Cheese and Identity

October 30, 2015

A discussion came up in class the other day (actually, maybe it was on facebook) about cheesey lyrics when writing musical theatre, and whether lyrics are bad. Without giving too much away about a piece of work that isn't mine, it was about a song that concerns the developing relationship between two young gay men. 


I began to discuss identity development. I think one function of narratives in our culture related to the development of identity. As a teenager it wasn't until my early teens that I was offered a narrative about with a homosexual character, it also wasn't until my late teens that I found a narrative about a homosexual character that wasn't bound in a relationship where one partner plays a masculine role and the other plays a feminine role. Both of these narratives offered me a language and could legitimise parts of my identity that I was struggling with at the time. To clarify the point, if you look at msot narratives in mainstream media until very recently in order for a character to be gay that would have to conform to a stable relationship and their storyline would have to be about the experience of being gay. Recently we have begun to develop narratives where the audience can accept a character as gay because they identify as such, not because they have to be in a relationship to "prove" that they're gay. We've also begun developing narratives where the plotline of the character allows them to speak for humanity and the experience of a human instead of the experience of being gay. I genuinely think that in the last 10 years, queer narratives have developed at an alarmingly fast rate. 

With this in mind I return to musical theatre. Part of the attraction of musical theatre for young audience is that they can also sing the songs, they can submerge themselves in another identity by singing the song and therefore learn more about their own identity. Thie narrative they submerge themselves in can also legitimise partds of their identity they have yet been unable to discuss as they don't have the language or the social framework. In this sense if a lyric is "cheesy" then it is likely also very accessible and the more accessible something is, the easier it is for someone to use that narrative to inform their own identity. If the intention of the work is to tell the story well, and the lyric does that then the cheesiness may be another way the work ia achieving the artist's intentions. 

For me, healthy AND accessible examples of marginalised identities in youth musical theatre (or any other narrative) is something I respect and want to interact with. 


There is a slightly broader topic here beyond cheesiness and acessibility about the use of marginalised identities in media and narrative cultures which I will briefly summarise as this:

If a man played Hamlet then Hamlet would speak about humanity. If a woman played Hamlet as a woman then Hamlet would speak about femininity. We should not deny certain identities the right to speak about humanity as well as what makes them different in humanity. 


Someone recently said something to me which is helping me structure thought on this: Don't complain about feminism being called feminism when the entire history of humanity is called Humankind. 


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