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  • Accidental Aesop: Never do business with your friends. They may screw you over, or vice-versa and it can ruin the friendship. If you have no choice, at least get a written agreement that will hold up in court.
  • Adaptation Displacement: The musical is probably more well-known in some circles than La Boheme, the opera it was based on.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: These three interpretations go hand in hand:
    • The protagonists — Are they rebellious artists trying to break free of an oppressive system that does not value creativity? Or childish hipsters who can't get over the fact that contributing to society is not the same as selling out?
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    • Benny — The villain if one exists, starts to look like the Only Sane Man for coming up with an intelligent and workable way to have a day job and enable creativity on the side. (Even more crazily, Benny does not show any canon inclination towards the arts himself, meaning that he comes up with the Cyber Arts plan largely to help his friends.) That said, he is taking part in gentrifying the neighborhood, whether or not the protagonists make a convincing case for that, and it is unreasonable to demand a whole year's worth of back rent from your two unemployed friends without at least giving them advance notice.
    • The parents of the main characters — Apparently a bunch of overbearing, overprotective and disapproving types who smother and oppress their children. But we don't see much of them, meaning that most of this comes from their children, and what we do see might suggest to some that they're actually reasonably loving and caring people who just have the misfortune to have rather troubled and ungrateful children. Especially towards the climax, Roger and Mimi's mothers leave voicemails for them frantically asking where they are, showing Adult Fear.
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    • On a lighter note, everyone and their mother has their own opinion on what Angel's gender identity is. The fact that the gray areas of gender and sex are far more well-known and understood nowadays than they were when the show was written has only added to this.
  • Americans Hate Tingle: The show was never popular in Britain, and any attempts to get it off the ground there have failed.
  • Awesome Music:
    • Finale B. It incorporates several songs from before in an all-out, heartwrenching, and simply awesome finale, with the entire cast. Higher voices get one layer, lower ones get another, and the melodies simply interact with perfection. Heck, Angel even sings in it! This is evident in the Broadway version, as s/he runs out to join them in the end. Not so much in the movie, but if you listen closely you can hear him/her.
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    • "La Vie Boheme". Loud, raucous, and infectious, complete with table-dancing, mooning, and "up-yours" gestures. If you're not singing and dancing along by the time Mark hits "To days of inspiration, playing hooky, making something out of nothing...", there's something wrong.
    • Christmas Bells for its almost mind-bogglingly complex harmony, especially starting at about the 5:15 mark. Not only that, but it continues to build the characters' various relationships and plot lines simultaneously yet still in a way that's astonishingly easy to follow onstage. It's not a song that can work as a stand-alone, like many in the play, but it's a standout piece nonetheless.
    • "One Song Glory" is incredible, with its pure, raw emotions and great guitar work.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Angel. Some fans love him/her for being one of the show's most unique characters and a Messianic Archetype and some fans hate him/her because of the Christ-like status the other characters give him/her (that and killing Evita).
    • Maureen. She's either a hilarious Plucky Comic Relief and a super fun role for a stage actress to play with a wonderfully vivacious musical number ("Over the Moon"), or a pretentious Attention Whore who treats her lover like crap. This may have been exacerbated by the movie adaptation, in which several characters were adjusted/toned down for the new medium, but Maureen was played more or less exactly the same, highlighting flaws that audiences were previously more willing to overlook. However, no matter what one's opinion of the character may be, Maureen was Idina Menzel's Starmaking Role.
  • Broken Base:
    • The self-important attitudes of the protagonists themselves have been known to cause some viewers to completely disregard the great story and music.
    • The fanbase is rather divided on the movie adaptation. Some love seeing the OBC reprising their roles, and adapting the story in ways that simply can't be done on a stage, while others feel it came years too late and didn't do the stage production justice.
    • Related to the above, Rosario Dawson being cast as Mimi. While some (including her fellow castmates) liked her in the role, saying she was a welcome addition and felt her presence brought more attention to the film than without her being there, others did not feel she was worthy of the role, believing that she was miscast. Also, said fans had a problem with the disproportionate advertising and attention she received over the rest of the cast (save for Jesse L. Martin and Taye Diggs), in spite of the musical being an ensemble cast and particularly in contrast to her female costars even though both women are better singers (and arguably actors) than her.
  • Cant Unhear It: For many fans the original cast is how they see the characters, no doubt helped by just how many times they've reunited: the 2005 film, the 10th Anniversary concert, and performances for the 2008 Tony Awards, the final Broadway performance, and the 2019 Fox TV production.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: The reason a lot of viewers are able to let the whole "killed a dog" thing go and still like Angel? Because the whole thing is just so ridiculous, considering that Angel essentially Disney Villain Death'd Evita the Akita with her incessant percussion performance. Crosses into Refuge in Audacity, especially when it's revealed Benny hated the dog, too, and probably knew all along that Angel killed it.
  • Designated Hero: Some people find the main cast pretentious and entitled. The dog-killing thing doesn't help.
  • Designated Villain: Benny is sleazy and cheats on his wife, but certain viewers find his worldview much more sympathetic and reasonable than the others. After all, the thing that makes him a "villain" is not the sleaziness or the cheating, but rather that he wants to make money off the commercial space he owns, rather than letting his friends live there for free. It's often joked among fans that you know you've aged out of Rent's target demographic when Benny starts making sense.
    • Even though even the original cast acknowledged at the time of shooting the movie (ten years on from the debut of the stage musical) that their feelings towards Benny had softened, the movie goes out of its way to keep him as the villain by removing scenes that feature his redeeming qualities (like paying for Mimi's rehab and Angel's funeral, and encouraging Roger to get back together with Mimi after he returns to New York, thereby reconciling with everyone). Instead, he simply disappears after Goodbye Love, which means we also don't see his comeuppance of his wife catching him cheating on her.
  • Ending Fatigue: After the non-stop action of the first act, the second act seems a bit disjointed by comparison, allegedly due to the author never completing his revisions to the script. The first act has no scene breaks and (on stage at least) depicts almost in Real Time the course of one Christmas Eve. Then the second act brings in lot of Time Skips because it gives an overview of the year that follows.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Collins. Even people who don't like the show like him.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: Mimi is still alive by the end of the musical, and the friends circle in appreciation of each other's company. But given Mimi's health and the circumstances of everyone's living situation, it's really not likely Mimi, Roger, or Collins will have terribly much more time.
  • Fair for Its Day: The show was and still is highly regarded for its normalized portrayal of queer sexuality and the frankness in its discussion of AIDS, two things that the wealthy, theater-going crowds of the mid-90s weren't used to seeing. Nowadays, it's often accused of trivializing the AIDS crisis from an extremely brutal and blatantly homophobic battle for human rights, as well as homelessness itself, to somewhat-minor difficulties (squatters would not be able to afford AZT). The fact that it kills off the gay drag queen/gender-fluid Angel, while sparing the cishetero Mimi, whose La Bohème equivalent dies, has also been called into question. It also remains one of the few mainstream shows to feature an openly bisexual character... who perpetuates their most hated stereotype. And due to author Jonathan Larson's death before the show opened, there's no way of knowing if or how his views might have changed with the times.
  • Fanon: It's never revealed how the four HIV-positive characters seroconverted, but it's generally accepted among fans that Roger and Mimi got HIV from intravenous drug use, while Collins and Angel got it from unprotected sex.
  • Foe Yay: Mimi + Benny = This.
  • Ham and Cheese: Vanessa Hudgens added a lot of energy to Fox's production with her performance of drama queen Maureen.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Rosario Dawson starring in one of the most LGBT-positive musicals of all time becomes harder to watch after she was accused of harassment and assault against a transgender man in 2019.
  • Hypocrite: Arguably Mark and Roger. As much as they're against selling out to The Man and taking boring office jobs, they had no problem with Benny doing so if he was willing to let them live for free in the old building he bought, suggesting that they don't mind The System as long as it benefits them.
  • Heartwarming Moments: On opening night, the day after Larson's very sudden death, the entire cast paid tribute by performing the musical sitting down at a table on the stage. By the time they reached La Vie Boheme, they realized they couldn't do the song justice without getting up and acting crazy and that Jonathan would have wanted them to do it right. Cue Anthony Rapp (Mark) getting on the table and starting the song, with the rest of the cast following — not just because it was supposed to happen, but because they got genuinely caught up in the song.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Ho Yay: Some people read a lot of Subtext between Roger and Mark.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Roger is not wrong that Mark hides in his work largely as a way to not have to deal with his responsibilities and has no right to act as put-upon. Mark is also hiding behind his camera to avoid facing the inevitable fact that his friends are dying before his eyes, and his attitude is a failed attempt to seem the pillar of the group.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: There are people who only like this show for its music. To say nothing of the polarizing story and characters, the songs themselves are extremely emotionally powerful.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Your Eyes," despite being the song Roger is obsessed with finishing before he dies, is by far the least popular song among the fanbase. This has not escaped anyone's notice, so there are jokes abound. It doesn't help that the song Roger sings about wanting to write a great song, "One Song Glory," is considered to be one of the best in the whole show.
    • "MOO WITH ME!"
  • Moe: Angel is...well, an angel, and no matter who plays him/her, s/he's pretty much always guaranteed to be adorable.
  • Narm:
    • Some of the lyrics are a bit too heart-on-sleeve. Roger's "Who do you think you are/Barging in on me and my guitar" may be the corniest line in the whole show.
    • The fact that Mimi GETS CURED OF AIDS THROUGH SONG!
  • Narm Charm: Maureen's performance-art piece. Also counts as Stylistic Suck.
  • Never Live It Down: Angel and the dog. Year in, year out, the argument never changes...
    • Despite only three characters (Maureen, Mark and Roger) living a bohemian lifestyle and Roger having the excuse of being a former heroin addict about to die of AIDS, detractors tend to remember it as "The musical preaching that you can either be a penniless bohemian or a sellout, no alternatives."
  • One-Scene Wonder: The "Blanket Person", a homeless woman who tears into Mark after he films her being oppressed by a cop. She only has a few lines, but her rant causes Mark to change how he goes about making his film.
  • Revolutionaries Who Don't Do Anything: A common criticism of the play is that the characters seem to embrace some radical politics but don't seem to do much aside from squat in an apartment building and 'freak out' the 'squares'.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: A lot of modern audiences, no longer familiar with the specter of AIDS as a death sentence due to advances in medicine and AIDS research, don't really appreciate the gravity of what the characters are going through. In the film, a lingering death from AIDS complications is graphically depicted to make sure the point comes across.
    • The Fox production RENT Live also takes care to emphasize how bad it was. There's slides detailing the severity of the condition and a voiceover (from Anthony Rapp) during the transition to "Life Support" that explains it for anyone who doesn't know. It also takes a cue from the film and makes sure to highlight Angel's deteriorating condition during "Without You" and Collins' attempts to care for her still.
  • Signature Song: "Seasons of Love" is not only the most well-known number of the show, it's one of the most iconic musical theatre songs ever. It helps that it's a popular choice for choirs and theater groups to do at graduation.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Benny has a number of points. While he's a jerk and uses immoral means, he is trying to improve the neighborhood. The idea that he somehow owes his friends eternal free rent doesn't hold water, especially since it’s unfair to everyone else who has to pay.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • In the movie version, while he, Roger, Mark, and Angel are on the subway train singing "Do You know the Way to Santa Fe?", Collins gets up on the handles and flips over it; when he "flips" back, it's just the same shot in reverse.
    • The movie was filmed in summer, with everyone's visible winter breath added digitally. It's... very noticeable.
    • In-Universe, some performances (such as the 2019 Fox production) will play this up to different degrees in "Over the Moon," depending on how much Stylistic Suck they are going for.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song:
    • "Do you know the way to Santa Fe?"
    • "La Vie Boheme" was admitted to be inspired by "Linus & Lucy".
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: The parents. We're supposed to think that they're a bunch of repressive old fogies who aren't letting their kids live... but from everything we see of them they're loving, caring parents concerned for their children's welfare. Lindsay Ellis wondered if this wasn't done to deliberately highlight the "heroes" hypocrisy.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: A common complaint among non-fans.
    • Mark and Roger, who are squatters by choice and only refuse to pay their rent because they aren't willing to "sell out" (read: get a job). Mark even moreso: the only reason he doesn't want to go back to his perfectly supportive and loving parents is he thinks they're kind of lame. Roger at least has an excuse of being a shut-in due to recovering from his addiction and dealing with his AIDS diagnosis. Mark, meanwhile, gets a respectable job in his field of choice that he openly resents because it's not respectable.
    • Angel, despite being arguably the single purest character in the whole show who does honest work as a street entertainer, happily accepts payment to take out a hit on what turns out to be Benny's dog.
    • Maureen, who is not only emotionally abusive but shamelessly perpetuates the stereotype that bisexual = slut.
    • Even Joanne, Mimi, Angel, and Collins, characters who all have jobs (some of which highly respectable) enable Roger and Mark's entitled attitudes and are depicted as rebellious, but never make it clear exactly what they're rebelling against except... society. note 
  • Values Dissonance
    • The show equates being openly gay and living with AIDS as a form of rebellion from the establishment. 20+ years later, it comes off as either no big deal or more than a little insulting.
    • Most millennials would kill to be in Mark's position of getting a high-paying startup job in his career of choice. The fact that he openly resents it and quits because it doesn't meet his personal standards is downright petty.
  • Values Resonance:
    • In spades. While much of the show is pretty dated – AIDS is no longer a death sentence, very few people in their 20s are suspicious of the internet – it remains popular, in part for its anti-establishment themes and because half the cast is queer.
    • There's also a serious look at adultery and how even a Sympathetic Adulterer can cause chaos if they don't think about the consequences of their actions. The musical implies that Joanne helped Maureen cheat on Mark, a (relatively) Nice Guy who has no grudge against either of them. This makes Joanne feel "fucking weird" when Mark helps her set up equipment for Maureen's concert, despite him saying that it's okay to have conflicting emotions about the woman they loved. Joanne and Maureen's subsequent fights cause chaos among their friend group, with Maureen making Joanne serve as her unpaid AV stage manager, and Mark visibly looks uncomfortable in the film when they start to break up. Meanwhile, it's implied that Benny had an affair with Mimi and cheated on his wife Allison, whose worst flaw is that she's a "yuppy". As a result, there's a high chance that Benny and Allison contracted AIDS from Mimi and will die in turn. As Roger starts to push Mimi away when Angel dies, one of his contentions is that Mimi had an affair with "yuppy scum" and the fight causes everyone except Collins, Benny, and Mark to argue at Angel's funeral. It takes Roger undergoing Character Development to tell a dying Mimi that her love life doesn't matter to him, she just needs to hold on until the ambulance comes. Overall, it shows that adultery may not be morally wrong but it can be super awkward for those caught in the middle.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: Is Angel a trans woman or a cis male cross-dresser? (S)he usually goes by female pronouns, but Benny explicitly refers to her/him as a boy. The movie muddies it more by adding scenes of him/her removing his/her wig during the life support meeting and, as (s)he is dying, wearing masculine clothes, all without explicitly stating his/her gender identity. It's uncertain if either Jonathan Larson or Chris Columbus knew enough about the subject of gender queerness to know the difference.
  • We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: One of the reasons the film flopped was because it came out ten years too late to talk to the youth culture the show captivated in the '90s. Going up against Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire sure as hell didn't help. The musical, however, continues to be extremely popular with a massive cult-following, even if the attitudes of the protagonists can be a bit polarizing.
  • Why Would Anyone Take Him Back?: It's a rare justified case where the romance is established as mutually unhealthy. Joanne loves Maureen and wants to be with her, but is threatened by how Maureen goes after Anything That Moves even when they're in a committed relationship. It's also implied that she helped Maureen cheat on Mark, which makes the "Tango Maureen" hilariously awkward. Mark and she agree that Maureen is a whirlwind and yet you are drawn to her knowing exactly what she is. Joanne and Maureen do break up when Joanne tells off Maureen for her philandering and Maureen calls Joanne a Control Freak, but they are witnessing their friends succumbing to a fatal disease and attend Angel's funeral, with Joanne expressly saying she wished that Maureen loved her the way Angel loved Collins. They get back together because Joanne knows she can't get rid of Maureen, and they want to be there for Mimi and Collins.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
  • The Woobie:
    • Collins. Admit it, you wanted to give him a hug during the Dark Reprise of "I'll Cover You".
    • Roger. A sensitive, emotional rock star with not one but two tragic love stories, and slowly dying from AIDS.
    • Mimi is so hopelessly in love with Roger and so self-destructively vulnerable that you may hate Roger for throwing her out. And then she has a near-death experience from AIDS.
    • Angel, the single most positive and kind character in the show and the only one who actually does die from AIDS.
    • Joanne, desperately trying to single-handedly sustain her girlfriend's career and their rocky relationship. Moreso in the movie, thanks to Tracie Thoms's performance and Maurine being depicted as even meaner than she is in the show.


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