Episode 127: Silly Meaning Bad

The Overthinkers tackle the Spider Man musical and homoeroticism.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Mark Lee and Peter Fenzel to overthink Bon Jovi scholarship, the ultra-segmented hyper-reality of Christmas Trees, the Spider Man musical, the theatrical vs. the cinematic, and contemporary homoeroticism and why it’s not all about sex.


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28 Comments on “Episode 127: Silly Meaning Bad”

  1. Tulse #

    “We’ve got each other” is “a lot for love“? Being together is an extraordinary condition for lovers? Perhaps Matthew’s romantic experiences are far less happy and far more unrequited than mine, but contra his claim, that reading seems profoundly pessimistic to me. Generally I view “having each other” as, under most circumstances, the normative condition of love — sure there is love that is not returned, or love that has faded in one partner, but I would argue that those are not so common that being together would be considered “a lot”.

    So I think that the most sensible line reading is: “We’ve got each other and that’s a lot — for love, we’ll give it a shot”. In addition to being far more optimistic about the standard conditions of love, this structure also provides a more coherent argument: “We are together, which is an achievement, and therefore, for the sake of this remarkable accomplishment and the romantic feelings it represents, we will try to succeed.” The other reading is far more disjoint, shoving the first three phrases together and makes the final phrase a mere exclamation rather than a conclusion.

    I will admit, however, that my preferred line reading is mitigated against somewhat by the melodic structure — the phrases “that’s a lot / for love” are sung one immediately after the other as part of the same musical phrase, whereas there is a large dramatic pause between “for love / we’ll give it a shot”. But honestly, who listens to the music in a Bon Jovi song?


  2. Redem #

    Thing is that bringing Bono to geeks would probably bring out the fact he was on the Batman Forever soundtrack,a movie perhaps they prefer to forget


    • fenzel #


      Why? Batman Forever is fine. I like Batman Forever. Batman and Robin is the bad one.

      I’ve noticed a tendency especially in recent years to refer to the two together because they were both Schumacher films and because the Dark Knight movies are such a stronger approach to the franchise, but I think it’s important to remember _how much worse_ Batman and Robin was than Batman Forever.

      Batman Forever is better than the median PG-13 action movie. Batman & Robin might be the most disappointing mainstream action movie ever made.

      I mean, I guess I’m open to other perspectives on this, but I thought Val Kilmer did a good job as a civil, focused Bruce-Wayne-centric Batman, the script was a little cheesy but was generally fine, and that Jim Carrey, who had not yet Eddie Murphied himself into mediocre family movies, is probably about as good of a Riddler as you can expect in that context.

      Yeah, Nicole Kidman is kind of blah (as she is in most things after 1994 — it’s like somebody threw a switch after My Life and Legends of the Fall and she just stopped acting), but she’s not awful.

      I guess as a Batman fan I might not like what Batman Forever represents – which is the move in the franchise toward decadent, colorful, overdesigned crap that wasn’t funny enough to justify how stupid it was. But Batman Forever only represents that move (and you could point to a number of places in the Keaton-era Batman movies that point that way as well – it took a long time and hundreds of millions of dollars for the franchise to come to terms with the fact that Michelle Pfieffer in the catsuit was a one-time miracle that was never going to be successfully duplicated), it doesn’t embody it – I don’t think that movie itself fully realizes it to even half the degree Batman and Robin does.


      • Gab #

        Batman & Robin might be the most disappointing mainstream action movie ever made.



        • Gab #

          Other than that, I totally agree- I don’t get why everyone hates on Batman Forever so much.


  3. Howard #

    I’m in physics grad school – the posters are generally 3′ x 4′, hung landscape-style. I don’t know how posters were made before the age of computers (presentations, naturally, were done with projectors and overhead slides). All the posters I’ve made have been with Powerpoint, which certainly makes certain design aspects much easier. I’ve seen a couple multimedia posters, usually from high energy people who have a video introducing the LHC and whatever detector they’re working on, but other than that, it’s just you standing in front of a poster trying to catch people’s attention.


    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      3′ x 4′ doesn’t seem like a lot of space to make a point in.


      • Tulse #

        Having done a few academic posters in my time, it is plenty of space when used appropriately. The point is not to essentially print out a manuscript and paste it to a board, but to hit the highlights of your reported-on work. (Of course, there are lots of folks who do excellent work but lousy posters.)


        • carrie #

          I agree — my advisor (in chemistry) was very adamant about having as few words as possible on the poster. The idea was to have a conversation about the research, with the poster there as a reference for data/figures. Generally, I tend not to like posters that are too full of words (at that point, I’d rather read their paper).


          • Trizshjen #

            our advisers (for chemical engineering honors posters) said that ideally what you want is graphs and tables as they convey so much more information in a small area then words.
            This was a nightmare for me as i had a literature review/proof of concept project which meant i had no graphs and not a lot of images on my poster… just way to many words

  4. RichardR #

    Congrats on the iTunes ranking, you guys. Overthinking It is the Zeno’s Paradox of podcasts: always in the process of making it, but never actually quite getting there!

    Who wants to bet that a week after “Turn Off The Dark” premieres, Julie Taymor sells her career to Mephisto?


  5. AsWicked #

    Well actually, Nicole Kidman wasn’t in Legends of the Fall. Far and Away, maybe?


  6. Rob #

    Why do some film-to-Broadway adaptations work, and others don’t? My best guess is that some musicals come with a pre-existing, and familiar, songbook. For instance, while Spamalot had some original songs, it borrowed “Brave Sir Robin”, “Knights of the Round Table”, even the “Pie Jesu Domine” chant that the monks sing, and numbers from other Python works (Life of Brian, Flying Circus skits). Likewise, when Disney adapts a movie to a musical, it can work well because the movie exists in pop culture as a musical (Lion King, Beauty and the Beast). I’m surprised they haven’t done Aladdin on Broadway – maybe the flying carpet thing is holding them back? And the one time Disney tried a musical adaptation that dumped the original songbook of the movie (Little Mermaid), it was panned and ran less than two years – which would be good for most shows, but not for a show backed by the relentless marketing machine that is Disney. Really, the familiarity was key to the success of those adaptations. (Heck, even Aida seems to be succeeding – despite the significant differences between Verdi and Elton John. (My guess is that the audience probably doesn’t know the story, or the original music, well enough.)

    It’s tougher to do this with Spider-Man, and I’d argue it’s tougher to do this with any comic book. The Spider-Man canon contains a grand total of one song from the 1960s cartoon, plus its cover by the Ramones. And as a theme song, that wasn’t an integral part of the story. Now, if Peter Parker could be reinvented in the Spider-Man canon as having, let’s say, a side-project emo band (… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Webs?), then that might make it easier for the audience to tolerate the spontaneous musical interruptions.


    • Gab #

      You may be interested to know that Disney has been working on Aladdin for a while, turning segments into live snipits for Disneyland and Disneyworld mini-productions; and a full-on production is due eventually, too, as are Dumbo and a full version of Hunchback of Notre Dame (which, like Aladdin had been done partially in tidbits before in the States; and it’s going to incorporate some of the full German version- yes, there was full German adaptation of the animated movie- in the American production).

      Alsoalsoalso (I am such a Disney freak), The Little Mermaid didn’t scrap the old songs- it kept all of the old one and added a bunch of extras. I think that may have had more to do with its lack of success, actually, because there were I think nine or ten new songs, whereas the original only had five songs. In other words, the old, familiar songs may have gotten kind of lost amongst all of the new stuff, thereby dampening the nostalgic experience for older attendees.

      Newsies is also being planned.

      Okay, sorry, I could babble more, but I think I’ve embarrassed myself enough, here.


      • cat #

        Gab! You took my comment (kidding)! You are not the only Disney freak. I personally chalk up the lack of success of The Little Mermaid to a lackluster production, lackluster performers, and lackluster new songs. Really, a set that looks like it’s made of plastic and people rolling around on wheelies? Sierra Boggess did not have Jodi Benson’s sweetness. She grated on my nerves and a lot of the other singers on the original soundtrack weren’t much better. “She’s in Love” makes me laugh with it’s silly (in a good way) lyrics and “If Only” and “The Contest” aren’t too terrible but a lot of the other songs don’t have that magic of the Disney Renaissance period and no, it’s not just because I’m not used to them. Simply taking melodies that work wonderfully as instrumental background music and adding lyrics doesn’t make a song (Yes, I’m obsessed enough that I noticed). Oh, and some of those new lyrics were atrocious. A lot of the songs felt like they belonged to the newer crop of original Broadway musicals that surfaces every so often. I feel like with The Little Mermaid you’re getting less than you would watching the film and it’s not it’s own original interpretation either. Beautiful artwork vs. watching people trying to represent water and sea life on stage, I’ll take the former. The Lion King worked because it provided an experience apart from just viewing the film on stage and it was an interpretation.


  7. Gab #

    Wrather, I feel like the comma thing has been done before, and by you, to boot. It never gets old.

    Christmas tree shopping was an all-day event in my house as a young-un, but we were in Vegas, so we went to Chistmas tree lots. My parents would take the seats out of the back of our old Ford Aerostar, and my sister and I would roll around in the back as we went from lot to lot, looking for the perfect tree. My parents would purposely go to lots they knew wouldn’t have nice trees so we could play around back there for a while, too. Then we’d go home and put on the Rankin Bass claymation specials as we decorated the house the rest of the day.

    According to a lot of the crap I’ve been reading in grad school, humans are naturally risk-averse and fearful, and they respond more to negative frames than positive ones. Framing (presenting, using value-language) the story about Spiderman’s musical in a negative light is therefore more profitable for media outlets.

    However, I’d say the general public cares about the musical because of the way comic book culture has penetrated mass popular culture via all of these superhero movies in the past decade. The cynical view is this is another way for some fat-cat to harp on the fad and make money; the more optimistic view is more like, “Yay, Spiderman is so popular he has a musical!” It’s about profit, naturally, but it’s not a stretch to be happy it’s around. Everyone is asking, “Why?” but I’d like to ask, “Why NOT?” I personally don’t understand this seeming backlash against the notion of a Spiderman musical. I’m not saying anyone else’s opinion is wrong, but my perspective is I love the character, so any way I can see it done, I’ll at least give a try.

    (Spamalot is playing at my grad school in March- SOOO GOING!!)

    (I say things suck ass, not balls. The worse it is, the more adjectives I add to the ass. Like “hairy,” or “huge,” or “lumpy.”)

    Gladiator with Russel Crowe plays out like a Shakesperean tragedy. It totally goes in the right

    The musical The Lion King is, I hear, fabulous. I have heard the soundtrack and got a little turned off because they took the theme Hans Zimmer wrote to represent Mufasa and Simba’s relationship and gave it to Nala so she could have a solo song about how she needs to go find help. Not to trumpet about Hans Zimmer again, but that rather irked me- what I love about his music is he turns his music into its own character or uses it to represent themes in ways other film composers try to emulate but I just don’t think do as well. So turning it into something else kind of ruined it for me when I was listening, because then, when that music comes up later in the background, is it meant to make us think of Nala flying solo or Mufasa and Simba? Harrumph.

    But Disney has turned a lot of their animated films into musicals, keep that in mind. And really, sometimes, in the later animated movies (even the bad ones), the way they break into

    Jekyl and Hyde is one of my favorite musicals, Pete!!!!! That makes me so sad… The hair-flipping thing isn’t always as corny as it sounds. My high school did it- and it was a performing arts school with production values as high as (and, really, higher than) professional theater companies. Vegas celebs like Seigfreid and Roy, Celine Dion, and Elton John have attended some of the opening night performances. Anyhoo, the hair-flip thing was done very tastefully and intensely in our case.

    Perhaps I’m blind or naive, but I get the impression the notion of homo-eroticism is supposed to be present in this musical. Does there have to be two male characters onstage for this to happen? What I mean is, if Peter Parker is onstage with only Mary Jane, are there still underlying homoerotic notions simply because he’s singing and in spandex?


    • Gab #

      Crap, I didn’t finish my thought about Gladiator. The plot moves in three acts, a whole bunch of people die (and some rather needlessly), all of the survivors show up during the last scene, and there is a monologue by the person that will be in charge now that everybody is dead. I don’t know how well it would work onstage, but the format of the screenplay is very Shakesperean. Even how it opens with the battle and such, I’d argue.

      Sorry. Totally going away now.


      • cat #

        How you feel about Hans Zimmer’s scores being used is how I feel about Alan Menken’s scores being used (even if he’s the one doing it). I like Hans Zimmer’s scores. I’m in love with the selections on the soundtrack of The Lion King but I prefer Menken’s because I can listen to a lot of them as stand-alone pieces of instrumental music while with Hans Zimmer it can sometimes feel like you’re just listening to the background music (The Prince of Egypt soundtrack).

        I have no love or hate for Jekyll and Hyde probably because my only experience is singing the score for choir. “Once Upon a Dream” is alright. I’m not crazy about the rest of it.


        • Gab #

          Murder! In the niiiiiiiiiiight… ;p

          Yeah, I guess we just kind of reverse our preferences. I can listen to Zimmer’s soundtracks and feel the scene taking place (yeah, I know, it’s cheesy), even if I haven’t seen the movie in ages. I kind of feel like Zimmer’s soundtracks tell the story themselves (mayhap not every single time, but I don’t think ANY of the big name movie composers- Williams, Horner, Elfman- can do it for each and every movie they score, but I do personally get that feeling more often when Zimmer is the compoder). I enjoy Menken, too, but I own more soundtracks by Zimmer.

          (I will say this- I think one of my favorite Menken pieces is “Transformation.” I have the 2002 special edition. SWEEEET!)

          And I realized there was another thought I didn’t finish…

          The way some of their later animated movies break into song feels almost as though the original intent was for the stage. The Princess and the Frog most definitely felt that way to me.

          A non-Disney movie that totally feels like a Broadway production, though: Anastasia. And, by the way, the gal that sings for Jasmine (and Mulan, ahem) sings for Ania (Anya? not sure, too lazy to look it up). (And Jodi Benson was Thumbelina in another non-Disney animated film. Yay for being a well of useless information about… children’s movies…)

          Man, all of this Disney music talk… I think I know what I’ll be listening to as I finish a paper tonight. WEEEEE!


          • cat #

            No, Jasmine and Mulan are Lea Salonga. Anya is Liz Callaway. I am a crazy person. I didn’t even have to look that up. (Though I think Liz Callaway took over for Lea on the third Aladdin movie. She’s also the voice of Odette in The Swan Princess movies.) Most of these women are also brilliant Broadway actresses apart from their contributions to animated movies. I just thought I’d acknowledge that.

          • Gab #

            DOH! You just Well, actually-eed me! Props.

            Now that I think about it, I don’t know why I made that mistake. I totally love all of the above movies. Because I’m young at heart and not a creeper, I swear.

            Just for clarification’s sake (since if you’re anything like me, not knowing 100% will drive you up the wall), Liz Callaway took over as Jasmine for the latter two Aladdin movies and, interestingly enough, was also an “additional voice” in Beauty and the Beast and Kiara’s singing voice in The Lion King II. And yes, she was Anya and Odette, I didn’t doubt that at all. And Lea Salonga was in My Neighbor Totoro (???)! Yeesh.

  8. Timothy J Swann #

    Bono dislike is likely born of smugness. Seeming smugness.

    At the moment he’s especially disliked because Ireland is in super-debt and he may have been dodging a lot of tax. And by may, I mean is. And by a lot, I mean a lot a lot a lot. Doesn’t help matters.

    Plenty of people who think U2 aren’t all they’re cracked up to be because The Edge’s parts aren’t too technically demanding, apparently.


    • Trizshjen #

      for me its just the purple sunglasses, they just make me want to punch him in the face


      • Gab #

        Would you punch anybody with purple sunglasses, or is that just what drives you (excuse the pun) over the edge with him?


  9. Jason Storck #

    I would have loved for the discussion of musical theater as a safe space for the exploration of the dynamism of male physicality to have at least touched on the forthcoming “American Psycho” musical. (Mostly because I am a Bret Easton Ellis fan, though I think it would have added to the themes under discussion.)

    Obviously, the film version beat the audience over the head with Christian Bale’s naked body. And, like the WWE, the dynamism of Patrick Bateman is expressed in violence. And, of course, given the falsity of much that is shown, in the movie, or described, in the book, the content of “American Psycho” itself highlights how this flavor of male behavior is taboo. Just a thought.


  10. Lara #

    In the spirit of pointless comments on the internets, may I just say that a phrase Wrather used when discussing Bon Jovi lyrics – “I value our romantic partnership” would make a great message inside a Valentine’s Day card for socially awkward people who use inappropriately formal language. Aww.


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