Think of your favorite show. Think of what it was that made you fall in love the first time you saw that show. Was it the story? The music? The direction? A specific actor? Would you say this show was perfection incarnate, or do you like it for self-admitted silly reasons?
No matter what it was that got you hooked, it’s understood that, at some point, you found something of value in what you saw, and that specific something was enough to ensure that you’d enjoy this wonderful work for the rest of your life.
Imagine, then, that one day, when you’re gushing about your chosen favorite musical on social media, some sneering, bitter name on the computer screen feels justified in giving a snarky response.
“WOW IMAGINE HAVING BAD OPINIONS LIKE THIS LOL. WATCH OTHER MUSICALS PLEASE!”
You see this response, and you wonder...why? Like, what was the point? You reply, asking for an explanation, and the self-proclaimed classic music/theatre major boastfully claims that you can’t call yourself a “real” theatre fan unless you prefer “real” theatre, such as Carousel, or My Fair Lady, or any selection from Sondheim’s extensive, genius library. Your opinion doesn’t count as much as theirs, they imply, because they studied theatre for so-and-so many years, and because you selected a musical from the past ten to twenty years, they assume you just haven’t studied theatre as an intricate art form as much as they have.
In short? Your personal opinion is wrong, and you should feel bad.
Believe it or not, I’m not being bitter about something that happened to me; I actually can’t remember the last time this sort of exchange occurred in response to anything I personally said. However, I have seen it happen to other people countless times. More recently, I was browsing Twitter the other day when I saw a fan harmlessly posting about their favorite musicals. “Groundhog Day, Les Misérables, and Once on This Island are the only flawless musicals in existence,” they proclaimed, jokingly over-exaggerating their appreciation for a selection of musicals they obviously hold near and dear to their heart. Their friends and followers laughed along, “favoriting” and “retweeting” the post in a tongue-in-cheek way that showed they got the joke.
One person, however, didn’t get it.
They replied to the Tweet in a snarky manner similar to the hypothetical way I detailed above. In turn, the snarker’s friends and followers (bigger in number, it looks like) cackled and interacted with the post, mocking the original poster for having “bad opinions” and “starting discourse.” In the end, the only thing that seemed to bother this snobby individual was the fact that the original poster openly enjoys musicals deemed “unintelligent.” After all, why “stan” Groundhog Day when you could instead appreciate Passion?! Why on Earth are you wasting your time with Once on This Island when Show Boat exists?! Why don’t you appreciate the musicals they enjoy?!
This kind of attitude is, frankly, the most obnoxiously elitist thing I see in the theatre community. The original poster ended up deleting their post because of all the discourse that a lighthearted joke ended up causing. All for...what? Expressing that they like Les Misérables and not giving Into the Woods ample spotlight? Give me a break!
Every show, no matter how classic or new, how “good” or “bad,” presents something of value to at least one person in the audience. The magic of theatre provides something for everyone, and some people will feel drawn to a different kind of musical than others will. For example, I don’t like Dear Evan Hansen. I don’t particularly enjoy the way it portrays social anxiety, and I find there are some issues with the plot that I just can’t get behind. But, in saying that, I understand the impact Hansen has on many, many fans, and I realize that the show holds a special place in several hearts, so you won’t find me actively chasing down people who express their love for it, even if I may from time to time bring out the issues I personally have with the work itself.
As a community, we must learn to discuss our differences in a kinder manner. It’s perfectly fine to dislike a show and explain what you don’t like about it, but you are never justified in making another theatre fan feel like a fool for enjoying something. What’s the point? You may feel superior for a minute, but at the end of the day, all you succeed in doing is making the other person feel terrible. You don’t convince them to change their tastes; you bully them. That’s it.
We all have our favorite musicals. It’s up to us to respect that, while we may revere My Fair Lady, the kid across the room could appreciate SpongeBob more.
After all, as the old saying goes: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”