Dammit, Obama, It’s Been Two Weeks Already, Stop Making Me Cry.


Everybody cried when Obama won. (Everybody decent, anyway.) But lately I’ve been crying at all sorts of other things, and Obama is to blame.

When the musical movie version of Hairspray came out, I loved it. (If you don’t believe me, see here.) But it was on the other night on HBO, and I watched it again, and it got me as never before — it made me cry almost nonstop from beginning to end. Hairspray is only nominally about a teenage girl trying to get on a local TV dance show. Its true subject is liberation. Racial liberation, sexual liberation, fat liberation, agoraphobic liberation, and probably three or four other kinds of liberation I can’t think of. Nearly every song in the score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and nearly every dance devised by director-choreographer Adam Shankman, propels this theme single-mindedly — is, at root, about liberation.

When a movie (or other work of art, or real life event) makes you cry, it is never because of a direct, unmediated link between it and your brain’s sob center. There is always a thought in between. The art doesn’t make you cry; the art makes you think a thought, and the thought makes you cry. In this case, the thought was: “These black teens in 1962 were just trying to get on a TV dance show in Baltimore, and now a black man is President.”

Though I was taken aback by my tears when Obama won the election, I didn’t expect the event to sensitize me to so many encounters that have come after. Especially not two whole weeks after. Especially not re-watchings of fun, frothy musicals I’ve already seen. But it has.

I’m going to see the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s first-ever production of Porgy and Bess on Friday. I’m going to be a complete mess.


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