Musical fans have been storming the Internet to complain about NBC’s desperate bid for attention, staging The Sound Of Music live, tonight, in place of their Thursday lineup, because people would rather watch The CW than Sean Saves The World. Imagine that! And you’d think NBC was defacing a classic, but there’s one problem with that idea: The Sound of Music is a movie that makes you want the Nazis to win.
Let’s break down a few problems, shall we?
The Movie Is Proof You Can Polish A Turd
Most strong feelings about The Sound of Music come from the fact that the movie is, on a technical level, actually pretty accomplished. That’s what happens when you get the editor of Citizen Kane to direct your movie, and fill the cast with essentially every remotely talented actor you can find — the movie is a who’s who of Broadway at the time. It’s easy to understand how it’s the third highest-grossing movie ever made; you get professionals and write them all a massive check, they’re going to earn that check.
But it’s still a terrible movie in a lot of respects. For example, who’s the antagonist? We’re supposed to be all concerned because Nazis, partially because the Broadway show was a knock-off of a German film. But they’re barely in the movie and it’s not like the Von Trapps were going to be sent to a concentration camp. The entire plot of this movie centers on Christopher Plummer dodging a job offer he doesn’t want because he’d rather bang Julie Andrews. Not that we can blame him, but come on.
It’s Problematic To Say The Least
Being a Rodgers and Hammerstein production, the basic message of this movie is that if a woman has strong, independent feelings and wants to be her own person, that’s a problem that can be solved with liberal application of the D. Seriously. That’s how you solve a problem like Maria. Oh, and she’s also a homewrecker, but we’re not supposed to care about that since she cockblocked a Nazi.
If that’s not creepy enough, there’s a song that essentially boils down to “Don’t hang out with other guys, because I want first crack.” This gets even more troubling when the guy singing it turns out to be a grade-A douchebag. But don’t worry, it’s got plenty of crappy messages about men, too! Consider that this show finds the concept of a single father horrifying because, uh, he asked his kids to behave and be orderly since he’s often away and is in the process of hiring somebody to take care of them. What a dick he is, doing the best he can with the tools he has.
Secondly, this is the most adorable movie about the Nazis invading a country, seizing power, and rigging an election ever made. It’s kind of irritating that a movie where Hitler’s consolidation of power and one of the first indications that the world was about to go into the toilet for seven years is mostly treated as an annoying background event. If you break this movie down, the worst thing that would actually happen to the Von Trapps is that Georg would probably have died in a U-boat, the crushing black depths of the North Atlantic granting him peace from the sugary warbling that surrounded him. Imagine 12 Years A Slave but entirely about the white people looking out a window and arguing whether that black guy should be whipped so hard; that’s The Sound of Music, in a political nutshell.
Finally, The Songs Are Terrible And Thus Hard To Screw Up
Rodgers and Hammerstein made a fortune on Broadway and in movies because they were the pop hit factories of their time. Rodgers, after discovering that making songs that were actually good rarely made you money, sought out Hammerstein and thus, with a few exceptions, a monster was born, and this is the most foul of its spawn.
To be fair, Broadway musicals are often a very conservative form that doesn’t stray far from what works, because staging shows is expensive and it’s not the art crowd buying overpriced tickets. Throw the fact that you’ll have kids singing into the mix, and their limited range and life experience generally means you’re going to be writing some pretty saccharine garbage if you want to make money.
As a result, you’ve got what amounts to a musical that’s mostly cutesy, simple children’s songs. Ask any parent, five minutes of children’s songs will drive a sane person into a homicidal rage. An entire musical of them is worse than attending a Necronomicon reading.
The flip-side is that, frankly, these songs are pretty hard to botch. So, if nothing else, Carrie Underwood won’t embarrass herself when this thing goes live. And, as excruciating and terrible as it is, at least it’ll be off the air by the end of Thursday. We can think of a lot of shows that we wish that were true of.