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Misaimed Fandom / Theatre

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Examples of Misaimed Fandom for characters in Theatre.

  • Bertolt Brecht: Inventor of Epic Theater, communist and Marxist, critic of Capitalism and yet far more popular in the capitalist West than the Communist East, who largely rejected his modernist and revolutionary aesthetic in favor of socialist realism. Brecht aimed his plays for a largely capitalist audience so this didn't bother him much because in his view, revolutionary agitation and modernist alienation are more useful to a capitalist audience than one in a socialist audience, at least in theory. What would bother him are the following ironies:
    • When The Threepenny Opera first premiered in Berlin in 1928, it was a satirical indictment of the bourgeoisie. It was a major popular success among all audiences. The songs from this play and The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny were intended to have Stylistic Suck and parody opera ended up becoming highly popular songs in their own right. This is especially the case with "Alabama Song" that was intentionally written by Brecht in bad English but ended up being Covered Up by rock musicians like The Doors and David Bowie.
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    • Brecht of course would see most productions of the Threepenny Opera as Comically Missing the Point since most of them are Bowdlerization, especially "The Ballad of Mack the Knife" which is famous for being a classic in the jazz repertoire as a swinging song about a womanizing dandy called "Mack the Knife" (and crooned by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra). The original song is a Murder Ballad about a Serial Killer, Serial Rapist who commits acts of arson that leads to the death of many orphans and the song and the opera in general is a portrayal of prostitution that criticizes the oppression of women who are forced into abusive relationships with pimps who would kill them without a second thought. The Bowdlerization more or less makes Mack the Knife a Loveable Rogue in the mould of the original The Beggar's Opera and perpetuate the same romanticism that Brecht is criticizing.
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    • Another example is the song "What Keeps A Man Alive?", which is a lyrical Freudian Excuse about how poverty leads to savagery in order to survive. Brecht condemned this attitude, as in practice, it meant that the poor would prey on one another rather than organizing and bettering their condition. This was missed at people that took the message at face value and ignored how in the play, they end up remaining under the thumb of Macheath and Peachum, and miss the final lines (often left out of productions) that people only see those in the light but ignore the ones who are out of sight.
    • Mother Courage from the play Mother Courage and Her Children. Admired by the audience for her courage, perseverance, and resourcefulness — but Brecht wanted the audience to see her as a hard, unappealing person who puts financial security ahead of the safety of her children. This is not to say that Brecht wanted the audience see her as a villain or that he didn't want them to feel any pity or sympathy for her—rather, he wanted the audience to become outraged about how capitalism and war (which he saw as just an extension of capitalism) forced people to choose between personal survival and being a decent human being.
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    • On the reverse side, some Brecht productions go the opposite direction and make his works into simple propaganda advocating revolution, they submit his works to a Setting Update and generally simplify his message which was never his intention. Brecht believed that Viewers Are Geniuses that his works must take place in the settings he specifically chose because the drama derived from the special context he created in his work and that the primary job of the playwright is to make audiences think rather than simply identify and leave with a single message.
  • The Threepenny Opera is a remake of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, which was as much a victim of Misaimed Fandom as Brecht's version. It was originally meant as a satire of both Italian opera and English society, but was seen by most as just a rollicking good time. Even sixty years later, Boswell and Johnson were debating about what exactly it was supposed to have satirized.
  • The titular character of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street gets idolized by people who thought he was cool for being vengeful and for slitting people's throats. Problem is, Stephen Sondheim wrote Todd to be a total psychopath and a Villain Protagonist. This is lampshaded in the line, "and I will get him back even as he gloats/in the mean time, I'll practice on less honourable throats." Todd is just as bigoted and flawed as the "filth of the earth" that he claims to despise so much. Also, the message of the play is revenge is just as horrible as the deed done to trigger it, and it accomplishes nothing but bringing more pain. This is made clear when Sweeney Todd unknowingly kills his own wife at the end of the story. But nope, people marvel at how "awesome" Sweeney Todd is, wish they were him or that they were as cool as him, and quote him multiple times. Not made better by the disturbing amount of teenagers who have seen only the film version, and do the same things fans of the musical do, except amped up to 11 because of Johnny Depp.
  • Troy, the protagonist of Fences is often held up as a "proper" man and father who raises his child with tough love and teaches him to respect authority, particularly with the famous "Why don't you like me" scene. What those fans tend to overlook is that Troy's behavior is mostly a result of his insecurities and overwhelming pride. Even though he tells his son that he doesn't have to like him, the truth is that he really does but cannot bring himself to be that vulnerable towards his son. And that behavior combined with him sabotaging his son's chances at playing football in college out of insecurity at the fact that HE wasn't able to play baseball professionally due to racism ultimately drives a wedge between him and his son that lasts until his death. This all combined with how he cheats on his wife paints the picture of a man who is not meant to be admired but to be pitied.
  • Of course, William Shakespeare's works are subject to this. Made difficult since we don't have anything remotely like Word of God on what his intentions were for his plays and characters, leaving it subject to Alternate Character Interpretation that is unlikely to ever die:
    • "Hath not a Jew eyes..." in particular - most scholars agree that the purpose of this soliloquy is to demonstrate that Shylock does not actually understand what a human being is, since the only trait he describes unique to humans is vengeance, a vice associated with Jews. Now it's usually treated as a showcase of his humanity and how he's been wronged by Christianity.note 
      • Proto-Feminist scholars once saw Portia as a positive female character since she demonstrates active agency, has more guile than the heroes and eloquently voices her views in law. Modern audiences see her as a Designated Hero who is more or less party to state persecution of Jews and whose formerly beloved 'the quality of mercy' speech is one where she more or less states that Christians are more merciful than Jews, which a modern audience no longer sees as anything other than religious propaganda, and which considering the overall conceit of the play is nothing more than Hypocrisy and Moral Myopia.
      • Stephen Greenblatt, the Shakespeare scholar and editor of the Norton Anthology of Literature noted that compared to Christopher Marlowe and his The Jew of Malta, Shakespeare is nicer since he allows Shylock to live albeit converted to Christianity, recepient of a Humiliation Conga and moreover condemned to being a second-class citizen. However, Marlowe's play has Barabas as an unrepentant Villain Protagonist who never converts, and remains Defiant to the End and moreover ascribes no qualities of mercy to Christianity or any other religion (indeed its message is explicitly Religion Is Wrong). This means that Shakespeare's more liberal for his time and place take on an anti-semitic stock character comes off as far more offensive nowadays, since it is easier for anti-anti-Semites to subject Marlowe's defiant At Least I Admit It characterisation of Barabas to Draco in Leather Pants and Rooting for the Empire than Shylock.
    • Romeo and Juliet gets two helpings of this, usually because people who talk about it seem to have not read it. One the one hand, you get the Misaimed Fandom who seems not to realize that Romeo and Juliet die, and it's a tragedy (hence, it is called The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, seriously). On the other hand, you have people who assume it's not actually a love story and that Romeo and Juliet are just stupid over-dramatic teenagers who should have listened to their parents, even though those parents are too busy being locked in a completely pointless feud to really do any sort of parenting (which is a big cause of why Romeo and Juliet's relationship is doomed) and even though their lines about being in love are some of the best poetry Shakespeare's written. Romeo and Juliet mishandled their love for each other, but they were in love.
    • Iago in Othello is cruel, manipulative, abusive towards his wife, a murderer, and is quite possibly a compulsive liar. Despite this, he's an extremely early example of a Draco in Leather Pants character. Edmund from King Lear gets this, too.
    • The "All the world's a stage" monologue from As You Like It has its own entire Misaimed Fandom. Jaques, the character that delivers it, is very specifically not a character that is supposed to be taken seriously.
    • Same thing for "To thine own self be true" from Hamlet. Though it IS good advice, only those who have bothered reading the play will remember that when uttered by the scheming Polonius, it's a source of verbal irony. Not only that, during the Victorian times, the eponymous character was thought of as a noble, Too Good for This Sinful Earth victim.
      • On the same note, "Brevity is the soul of wit". Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest, most verbose play, with the most psychological intricacy and some of the most well known quotations that have ever passed into common usage. So formally speaking, "brevity" is NOT the soul of wit. It is also another line uttered by Polonius, who is the local Old Windbag.
    • "Doubt that the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love" from the same play is actually an example of Stylistic Suck, and yet it's become one of Shakespeare's most famous lines.
    • Also, Macbeth's "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech is a favorite of many Straw Nihilists who don't realize Shakespeare used it to show how twisted and desperate the protagonist has become. Since it comes immediately after he learns of the death of his wife, it presumably shows the eponymous character going into a Villainous BSoD, rather than being a bold statement of considered philosophy.
    • From Twelfth Night: "Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them." Some people take this quote seriously, rather than a load of crap fed to a stuck-up jerk to get him to make a fool of himself.
  • The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera has a dreadfully Misaimed Fandom. In the book, he was so deformed as to be compared to a walking corpse. In the musical, he's as sensual as can be. But somewhere along the line (around the time Gerard Butler played him, actually) some people forgot that the Phantom's primary physical characteristic is that he's ugly as Hell. Nothing causes more of a collective facepalm in the phan community than someone saying something like "I didn't like the silent movie; the Phantom was so hideous!"
    • It gets even worse when fans ship the Phantom with Christine and go on about how Raoul (who was an aspiring Arctic explorer in the book) is boring and less attractive and that Christine is an evil tease for choosing him by the end. Because heaven forbid a woman marry her sweet childhood friend instead of the raving murderous madman who stalked her, scared her half to death, and threatened to kill her boyfriend if she didn't marry him. The sequel to Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Love Never Dies, handled this matter by turning poor Raoul into a gambling addict and alcoholic and again raising the possibility of the Phantom and Christine getting together, ultimately making the misaimed fandom pairing the legit one. The existence of the show serves as a massive Contested Sequel in the phan community largely because of this - those who view it as a legitimate sequel come into conflict with those who think it shouldn't be taken seriously, making this a case where the misaimed phantom have almost withdrawn entirely from the community at large to form their own groups.
    • Phantom contains an in-universe Misaimed Fandom as well, with Erik writing, and forcing the opera company to perform, the opera Don Juan Triumphant, an apparent rewrite of Mozart's Don Giovanni where the title character avoids his gruesome fate and gets the girl. Erik does not seem to understand that Juan/Giovanni was in fact a Con Man, rapist, and murderer whose death via being Dragged Off to Hell by the spirit of the father of one of his victims (whom Juan himself killed) is clearly portrayed as richly deserved.
  • The popular image of "Method Acting" comes from acting theorist Lee Strasberg and his method that was largely popular with American film actors in the 1950s. Strasberg's method was largely based on the method developed by Russian Constantin Stanislavski. Stanislavski is considered the father of modern acting, and his ideas are the basic method taught to virtually all acting students in the West. However, the text Lee Strasberg based his method on were poor translations of Stanislavski's original books. Furthermore, Stanislavski made major revisions to his method later in life. When he contacted Strasberg years later and attempted to correct these errors, Strasberg simply said he didn't care. So, the modern image of the pretentious "Method Actor" comes from an outdated, misunderstood technique.
    • Consequently, while Stanislavkis' method (complete with revisions) is the foundation for virtually every acting student in the US, many professional actors think of Strasberg's "Method Acting" as something of a joke.
  • One extremely famous piece of Misaimed Fandom sprung up around the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion. Shaw had originally written the play illustrating that Henry Higgins and Eliza were no good for one another and could never get married (and he included a feminist slant by having Eliza end up with Freddy Eynsford-Hill, whom she had some control over, as opposed to bowing to Henry Higgins' every will and whim). Practically since its debut people have attempted to change the story to make it more of a romance between Henry Higgins and Eliza, something Shaw did not take kindly to.
  • In the mid-1800s, the people of Northern Italy (who at the time were under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) came to consider Giuseppe Verdi's opera Nabucco (specifically the chorus piece Va Pensiero) as a manifesto in favour of Italian unification. It was nothing of the sort.
    • Va pensiero is still considered an unofficial national anthem of Italy. One has to recall that in the 1800s messages had to be hidden, often quite deeply, to go under the political censors' radar, and that Verdi owed part of his early popularity to the fact that his name could be used as an acronym, allowing people to cheer "Viva Verdi!" = "Viva Vittorio Emanuele, re d ' Italia!" (Long live Victor Emanuel, king of Italy).
  • Das Wild in Fluren und Triften from Der Freischütz has often been said to glorify war, mostly by various stripes of Nazi. A particularly notable example is from Hellsing. The song is really about Cuno, the head forester, trying to cheer up Max, one of his subordinates, who, because of his failure in a recent shooting-match, may stand to lose both his position and the woman he loves, by speaking of the trial-shot the next day. The title even means "The game in meadows and pastures".
  • In the original production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, Marlon Brando's depiction of Stanley Kowalski ended up making Kowalski more sympathetic, even though he was a wife-beating rapist. Williams ended up revising the play to give Kowalski a bigger role and to make him a more complex character.
  • Nazi and Neo-Nazi Richard Wagner fans. Wagner was indeed anti-Semitic, but believed that Jews should assimilate culturally and convert to Christianity, not that they should be wiped off the face of the Earth. He had a number of Jewish friends, including conductors of his operas. But the association of Wagner with Nazism has become so ubiquitous that some people who don't check their facts think Wagner actually was a Nazi, despite the fact that he died before Hitler was even born. Some Jewish couples take this to the point of not playing Wagner's most famous composition at their wedding. It doesn't help that Hitler himself saw Wagner's operas as ringing endorsements of Nazism (though many of the other leading Nazis weren't fans of his operas), and that many of Wagner's descendants from that time were close friends of Hitler and approved of his interpretation.
  • The Tea Party likes to use "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" from Cabaret as a rally song for "taking back the country." It is unknown how many of them know that the song was used to symbolically represent the rise of Nazi Germany. (This is partly Adaptation Displacement: in the stage version, the song only became associated with Nazis in a reprise.)
    • "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" already suffers from Misaimed Fandom by actual Neo-Nazis.
  • In Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's version of Faust, there's a scene in the restaurant "Auerbach's Cellar" where Faust and Mephistopheles meet a group of drunken students. One of them states "I praise my Leipzig! It's a little Paris and educates its people." Later used verbatim by many fans of the city in Saxony; however, they all forget that the guy saying this is drunken, as said, and also named "Bürger Frosch" (citizen frog), and rather supposed to be a Jerkass like Archie Bunker. Oh wait, Bunker actually had the same problem.
    • Again Goethe's Faust: "Grau, theurer Freund, ist alle Theorie / Und grün des Lebens goldner Baum." ("Dear friend, all theory is gray / And green the golden tree of life.") is a popular quote. It also sounds nice. Only problem: The guy saying it is Mephistopheles.
      • In both cases the quote is probably regarded as the important thing and as essentially true (the devil does not have to lie all the time). And while Leipzig (home of one of Germany's oldest universities that was not just Goethe's alma mater) may use the first quote to advertise itself, there was never a fandom for the character of Bürger Frosch. Mephisto does have a bit of a fandom, however, and the actual Auerbachs Keller has erected statues of him and Faust next to its entrance.
  • Some fans of Wicked actually believe that Wicked is the actual story of what happened and hate on The Wizard of Oz, and making the Wicked Witch out as a total victim, and Glinda as a manipulative Chess Master. This was not Gregory Maguire's intention in the book the play is based on. He stated he wanted to heighten the mystery of the witch, not explain her. Elphaba is actually an Anti-Hero and Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. What makes it even worse is that Wicked/Wizard Of Oz is not a chicken/egg situation. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its famous movie adaptation came first.
    • This depends a lot on whether you consider the book Wicked to be a different story from the musical Wicked - which a lot of people who are only fans of one of those do. In the musical, Elphaba is a fairly straightforward hero, albeit a Knight in Sour Armor and ultimately a Tragic Hero. Fans who consider Glinda to be manipulative and evil are definitely misguided, though; Glinda was good and a true friend to Elphaba, even though she was the Wizard's Puppet King.
    • Much of Elphaba's negative traits are removed in the musical. In the book, Elphaba began as a Knight in Sour Armor, but after leaving Shiz, she became a Well-Intentioned Extremist and was ultimately Driven to Villainy, and did in fact become evil. In the musical, she just gets really, really, angry but snaps out of it and reconciles with Glinda.
  • Henrik Ibsen's intention in A Doll's House was to show that Humans Are Flawed no matter what their gender/social class/etc. are. Allegedly, when a group of Norwegian feminists praised the play in words that sounded a lot like what radfems say in modern times, Ibsen's reaction was summed up in a Flat "What".
    • Peer Gynt has got a lot of this. This spineless bastard of a cheating, slave-trading, troll-mating scrupulous liar has become somewhat of a Norwegian amalgam. His redemption at the end of the play doesn`t help much. The fact that Ibsen wished to satirize Norwegian attitudes seems to have been completely lost on later generations, and a "Peer Gynt reward" given yearly to somebody who has made Norway more known outside the country is a case in point. Not that people who actually read the play thoroughly don`t snark about this fact a lot.
  • The most famous quote of No Exit is "Hell is other people!", showing the famous plot twist that the characters' Ironic Hell is just being stuck in a room with each other forever. It's often brought up was a justification for antisocial behavior, but the point of the story was that all the main characters are enormous jerks who are incapable of forming positive relationships. It wasn't that all social activity was bad, just social activity with toxic people.
  • There are a few Be More Chill fans who think having a SQUIP would be helpful and cool, especially for those who struggle in social situations, even though the musical makes it pretty clear that the side effects seriously outweigh the short-term benefits.
  • Much like the other adaptations, there are fans of Beetlejuice that ship Beetlejuice with Lydia. This sect of the fandom is particularly odd because there's an entire song in the musical when Lydia agrees to marry him only as part of a plan to kill him dedicated to mocking the senseless idea of her being attracted to him, as well as highlighting the pedophilic overtones of the ship.
  • People occasionally misintrepret Chicago as feminist, most notably taking the "they had it comin'" refrain of "Cell Block Tango" at face value to frame it as a song about fighting abuse. In reality, the show is a satire on the American prison system and media circus, and while there's a good share of Asshole Victims, most of the murder is a case of Disproportionate Retribution- one of the murderesses kills her husband for popping his gum.
  • "The Book of Mormon" - A lot of atheists love the musical despite the show having a message of being accepting of religious faith and showing faith in God in a very positive light.


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