[Marxism] Proposition 8--the musical

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Dec 6 06:51:26 MST 2008

NY Times, December 6, 2008
For This Songwriter, the Political Is Musical

Most of the jokes in the Internet video "Prop 8 — the Musical," a 
comedic song-and-dance diatribe about the California ballot 
initiative defining marriage as existing only between a man and a 
woman, are in its lyrics.


Playing a black-suited religious conservative, John C. Reilly 
intones, "People, listen to our plea/They'll teach our kids about 
sodomy." Neil Patrick Harris, playing a flamboyant figure trying to 
reconcile the proposition's supporters and opponents, sings, "Every 
time a gay or lesbian finds love at the parade/There's money to be made."

But there is one visual gag that is particularly bittersweet to Marc 
Shaiman, the creator and composer of the video: a credit that says 
Mr. Shaiman conceived and wrote this three-minute musical skit "six 
weeks later than he shoulda."

As popular as "Prop 8 — the Musical" has been — it has been viewed 
more than 1.9 million times since it was posted on Wednesday on 
funnyordie.com — it is also a reminder to Mr. Shaiman and like-minded 
colleagues of how events might have turned out if they had been vocal 
and organized before Proposition 8 was approved by California voters 
last month.

"We stupidly allowed ourselves to be lulled into a sense of 
'everything's fantastic now,' " Mr. Shaiman said in a recent 
telephone interview. " 'Everything's changing, and this couldn't 
possibly be voted into law.' "

The proposition passed on Election Day with 52 percent of the vote, 
including strong support from religious conservatives. On Nov. 20 the 
California Supreme Court said it would consider whether a 
voter-approved ban on same-sex unions was constitutional.

Mr. Shaiman, 49, an openly gay, Tony Award-winning songwriter whose 
résumé includes the stage and film musicals "Hairspray" and some of 
the bawdier songs in "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut," came to 
create "Prop 8 — the Musical" somewhat inadvertently.

After the passage of the ballot initiative, he learned that Scott 
Eckern, the musical director of the California Musical Theater in 
Sacramento, had donated money to support Proposition 8. Mr. Shaiman 
found this troubling, since the theater had recently staged a 
production of "Hairspray": by his reckoning, this meant that funds 
generated by his work were used to bolster a cause he opposed. (Mr. 
Eckern, who is a Mormon and has said that his donation stemmed from 
his religious beliefs, did not respond to requests to comment for 
this article.)

Mr. Shaiman said, "I sent an e-mail to a lot of people, anyone who's 
in my phone book, and said, 'Can you believe this guy?' " Among the 
people he contacted was Adam McKay, a founder (with Will Ferrell) of 
Funny or Die, who encouraged Mr. Shaiman to channel his feelings into 
a video for the site. This was, Mr. Shaiman said, "the 
slapping-my-head moment: 'Oh yeah, why didn't I think of that?' "

On Nov. 18, Mr. Shaiman recalled, he sat down at his piano in his 
home in Los Angeles and wrote "Prop 8." On Nov. 19 and 20 he cast the 
video, recruiting Jack Black to play a particularly flippant Jesus 
Christ and Adam Shankman (the director and choreographer of the 
"Hairspray" movie musical) to direct it. The video was shot in one 
day at a magic store in Santa Monica, and mixed and edited after the 
Thanksgiving holiday at a pace that Mr. Shaiman found astounding.

"It's like 'Saturday Night Live,' only without the money," he said. 
"But also without the restrictions."

The purpose of the video, its participants say, is to find common 
ground between Proposition 8's supporters and its adversaries. "If 
you really wanted to break it down lyrically, it's literally a list 
of talking points," Mr. Shankman said in a telephone interview. "It's 
about questioning, and it's doing it with a very sweet and innocent spirit."

But "Prop 8 — the Musical" has also been criticized in comments on 
Funny or Die for glibness, and for trying to address a moral question 
with an economic answer: at the end of the video the initiative's 
sponsors give up their religious objections when they learn they can 
make money from gay weddings.

For Mr. Shaiman there is also an air of ruefulness hanging over the 
project. He says he felt burdened by the news that Mr. Eckern had 
resigned his position at the California Musical Theater on Nov. 12.

"I did not ask for his resignation, nor would it be my place to ask 
for someone's resignation," Mr. Shaiman said. "But I was a part of 
that, and that is a very heavy weight, and I don't take it lightly."

If he cannot undo the events of Election Day, Mr. Shaiman said that 
he took some comfort in the e-mail messages he has received in 
support of "Prop 8 — the Musical," and that the creation of the short 
(which he described as "a viral picket sign") had drawn him into a 
larger network of activism.

"The most important thing," he said, "is that it continues the 
dialogue, and does not allow another week to go by for the subject to 
be swept under the rug."

The other benefit of the project is that it has introduced Mr. 
Shaiman to the medium of Internet video, a field to which he has 
never (willingly) contributed before.

Working in movies and theater, he said, "can be distressing, even 
when things are going great."

"It's just like, 'Oh, I wish we could put this in front of an 
audience and know what it is.' "

The immediacy of viral videos, he said, "strips years off your life."

Mr. Shaiman continued, "It's made me feel skinny, metaphorically."

More information about the Marxism mailing list