Monday, September 19, 2011

Annie, Shoot your Gun Already!

SPOILER ALERT!  Don't read if you don't want to know what happens at the end of Annie get Your Gun!

"That's the worst movie I've ever seen," Ling announced after we watched Annie Get your Gun, the Irving Berlin musical about Annie Oakley, a sharpshooter with the Buffalo Bill Wild West show.

Today, Kai and Ren auditioned for the play, so we watched the movie as part of their research.

It's a fun story.  Annie Oakley, a spunky, illiterate hick gets discovered when she joins a shoot-off against Frank Butler, a famous sharp-shooter.  Buffalo Bill sees her talent, she falls instantly in love with Frank, and the musical explores the ups and downs of their courtship.

Much of it was very enjoyable!  There are famous songs we all recognize like "There's No Business like Show Business," and "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better," as well as fun less known songs like "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly."

At the same time, the musical's a product of its times with many cringe-worthy moments.
The demeaning portrayals of "Indians" acting like uncouth savages, and the unquestioned segregation between them and Whites was seriously disturbing.

But at the very end, when Annie purposely loses another shoot-off to Frank so he will feel superior and marry her, there was an outcry in our house.

"What??" the kids cried, "How could she do that?"

How times have changed.  When I was growing up, playin' dumb's what women did natur'lly.

I spent almost all of my young womanhood hearing I was too smart, too strong, too opinionated, too gifted with the wrong (masculine) gifts, just TOO MUCH for any man to ever want me.

When I broke up with a grad school boyfriend, my father's 1st question was, "How much does your intelligence have to do with this?"

Brokenhearted, I admitted it probably had something to do with the sad current state of affairs, to which he responded, "You need a man like me--with a big ego!  I don't care that your Ma goes in a room and dominates everything--I don't WANT to talk to people anyway."

When my mother got on the phone, she proclaimed, "You need a man just like your Baba, a man with a big ego."

I think my father's ego came from knowing he was often the smartest person in the room.  But his ego didn't need to make others feel dumb, it just made him feel good about himself.  And despite being a typical Chinese slightly misogynistic man of his generation, he raised 3 daughters and a son to be strong, intelligent,  and proud of what they could contribute to the world.

And perhaps the best way he did that was by making it clear how proud he was to have a wife who was strong, intelligent, and constantly contributing to her world.

I asked my son, "As a boy, what do you think about a girl pretending she's bad at something just to get you to like her?"

"That's stupid," he said.

Glad to hear it.  And glad to hear that so far at least, my girls will forge ahead "doin' what comes natur'lly," whether a guy approves or not.


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