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Some Anvils Need To Be Dropped / Theatre

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  • A Doll's House: the anvil, over and over, is that the modern (1870s) state of affairs between men and women robs women of all personhood.
    Torvald. There's no one who gives up honor for love.
    Nora. Millions of women have done just that.
  • Brand, and also Peer Gynt. Henrik Ibsen wrote the two plays and published them successively in 1866 and 1867, to underline the point of being either too uncompromising, or being the total opposite (no backbone at all). In Brand, Ibsen is far from subtle, and hammers his message down: The Power of Love is essential when helping out your fellow men in a time of need. Peer Gynt discusses the meaning of "self", also connected to the power of love and the relation to your fellow men. The fourth act in both plays sets up the message of isolation and communication, with the danger of isolated madness as a possible result (in Peer Gynt).
  • Both the play and musical versions of Spring Awakening drop the anvil of "if you don't teach kids about sex, they'll do it anyway" several times. They also address the issue of suicide and how much it hurts the people you leave behind, and all the things you'll never get to do - in fact, the musical features a Grief Song called "Left Behind" about exactly this.
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    • This is clearly working, as there are many stories from adult viewers about how they saw Spring Awakening with their kids and were moved to talk to their children so the events of the play don't happen to them. On the other hand, there are also a lot of stories from fans about how Moritz's suicide and funeral reminded them of their own friends.
  • Dog Sees God drops anvils against homophobia, bullying and suicide; while the script sounds like Narm on paper, its performance is powerful.
  • South Pacific had a great moment in the song "You've Got to be Carefully Taught." Hate doesn't come naturally, it gets drummed into people in their youth. When some Southerners asked to cut that song, Rodgers and Hammerstein said "If you cut that song, you might as well cut the whole musical."
  • From Avenue Q:
    • Everyone's a little bit racist, so chill out and we'll all get along better. Charity feels good.
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    • Also, it's ok if you don't live up to your dreams right now. You've got your whole life ahead of you, so enjoy it.
    "If you were gay
    that'd be okay
    I mean cause hey
    I'd like you anyway"
  • We Will Rock You pretty much lives off the 'Don't be like everyone else' Aesop.
  • Wicked's 'skin colour shouldn't matter' aesop couldn't actually be hammered home any more heavily than it is, and yet it works remarkably well.
    • Also, "Don't accept moral compromises, especially not from your leaders," "go out there and fight for what you believe in", and "throw popular opinion out the window".
    • Sometimes fate and matters are irreversible. But a moment with a person (the power of friendship) can prove useful for the future. After all, near the ending, Elphaba and Glinda come to terms with the fact that Elphaba's wicked reputation in Oz was irreversible. And a now matured Glinda, changed for good, is left to (positively) reform Oz.
    • Don't immediately judge another person. The ditzy, popular, girly girl might turn out to be a good, loyal friend, not a complete bitch, and the Soapbox Sadie might not be a pretentious hipster, but instead a brave woman who is actually willing to go out and fight for what she believes in.
  • The message of Into the Woods, as illustrated by the songs 'No More' and 'Children Will Listen', boils down to "Don't screw up your kids, or it WILL come back and bite you in the ass."
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    • This musical is also one of the best examples of Good Is Not Nice around. Both Little Red Riding Hood and the Witch outright state this in "I Know Things Now" ("And though scary is exciting, nice is different than good") and "Last Midnight" ("You're so nice... you're not good, you're not bad, you're just NICE"), respectively. It's part of what makes the Deconstruction of fairy tales so effective: in classic stories, it's the nice characters who are viewed universally as good. But the heroes of Into the Woods do morally questionable things throughout the whole musical, proving that just because someone acts kind doesn't make them a good person. It also proves the opposite point: everyone assumes the Witch is wicked because of her nasty attitude, but in reality, she's probably the most justified in her actions throughout the whole work—she was saddled with a curse of ugliness and age that she knew next to nothing about (all she was told was not to let anything happen to her mother's special beans), loses her magical powers in exchange for recovering her original youth and beauty, has her home and garden destroyed by the Giantess, and ends up watching her adopted daughter Rapunzel die a horrible death. The Witch is also the one to force the heroes to admit that their self-centered wishes and lack of thought regarding those wishes' consequences are to blame for the horrible mess they made of things.
  • Angels in America already has a pretty heavy message about the treatment of homosexuals/people infected with AIDS, but there's one part that's a little different. It's when Hannah Pitt and Prior Walter meet, and Prior realizes that she's Mormon. He comments "I can just imagine what you think of me" (that he's homosexual), and Hannah indignantly tells him off for being so presumptuous about her opinions. She finishes with "You don't make assumptions about me, and I won't make any about you". Incredibly obvious moral about everyone needing to be open-minded? Yep. Quite necessary? Oh yeah.
  • Little Shop of Horrors drops its anvil of "Don't give into temptation" very well, especially through its finale song, "Don't Feed The Plants".
  • It wasn't the original main purpose of the play, but Inherit the Wind has a powerful message about the value of human reason over unthinking faith:
    Drummond: "In a child's power to master the multiplication table, there is more sanctity than in all your shouted "amens" and "holy holies" and "hosannas." An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man's knowledge is a greater miracle than all the sticks turned to snakes or the parting of the waters."
    • Another made to Hornbeck at the end: freedom of thought includes the freedom to be wrong. Even good men can have bad ideas.
  • The 2013 adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has plenty of the source novel's vital anvils on selfishness, gluttony, greed, etc. intact or given a clever Setting Update. But the biggest ones it drops both build on the original and give the story a much stronger Central Theme: The transformative power of imagination.
    • The naughty kids can be seen to represent anyone who spends their life mindlessly consuming and chasing fleeting, empty pleasures — food (Augustus), possessions (Veruca), fame (Violet), shallow, instant-gratification media (Mike), what have you — often with dreadful consequences. By comparison, Charlie makes the best of his meager lot in life with the help of his imagination and his loving family, and wants to create things. This makes him an excellent candidate to inherit the amazing world within the titular factory... a world that we learn sprang up not from a desire for fame and fortune, but an ache to make the world a more colorful, beautiful place in their own way (even if others don't understand it). Put simply: Cultivating one's creativity and sharing it with others is a path to true happiness, a path even the humblest soul can take.
    • There's also a secondary, related aesop: Be appreciative of those who cultivate their creativity and share it. Charlie is as puzzled by Mr. Wonka's eccentricity as anyone, but he's the only one of the kids who treats him with kindness and respect, in part because he understands just how wonderful his creations and world really are. This turns out to mean a great deal to Mr. Wonka.
  • In "Naughty," a song from the musical Matilda, the main character comments that while toughing out the hard times is occasionally necessary, always doing that leads to nothing ever getting better: "If I always take on the chin and wear it/nothing will change." It's not subtle, but it's powerful, as it encourages people to make things happen, rather than waiting for their situations to improve.
    • The whole musical also advocates that "sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty"—in other words, you occasionally have to break the rules if it means fighting for equality or getting yourself out of a bad situation. Civil rights activists would be proud.
  • A very short one in Romeo and Juliet, but Romeo drops an important point when he's at the apothecary and is paying the poor shopkeeper - money makes more people die than poison, and is just as bad, if not even worse, than poison.
    There is thy gold, worse poison to men's souls,
    Doing more murder in this loathsome world,
    Than these poor compounds that thou mayst not sell.
    I sell thee poison. Thou hast sold me none.
    • The play also points out the utter harm lifelong family feuds can do, especially when young people are sucked into them. The Prince points out how it was ultimately the feud that drove Romeo and Juliet to the grave.
    See what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
    That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love;
    And I, for winking at your discords too,
    Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish’d.
  • Richard III has the anvil that absolute monarchy is a terrible form of government because there is no way for the system to prevent a tyrant from coming to power, and that even if the king is benevolent the country isn't safe, because an aspiring tyrant would have no reason not to kill everyone closer in line to the throne than he. Considering the time in which the play was written, it's definitely a case of Getting Crap Past the Radar.
  • Cabaret drops a big anvil near the end about how politics can and will affect you. Also if you just blindly accept what one group does, you may as well be with them.
  • The Merchant of Venice: The play, particularly the affronts Shylock goes through, can be interpreted as sharp indictment of antisemitism.
  • The Trojan Women is emphatic about slavery—in this particular case women as war trophies—being abominable. It's also worth noting that this was written back in the 5th century BCE—the argument over the horror of slavery is that long. Of particular note to Euripides's audience is that women are people too, not merely accessories and breeding engines.


Alternative Title(s): Theater

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