Once upon a time, musicals only provided entertainment and an escape from reality. But today, they can also enlighten us!
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: At first glance, the film opening of "In The Heights" is all about the excitement of song and dance in the grand tradition of musicals, something that Red absolutely loves, whether live theater or a movie; but Black sees musicals not only as business ventures but as a reflection of the times.
The movie premiere of the multiple Tony-award-winning Broadway musical "In The Heights" was delayed by COVID-19 (it seems "everything" was delayed) and now is premiering in movie theatres and also streaming on HBO-Max. Red can't wait to see it on the big screen as she's desperate to go back to the movies, and since she loves musicals, it's a definite win-win. (And that doesn't include the popcorn!)
Black, on the other hand, has a different interest in the movie,
I know you do not want to hear about the business logic behind jointly releasing and streaming movies, so I will focus on how "In The Heights" has broken dramatically with how Latinx are usually portrayed. Instead of stereotyping the characters in supporting or minor roles, it has created an authentic story and starring roles. Not only has that expanded the target audience, but it shows how we all, regardless of ethnicity or background, have dreams, aspirations, and struggles.
But while the musical, which Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote before he went on to the phenomenal success of "Hamilton, the Musical," is considered ground-breaking in its positive focus on Latinx, it has still managed to draw criticism for a lack of dark-skinned Afro-Latino actors in both the general cast and especially the more prominent roles.
And while Miranda has responded that he "can hear the hurt and frustration" and is "truly sorry," it wasn't the first time a Latinx-themed musical was criticized for colorism, albeit it had been decades, as Red (the former theater major) points out,
"West Side Story" (both the play and the movie) was criticized for having a mostly white cast wearing dark make-up and speaking with accents. At the time, authenticity obviously wasn't important, as in the movie even Natalie Wood's singing was not hers, they dubbed in an opera singer. However, it was ground-breaking in that it broke the mold of "happy" musicals where everyone lived happily-ever-after by having lead characters "killed off" in front of the audience's eyes.
Just talking about "West Side Story" brings back memories, but since Steven Spielberg will be releasing a remake later this year, we'll have plenty of time to reminisce.
It’s hard to believe the topic of the Supreme Court and abortion could become any more controversial or dramatic. But there was no way to know a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade would be leaked to the press. A situation so shocking, it’s being compared to the "Pentagon Papers" leak.
Yes, leaks happen all the time in politics – at the campaign level, sometimes from Congress, and even on occasion from the executive branch. But from the Supreme Court of the United States??? Yet as Black said to Red just after it happened,
Nowadays, it is just too easy to have a “leak” as almost everything is just a “click away” from being shared or printed. No clandestine nights at the copy machine are required.
There’s an expression … throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Well, Supreme Court decisions on “babies” (well, technically fetuses) may also impact its integrity.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: There’s no question the recent Supreme Court cases involving abortion are controversial and may have a major impact on Roe v. Wade; something that both Red (as a mom to two daughters) and Black (as a highly independent woman who made the conscious decision not to have children) have strong feelings about, albeit focused on two very different aspects.
If you’re like Red, you may be wondering, besides whether you’re for or against abortion, what else is there to consider? Which is why Red initially didn’t want abortion to be the basis of a post.(We try to remain neutral and generate food-for-thought, and given the personal, religious, scientific, legislative, judicial, and practical aspects of abortion, wouldn’t even know where to start.) And is why she thought Black would agree with her.
Which made Black’s response such a shock, but for reasons that even Red never saw coming. And although by the end, it made perfect sense, there’s no better way to summarize what Black had to say than to “borrow” some of her beloved bullet points.
- IS THIS ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION? OR POLITICS? – This should be a constitutional issue, not a political one. The constitutionality of Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court in 1973 and reaffirmed in 1992. What new “facts” have been identified?
- IS EVERYTHING UP FOR GRABS? – Would the Supreme Court overruling itself (granted, decades later) put everything established at the federal level at risk of being re-evaluated (the right to bear arms, women’s right to vote, Civil Rights legislation), or only those items ruled upon by the Supreme Court?
- REMEMBER CHECKS & BALANCES? – The Supreme Court, besides being the highest court in the land, is part of the judicial branch of government and is tasked with interpreting the laws made by the legislative branch and enforced by the executive branch. The logic behind having three branches is to have checks and balances so that no one branch becomes too powerful.
And Red’s response? Besides now realizing the potential Pandora’s Box that overturning Roe v. Wade could open in so many ways,
This is why you should’ve been a lawyer. And probably would’ve been, except Mom kept saying that you should be …
If you’ve never thought about May Day, don’t worry, most of us haven’t.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Red appreciates that some holidays have historical significance, some have ancient traditions, and some are opportunities for one of Black’s unexpected, but often amusing and clever, comments, but May Day checks all those boxes.
As soon as Black mentioned pole dancing, Red, a lover of movies, immediately thought of “Hustlers.” No, not “The Hustler,” the 1961 classic with Paul Newman as a small-time pool hustler. Instead, “Hustlers,” the 2019 release with Jennifer Lopez about pole dancing hustlers that showed it took more than a desire to make money, but skill and athleticism.
But Red had no idea the significance of May Day Maypole dancing. When she lived in England, May Day was a bank holiday, and she knew it had a long history that went back to the Celts, but that’s all she knew. Until recently, when she learned it’s an ancient and festive holiday filled with history and folklore, started by the Celts who thought May 1st was the most important day of the year as it separated the year into light and dark.
Which explains the beginning of a celebration of spring with singing, dancing, and bonfires that still continues. However, it doesn’t explain how in the late 19th century, May Day became known as International Workers’ Day to celebrate workers and promote labor rights.
And what about the Maypoles? Well, as Red discovered,
It was during the Middle Ages when the now famous Maypoles were believed to become popular, not only to welcome in spring but as a symbol of fertility, as the pole symbolized male fertility, with baskets and wreaths symbolizing female fertility.
When Red felt the need to share all this history with Black, her sister couldn’t help but respond with,
Although this has nothing to do with May Day, all I can say is “Mayday. Mayday.” Which, if you do not speak French, is based on m’aider and means “Help me.”
To quote the lyrics from "West Side Story," “Could be … who knows …”
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Red, the theater major and lover of Broadway musicals, has loved "West Side Story" for as long as she can remember, so imagine her surprise when Black, usually only interested in the business aspects of the entertainment world, shared a “new” fact (at least, new to Red) about one of the most popular musicals ever produced.
For Red, "West Side Story" comes close to being a perfect musical (as a theater major, she doesn’t think there’s such a thing as a “perfect” musical), combining a brilliant musical score and incredibly poignant and powerful lyrics with groundbreaking choreography. And although she didn’t see it on Broadway, the original movie and the recent remake had iconic cinematography and extraordinary performances. Especially by Rita Moreno, who appeared in both movies and was an executive producer on the remake.
But like most people, Red never thought much about the backstory, as she always accepted that it was a modern day “Romeo and Juliet” about forbidden love based on people’s backgrounds, made more extreme by constant feuding between the sides, resulting in violence and death. With the final heartbreaking scene being a painful realization that it took death to find a way to reconcile their differences.
Black believes we can look at today’s newspapers (or even history books) and easily recast the story, which is exactly what happened,
Originally, the characters were envisioned as a Jewish girl and an Italian Catholic boy, with the story taking place in the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the Easter-Passover season. But when the Chicano American street riots in Los Angeles became headline news, it changed everything, and turned the storyline into a classic that has stood the test of time.
Although this was the first Red had heard of the original storyline, it made her smile as it brought back a recent memory,
When I first saw that clever and captivating “West Side Story Chanukah” video, I was amused. But now it makes me wonder … were the creators intentionally coming full circle?