Monday, March 24, 2014

The most offensive part of "Rent" (the musical)

As those who read my blog regularly will know, I enjoy musical theatre.  One of the most popular musicals of the past 20 years is Rent.  I just saw a production of it this past weekend at our local community theatre (I'd also seen it about 15 years ago with a Broadway touring company).  I was lucky, as an economics major that I taught in two courses, Seth Confer, was the lead role (Mark).  He was outstanding, as was the show.

The show, while great, isn't for all ages.  There are many parts of the show that are objectionable for children.  There is adult language along with many references to drugs and casual sex (some scenes are quite explicit about this as well).  That said, as a parent and an economist, that's not the part of Rent that's most inappropriate for children.  It's a song at the beginning, Rent.  This song doesn't contain the conventional items that parents that would consider inappropriate.  They should, however.

Here are some of the lyrics:  (Link to song here on Youtube)
How do you document real life
When real life's getting more like fiction each day?
Headlines, bread-lines blow my mind
And now this deadline, eviction or pay rent
And more:
We're hungry and frozen, some life that we've chosen
How we gonna pay? How we gonna pay?
How we gonna pay? Last year's rent?
And more:
Draw a line in the sand and then make a stand
Use your camera to spar, use your guitar
When they act tough, you call they're bluff
We're not gonna pay, we're not gonna pay
We're not gonna pay, last year's rent
This year's rent, next year's rent
This is what's offensive.  It's easy to teach that drug use and promiscuous sex are bad.  A song that celebrates people who want to live for free in a place without paying rent, that's a bit tougher.  This is a rock-and-roll song celebrating people who feel they've been wronged because they're being asked to ... gasp ... pay rent.

The show is entertaining, but if you take your children (or teens), be sure to have a discussion of why the song Rent is so inappropriate.