Waving Through the Movie Screen: Why the Dear Evan Hansen Movie Flopped

By Natalie Wright

Warning: This article contains mentions of suicide.

If pressed to name the musicals that define modern Broadway, I would easily name Dear Evan Hansen as one within my top three. I don’t think this is an uncommon perception. Dear Evan Hansen demonstrates some of the biggest, or perhaps most successful, trends on Broadway right now. For one thing, it’s set largely in a high school with all of the main characters either being that age or a parent. Secondly, it has some brilliant new music (read: not a jukebox musical, a genre which is simultaneously becoming more common and more contested). The music was written by the dynamic duo of Pasek and Paul– that’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for those not familiar with their previous works: Dogfight, A Christmas Story, and James and the Giant Peach to name a few. 

It’s also just a very emotional show. It’s the kind of show that brings up phrases like gut-punching and heart-wrenching and all the other organ-based idioms. The plot of the musical is… flawed (we’ll get into that later), but overall, it works because of the strong emotional throughline, which I’d argue only works because of the music. At its best, the musical is summarized by one lyric from the song “Disappear,” “No one deserves to be forgotten […] no one deserves to disappear.” 

On Broadway, the show garnered a huge fanbase and rocketed the original Evan Hansen, Ben Platt, into stardom. (And rightfully so, that man can sing.) By all accounts, the 2021 movie version of the 2016 musical should’ve been a success, at the very least among the musical theatre fans who bolstered its initial success. 

So why did the movie version flop?

Dear Evan Hansen (2021) aims to take the ‘musical’ out of ‘movie musical.’ Director Stephen Chbosky did his absolute damnedest to try and make you think you’re watching a prestigious Oscar-nominated film, not a lowly modern musical. 

The film paints Ben Platt as The Protagonist, and I’ll be the first to admit that he makes some incredible acting choices in this role. He can ugly cry like nobody’s business, and with a plot so reliant on a strong singer and a highly emotional actor, he checks both of the boxes within the first few minutes of the show. “Waving Through A Window” is a masterclass on how to introduce a character. It highlights Platt’s impressive vocal range in a symphony of belts and riffs, while also introducing the central internal conflict of the main character. It’s also super catchy, pretty much as catchy as a ballad can be. It’s no wonder that this is the song that made it big. It’s the “Defying Gravity” or the “Seasons of Love” of this show, and I can’t even be mad about it. 

The choice to cast Ben Platt in this role gave us many good things, but it introduced one of the most glaring errors of the show: casting a 28-year-old man to play a high school senior. This is in no way meant as an insult to Ben Platt, but he is frankly not one of those people that can pull off ‘ten years younger.’ This raises an immediate question– why not cast a younger Evan Hansen? Sure, Platt originated the role, but there have been plenty of Broadway ‘Evan’s– the then 19-year-old Andrew Barth Feldman comes to mind–who can absolutely play 18.

What most people don’t know is that there wasn’t really any competition over who got to play Evan Hansen. Marc Platt– does that name sound familiar?–is a prominent film producer and was one of the producers of the 2021 film. He’s also–you guessed it!– Ben Platt’s dad. 

Now, I don’t wanna claim nepotism, but if the shoe fits…

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that Dear Evan Hansen (2021) feels less like the original musical and more like– Oh my god, look what Ben Platt can do!

One of the most grievous errors in the movie is the change in the music. Sometimes songs have to be cut in a film adaptation for time’s sake, I get it, but in a show where the music, not the plot, is the star, you have to be very careful with the songs you cut. In my opinion, they did it entirely wrong. 

“No one deserves to be forgotten.
No one deserves to fade away.
No one should come and go
And have no one know he was ever even here.
No one deserves to disappear.”

“Disappear” by Pasek and Paul,
from the 2016 musical Dear Evan Hansen, notably missing from the 2021 film

Four songs were cut completely (and a few reprises but who’s counting those). They were as follows: “Does Anybody Have a Map,” “Disappear,” “Good For You,” and “To Break in a Glove.” Now, I’ll be the first to admit, those first three are some of my favorites in the staged show, so this take is admittedly biased. However, objectively, all four of these songs feature a character who is not played by Ben Platt. By removing these songs, the writers effectively stripped every character’s journey down to bare bones, with the obvious exception of Evan Hansen.

There are only three songs that are not ‘Platt-led’ left in the show. One is “Requiem,” the powerhouse trio song which, to quote my brother, “people would’ve rioted in the streets if they removed.” The others are “So Big, So Small” and the newly written song “The Anonymous Ones,” which both spend a lot of time zooming in on Ben Platt ~acting~ even though he isn’t singing.

The effect is generally that in putting a spotlight on Ben Platt, the rest of the actors are left blindly moving around in the dark. This is very nearly a crime since two of the actors stripped of a good storyline are legends, Amy Adams and Julianne Moore.

What’s really heart-breaking about this, though, is the effect on the storytelling. Dear Evan Hansen is a sad show; there’s no escaping that. But by removing the “unnecessary” (read: not Evan Hansen-based) songs, the subtleties of the story are lost.

One of the best secondary storylines of the stage show is the depiction of Heidi Hansen, Evan’s mom. We see her at the beginning struggling to keep up, in the song “Does Anybody Have a Map?” Here, she honestly admits that she doesn’t know what she’s doing and that she’s just trying her best. It’s something the teenagers watching the show sometimes need to be reminded of– parents aren’t infallible. Heidi is working a difficult job with long hours trying to make ends meet as a single mom. She doesn’t spend a lot of time with Evan, and when later in the show she finds that Evan has been pseudo-adopted by a wealthy family, she understandably feels hurt and jealous. In the song “Good For You,” she expresses this frustration. The culmination of this storyline comes when Evan admits to her that he attempted suicide earlier that year. In response, Heidi sings the song “So Big, So Small,” both sharing the fear and uncertainty she’s felt with her son, but also making clear that she will always be there for him “no matter what.”

It’s absolutely devastating. There are few moments in the canon of musical theatre that make me tear up as consistently as this song. I’d highlight a few of the most crushing lines, but honestly, it’s the whole thing. It’s worth a listen. When I saw Dear Evan Hansen live with my family, I was watching this song while sobbing and holding hands with my mom, who was (no surprise) also sobbing.

As you may have noticed, the first two songs in Heidi Hansen’s storyline were cut from the movie. She only gets one song, the song that’s supposed to be the culmination of an entire storyline about a single mother’s struggles to connect with her son. Without “Anybody Have A Map” and “Good For You,” the song falls flat, despite Julianne Moore’s heartfelt performance.

Heidi’s storyline is taken from a complex one to simply one of a mother who wasn’t aware of her son’s mental health issues because she works too much.

My mom cried after watching the Dear Evan Hansen movie. Not because of the music or the performance, but because, and I’m quoting here, “this show makes [her] feel like a bad mom.”

That is not ok.

I could go into detail about my family’s dynamics and the mental health difficulties in my immediate family that make this show hit particularly close to home for her, but I won’t. It’s not necessary.

For a show that is supposedly meant to be about remembering victims of suicide and promoting discussions of mental health, the only thing it achieved in doing was making the audience feel bad. Even worse, it made someone who lived this fictional character’s circumstances feel guilty. That is a failure no matter how you slice it.

My mom cried after watching the Dear Evan Hansen movie. Not because of the music or the performance, but because, and I’m quoting here, “this show makes [her] feel like a bad mom.”
That is not ok.

And this isn’t even getting into the problems with the original storyline– best summed up as a teenager lying about a classmate’s suicide for his own gain only for it to come crashing down around him. What a mess. It’s like watching The Titanic sink. You know what’s going to happen, but you watch that boat slowly sink into the ocean anyway. Half of the show you’re tearing up; the other half you’re cringing more than you thought was possible.

There are many, many cringy moments in the show. “Only Us” comes to mind, as Evan gets into a relationship with Zoe Murphy, the dead kid’s sister, in a relationship that is, of course, founded on a bed of lies. The casting of Zoe didn’t help; Kaitlyn Dever is a lovely actress; she dodges the pitfall of using sadness as the character’s single emotion, admirably portraying the complexity of grief. She can also sing well enough– that is well enough next to anyone other than Ben Freaking Platt. Having only one powerhouse vocalist leaves the duet feeling lopsided. (I’d argue this would’ve also been helped by better sound mixing. As much as it pains me to say it, turn Platt’s volume down. We can do that on screen, remember?)

CR: Erika Doss/Universal Pictures

What annoys me (amid the cringy-ness and the boiling rage at making my mom sad) is that Dear Evan Hansen (2021) tries to separate itself from the genre it’s in. It is the least musical-y musical that has ever been. The songs feel like they’re just moments to show off Ben Platt, and let me tell you, it is framed awkwardly. By removing everyone else’s songs, we’re left with Platt being the only one who sings throughout the show. Most of the songs are just Evan singing at someone while they watch him and emote. (Not to mention him starting the show by literally waving through a literal window. *Insert an eye roll pointedly aimed at Stephen Chbosky*)

They aren’t aided by theatrical lighting anymore. There’s no spotlight on Evan during “Words Fail.” The director chose to make us watch the Murphy family watch Evan admit to lying to them for the entire show. (It’s awful. I hated it. I already disliked “Words Fail” because of the wandering melody, but Good Lord, I wanted to be absorbed by my sofa. The secondhand embarrassment was too much.)

Choreography is virtually nonexistent in the show– there already was very little in the stage show, but the film was particularly lacking. The one moment of choreography I found was in “Sincerely, Me,” and it felt more like it was mocking musical theatre’s dance tradition than joining it. It feels very staged and ironic, and it’s meant to, this song is a visualization of the lies Evan is telling. The peppy music and bubbly choreography are meant to feel fraudulent and, oh boy, does the song achieve its goal, or what?

All of these choices, specifically the removal of the characteristic musical traits, leave the film feeling disingenuous. It feels almost like a movie musical made by people who don’t actually like musicals all that much. It seems like a cash grab if anything. The creators saw the success of the Broadway show and Ben Platt’s admittedly beautiful performance, and they decided to milk that for every last cent. In doing so, they lost what made Dear Evan Hansen a hit in the first place.

Dear Evan Hansen did not succeed on stage in spite of it being a musical. It worked because it’s a musical. The movie forgot that.

Hairspray: You Can’t Stop the White Savior Complex

By Hayden Paige and Natalie Wright

From dissecting cow hearts to analyzing musical theatre together, Hayden and Natalie are the epitome of a dynamic duo. Whether growing up listening to Seth Rudetsky’s radio show in the car or donning a pillowcase to act in Annie in 1st grade, both women maintain a long-term love for musical theatre. Read along as these two self-identified theatre nerds debate whether the 2007 movie musical Hairspray actually advocates for racial equality or instead promotes a white savior narrative.

Natalie- So… Hairspray?

Hayden- …

N- …

H- There’s a lot to talk about here. After all, at its core, the 2007 movie musical Hairspray focuses on a young woman trying to bring about integration and promote equality, yet the approach can be problematic at times.

N- Yeah, so definitely a lot to talk about. There are a lot of great things about the show, you know, it’s not as easy as like Miss Saigon where– there it was easy to say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so racist. This is horrible.’ With Hairspray, you can’t just say this is all good or all bad. There’s a lot to be said about the great things in the show: having so many roles for Black actors and dancers, having a plus-sized woman in the main role, the fun music, Elijah Kelley…

H- Yes. Hairspray does a pretty great job of depicting Black culture in a positive light. There are no blatantly obvious negative stereotypes about Black people that we often see in Hollywood. 

N- And it doesn’t ignore race like so many Broadway productions do. 

H- Which, to be honest, is definitely the bare minimum. To essentially praise a movie for not being actively racist or ignoring race entirely just highlights the prevalence of such racist portrayals and how low our expectations have been made.

N- Watching this movie, it’s pretty obvious that the creative team–director Adam Shankman, screenwriter Leslie Dixon, and playwrights Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan–is entirely white.

H- Even though it is about the civil rights movement, it feels as if white people are the target audience. It’s a feel-good movie for white people to think ‘wow this is so heartwarming.’ Sort of like The Blind Side, you essentially have a white person helping the black people and it’s supposed to be like ‘wow, look how far we’ve come!’ However, in reality, viewers are looking at racism through a very whitewashed perspective – viewing the history of the struggle for integration with Rose Colored Glasses. 

N- One of the most obvious examples of this is that Tracy, the white girl, is the protagonist, not any of the important black characters like Motormouth Maybelle or Seaweed. And this is exemplified when we see Tracy at the front of the march for racial equality on the Corny Collins Show in the song “I Know Where I’ve Been.”

N- This is not the role of an ally, you know? The goal isn’t to be at the front– to prove that you’re a supporter. Being an ally is about lifting other people’s voices up and respecting them and their struggles. The story places Tracy at the forefront of a movement that isn’t about her. Also, just look at her costume (chosen by costume designer Rita Ryack) compared to the others’. The white shirt draws the watcher’s eye toward Tracy– she stands out like a sore thumb.

H- Tracy has her own agenda and does not keep in mind what is best for helping the Black community. When Motormouth Maybelle specifically tells Tracy, “It’s alright… I can handle this,” Tracy completely discounts Maybelle to pursue what she wants, which puts everyone’s lives in jeopardy. By hitting the officer in the head with the sign, she severely escalates the situation. It makes this march no longer a peaceful protest and essentially gives the officers the justification they need to respond with violence. 

N- And of course, this violence isn’t aimed at the white people–

H- Tracy is so ignorant about the way that Black people receive differential treatment by the police. 

N- It’s worth noting that in this version of the story, the police threaten to arrest the protesters, but we don’t actually see that happen. We don’t see the consequences of Tracy’s actions on the Black protesters. We see Tracy gets to run away while the Black protesters are stuck in this position. 

H- The film cuts away from the cops fighting with protesters only 11 seconds after the conflict begins. Way to gloss over police brutality–

N- But crucially, we don’t see any of the Black protesters get arrested or injured, as often happened in situations like this in real life. The film doesn’t want to talk about the very real aspects of the civil rights movement that aren’t pretty, aren’t funny, and most of all aren’t uplifting.

H- Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Viewers are looking at racism through a very whitewashed perspective – viewing the history of the struggle for integration with Rose Colored Glasses.

Hayden Paige

N- So why do the creators think it’s okay to put Tracy at the front of this?

H- Creators of the original musical Meehan and O’Donnell depict Tracy’s ability to understand the struggles of the Black community as being a result of her own struggles as a plus-sized woman. Yet, equating the marginalization of Black and plus-size people is so problematic.

N- If you don’t mind me flexing the racial theory I’ve read–

H- No, go ahead!

N- There’s this one line of thinking in racial theory called anti-Blackness. It’s sort of a counterintuitive title; the theory itself is not anti-Black– it’s about acknowledging anti-Blackness. The idea is that part of what we need to do to, I don’t know, ameliorate anti-Black racism is to identify anti-Blackness as distinct from other subjects. It’s the idea that anti-Blackness should not be classified under “racism” as a whole because it is so unique. And whether or not you agree with this line of theory, it’s an interesting concept to bring up– is it fair, is it respectful to equate racism with fatphobia? Yes, they’re both struggles, like I’ve been there– body image is its own thing. But does it minimize the civil rights movement and the continued work to combat anti-Black racism to compare the two?

H- It’s almost as if because Tracy is plus-sized, she is allowed to step into these Black spaces–

N- And at times appropriate the hell out of them! I mean she gets on the Corny Collins Show because she’s doing a dance she “borrowed” from Seaweed, a dance representative of the Black culture she’s only recently been introduced to. And, I mean, he gives her permission, but she doesn’t give him credit.

H- She also treats Black culture as if she was twelve-year-old me gushing over One Direction. Rather than appreciating Black culture, her excessive excitement feels as if she and her best friend Penny are fetishizing it. When Seaweed invites them over to a party in his neighborhood, Penny exclaims her excitement to be invited somewhere “by colored people,” which Tracy adds is “so hip.” Nikki Blonsky, the actor portraying Tracy, makes the decision to increase the pitch of her voice to a squealing sound and bring her hands to her face in a look of disbelief while delivering this line. Such a portrayal of Tracy’s elation gives the impression that integration is this sort of cool fad that she wants to be part of, diminishing the complexity of the systematic abuse that Black people face on a daily basis.

The film doesn’t want to talk about the very real aspects of the civil rights movement that aren’t pretty, aren’t funny, and most of all aren’t uplifting.

Natalie Wright

N- Yeah, and later when they meet Motormouth Maybelle for the first time, Tracy says the party is “Afro-tastic.” Which I guess is supposed to be a compliment? I mean Maybelle’s response is best described as amused and, perhaps, caught off guard, not offended.

H- There’s a fine line between praising Black culture and fetishizing it. Plus, it’s like you guys have been going to school with Black people for a while now- why are you just now discovering Black culture as if you were discovering a hot new trend? It just shows a big gap between the meaning of Black culture and what she perceives.

 N- There’s an argument to be made that she starts with this attitude but then goes on a character journey and learns from this initial misconception. She has a conversation with her dad where they bring up the fact that if she helps with the march it will likely really hurt her career as a dancer, but she helps anyway. So I think you can argue that she does learn to treat the movement not as a fad but as an important and moral thing to do with real consequences, even if they’re not portrayed realistically.

H- That’s definitely a valid point of view. What are your thoughts on the ending? I found it somewhat problematic. I feel like while they pretended to bring both groups together, as symbolically portrayed in Tracy’s “checkerboard” dress, I felt like the final number, “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” felt more like Black’s assimilation into white culture rather than a shared appreciation of both. 

N- I’d actually disagree with that. I think “You Can’t Stop the Beat” does a good job of bringing both styles of dance together. 

H- Whereas songs like “Run and Tell That” really made sure to incorporate traditional elements of Black cultural dance, such as head shaking and drum sounds, I felt like “You Can’t Stop the Beat” lacked even a trace of those elements. My sister actually took traditional African dance classes growing up. When I would pick her up or watch her performances, I remember her teacher, Ms. Debbie Allen, would always speak about some of her favorite aspects of African dance: the asymmetrical body placement, the angular motions, rhythmic movements, and scuffing feet. Throughout “Run and Tell That” Elijah Kelley and friends really embody those movements such as when they drag their feet as they slide down the hallway with bobbing heads and shoulders. Yet, “You Can’t Stop the Beat” does not have these elements. Also, I might add, both “Run and Tell That” along with “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful” were choreographed by Jamal Sims, who is black. However, “You Can’t Stop the Beat” was primarily choreographed by Adam Shankman who identifies as a White Jewish man.

N- That’s a fair criticism, but I’d compare the dance moves in the white girls’ version of “New Girl in Town” to best illustrate my point. You can see that the white dance moves are very structured. There’s only one part of the body moving at any one moment, and it’s like there’s a rod keeping their spines completely straight through all of the dance, almost like a ballet dancer. Now, compare this with the Black girls’ version of “New Girl in Town,” the Black dance is full body motion. They focus a lot on head movement as well, and you can see each character’s personality in their movement and facial expressions. I’d say “You Can’t Stop the Beat”s style is closer to the latter. Its full body motion and allows for more suggestive moments, like Edna’s shimmying, where the previous white dances would never go there. 

H- Ehh, that’s fair. But what about the vocals? The Black girls’ version of “New Girl in Town” incorporates traditional gospel influences and “Run and Tell That” is written in R & B style, whereas there is not even a bit of that in “You Can’t Stop the Beat.

N- I think during Maybelle’s verse there is a bit of gospel influence in the ensemble vocal pattern. But you’re right, it’s definitely not done throughout the song. One thing I really liked about that song though was that they made Little Inez the pageant queen. It was likely mostly Black people calling in to vote for her, thus showing that the integration of television affects everyone in the community, not just those on the show.

H- Well actually… just to play devil’s advocate, I kind of felt like this promotes conforming to white values. Traditionally this sort of pageant and the idea of winning a tiara as a prize has been associated with this idea of white beauty. While you could argue it breaks down this system of white beauty, to me, I feel like it imposes white ideals onto Black women. 

N- Well, what’s the alternative? Some white girl gets it? I think it’s more than just about the title; winning this means that Inez will be the new featured dancer, and honestly, that’s one of the most radical acts we see in this movie.

H- Ooo. That’s a good point. I did not think about it that way, but you are definitely right.

N- So what do you think, does the movie advocate for racial equality or does it promote a white savior narrative?

H- Yes.

N- So both? 

H- …

N- Honestly, fair.

She Is Woman, He Is Man, I Want to Vomit

by Natalie Wright

For the first 19.5 years of my life, I existed in a state blissfully unaware of the plot of the 1968’s hit film Funny Girl. In this time (excluding, I suppose, the first few years), I held on to the childlike belief that the story was one of an unlikely star making her way in a male-dominated industry. This year that innocent dream shattered. 

The music is still incredible– “Don’t Rain on my Parade” remains one of the Best Songs of All Time. Barbra Streisand’s performance as Fanny Brice is just as amazing as people say. Her Oscar was well deserved. What was not deserved, however, was the film taking up two hours and thirty minutes of my life, not exploring Fanny Brice’s glass-ceiling-breaking career, but instead detailing the ins and outs of her relationship with a lackluster man. Apparently, Ray Stark, the producer and the real life Fanny Brice’s son-in-law, thought this an appropriate representation of a woman’s life.

Never is this horrific story choice more obvious than the cringe-inducing song, “You Are Woman, I Am Man.” The film paints the song as terribly romantic but in actuality enforces a strict gender binary and blurs lines of consent. Take a watch if you can stomach it. (Frankly, I’ve seen enough.)

Let’s take a look at the first section of the song, sung by Omar Sharif’s Nicky Arnstein:

You are woman, I am man.

You are smaller, so I can be taller than.

You are softer to the touch.

It’s a feeling I like feeling very much.

You are someone

I admire.

Still our friendship leaves something to be desired.

Doesn’t take more explanation than this.

You are woman, I am man.

Let’s kiss.

[Insert retching sounds here.] In a few sentences, Nicky Arnstein defines what it means to be a woman AND what it means to be a man. There’s no room for nonbinary folk in Mr. Arnstein’s eyes, or perhaps more accurately, in lyricist Bob Merrill’s eyes.

As he sees it: woman = smaller, softer; man = taller, rougher (by process of elimination). More than this, he defines being a woman as not being a man. He does not say “You are smaller, and I am taller than.” He says “You are smaller, so I can be taller than.” Women are thus defined by their relation to men, existing only so men can exist in contrast. Thus femininity is an identity of not being: not being tall, not being rough, and more than anything not being a man. 

However, this is not the only arbitrary rule Merrill applies to men and women. And I do not use the word ‘arbitrary’ lightly. If one defines gender by height and “softness,” my sandpaper elbows and above-average build have me looking a lot like ol’ Nicky Arnstein. 

Thus femininity is an identity of not being: not being tall, not being rough, and more than anything not being a man. 

No, the most crucial definition of gender that Arnstein introduces in this song is that women inherently desire men and men inherently desire women. Every woman and every man. The sheer simplicity of “You are woman, I am man. / Let’s kiss” erases the necessity of consent. If one defines femininity as an unfiltered attraction to men, then the consent of any woman, or any person a man deems feminine, is a given.

This is absolutely insane.

The song’s oversimplification perpetuates the myth that sexual attraction, specifically heterosexual attraction, is a fundamental truth of humanity. By Arnstein’s definition, a lesbian is not a woman, and a gay man is not a man. An asexual person, like myself, is none of the above. I am not less of a woman because I don’t want to have sex. Period. End of story.

But perhaps I’m overthinking what is contextually a moment between two romantic partners, not a statement on society’s gender norms. Or perhaps I’m thinking just the right amount. After all, director William Wyler must’ve known the cultural impact he was making; he’d already seen his power over defining society’s perception of gender in the reception of Audrey Hepburn’s debut film Roman Holiday (1953). Regardless, if a man said any of this nonsense to me, he’d notice pretty quickly that “softer” hands punch just as hard.

I am not less of a woman because I don’t want to have sex. Period. End of story.

 Now, this isn’t to say that Omar Sharif isn’t terribly charming and handsome in his performance. He is. In fact, his charm works so well that Streisand’s Fanny goes from being visibly unsure to head over heels in love.

This initial discomfort is not just textual– repeatedly Arnstein puts Fanny into positions in which she is clearly physically uncomfortable.

In one moment, Arnstein has Brice, for lack of a better word, trapped between him and the fireplace. He goes in for a kiss, from which she shrinks away. Three minutes later she’s melting into him after only some wishy-washy internal monologue and some kisses on the neck.

There are no discussions of boundaries or consent, and none are apparently needed as the story establishes this moment as a peak in their relationship, the beginning of their ensuing honeymoon period.

I know I’ve joked about this song making me feel sick, but really, it just makes me sad. Isobel Lennart, a woman, wrote the screenplay; she also wrote the book for the stage musical. She saw it fit to portray romance in this way. 

This film tells all the girls, who watch this movie to belt along with “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” that a man not respecting a woman’s boundaries is a good thing. It simultaneously tells young men not to take no for an answer, that a partner’s discomfort will subside if you push hard enough. This is not only infuriating, but it is actively harmful. 

I could go on and on about the sexism ingrained into Funny Girl– the demonization of women with prominent careers and financial independence springs to mind–but what really bugs me about this song, in particular, is its simplicity. 

This film tells all the girls, who watch this movie to belt along with “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” that a man not respecting a woman’s boundaries is a good thing. It simultaneously tells young men not to take no for an answer, that a partner’s discomfort will subside if you push hard enough.

That’s the point of the song– to oversimplify, to talk about a complicated thing like love in its most basic terms. In doing so, this song defines love as something that it doesn’t have to be. This version of love is unrelenting, male-oriented, and limited only to a specific subset of people (read: straight people). Arnstein and Brice’s relationship inevitably fails, but a plot-line of a doomed romance only works if the love was once there.

 If this is love, I don’t want it.