degree that masculinity is equated with authenticity while femininity is equated with artifice. And just getting this distinction, along with understanding that masculinity is as performative as femininity, gets one a long way toward a critique.

        — Just curious here, which “academic” feminists are we discussing? The second wave is looooong over.

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      • “I suspect (some?) men want more of this; they long to be objectified as manly. I don’t know; but my anecdotal observations suggest it might be more common then is perhaps considered manly to reveal.”

        I think you are exactly right on this. I think it has something to do with how masculinity and femininity are constructed and demonstrated. Masculinity is always in doubt and must be constantly demonstrated. And it’s demonstrated through a negative–by not appearing feminine. When we talk about some men being uncertain in their masculinity, it’s something that many men actually experience. Men who feel that they need to demonstrate their masculinity struggle to be more non-feminine. That’s a very hard task, and any slip might destroy all one’s effort.

        Go rock-climbing, play football in the park, change your oil in the driveway, all good. But if after all that you scream (“like a girl!”) when startled, you’ve lost your credibility. And that slip won’t be forgotten by those who witness it. It will be brought up again and again. (I use this example as someone with a low startle threshold. ;-) )

        Typically people don’t have to manage and shore up their behaviors to demonstrate their femininity in the same way as people have to demonstrate their masculinity. If one demonstrates behaviors coded as “feminine” people will think of you as feminine, even if you include a fair amount of behavior not coded as “feminine”.

        Also, we tend to think of femininity as being on a continuum, while masculinity is more of an all or nothing proposition. (Well, not entirely so, but there’s a much smaller range on the masculine continuum.)

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      • — Interesting comment, and it certainly matches my experience.

        It is interesting, however, to compare your points to how people recognize the physical signifiers of sex/gender. In fact, studies have been done on this, and they have found that a few male signifiers will dominate a person’s perception, more so than female signifiers. For example, given a beard shadow on an otherwise female bodied person, observers will tend to assign them a male gender. By contrast, the presence of female coded signifiers, such as breasts, did not have the same effect.

        Which is pretty great for trans men and pretty sucky for trans women. But thems the breaks.

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      • That’s fascinating, and really makes sense to me. The absence of a beard doesn’t mean you’re a woman, but the presence of one definitely indicates maleness to most. Same thing with male-pattern baldness, broad shoulders, hairy legs, etc. I’d never thought about that before.

        I wonder, though. Is this where people differentiate between sex and gender? A balding person with a beard might be quickly typed as a “man”, but if that person puts their hands on their hips in a certain way will quickly be typed as “feminine” and “deviant” in pretty short order too.

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      • That’s more of an attribute of third-wave feminists. As I noted, I’m a second-wave feminist, and pretty unapologetic about it, both to the third wave and to anti-feminists. I’m in line with folks like Virginia Postrel and Wendy McElroy.

        Specifically, I won’t name names, but folks I went to grad school with, and a particular one of my current colleagues (who, ironically, manifests a variety of masculinist dominance behaviors herself, but hey, we’re all human and therefore contradictory).

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      • For some academic feminists, either those things you like are condemned, or else they are excluded from the definition of masculinity. “Masculine,” in other words, is often used to denote only those things a particular group finds objectionable. To allow in those other things would be to diminish the pejorative power of the term.

        For those academic feminists, there needs to be a better term — toxic masculinity might be a good one — that embody the negative characteristics; because there are so many good aspects of being masculine and manly.

        But I wonder, are feminine academics speaking in statistical terms or pop-sociology terms? There are measures of male in this such as men are the majority of perps when comes to domestic violence or rape. Are these academics using masculine descriptors scientifically, and you’re interpreting with pop meanings?

        There is a lot of harm done in this world because of unchallenged masculinity; because so much toxic masculinity is the standard for being masculine. There’s no harm in sorting that shit out. And I’m all for better pop terminology, but I like words.

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  13. Well,

    Here’s a guy that played sports in high school-basketball, tennis, track, etc., but doesn’t generally like watching sports, unless it’s live, and or a really close game. I’ve taken some acting classes as optional Gen univ. requirements to graduate, and been involved in high school theatre in a non-acting role. As a default, I don’t like musicals-theatre or movies. Really, how can I suspend reality when everyone is breaking out in song? Like that happens in real life. Up to a year ago, my preference for theatre was Shakespeare.-the traditional kind, not the kind where Othello takes place in circa WW2 and he’s an army captain.

    Then I became friends with an actress. She has her own production company and has produced/directed several “professional” plays in my area, “Stop Kiss” and “Proof” among others, which were outstanding. I use the term “professional” because she views her plays as higher quality than community theatre (she’s right in general) even though the actors are not paid a lot of money. We also went to NYC and saw two plays, “Snow Geese” and some one act play about a gay guy working for Barbara Streisand.

    She has a good eye for quality movies and theatre, and while I initially went to see her shows out of support, I really enjoyed them. So this guy who was exposed to theatre but wasn’t really big on it has realized that it CAN be very good and can be very enriching, and is worth my support. I still don’t like musicals, for the reason stated above and because—I just don’t like them. But I will be seeing more theatre in the future. But, like Road Scholar, I ain’t paying for crap-and there is a lot of it out there. I’ll defer to her judgment. Since she’s in the biz, she knows quality folks and can steer me in the right direction. ?

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    • The term for what she does would be Regional Theatre.

      I have no idea where you are but almost every decent sized metro area has a series of professional theatres called regionals. San Francisco has A.C.T, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun, Cal Shakes, The Magic, Cutting Ball, etc.

      There are also professional-amatuer theatres or pro-ams. This is also seen as a step above community theatre because it might not have budgets but the actors, designers, directors, etc at least studied theatre at undergrad.

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      • Cleveland is lucky to have a number of local professional theaters. We’re not on the scale of Chicago, but we seem to have more professional theaters than other metropolitan areas our size.

        NewD… , are professional theater and regional theater interchangeable terms? The Cleveland Playhouse advertises itself as such (“Cleveland Play House was founded in 1915 and is America’s first professional regional theatre.”), but other local professional theaters don’t seem to use the term “regional theater” in their self descriptions.

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      • Regional theatre just means a professional (and usually non-profit) theatre that is not in NYC.

        A theatre in upstate New York is regional. They put on their own productions with professional actors instead of just doing tours of Broadway shows. They can also do a lot of play development. Many of the actors might come from New York though.

        Cleveland Playhouse is a good regional theatre. Probably one of the bigger ones.

        Regional theatres come in all shapes and sizes and budgets.

        The original concept was to give theatre artists a chance of a middle class lifestyle and also be part of the local community. The bigger ones like Cleveland Playhouse are very nice and often have multiple buildings, their own costume and scene shops.
        Many theatres if not most theatres in New York, don’t have the space for set and costume shops on site.

        The big names in regional theatres are the Gutherie in Minneapolis, A.R.T. in Cambridge, A.C.T. in San Francisco, Berkeley Rep in Berkeley, the Cleveland Playhouse, among others.

        The is a whole group called the League of Regional Theatres.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/League_of_Resident_Theatres#Categories

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  14. While I don’t think Broadway musicals/plays, or non-Broadway musicals/plays, are necessarily contra-masculinity, I’m not going to insist on it. In the environment I grew up in, an overenthusiasm for the theater might have signaled a lack of masculinity, according to a sexist and homophobic conception of masculinity. I don’t have any examples to give, but that was my sense.

    In short, I do think there’s a there there. I’m not sure it’s a generalizable “problem” in the same way that, say, funding for museums and libraries is a “problem.” Broadway producers are having trouble getting more men to buy tickets? That’s on the producers, and I don’t think society or men owe Broadway a reconfiguring of tastes.

    I do agree that people spend money on what they value, but from what I hear, the ticket prices are indeed prohibitive. The fact that you know people who can afford to spend equal amounts of money on other things is a good example, but applicable probably only to your socio-economic circle. I strongly suspect that more people would attend theater if the tickets were lower priced. But if that happened, you might need to be prepared for theater to be different, not necessarily with fewer risks or innovations, but with different ones from what someone with more refined (but not therefore illegitimate) tastes would prefer. (For the record, my tastes are probably “refined,” at least as much as a non-theater-specialist Philistine like me can have “refined” tastes. If I were a theater-going person, I’d probably prefer the more “talkie” types of plays…..the bienseance norm of the 17th century had its disadvantages, but I like the way the unity of plot around a certain day allows for introspection among the characters. That’s why I like the plays of Corneille, Racine, and Moliere, although the latter sometimes departs from the norm too much for my taste.)

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  15. For whatever it’s worth, when it comes to personal pursuits (as opposed to professional ones), I tend to fall largely into “manly man” categories. I love sports (playing and watching), working out, drinking beers, and hanging with the “bros”. I’m not particularly adept with my hands but I do enjoy creating stuff and breaking stuff and all that jazz. My entertainment pursuits tend to skew “masculine” as well.

    That said, I never really considered the theater to be non-masculine. I personally struggle with musicals because I’m not good at comprehending story delivered in a non-prose format (it’s why I’m less interested in musical lyrics than the music itself and why I almost failed my poetry class in college), so unless it’s really explicit (e.g. Avenue Q), I’m likely to get lost.

    All that said, I enjoy the theater. I don’t go often, largely because of cost. But I am wholly enamored with seeing talent live and in person, regardless of what that talent is. A phenomenal singer or actor or dancer performing their craft before my eyes is a thing of beauty.

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  16. “Can anyone think of any other reasons why Broadway became a gendered form of entertainment?”

    I wonder if the apparent proliferation of gays in theater has contributed to this. I read a theory once on why gays seem to be drawn to the theater, which argued that many gays spend their entire lives acting out a character that is not truly representative of who they are, so theater is a natural fit. I’m not sure I fully buy it, but I’m not really positioned to argue otherwise. At this point, the fact that theater has become a relatively safe space for gays is probably the primary reason for it continuing to happen. Some men are going to push back against anything affiliated with homosexuality.

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    • I think that might be overthinking it.

      I think it might just be a lasting vestige of a time when everything was pretty arbitrarily divided between genders. Like sports, or reading, or certain genres of music.

      I also think there’s a leftover defensive tendency for lower and middle income men to reject anything cultured (and potentially unaffordable) as not masculine.

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      • Look at Shaidle. Or even Fox News for that matter.

        What do they call most things that cost more money than most people want to pay? (eg: non cheap haircuts, expensive restaurants, lattes over donut shop coffee, etc)

        The Sissification of the American Man.

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      • Oh lord, “sissification” — they have some great YouTube compilations of the Fox News obsession with the topic.

        So I wonder, is this is more about a particular version of masculinity, heavily policed, which will have more penetration (tee hee) in certain cultural spaces compared to others. If this is right, then perhaps it is less important whether you like sports or trucks (or whatever) than if your cultural space is where the term “sissification” gets non-ironically used.

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      • No he is right that this is the theory.

        You are also partially right. Theatre artists for most of history were considered to be sex workers or on par with sex workers for the most part. Many actresses were also sex workers or courtesans.

        Since they were marginalized, marginalized groups also found a home among them.

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  17. http://www.economist.com/news/business/21577062-musicals-business-bigger-more-global-and-more-fabulous-ever-tills-are-alive
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2012/01/business-broadway
    http://www.broadwayleague.com/index.php?url_identifier=broadway-s-economic-contribution-to-new-york-city

    Does it even matter if Broadway is profitable, if you make all your money back in “syndication”?

    As far as I understand the economics of Broadway, it’s high flight financial execs until they get bored (about six months) [Collect a Tony!], and then you switch out the actors (for cheaper, less talented folks) and sell half price tickets as you greenback.

    If Broadway loses the financial execs, that’s probably a problem. But I don’t think they’re the majority of folks going to Broadway anyway. So I’m not sure the statistics work out.

    Broadway is suffering for the same reason that anything expensive is suffering: The Demise of the American Middle Class as an economic entity

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  18. Opportunity cost. Broadway tickets are, at a minimum, $100 a pop. A Netflix subscription, with unlimited access to television and movies ranging from awful to great, costs $8 a month. And you don’t have to pay for a babysitter, parking, or the requisite dinner out beforehand. Theater is a special occasion thing because of how much it costs. Even if we’re talking about a student production at your local state university, tickets will still cost the same as a movie ticket, plus all the other expenses of a night out. Date nights are rare in our household. That’s why we don’t use them to try out new restaurants. We stick to old faithful, places we know we like and will have a good time at. So, when it comes time to pick entertainment, going to the movies and watching the big movie that’s getting lots of buzz is usually the safer bet. I mean, even if it’s mediocre or bad, we’ll at least know what everyone is talking about. Most times, it’s at least serviceable.

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  19. Upthread, says:

    As a child and young adult my gender was aggressively policed, and I felt it. My “masculinity” was constantly in question, from a thousand little things, the way I twirled my hair, the way I walked, the way I cried at the slightest provocation.

    To my mind, this is huge. My younger brothers, both gay, had not role models in popular culture suggesting that there was any way for them to have love in their lives. When the older came out, the AIDS epidemic was just beginning, and I clearly remember the stereotypes of promiscuous men having over a thousand sexual encounters (presumably all with different people) a year. The taunts and bullying of any boy perceived as ‘feminine’ were brutal. It was definitely much easier for girls who were ‘butch’ then for boys who were fem.

    How often have you seen someone ask a teen boy, “Do you have a girlfriend?” Wouldn’t the better question be, “Dating someone?”

    I have a very close friend who’s going through transition. Now I love my husband dearly, in part because he doesn’t have a lot of the male-privilege baggage so many men seem to have. Yet his first response was, “Why would he give want to be a girl? He’s giving up so much.” It’s a profound thing: “You throw like a girl.” When someone’s weak, they’re a pussy. When someone’s brave, they’ve got balls. We don’t call pushy men bitches; they’re assertive. There’s a tremendous amount of cultural baggage, reinforced in a thousand different ways, that defines Masculine that goes unfrisked.

    We’re doing a really good job of opening up the definitions of masculine to women; they can have jobs, run companies, play sports, compete in the workplace (though they risk being perceived as bitchy instead of assertive.) But ask about being the family home maker.

    But when it comes to things feminine, we still have this barrier to letting men participate. Liking things womanly (as opposed to liking women) is reason to dis a dude. Having the courage to aspire to being a woman, like Veronica or my friend, is freaky. Because, obviously, it’s best to be a man; to have balls and be assertive and rule the world.

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    • It costs a whole hell of a lot to fix someone’s sexual characteristics. Talking 7 or 8 digits.
      I’m concerned, mostly, with the fact that a lot of people “in the middle” are voluntarily maiming themselves — in order to “fit in better.” [I’m not saying, exactly, that folks shouldn’t do it. I’m just saying that it comes with some pretty real costs, and I’m pretty sad that a lot of folks aren’t merely accepted for being “inbetween”].

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      • It costs a whole hell of a lot to fix someone’s sexual characteristics. Talking 7 or 8 digits.

        That may be.

        But: for someone experiencing gender dysphoria, it only takes a few weeks of HRT to tell if they feel more comfortable with a hormone profile closer to their perceived gender. And while it may not fix all the sexual characteristic issues, it’s a good start to mental stability and the ability to function more easily in the world.

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      • — There is a profound sense of “rightness” and relief that comes from a rather short time on HRT. However, at that point you are really entering a long phase of “second puberty” — and it really is puberty, literally — that can take about year to complete. At about six months you begin forming something like a new emotional profile.

        It’s hard to explain.

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      • I agree.

        I think my point is more that it’s really quick to tell if the long-haul, the year of puberty (and the expense that entails) is worth pursuing.

        And it would be a whole lot cheaper and comforting to recognize this before a child actually goes through puberty; but I realize that’s really controversial.

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      • And I say this to suggest it’s a better alternative then the gate keepers — particularly the mental-health gate keepers that we currently set up to prevent people from seeing if a different hormone profile is healthier for them personally.

        I’ve been meaning to ask you to write a guest post about this topic; I don’t think most people have any notion how hard it is to get prescriptions to simply see if it HRT helps; and how often people are forced to self-medicate. Given that the people who will self-medicate are the most discomforted; I presume there’s a bigger cohort who would find comfort and better function in life who never even consider it an option, and spend their lives suffering from mild dysphoria.

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      • As an aside, even today there I things I will not bring up with my therapists. Which is not to disparage the guy. He is great and incredibly helpful, and I do trust him.

        But still, he is the gatekeeper, the one who can say no. I do not discuss suicide with him. Never. No way.

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  20. This is a good post, Saul. I imagine there are barriers for some men that prevent them from liking theatre and musical theatre. I think such barriers are a problem (though if we can break down those barriers, then I’m not to concerned about Broadway, per se).

    If I may pick a nit, I can’t get behind this line:

    I think true gender neutrality will come when two guys decide to go to a play instead of a action movie or sports and don’t feel threatened or bad about this choice.

    It’s… interesting… that you frame gender neutrality in terms of what men might one day do.

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      • To be fair, it seems to be a ready and obvious enough trope that it would be extremely weird if the double standard did not seem apparent to you just by looking out into the world. I don’t know about statistics, but I don’t doubt that if the stat work was done it would show greater pushback against femininity by males than masculinity by females.

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      • — If you’re really interested, Whipping Girl by Julia Serano.

        Or go out with a cis girl. Have her wear a button-up and a bow tie. You wear a floral skirt.

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      • Again, whether or not the research backs up Kim’s assertion (which is always a dubious assumption), that doesn’t change the fact that making things better for men–and only men–does not make for a solution to these problems. Seriously, how is this controversial?

        Look, now men don’t suffer from the imposition of oppressive gender roles. Mission Accomplished!

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      • — Fair enough. That said, if we could achieve only one thing in the world of gender, as a broad society, diminishing the effects of toxic masculinity would be high on my list. And this is not because I care about men more than women — as if! But instead, it is because I recognize how much of the hardships women face are at the hands of toxic, angry men.

        Note I did not say these are the only hardships women face.

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      • Oh, and before we get into a fight over it, the adjective “toxic” in the phrase “toxic masculinity” is meant to function as a limiting adjective, which is to say, it is to pick out and clarify certain forms of masculinity and not to describe masculinity in general.

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      • I think having men understand how they oppress other men’s gender definition (meaning more tolerance for men who express feminine) would help women, too.

        There’s an underlying presumption that there’s something wrong or less about being feminine built in; begin female, wanting to be female isn’t equally valid and worthwhile. Men have balls (courage and strength) and women are pussies (cowardly and weak); traits that men have and wield, and women are. Boys get lucky, girls get shamed. The doppelgangers would be girls are sugar and spice, good hearted woman, good timing man.

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    • I said this based on anecdotal evidence. I see a good deal of guys who are trying very hard to open up the world of possibilities to their daughters with encouragement for STEM, sports, hunting, and other traditionally guy things. The stuff that fathers traditionally did with their sons.

      I still think a lot of sports guys would be stymied about having a son that was more interested in arts and books than sports, hunting, etc.

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      • Honestly think this depends on other cultural variables.
        The black kid who does rap isn’t seen as any less male than the next boy.
        (granted, I think there’s a great deal of gendering going on with rap…).

        Art and Books are not traditionally feminine. They’re in the neutral camp — the nerdy girl ain’t exactly feminine, nor is the sculptress (okay, so that’s getting into: it’s big so it’s gotta be manly).

        Makeup, knitting — to some extent cooking (particularly at home, and without fire), changing baby’s diapers, those are actually gendered feminine (Fashion too, at least in WASPy places. maybe I’m mistaken, but it would appear that it’s more okay for black guys to look good and care about looking good).

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      • Sure, but that’s a function of how gender affects men’s interests more than anything else. They’re excited about getting their daughter to hunt because they like hunting. Find men who like art and books and see what they want their sons to do. Or, for that matter, find out whether the sport’s guy’s wives want their sons to be interested in.

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  21. There is much about my community that I find undesirable but when it comes to Theatre, my town does not fit into the your lament of lack of interest in Theatre by males. From middle school on to high school, there are never too few boys interested in taking on roles in the musical productions. Auditions for local theatre productions are competitive for both women and men and even some of the most “red neck” kids and adults, I have been surprised to hear about their interests in musical theatre and theatre in general.

    I personally know three males from our community who are currently working in Broadway and off-Broadway productions. When we acquired the rights to Rent a few years back, there were almost 400 auditioners and the house sold out for the entire run. I didn’t notice any large discrepancy in the male to female ratio.

    My very cis male student employee, an athlete who has never seen a musical indicated interest without hesitation in seeing Les Mis where I to be cast. Having been in casts with males from all walks of life including farmers, teachers, techies and businessmen, I find the idea that men are embarrassed or hesitant to be interested in theatre more of a thing of the past and a sad commentary on how a small mostly conservative town has a far more progressive view of theatre than New York may have interesting.

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    • This is great, Johanna, and I’m glad to hear that Saul’s observations aren’t universal. However, I’m tripped up a little by one thing you wrote:

      “…I have been surprised to hear about their interests in musical theatre and theatre in general.”

      Why have you been surprised? Is it because even in a community doing as well at this as yours, these perceptions of theatre and masculinity still persist? I don’t mean this as a gotcha or anything, it’s a sincere question. That line seems incongruous with the rest of your comment.

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    • I find the idea that men are embarrassed or hesitant to be interested in theatre more of a thing of the past and a sad commentary on how a small mostly conservative town has a far more progressive view of theatre than New York may have interesting.

      As someone else involved in a theatre in a small town, I also find a lot of support of the theatre. Sometimes small towns will surprise you, especially when they feel ‘they’, meaning the town in general, is accomplishing something.

      A victory for a theatre in the town is a victory for the town. They aren’t spending that much for coffee, but hey, we’ve now got a Starbucks. And they don’t really ever go there except a few years ago to see the fake Johnny Cash guy’s concert, but we’ve got a real theatre putting on shows and everything. Some guy at the college is filming an indie movie about zombies or something, not going to see that, but neat, huh? Etc, etc.

      And then sometimes I wander too far outside the bubble, and get a rude awakening. Or hear people talking about those *other* theatre folk. (Which, of course, are not the normal people we have in our town doing theatre.)

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      • Hmm. I think you might find higher support for a lot of things in small towns (like sports, and other community building activiteis), not the least of which is that they can’t/won’t get to bigger cities to experience “bigger things.” (vis suburbs)

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    • This reminds me that where I’m from, or at least when I’m from where I’m from, theater, musical or not, was also a class issue, not just a gender issue. So watching movie musicals (particularly Grease) was cool for women, not so cool for me. Watching theater musicals wasn’t cool for anyone at all.

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      • Sure, going to the theater or the symphony were seen as upper class, or at least upper middle class pastimes, exclusively done by the snooty, the snobbish, the sidity, the hoity toity, or the bourgeois. This was, I assume, in part because such things were expensive, in part because they tended to be enjoyed by the educated, which usually means professionals and business elite, in part because without education many of them were difficult to understand or appreciate, and so on.

        And in the South, at least back then, class identity was pretty important. “Rich” was a label rarely used positively.

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  22. Good post, Saul!

    I don’t have time to sift through the comments, but the question of why men don’t like Broadway is an interesting one. However, I think the answer to that question is quite benign, and so I think the answer to whether we should care that men don’t like Broadway pretty clearly is: no, regardless of how important one thinks the arts should be.

    The Times’ implication that the reason men don’t like Broadway plays is that they’re perceived as effeminate is frankly a big part of the problem itself. The article acknowledges that a lot of Broadway musicals are pretty explicitly marketed towards women and feature storylines that have never held much appeal for men, so it’s no shock that men don’t make up a big portion of those audiences (though, let me be clear, the guy they interviewed who vetoed his daughters’ request for Mary Poppins was indeed being a dick). It then goes on to complain about how poorly musicals directed explicitly at men are doing – about which, more in a second. It then slides in a reference to a third group of musicals, which it acknowledges men actually do go to see – a group that includes Book of Mormon, Spamalot, and Jersey Boys.

    So the real question isn’t so much why won’t men go to Broadway, it’s why won’t men go to Broadway shows in that second group. The answer is that they fail to appreciate what men value about certain storylines, and how easily those values can be better satisfied through other, less expensive, outlets. Broadway’s basically saying “men like sports and spy novels, so let’s make musicals about sports and spy novels.” They’re treating men with those values as automatons, and men are smart enough to see through it.

    It’s as if Broadway said “hey, women like shopping, so if we make a whole boatload of shows about shopping, we’ll make a killing!” Except that a musical about shopping isn’t as good as the actual experience of shopping, and for most women, it’s probably more expensive.

    Well, for men, what’s a hell of a lot more dramatic than watching a musical about a baseball team or a boxing match? An actual baseball game or a boxing match! And, in the former case, even tickets to the most expensive baseball stadiums can be obtained for about half the price of the cheapest Broadway show. Better still, you don’t have to travel to Manhattan to do it. There is simply no way, on a small stage, no matter how much you invest in stage direction, to recreate the feeling of being in a 60,000 seat stadium surrounded by screaming fans with some of the world’s rarest talents playing on a gigantic field in front of you.

    Of course, guys are often interested in the stories that surround sports almost as much as they are about what happens on the field, which is why sports movies historically did reasonably well at the box office. But that’s changing rapidly thanks to the fact that so much of what has happened in and around the sports world over the last 40 years has happened in front of cameras. A well-made documentary film better conveys the emotion of sports than a well-written movie. For instance, Mark Wahlberg’s movie “The Fighter” about Mickey Ward was one of the best sports movies in recent memory (seriously, it’s great); his subsequent documentary, “Legendary Nights” about Ward’s trilogy of fights against Arturo Gatti makes “The Fighter” look hackneyed and forced. Why? Because as well as Wahlberg acted in “The Fighter,” he’s not Mickey Ward.

    Now, a well-written play that you experience in person could very well be as or more worthwhile in portraying the drama of the backstory, but that’s not something Broadway even attempts to do. Instead, it tries to market the stagecraft as somehow being equal to the actual – cheaper – thing, and put the backstory to music, which is a blunt instrument that gets in the way of the actual story.

    Similarly, putting a spy novel to music is pretty asinine. While I’m not a big fan of those types of books, their appeal lies in suspense and action, not something that can be well-conveyed by song, much less Broadway-style showtunes.

    Finally, let’s look at the shows that have been successful at obtaining male audiences: Jersey Boys, Book of Mormon, Spamalot.

    The latter two of those are comedies associated with names that have long had a big male fanbase. The subject matter isn’t particularly relevant, and there’s no reason to think they’d be any more popular with men if they weren’t musicals – if anything, the opposite is probably true; what’s relevant in getting men to the theater is that they know Matt and Trey and the Monty Python guys are always good for a laugh, and song is a pretty good vehicle for their style of humor.

    And while Jersey Boys has been heavily marketed to men over the years, I strongly suspect that is more effect than cause, that they’re marketing it to men because they’ve noticed that men quite like it. I saw it (albeit in Philly), and thought it was no inherently better or worse than most musicals. It seemed that the people who liked it most tended to be on the older side – in fact, the Wife and I were probably two of the younger people in the audience.

    But I can see why it goes over well with older men- the backstory is easy for them to relate to, and the music can’t get in the way of the backstory because it IS the story. It’s also music they’re familiar with and grew up with, and it’s not as if it’s easy or cheap to see Frankie Valli perform himself. It takes them back to their childhood much as a good baseball movie or documentary might, except probably a bit more so since it’s live and in person.

    I don’t know whether men are less likely to attend regular plays – if so, then that would be an interesting topic for discussion. But it’s clear to me that men don’t like Broadway because Broadway doesn’t really understand the majority of men.

    About the most that Broadway can really complain might be that men don’t like showtunes in general. But then again, most showtunes in a vacuum are objectively awful – they’re trite, blunt, lacking in any kind of subtlety, and are fairly predictable. There are exceptions to this, of course, but what usually makes showtunes listenable is the context in which they are first heard, ie, the way in which they tell a story. I’d wager that if people don’t like the show as a whole, they’re generally not going to like the songs.

    So the problem isn’t that musicals are perceived as effeminate – it’s that Broadway doesn’t have a clue why men like certain stories.

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    • Thanks for the very well thought out comment.

      Damn Yankees is a pretty famous musical about sports. I might be the one person who likes movies about boxing and boxers over actual boxing. Then again, I don’t understand the appeal of MMA either.

      Jersey Boys is what is usually called a Juke Box musical. I suspect they get a different audience because there might be people who really like Frankie Vali and the Four Seasons who would not normally attend theatre.

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      • For what it’s worth, I think your proposal of “less revivals, more plays, more risks….” is probably the best way to get men to Broadway in general. The best way to get men to go see Broadway shows in similar numbers to women is to put out stuff that’s groundbreaking and causes a buzz, not to just assume that “guys like this stuff, therefore guys want to see musicals about this stuff regardless of how poorly they serve as an imitation.”

        Regarding Damn Yankees, I think that’s kind of the exception that proves the rule. First, its greatest success was when it came out in 1955, a time when there weren’t many sports on TV, which was black and white anyhow, movies could only be seen in the theater and sports movies were only sporadic, and there wasn’t much competition for the attention of those interested in the “outside the lines” aspect of sports. More importantly, while I’ve never seen the play or the movie, it’s a comedy that’s just a retelling of Faust. Baseball is just the backdrop more than the hook, and since it’s also a comedy, viewers don’t care whether it’s believable, just whether it’s funny, and musicals can do comedy quite well, as I mentioned above.

        I also mostly agree with your point about Jersey Boys. That said, it’s worth mentioning that Broadway in general is largely for people who would not normally attend theater, or at least that’s what it’s become. As the article mentions (and you rightly complain), so many of the shows nowadays are ultimately about the spectacles rather than acting and storytelling. Which I guess is fine, but the types of spectacles that guys tend to be interested in are not the types of spectacles that translate well to musicals. Broadway nowadays is largely for tourists looking to check “Saw a Broadway Show” off their bucket list, and families with young children.

        I also have an untested hypothesis with a data sample of 2 that men from the Tri-State Area have a particular loathing for going to Midtown, because it’s fishing expensive, filled with tourist trap eateries, with little to do other than see musicals (which they generally dislike as discussed above), shop at overpriced stores (which they REALLY hate), and fight off insanely large hordes of humanity.

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      • True. Most tri-staters at midtown and only go there when they need to. My dad’s office is midtown east/upper east side border and that makes it much more pleasant than Times Square.

        On the shopping thing, there are plenty of guys who do like expensive shopping and not just for electronics but for clothing.

        This could be a whole sociological post as well. Fashion and masculinity: Do clothes maketh the man?

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  23. I grew up in mostly rural places in the western US. Theater just wasn’t something I had an opportunity to encounter. Even as a gay guy, I never really had any interest in theater of any type.

    This changed when I saw my first musical in college (Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, for the record). Then I saw Les Mis and Cats in grad school. (And didn’t care for the latter, sorry Stillwater.) I actually did like a lot of musical theater and I’ve sought out more. I tend to prefer the less mainstream stuff like Assassins, Urinetown and Next to Normal.

    But until I’d been exposed, I would have assumed I’d hate musicals. And if I’d started with Cats, Starlight Express, and Phantom of the Opera, I’d probably still think musicals suck.

    I think cost, exposure, and opportunity are factors here. And I’m willing to bet that “musicals are girly” works a bit on the margins, too.

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  24. “There is a theory that producers should stop caring about attracting male audience members and make theatre largely about women.”

    It’s not just the theater, I’m afraid. Last week I read a piece in Slate by Amanda Hess regarding the same subject when it comes to movies. I’ll mess up the link, I know it, but you can find it with this headline if you’re so interested: “Women Buy Half of All Movie Tickets. That Won’t Mean More Female Characters”

    I understand the impulse, but I can’t help thinking that the clipboard-carrying census-takers in the audience are missing the point in a major way. The real joy of being in an audience isn’t in being catered to, it’s in being surprised and challenged.

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  25. I dunno about other men, but I detest most broadway shows but love opera, and Gilbert and Sullivan style operettas. (Also loved Avenue Q)

    I dunno what that says except that maybe they need to find better shows to put on there.

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  26. Also, I wonder if, even in a minor way, the success of something like Glee might convince producers to aim for a younger audience and if there might not be a new generation gap brewing there, too.

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    • So that’s an interesting question. Surely plenty of straight males enjoy glee. But how many are devoted enough fans to go see live musicals that are similar? I know there have been Glee concerts–I wonder what the audience makeup was, gender-wise.

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  27. I’m a former Division 1 college football player, married hetero father of 2 and I tend to vote Republican. Before you completely write me off, business brings me to nyc often and in 2014 I’ve seen If/Then, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. I love a musical and bring my family to shows as often as possible in whatever city we are in. If I was asked to bring a friend or client to a show I would have to immediately cross off If/Then and Hedwig because of the amount of anti-right, anti-religion and anti-mainstream sentiments involved in both shows. While it doesn’t offend me, I do have to worry about offending others and it seems like I’m the butt of many of the jokes. If I had to guess it probably is enough to keep many men from coming back.

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    • Even though you and I are probably on different sides of the aisle, I have a similar reaction to your friends/clients when I feel like I’m a butt of some of those jokes, even if it’s right and proper that the jokes are made and no harm is really done. I personally don’t blame you for your tastes any more than I feel I (or you) have to apologize for mine (or yours).

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  28. I met my ex-husband while we were both studying theater in college. We have a son, and we’d love to him to be interested in theater. Obviously this doesn’t answer your question to non-theater-loving-fathers about their comfort level, and I understand we may the minority, but I’m happy that my son will receive encouragement in his pursuit of the arts (if he does in face enjoy the arts). I don’t think enjoying theater is feminine. I learned my love of theater from my father. My mother is not artistic in any way.

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