Monday, October 3, 2016

Musical Monday - Money, Money by Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey

Cabaret is set during the Great Depression, using the glitzy fantasy world inside the Kit Kat Klub as a contrast to the hard conditions of life outside of its confines. For the characters in the movie, much of the events depicted seem to be drawn almost from a fantasy world, even those outside of the titular cabaret. As the lead characters spend their time socializing with German aristocrats and dealing with sexual politics, the slow creep of fascism grows behind them.

To a certain extent, I think the current presidential campaign bears some fantasy aspects. In the last few weeks it seems that the fantasy involves Trump's personal finances. This is kind of a big deal because a lot of Trump's appeal appears to be based upon the notion that he is a "successful businessman". To cross musical theater streams, as Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof, "[w]hen you're rich they think you really know." Various revelations about Trump have exposed the fact that he may not be nearly as wealthy as his image suggests, and he certainly isn't nearly as skilled a businessman as his public relations people would have the world believe. In short, this aspect of Trump's campaign, like so much else about him and his campaign, is little more than a fraud.

In a larger sense, the fact that Trump is even considered a viable candidate highlights the same thinking that this song satirizes. We don't love money, but we love the fantasy of money. We love the fantasy that the wealthy are morally deserving and smarter than the rest of us. We love the idea that being wealthy makes you a better person. All of this is nothing more than a fantasy, but we cling to it in an unhealthy manner, and right now, that fantasy has pushed the nation close to a terrible reality. In Cabaret, the descent into fantasy hides the rising tide of Nazism. In our present, the fantasy has made the rise of fascism possible.

Previous Musical Monday: Two Ladies by Joel Grey
Previous Musical Monday: If You Could See Her Through My Eyes by Joel Grey

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