Fear and Reality – “Love Me, Love Me, Love Me” Analysis

It’s time once again for another niche post! It’s been too long, really. The following is a very in-depth analysis of my favorite Vocaloid song ever, Kikuo-P’s “Love Me, Love Me, Love Me”.

For those completely uninitiated, check out my last post about Vocaloid if you want a basic crash course on it. Vocaloid is an incredibly fascinating genre of music overall, but today I was feeling the itch to talk about how much I love this one particular song without getting too bogged down with the more general ideas of its genre.

“Love Me, Love Me, Love Me” is a prime example of my favorite part of producer Kikuo-P’s work, in that it presents a rather basic story with such creepy and otherworldly imagery that it comes off incredibly fresh and unique. If you’re looking for something super spooky in the world of Vocaloid, you really don’t have to travel too far. Probably due to the unreality of its “singers”, a lot of Vocaloid songs are free to explore very dark themes without being hindered by real-life morals and norms (an idea that I definitely want to expand upon at a later date).

However, personally, a lot of these songs leave me feeling uninspired, mostly because they are so incredibly unrealistic that I’m not even frightened by them. A lot of them seem to be trying too hard to be gory and scary and miss out on any actual personal connection the audience. Kikuo-P, on the other hand, opts for a far more personal and emotional take on the idea of creepy songs, one that is more grounded in reality, and in doing so actually evokes an emotional response from his audience. Fear, yes, but also far more complex emotions.

As is the case with most of Kikuo’s work (and most Vocaloid songs in general), “Love Me, Love Me, Love Me”’s meaning is very tied to its visuals, so I’ll be analyzing those as well. If you wish to follow along, here’s the video I’ll be using.

In addition, I also want to shout out this English dub of the song. While I won’t be directly using these translated lyrics, they did assist me in my understanding of this song (and it’s also a really well-done dub.)

The first twenty seconds of the PV to this song sets up the motif it will be following for its entirety, that of a red and black scribbly sort of chaos. It’s immediately unsettling because nothing in the video feels solid. In fact, not even the text of the title of the song, producer, and Vocaloid used is stationary, dropping in quickly and floating aimlessly away. This fits in with the jittery xylophone sounds present throughout the song. All in all, it’s pretty trippy, and also very thematically relevant.

Once the lyrics begin, the movement slows down, presenting only a black screen with a red border, although a ghostly image of a girl’s face flashes in several different colors while tilting unsteadily. Finally, the image settles on a white sketchy image of this girl, the only colors present being her magenta eyes and nails. This image is very important, and will be repeated with some variation throughout the video. Lyrically, we are also introduced to the idea of the “cursed necklace”, a very important, albeit a bit ambiguous, symbol to the meaning of this song.

The image eventually fills with color, revealing a more solid image of this girl. Her hands grip at her neck, but it’s important to note that she wears no actual necklace. The “cursed collar” is instead represented by scribbly white lines which dance around her neck. It’s this imagery that suggests to be that this “collar” is not real at all, but rather a metaphor. (The collar does later appear in the image, but it’s delayed, which makes me think that’s merely a stylistic choice.)

Meanwhile, the lyrics describe the motivation of this “collar”.

“I want people, I want people,
It cried, this cursed necklace,
Don’t get angry, don’t abandon me, don’t go anywhere”

The “necklace” tied around the girl’s neck desires human attention, and positive, loyal attention at that. Personally, I think the desires of the necklace, considering the fact that it isn’t truly real, reflects the desires of the girl herself. It is she who desires this attention. However, clearly this motivation is harmful to the girl.

“Fasten it tightly,
Until you throw up,
So there aren’t any people here.
Nice results, huh?
Hey, hey, aren’t I a nice child?
Aren’t I a cute child?
Hey, hey, I’m a nice child, right?
It hurts, hey”

These lyrics suggest a certain amount of obsessiveness in the girl. Her desire for human attention is so incredibly important to her that it chokes her, stifling her ability to connect with others. The questions in these lyrics reflect her obsessive need to be loved by others around her, constantly asking whether she is “cute” or “nice” while declaring that these feelings hurt.

I also want to draw attention to the visuals presented here.  In this part, a pair of hands clapping along with the beat appears. Between the hands, small red doodles show up, only to be smashed by the clapping hands, creating red scribbles on the hands and the surrounding video. The images shown are of a one-eyed creature, a crudely-drawn woman, and slightly more realistically-drawn man. In addition, the same image of the girl we’ve seen a few times appears between the hands for a bit, but this image isn’t smashed like the others.

I think the lyrics along with the visuals sheds light on what that collar represents. If we consider the beginning of the video to be a reflection of this girl when she was young, we might see the “collar” being representative of a childlike desire for validation from peers. The collar is constantly present, a reminder that this girl must constantly strive to be the very best in order to acquire love and validation from the people around her.

The visuals, on the other hand, seem to reflect an anger towards others around her. I’m not sure what the one-eyed creature represents, but the man and woman look like they could be parental figures. It’s notable that the amount of red scribbles/blood spatter increases drastically when the man is smashed as opposed to the woman. I don’t know what conclusion can be drawn from this, but I think overall this might reflect that it is the adult figures in her life putting pressure on her. I think it may be saying that during this part of her life, she feels the need to please her parental figures most of all. The chorus reflects this need to please others.

“Love me, love me, love me,
More and more,
Love me, love me,
So much that it’s maddening,
It’s painful, it hurts, this curse of mine,
Undo it, undo it, hey!
It can’t be stopped…”

The repetition of the “love me” in the chorus reflects an obsessive need for validation, and explains why she considers it a painful curse that cannot be stopped. The visuals during the chorus show various screaming faces, including that of the girl, represented with a white tie around her neck. Despite being a metaphorical reminder of the “cursed collar” causing all this agony, this image lends emphasis to the fact that the girl feels trapped by her need to please others.

In addition, butterflies begin appearing. Butterflies are symbolic of change and growth, and that brings us to another important motif that we’ll be looking at in the next verse – the growth of our main character. In the last visual of the chorus, she is shown covered in butterflies, then scribbles, and then her image changes. Her hair is longer and she appears to be wearing a school uniform. Clearly, taking the butterflies into account, we can assume she’s aged, perhaps to a high school age taking into account the uniform.

No matter how big your body grows,
This necklace remains small,
It hurts now, it’s not enough now
People aren’t, people aren’t enough now

First of all, we can see that even as our main character grows, her pressure to please others remains. Metaphorically, as she grows, the collar remains the same size, slowly strangling her. The pressure has led to what appears to be a lack of satisfaction towards just the affection of other people.

What does she desire now? Well…

I won’t lose to anyone of my class,
Aren’t I a lovely child?
Hey, more than that child and more than that child,
Everyone, everyone, come look at me!

She desires to be better than everyone else, of course. It’s still seemingly embedded in a desire to be loved, but now it seems the continuing pressure has made it competitive. She wants not only to be loved, she wants to be loved the most of everyone.

Overlaid with visuals of spiders suggesting a predatory instinct, we see the further degradation of our main character from a helpless child just wanting to be loved to someone far more malicious.

Behind the gymnasium, my confession to you,
Was it kind of a lie?
I love you,
You who are so filthy.

This line furthers the connection to the main character aging to high school age, since the behind-the-(insert school building here) love confession is a pretty standard trope. But this one is twisted. Though the narrator claims to love the person she’s confessing to, she also claims that they’re “filthy”.

So I think this scene serves as a more specific example of the depths our main character has sunk to regarding her need for affection. As we established before, she’s gotten to a point where she has to prove herself the most loved, so for her to love someone else is counter-productive.

The next chorus’s lyrics change slightly, with the “Love me, Love me”s followed with a few new lines:

I’ll give you everything
And I will have you, I will have you
Bear everything for me
It’s not enough, you’re not enough
I won’t let you go, ah,
Please forgive me

This is probably in reference to the person she confessed to behind the gymnasium in the last verse. There’s a lot of conflicting ideals here – while the subject wants to “give them everything” and wants to “have” them, they claim that they’re “not enough”. So here’s what I think. I think we’re seeing a conflict within the main character of the song.

She’s been taught, or led to believe, that she’s supposed to be constantly the most loved. It’s her curse, her “collar”, constantly strangling her. So when she falls in love with someone else, she’s unsure of how to fit it into her worldview. When she’s constantly trying to make others love her, how can she love someone else? Thus the “Please forgive me.” The subject of the song does actually love this person, but they don’t know how to.

The song then leaps into a repeat of the earlier chorus, minus the last line, “This is happiness, right?”

I think this connects back to what I was talking about earlier – that our character’s worldview is so skewed that she can no longer determine what love or happiness is. I also want to point out the visuals here – we see our character age again. Now, the collar is represented by two snakes twisting around her neck – one white, one black. Despite the obvious implications of the further decay of our main character’s state of mind, I think the dual snakes and their opposing colors also bring back that idea that she’s at war with herself, her love against her need to be loved.

And that’s the meaning of “Love Me, Love Me, Love Me”, but I wanna talk about one other thing, and that’s the genius of the horror presented in this song.

I always think the best horror comes out of fear for real life situations. Ghosts and demons and serial murderers and other oogie boogie creatures are scary on the surface, but true horror comes from forging a connection between the real and the fantastical.

Even though the horror of the song appears to come from the “curse” put on the main character, in reality, the “curse” is a far more real problem of her feeling that she must please everyone.  It’s true that the pressures to please everyone around you grow more suffocating as you get older, but that’s a hard thing to explain. So Kikuo-P uses the fantastical image of the cursed collar to represent this idea and the horror and pain it can cause through horrific, chaotic imagery. This situation is horrific, even if it’s realistic, so the emotions are effectively communicated through the lens of horrific imagery.

Anyway, Kikuo-P does horror so right. And I had to take approximately 2,000 words to prove it. Less niche post coming next week…. maybe.

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The Choice was Never Yours – A “Doki Doki Literature Club” Analysis

(The following post will contain major spoilers for a really, really good game. It’s free on Steam, so if you haven’t yet played it, close this post and do it! It’s about a 4ish hour experience. Do heed the content warnings, however. This game is not for the faint of heart… and I mean it.)

When I heard about “Doki Doki Literature Club” (henceforth referred to as DDLC), I wasn’t expecting too much of it. Sure, a psychological horror game disguised as an anime-styled dating sim sounds like a fun little novelty, but I was expecting the scares to be cheap. You know, your usual jumpscares and incoherent plot leading to more jumpscares. I was expecting a game for youtubers to record their reactions to so we can all have a little chuckle about how 2spooky these anime girls are. What I was not expecting was a genuinely horrifying and yet somehow heartfelt story about the nature of choice.

Don’t get me wrong, there were still a lot of jumpscares and disturbing (very, very disturbing) imagery in this game. But instead of these elements just being in there for shock value, they seemed more in service of a greater thematic purpose than your normal novelty horror game. And also fascinating was the way these elements broke down and criticized the genre it tries to mimic.

So let’s talk about romantic visual novels/dating sims/otome games/ whatever the correct term is.

In a dating sim, the biggest and most important game mechanic is the element of choice. Most games of these type start out with the often incredibly bland player character getting into a situation where they meet a number of attractive characters, all usually corresponding to a certain character archetype. From there, the player can choose which character they wish to pursue romantically. They do this by making certain dialogue and story choices that lead them down the path toward the end goal of romancing their chosen character.

So basically, the only thing separating a dating sim from a weirdly involved novel where instead of turning pages you click the “next” button a lot is the fact that the player gets to choose some aspects of how the story goes.

On the surface, DDLC seems to do the same thing as other games of its ilk. You play as a delightfully bland player character who is roped into joining a Literature Club by his childhood best friend, the positive and energetic Sayori. Although the player is at first reluctant, he becomes far more into the idea once he meets the other three members of the Literature Club: the tough-yet-tiny tsundere with a love for manga and baking, Natsuki; the quiet and shy bookworm with a talent for writing, Yuri; and the confident, helpful president of the club, Monika. Motivated by his interest in these four beautiful girls, the player character becomes entangled in the business of the Literature Club.

From here, the game’s choice mechanic becomes clear. The members of the club enjoy writing and exchanging poetry, so in order to win over the heart of the player’s chosen girl, they will have to choose certain words to put into their poetry to appeal to the girl they like. If the player successfully chooses words that appeal to their chosen girl, they will be rewarded the next day by spending more time with that girl than with the rest of the girls, leading them down the path (seemingly) towards starting a romantic relationship with her.

Or at least, that’s how it seems. But there’s a few important things to note. One, the only three choices the player actually gets are to pursue Sayori, Yuri, or Natsuki. Monika is not an option. And two, no matter which girl the player chooses to pursue, the story of the first act of the game always ends exactly the same way. No matter if the player chooses to pursue her, Sayori will always tell the player that she has had depression for her entire life and never told him due to her fear of inconveniencing him. Then, no matter what the player chooses the player character to say or do, she will always confess her love for him, and then no matter whether the player accepts or rejects her confession, she will always be found the next morning having died by suicide.

After the tone of the game being so cheerful and happy up until this point, most players will understandably be disturbed by this turn of events. They will probably wonder what choice it was that they made incorrectly to cause this to happen. They may try to replay the game, making their choices differently, hoping to be able to “save” Sayori. But the reality is, no matter what choices are made, act one of the game always ends this way.

So, players, probably quite spooked, will go onto act two of the game. This time, the game restarts and is pretty much the same as the first time, but Sayori is nowhere to be found. Any mention of her or clue that she ever existed is completely erased from the game, and the player character doesn’t seem to remember her at all. Instead, it’s Monika who encourages the player to join the Literature Club. From there, things progress similarly sans Sayori, but the atmosphere starts to change. Although it might seem like the player continues to have the choice over whether to pursue Natsuki or Yuri, the game soon railroads the player onto Yuri’s path.

In addition, strange game glitches are seen, corrupting the music, the character sprites, and the background. At this point, it’s pretty obvious that something very bad is going down in this club. However, in the meantime, the player begins to learn surprisingly dark information about Yuri and Natsuki, mainly through strange dialogue edits. The player learns that Natsuki is so short because her abusive father allowed her to be malnourished as a child, and that she spends so much time at the club in order to stay away from him. The player also learns that Yuri has a collection of knives, and uses them to self-harm.

Finally, most unsettlingly, the personality traits of Yuri and Natsuki seem exaggerated. Natsuki’s blunt honesty becomes downright brutality, and Yuri’s passion for her books and writing starts to look like obsession. And between it all, Monika seems willing to step back and allow Yuri and Natsuki to bicker and suffer.

Yet, just as before, the player’s choices are an illusion. No matter what happens, the player ends up alone in a classroom with Yuri, whose obsession for books and poetry have extended to an obsession with the player character. She confesses her love for him, and no matter whether they accept or reject her confession, she stabs herself several times and dies. From there, the player is unable to advance the game away from the image of her body, and must sit through 1440 lines of glitched, illegible dialogue before Monika and Natsuki return. Natsuki, horrified by the scene, flees, but Monika stays behind. She apologizes to the player character for what has happened, and then a small window opens up and the player watches Monika delete Natsuki and Yuri’s character files.

From here, the game resets once more, but this time, the club room is disconnected from the rest of the setting, seemingly floating in space. The player is confronted by Monika, all alone, her posture casual, facing the screen. She informs the player, not the player character, but the person actually playing the game, that she has fallen in love with them. She confesses that, as club president, she was given an omniscient knowledge of the fact that she was in a game, as well as the fact that she was not a romanceable character. Motivated by jealousy toward the rest of the girls’ pre-programmed chance to date the person she loves, she began interfering with their character files. It’s strongly implied that she played up Sayori’s depression in order to drive her to suicide, and heightened Natsuki’s rudeness and Yuri’s obsessiveness in order to make them less appealing. However, due to the fact that the player continued to have the choice to pursue these other girls, Monika was forced to remove them as choices by deleting their files.

From then on, the player is unable to advance from this screen with Monika. Programmed into the game are over 11 hours worth of topics that Monika chats with the player about, and she restricts the player from being able to skip dialogue. The only way to get out of the situation is to go into the files of the game and manually delete Monika’s character file, the same way she did for all the other characters. From there, depending on the actions the player has taken, two different endings are possible.

In the normal ending, the game restarts and Sayori has taken over as president, since Monika is nowhere to be seen. However, thanks to her new position, Sayori can now see everything that has happened. She takes the player to the same room Monika did and thanks him for getting rid of Monika, saying she’s glad they can be together “forever” now. Suddenly, Sayori’s sprite is glitched out, and several text boxes implied to be the remnants of Monika advance the game toward the credits, saying that she won’t let Sayori hurt the player.

However, if the player has gotten all of the CGs for all three of the romanceable characters, Sayori does not take the player to that same room, and instead simply thanks the player for spending all the time saving and reloading the game just to make everyone happy. She apologizes for not being able to do anything more for the player since the game is coming to an end, but promises that they’ll all still be there for the player should they choose to return. She then thanks the player for playing and the game advances to the credits.

What I want to focus on about this game is the choices, and lack thereof. If we want to draw a conclusion about what exactly is scary about DDLC, it’s not the disturbing imagery, the glitches, or the jumpscares, it’s the lack of control. At every point of the game where something terrible happens, though it may seem like the player has the choice to avoid them, there really isn’t any choice at all. Sayori and Yuri’s deaths, Monika’s takeover, everything is entirely unavoidable. In a way, from the moment the player boots up the game, they are unknowingly giving up their power of choice to Monika (and at the end of the game, Sayori).

If we’re going to draw a conclusion from DDLC, we’d probably say that this game wishes to point out that the scariest and most damaging thing to lose is the power of choice.

But that’s a little too simple, right? I think we can take it a step further. Remember when I talked about how the most important mechanic in an otome game is choice? In a traditional otome game, the player’s power of choice is the most important power they get. Their choice is king – if they pick a character to romance, that character will fall in love with them.

But think about it from the opposing perspective. If the player gets all the choice, then technically speaking, the “relationship” they build in the game is 100% one-sided. The opinion of the romanceable characters in the game on the relationship ultimately means nothing if the player makes the right choices.

And yes, I know that’s a silly thing to point out. We’re talking about pixels, ones and zeroes, lines of code, not living, breathing humans. They don’t deserve the same amount of choice that the human playing the game does, since, obviously, they’re not real.

But DDLC asks the question “What if these romanceable characters did know that they had no choice in the matter?” and “What if they desired that same amount of choice?”

That character, of course, is Monika. Due to her president position giving her the knowledge that she is a character in an otome game, and a non-romanceable one at that, she is aware of just how little choice she has. There is no conceivable way for her to make her own choices. So, the only way she can gain back her ability to choose is to take away the player’s ability to choose. Essentially, the game ends up a sort of reverse otome game, where the player is the one without choice pursued by someone romantically interested in them.

DDLC critiques the world put forth by the dating sim structure, pointing out the dangers of restricting choice, showing how a lack of choice can cause only pain and tragedy.

I also think there’s some level of critique on the way most dating sims handwave the problematic implications of the lack of choice given the romanceable characters. Namely, that being the way most player characters in otome games manage to get every single character to fall in love with them. This happens in DDLC, of course, but almost too well. While yes, the three romanceable characters that are meant to fall in love with the player character do, the non-romanceable character also falls in love with him. The fact that the player character makes too many people fall in love with him is perhaps another critique of the world presented by otome games.

DDLC asks players to step into the world of an otome game, a world where choice can be quickly taken away, and romance is less a mutual agreement between two willing participants and more a choice made by one party and endured by another. And this world is horrifying.

DDLC is a fascinating and well-made game, and such an incredible experience. The way it folds the critique of its own genre into the plot, structure, and scares of the game is really so interesting, and I’m glad I got a chance to play it. I highly recommend it.

(…as long as you’re cool with watching some super horrifying things happen to cute anime girls.)

Stranger Song Selections

I just finished watching season two of “Stranger Things”. Spoiler alert: it was super good, for a lot of the same reasons season one was super good. I thought I might do a post after I finished critiquing the series, but honestly, I felt like it was a solid follow-up to the incredible first season. I know there’s probably a lot of people out there who disagree, but my experience was overwhelmingly positive.

Just like season one, season two had an incredible atmostphere. Just like season one, season two had great, realistic, well-developed and likeable characters (well, save for one newcomer, Billy, but I suspect we’re going to see more depth in him in season three). Just like season one, season two had a fun, interesting plot that doesn’t explain itself too much nor too little. Just like season one, season two had a fun score full of 80s goodness… well, except for just one misstep.

Yep, my biggest problem with the new season of “Stranger Things” was one song choice in once scene in one episode. But, believe me, it was a big misstep.

So, before we move on, a quick warning. I will be spoiling some details for season two. Nothing big, but one subplot needs to be traced in order to truly understand what bothered me so much about the music choice. Also, the scene in question is the last scene in the last episode, so while it’s not a huge spoiler for the plot as a whole, it’s still an ending scene and therefore inherently spoiler-y.

So, let’s discuss Eleven and Mike.

In season one, Eleven and Mike’s relationship was a fairly major subplot. After an entire season of dancing around each other, the way kids with crushes do, Mike invited Eleven to his middle school’s “Snow Ball” and we watched them share a chaste little kiss before Eleven made her big sacrifice in the finale. At the beginning of season 2, as expected, we see a relative amount of angst on both Mike and Eleven’s parts on their sudden separation. I joked with my floormate several times about the middle school drama between them, but in all seriousness, it was quite touching. Eleven uses her psychic powers to keep an eye on him, and he continuously reaches out to her via walkie-talkie, fully aware that she probably won’t be able to reply.

So considering all the drama surrounding their separation, they reunite with a lot of fanfare. It’s all so touching, so wholesome, so pure.

It’s that wholesomeness that I want to focus on. Eleven and Mike are very young, much younger than a romantic couple would usually be on a TV show. Personally, I think that changes the game a little bit when considering how their romance should be depicted. They’re middle schoolers. True, they’re middle schoolers who have had a lot of crazy shit happen to them, but still. They’re babies! Their love is innocent and good and something to root for.

So, of course, as one might expect, the season ends with the “Snow Ball” teased in the first season. While technically Eleven is not allowed out in public, Hopper pulls a few strings and manages to allow her to go. And so, in the final scene, Eleven, done up in light makeup and a poofy blue dress, arrives and gets her dance with Mike.

And what song is picked to accompany this touching, adorable scene? Why, “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, of course.

And oh, in that moment, how I wished I had been able to watch this with my dad.

See, my dad used to DJ a lot of weddings back when “Every Breath You Take” was a popular first-dance song for newlyweds. And that makes sense. It’s a pretty, slow ballad by a popular and talented band.

And oh, did I mention it’s about a stalker?

Yeah, it’s not at all the beautiful romantic ballad it seems on the surface. I mean… look at the lyrics. “Every breath you take / Every move you make / Every bond you break / Every step you take / I’ll be watching you”? I suppose you could read it romantically, and many people do, but taken as a whole, it’s really a much more possessive than any healthy romance really should be. And even disregarding the debate over whether or not this song is truly romantic, is it really a song that should wrap up Eleven and Mike’s relationship up to this point? A relationship that, as I mentioned above, is entirely youthful and wholesome?

Okay, yes, it was a popular song at the time, and it’s not out of the question for inappropriate songs to be played at middle school dances. But the fact of the matter is that this is a conscious choice by the creators of the show to play this particular song over this particular scene. This isn’t real life. It isn’t coincidence. It’s a narrative choice.

Although, wait. Hold on. Maybe I was too blinded by my particular experience with this song. Maybe I judged too quickly. Because if this song was a conscious choice by the creators to play over Mike and Eleven’s first dance, then it must be stating something…

Oh…

“Every step you take, I’ll be watching you”? Eleven has psychic powers, and thus keeps an eye on Mike throughout the season without his knowledge, making sure he’s safe?

…Alright “Stranger Things.” Clever. I’ll give you that. Perhaps a little on the nose. But I can appreciate being a little on the nose, I guess, especially when it involves such a good song used in such a good season of such a good show. So you get a pass. For now.

(Don’t get used to it.)

 

 

Guest Writer: Fuller House is Bad… Or Is It?

Hello all! I’m incredibly pleased to introduce the second ever Guest Writer post! This time it’s my best friend of many (many, many) years, Madison Sveen! I absolutely adore her goofy look at season three of “Fuller House”, a series I’ve never personally watched. Even though I didn’t really know what she was talking about… it’s still a great read.

Enjoy!


Over the last week or so, I watched all of “Fuller House” season three. (Or at least, what’s out so far.) They were just SO HUNGRY for a cliffhanger and maybe some upped viewership come part two they had to split it into two parts. The amazing “Full House Reviewed” blog already tore apart season one, and I don’t remember season two, so I want to talk about season three and bring to light just how terrible it is. Spoiler alert: it’s many times worse than the previous two.

The opening scene of the first season is the perfect way to give a taste of the “Fuller House” viewing experience, here’s a non-exact recap of the very beginning of the show.

Danny Tanner enters; crowd goes wild. Shot of the baby doing something. Other original cast members enter; crowd continues to cheer. Sex joke. Old catchphrase. Aged up kids from the original enter, to more cheers. Kimmy Gibbler comes in and makes a bad joke. New kids enter. Political joke. Joke aimed at the Olsen twins not appearing in the new show. Cast stares at the camera for a long time to let it sink in.

And that’s pretty much the formula. The show is almost entirely structured around referencing the original. “Fuller House” is nothing without the original. And you know what, that’s okay. Its purpose is to be devoid of meaning outside of the context of the original, and that’s not so bad.

Seasons one and two are pretty much more of the same. Somewhat exasperating at times, (just choose Matt already, DJ, don’t drag this ON SO LONG), but pretty harmless, and just not made for me. I didn’t watch the original, but I did watch all of “Fuller House” so I must like something about it? Why else would I have watched the whole thing? Maybe I liked it because it was background noise? And I mean it’s sometimes entertaining, and it most certainly got a reaction out of me (even if that reaction is JUST CHOOSE MATT ALREADY). And that’s really the point of entertainment, isn’t it? So it’s not that bad.

What is bad is season three. And maybe I’m alone on this. Maybe I just lost interest and it’s really not worse. I’m certainly not against liking “Fuller House”. I’m not even sure I could say I dislike it. Even though I think it’s bad. And season three starts out bad. It starts with a musical number, and not just that, a dream sequence musical number about summer. How… topical. In fall. The song isn’t good and the singing isn’t good and it’s just all very painful to watch. I don’t want a long musical number lead by a kid who can’t sing that has no relevance to the plot at all. Or maybe it’s charming and I’m just too critical of this show. Here it is. And I’m not a person to be against a musical number! Musicals are pretty much my thing. I’m usually of the opinion that a musical number can improve anything. Well, I was proven wrong.

Then there’s the main cast. Not only can they not sing (with exceptions, particularly Stephanie, since her job in the show is music) most of them aren’t great at acting either. But I feel mean saying that… they’re not that bad, I don’t think. I can’t really tell good acting anyway.

DJ is our main character. I’m not really sure what her personality is? She seems kind of inconsistent to me. Or just bland. She has three kids. Jackson, he’s just kind of a TV middle school kid. His subplot for the season is that he goes to summer school and also is dumped by his girlfriend. He’s fine, I guess. Then there’s Max. He’s a really divisive character, it seems like. He’s one of those TV kids who acts like an adult most of the time and is really sassy. People either think he’s the worst or they think he’s cute. I don’t really know where I stand on Max. He has a girlfriend too even though he’s 9 or something? This show is really stretching to have as much relationship drama as possible. I thought the middle schoolers dating as seriously as they are in the show was a stretch. Then there’s Tommy. He’s a baby. That’s it.

We also have Stephanie. She’s my favorite and is, in my opinion, the best actress. Her subplots include being a struggling musician and thinking that she’s not able to have kids. This is also kind of a divisive thing from what I’ve seen. A lot of people it seems wanted Stephanie to be okay with not having kids and were rubbed the wrong way by the amount of pressure her family was putting on her to get tests done anyway. I do think it seems like a cop-out to have her suddenly have a chance at having kids, and would have been nice to see her be fulfilled by helping raise DJ’s kids, but I guess it makes sense that she would want kids? Though Becky is really pushy and makes it come off as a little weird. Stephanie also has a boyfriend named Jimmy, who is Kimmy Gibbler’s brother. I kind of like them together. He’s really stupid, that’s his character.

And rounding out the trio raising the kids is Kimmy, DJ’s best friend. She doesn’t do a lot this season. She and her husband Fernando worked out their relationship issues in the first two seasons and now they’re just kind of comic relief. Fernando moves out of the house this season and then moves in next door? I’m not really sure why he moved out at all. They also have a daughter, Ramona. She’s pretty cool. Except she has a jerk boyfriend. She breaks up with him during the season and it’s actually pretty well done, I think? Even though it’s more middle school relationship drama, at least it’s something. She doesn’t do much else that I can remember.

As for the old dad/uncles/Becky, they almost never show up. So those watching the show because they loved the original will probably be disappointed by that. Steve, DJ’s boyfriend from the original, is a pretty central character, but we’ll get to him. DJ’s old high school… enemy, I think, shows up some and has a daughter in summer school with DJ’s son. They’ll probably get together in part two of the season. The daughter is actually pretty entertaining, I like her reactions to how unrealistic the family is.

Finally, before I get to the plot, I’d like to discuss the comedy. The comedy is actually very strange to me. The jokes are, first of all, not very funny. To me at least. And a lot of the time it feels like the show knows this, and knows it’s not very good on the whole. So they show the baby! People like babies so they put a baby on the screen to maybe distract people from how unfunny that joke just was. They do the same with the dog, they like to take advantage of cuteness. But the show is also full of adult jokes that I feel make it inappropriate for kids. I would think that the show would want to be at least somewhat aimed at kids, much like the original. Maybe they only aimed it at people who grew up with the original.

I think this is kind of a microcosm of why the show doesn’t work for so many. It has lost the spirit of the original, in that it isn’t so much aimed at families anymore as much as an older demographic. It has, not only in the jokes, but in every part, lost the wholesome sweetness that made the original so… well, “Full House”. It’s only really “Full House” by way of reference after reference, not in capturing the soul of it’s predecessor. But anyway, let’s get to the plot.

Now, the main plot is that DJ’s old boyfriend Steve is getting married. In Japan, because apparently this show needed a Japan episode. Kimmy is planning the wedding and DJ is kind of upset that her ex is getting married. For those who aren’t caught up on your “Fuller House” lore, DJ has been struggling with a love triangle for two seasons now. She’s stuck between Matt, a handsome, kind, smart and cool vet she works with, and Steve, her ex from high school. Now, if you watched the original you know Steve. He likes food. That’s the main thing I know about him. But in “Fuller House” he has always rubbed me the wrong way. His obsession with DJ and not-very-subtle hinting at wanting to get back together is relentless, even when she made it clear in season one she didn’t want that. During season one, however, she decided to get back into dating. It makes sense that she’d give Steve a chance after that, but I still wasn’t keen on Steve. He came off as a little creepy to me. DJ spent two seasons deciding and when she was finally ready, she found out Steve and Matt were both already dating other girls. At first it implied they got with each other which would have been INCREDIBLE but they didn’t. Steve, get ready for this, I hate this so much, got with a girl named CJ. She looks like DJ, has a similar job to DJ, and even uses a knockoff of  DJ’s signature catchphrase. And they play this for laughs. Like, clearly he’s going to ruin CJ’s life? Or at least break her heart? How is she okay with this? Does she know she’s just a runner up to DJ? She’s MET DJ. Anyway, Matt also has a new girlfriend but they break up pretty quickly and he comes back to DJ and they get together. Then the big reveal, I believe in the season finale, is that she was going to pick Steve. Yet she still gets with Matt? Although she gives Matt a fair chance and it’s not too serious for a while. And it is possible to have feelings for multiple people. However, in season three this really gets bad. DJ is pretty desperate to connect with Matt and tries really hard to feel the same way for him she feels for Steve. Which is pretty good, I guess? She even seems sincere when she says she loves him. I’m honestly kind of confused on whether she does or not? But the fact that she’s leading him on so much is just awful. I feel like if they handled this in a serious, emotionally mature, self-aware way it could have been interesting. Maybe if DJ was more relatable throughout and communicated. They could have hit on real problems and feelings. I don’t know. I’m trying so hard to give the benefit of the doubt here.

So finally, in the big finale, they’re all on a plane to Japan to go to Steve’s wedding. DJ, who is wearing a face mask, thinking Kimmy is next to her, finally admits that she’s upset that Steve is marrying someone other than her. She says she always imagined it would be her and Steve. But – gasp – Steve was the one next to her and he hears all this. He doesn’t know what to do and quickly runs off. Meanwhile, Matt asks Stephanie if he should propose to DJ in Japan. (Hey, dude, don’t propose at someone else’s wedding, that’s not cool. That’s their thing.) Stephanie says he should. WHAT WILL HAPPEN? It’s over that’s it come back for part two in December. I was pretty mad. I assume they’ll go through with Steve/DJ in the end. I feel really bad for Matt and CJ. I’ve always been Team Matt. What is DJ thinking? Maybe she wants to recapture her high school days and forget everything she’s gone through since. Maybe the trauma of losing her husband is causing her to try to revert back to the familiar-

Wait a second. DJ’s dead husband! He was hardly mentioned at all this season. I think he was mentioned once in passing. And DJ made a lot of comments that made it seem like he never existed! In one scene she tries on a wedding dress saying “I may need one someday” or something, rather than “I might need one again.” And when she says she always thought it would be her and Steve, she makes no mention of the time she actually did marry someone other than Steve. What happened? Did the writers forget she used to be married? Actually, I forgot until I saw someone point out these very points! That’s what kicked off the whole show! And the original! The Tanner family curse!

Maybe this is actually a deep character study of a woman’s regression to high school to cope with the trauma of losing her husband. Maybe it’s a chronicle of a family cursed, for the eldest child to tragically lose their spouse after only having three kids. HOLD ON. I even forgot until this very moment that Danny got remarried, and then divorced his new wife in between seasons of “Fuller House”! He even lost his second wife, albeit in a different way. Will this continue? DJ will soon lose Matt while chasing Steve. Will she lose Steve too? Will Jackson’s future wife die tragically? The only way for the curse to end… is for the show to end…

The only way for the curse to end is for the show to end.

That must be why it’s so bad… this show is begging for death so the characters may keep their lives. This show with all it’s bad jokes and painfully long plotlines is just the characters begging to be freed from the inside, trapped by the relentless necromancy of nostalgic properties. The nostalgia keeping this show alive, or more aptly put, a zombie of its former form, is the very enemy of the characters themselves! Perhaps this whole time “Fuller House” has been a deeper commentary on a world that will simply not stop bringing back old TV shows, movies, books, everything, no matter the cost to the original.

…Nah the show just sucks.

Musical Month Week 5: Curtain Call

So we’ve come at last to the final week of my first ever themed month. This has been a fun little experiment, and I’m sure I’ll do more themed months in the future, but for now, I’ll be honest, I’m looking forward to going back to a variety of types of content.

And since I’m being so honest, I’ll tell you something else – I had no ideas at all for what I wanted this week’s post to be. I had made my plans for this month banking on the fact that October would have four Sundays. But oops! It has five. So while I had plans for all four of the posts leading up to this one, this last week remained kind of a question mark. Until I thought… duh. I’ve talked up and down all this month about specific musicals and songs from musicals I liked, but I haven’t really talked about what it is about musicals in general that is so appealing.

And I think that really is an important thing to consider when looking at musicals. It’s a unique genre with it’s own unique rules and quirks, and I think it’s definitely worth going into.

So what makes musicals so good? Well… the music, obviously.

I don’t think this is a wild, earth-shattering revelation. It’s the music that sets a musical apart from a stage play. It’s the music that has lent musicals the reputation of being unabashedly unrealistic (How many times have you seen the “why do we burst into song out of nowhere?” joke repeated ad nauseum about them?) And it’s the music that makes musicals appealing, at least for me.

Music is a very powerful tool of storytelling. Believe me, I’m a big fan of the storytelling power of music; see my post all about it. So I think that’s one of the biggest draws of musicals for me. It utilizes the storytelling power of music in a way that is incredibly literal and often really fascinating.

And while, yes, music from musicals can often be really straightforward as to how to tells story through music (usually through people just singing about whatever is happening or about whatever they’re feeling), there’s also a lot of potential to add in a lot of depth and nuance just through how the songs are performed, or written, or composed.

Take for example “Natasha & Bolkonskys” from “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.” This song song tells the literal tale of main character Natasha going to meet her fiance’s family for the first time. It’s obvious just from the dialogue that the visit does not go well, but more depth is added to the dynamic between Natasha and her future sister-in-law, Mary, just in the way their notes clash on the “Constrained and strained” lyric. The audience can understand that Mary and Natasha don’t particularly like each other, but through this musical clue, they can also understand why they don’t like each other. They come from fundamentally different places in life, and have clashing perspectives that cannot be reconciled without a change of perspective. Thus, the notes they choose to sing literally clash just as their worldviews do.

But that’s a pretty straightforward use of music to tell the audience key details about the characters. How about something a little more abstract? Consider Angelica Schuyler in “Hamilton.” Her big solo number and the introduction to her character is “Satisfied”, where we learn about her short-lived relationship with Alexander Hamilton before she more or less gave him up to her sister. What’s interesting about this song, though, is the fast-paced rapping Angelica does. Rapping in “Hamilton” tends to clue the audience into the character’s revolutionary attitudes, so the fact that Angelica has the rapping ability to rival Alexander’s, it lets the audience in on the fact that she is his intellectual equal. Compare that to her sister’s songs, entirely sung and not rapped, and the fundamental intellectual difference between the two women is clear. (Not insulting Eliza at all, as she’s my favorite character, but she’s definitely less of a revolutionary/intellectual.)

But there are even more interesting ways to tell stories using musical conventions. Consider the reprise. The reprise is a fascinating way to connect plot points throughout the story of the musical. For example, compare “Dead Girl Walking” and its reprise from “Heathers.” The first song is mostly a way of cluing the audience into Veronica’s rapidly decreasing caution when faced with the circumstances of the story. Also, it sets up her relationship with JD. The reprise, on the other hand, is the breakdown of her relationship with JD, and features her taking responsibility for her role in the disasters that have taken place in the story, due in part to that aforementioned recklessness. The fact that one song is a reprise of the other connects the entire arc of Veronica’s character really nicely. (Also, both songs are some of my favorites in the whole musical).

So, all that being said, I think I admire musicals for how how their structure leads to some really unique ways of telling story. Plus, it’s done with lyrics and music, and I love lyrics and music. And storytelling. And incredible performances. And musicals!

Thank you for hanging on with me through this Musical Month. Your regularly scheduled varied-topic shenanigans will resume next Sunday.

 

Musical Month Week 4: A Lovely Tribute

MS FLEMING: “Veronica? Jason Dean told me you just committed suicide!”
VERONICA: “Yeah? Well, he’s wrong about a lot of things.”
MS FLEMING: “Oh… I threw together a lovely tribute, especially on such short notice…”
“Dead Girl Walking (Reprise)”

After writing a post a while ago on how media consistently screws up its depictions of mental illness and suicide, I got to thinking – are there any examples of media that does the depictions right?

And ruminating on it a bit, I came to the conclusion that a great piece of media that does discuss both of these topics in a way that is constructive without glorifying either is the musical “Heathers.” And since it’s musical month, what better time is there to talk about it?

I’ve wanted to talk about this musical for a while. In fact, this post has been sitting in my drafts for months. I initially wanted to discuss JD’s morality as a character, and that’s a still a topic I find fascinating and worthy of discussion, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to continue a discussion on suicide depiction in media, a topic that really deserves further conversation.

Besides being just an overall entertaining and amazing musical, “Heathers” also has a lot to say about mental illness and suicide. Especially how our society as a whole tends to handle both topics, and how it harms the people actually in need. In my opinion, you can easily read the events of the musical as an allegory for our world’s honestly garbage treatment of real people with mental illness and suicidal thoughts… teenagers in particular.

So, let’s meet the main players in the musical, shall we?

Veronica Sawyer, A Teen for All

Let us begin with our humble protagonist, Veronica Sawyer. At the beginning of the musical Veronica is your average everyday high school senior. All she wants is to finish up her final year of high school and jet off to an idealized college life. She doesn’t want to stick out. She just wants to survive until her “freedom” arrives.

She is also most certainly the audience stand-in. Her point of view on events, at least in the beginning, most certainly aligns with how the audience would see them. This is aided not only by her role as a “typical” teen, but also by her personality. She is cynical, smart, and witty, allowing her to have the moral upper-hand on most other characters. So, the audience not only understands her well, but also can take her side morally.

For the rest of this analysis, always consider Veronica the audience stand-in. This is especially important when looking at the other major player in “Heathers”.

Jason Dean, Romantic Rogue

When Veronica first meets JD, it’s incredibly easy to see why she would fall in love with him. He’s dark and mysterious, and seems to represent a part of Veronica that wishes she could dismantle the school system and society that has tortured her for years. He’s a loner with an almost comically tragic past. A mother who died when he was young, an abusive father, and no friends to speak of.

And considering Veronica is the audience stand-in, the musical expects the audience to fall in love with JD as well. Why wouldn’t they, really? He’s a sympathetic character with a dash of mystery and intrigue. So when Veronica makes the decision not only to fall in love with him, but also to quote-unquote “fix him,” the audience is probably right there with her.

However, JD is not what he seems. Well, okay, he is actually what he seems exactly. He’s the romanticized ideal of troubled teen. However, it’s that ideal that is the focus. He’s just an ideal. The ideal that you can take someone with such a sad and troubled past and fix them with love.

So, at first, when JD begins taking Veronica along with him on his mission to fight against “society,” the audience roots for the both of them. And even when that fight claims its first victim, Heather Chandler, there still isn’t much moral ambiguity. After all, Heather is the “mythic bitch” of Westerberg High, someone known for her cruelty to others.

And how do they cover up their first victim in their quest to dismantle the “man?” Why, a forged suicide note, of course.

“Me Inside of Me”

PRINCIPAL: “Heather Chandler’s not your everyday suicide!”
COACH: “We should cancel classes.”
PRINCIPAL: “No way, Coach. I send the kids home before lunch, and the switch board will light up like a Christmas tree.”
MS FLEMING: “Our children are dying! I suggest we get everyone in the cafeteria and just talk and feel together… I’m telling you, we all misjudged Heather Chandler. This is the most beautiful suicide note I’ve ever read.”
“Me Inside of Me”

The suicide note Veronica forges for Heather’s death reeks of martyrdom and meaning. The letter becomes the focus of Ms. Fleming’s attempts to convince her students to reveal their feelings and discuss them. What happens instead, though, is that the entire student body comes to the conclusion that Heather was secretly a tragic figure, who died so others could be happier. And Ms. Fleming, for all her outward desire to help her students, seems more focused on the attention she is getting for spreading Heather’s “message.”

In the meantime, keep in mind that Heather’s death was not at all a suicide. She was murdered in cold blood by JD and Veronica, who go on to commit two more murders under the guise of suicide, this time football stars Kurt and Ram. Kurt and Ram’s supposed suicides lead to a revelation of the suppressed homoerotic desires of their fathers once Veronica forges their suicide note saying that they “died because [they] had to hide [their] gay forbidden love from a misapproving world.”

Once more, the suicides of teenagers is used to derive meaning for those left alive. Kurt and Ram’s deaths are seen as symbolic of the need for acceptance of LGBT identities, and leads two men to stop denying their feelings for one another. Like with Heather Chandler, Kurt and Ram’s deaths aren’t seen as the tragedy they are, but is rather shown as a positive decision they made that improved the lives of others around them.

And again I must stress – these deaths aren’t actually suicides. They’re murders. But in the frenzy of celebrating the “positive effects” of these suicides, everyone ignores the actual problem lurking beneath.

“The Tiniest Lifeboat”

As all this fake suicide goes on, two actual suicide attempts are more or less glossed over by the Westerberg community as a whole.

The first, Heather McNamara’s in “Lifeboat” and “Shine a Light (Reprise)”, is brought on by the bullying of Heather Duke, who calls her “pathetic” and tells her to “kill herself”. How much help is given to Heather McNamara by the supposedly mental health-conscious community as a whole? None. Nada.

(It’s also symbolic that the scene where Heather Duke tells Heather McNamara to kill herself is a reprise of the earlier song where Ms. Fleming urges the children to share their deepest fears in an attempt to prevent future suicides. Clearly, her efforts are not at all working.)

The second is Martha’s, the constantly-bullied former best friend of Veronica. After crooning out her sadness over the loss of her childhood innocence in “Kindergarten Boyfriend,” she leaps from the Old Mill Bridge holding a suicide note.

Neither Martha nor Heather McNamara succeed in their attempts to kill themselves, and I think this is an incredibly important fact to understanding what “Heathers” has to say about suicide.

Think about it. Thus far, the only two actual suicidal teens fail in killing themselves. Meanwhile, three teens who supposedly succeeded in killing themselves were not actually suicidal. But because they were the ones who actually died, society as a whole pays attention to them and them alone, while people like Heather McNamara and Martha slip between the cracks. Unless you’ve already succeeded in killing yourself, the world of “Heathers” doesn’t care about your mental health.

And Now Back to Our Protagonists

Remember back when I told you to remember that Veronica stands in for the audience? Keeping this in mind, let’s examine her role in the events of “Heathers”.

Veronica, while not being the one to orchestrate the murders, is very complicit in all of them. She is the one who forges both suicide notes, and she keeps what she knows of Heather, Kurt, and Ram’s deaths a secret from the powers that be.

And JD, on the other hand, sweet, troubled JD, is the one to mastermind it all. The musical purposefully writes him to be likeable in the beginning of the musical, so even as he murders people in cold blood, the audience goes along with it. He’s sweet! He just has a troubled past! He loves Veronica! It’s all okay. And Veronica, our audience stand-in, loves him too.

But keep in mind, remembering that she’s the audience stand-in, this implicates the audience as just as complicit in these deaths as Veronica is. They trust JD too, at first, and they give a silent cheer when he slays the “mythic bitch”. Perhaps they’re impressed by his and Veronica’s cleverness when they fake the suicide notes. And maybe they chuckle a little bit at the humorous nature of Kurt and Ram’s deaths. Either way, the full weight of what has happened never really sets in.

Like the rest of the community of “Heathers,” the audience is lead to focus more on these fake suicides than the actual mental health of the still-living teenagers in the musical. Martha and Heather McNamara’s suicide attempts, though heart-wrenching and accompanied by beautiful musical numbers, are mere blips on the overall plotline. And Veronica herself is not around to witness either. It’s only at Veronica’s lowest point in “Yo Girl” that she learns of Martha’s suicide attempt, and it’s only during the last song that she makes peace with Martha once more.

So what does this have to say about the nature of suicide and mental health in society? Well, it’s the sad truth that society as a whole doesn’t really pay attention to the still-living teenagers struggling with mental illness and suicidal thoughts. For those who have already committed suicide, it’s easy for society and media at large to grieve and make something meaningful of it, but “Heathers” points out that very little is done to prevent those still living from meeting the same fate.

In an exaggerated microcosm of our world, the adults of Westerberg High are tricked by two teenagers into romanticizing the murders of three teenagers while ultimately ignoring the actual suicide attempts of two still-living teenagers.

So what does this say about our world and the people in it? What does “Heathers” say about mental health and suicide? Well, it stresses prevention. It points out that we live in a world where it’s far easier to provide commentary after-the-fact. It shows how easy it is to ignore the still-living mentally-ill people at risk for suicide in favor of trying to draw some selfish meaning from the deaths of those who are already gone.

It’s also a kickass musical with a great plot and musical score. Social consciousness and overall quality… what else could you ask for?

Musical Month Week 3: CHRISTIIIINEEE

Back when I wrote the first post for Musical Month, I had a deep inner crisis over which song deserved the number three spot for “Be More Chill.” Though I knew “Do You Wanna Ride” deserved the spot just as a song I enjoy listening to, I also desperately wanted to talk about “I Love Play Rehearsal,” a short, sweet little song that does an absolutely fantastic job of characterizing Christine. In the end, it came down to the fact that I felt like I had a lot more to say about “I Love Play Rehearsal” than “Do You Wanna Ride,” so it merited its own post. This post, actually!

Yes, Christine is probably the best character in “Be More Chill” (besides Michael). For a character who doesn’t actually have that heavy a role in the actual plot, she remains a character motivation for Jeremy, and an important one at that.

Wait, the female love interest who does nothing but be the character motivation for the leading guy? Hasn’t that been done over and over and over and over (and over and over) again? Isn’t it playing along with that idea that women are merely actors in a story dominated by men?

Oh yes, that’s very true. But allow me to make a case for Christine. While I don’t know if I can say that she’s the perfect example of a woman with agency in a musical (as I said, she doesn’t do a whole lot), I do think she gets excellent characterization. It would be easy for “Be More Chill” to sideline her as the adorable, quirky love interest she is – always just a bit out of Jeremy’s reach, but still lovely and perfect – but instead she’s made out to be a person with feelings, and it’s not until Jeremy realizes that that he “gets the girl.”

I also have to commend “Be More Chill” because Christine appears in maybe, like, three songs? And she still manages to be a really interesting, complex character. So let’s talk about her solo number, “I Love Play Rehearsal,” and what it implies about her character.

{CHRISTINE}
I love play rehearsal
Because it’s the best!
Because it is fun.
I love play rehearsal
And I get depressed as soon as it’s done.

So, what is there to say about this song except… it’s adorable? Well, a lot (obviously, as I’m writing a whole post about it), but it is also incredibly adorable.

But besides establishing the adorable tone, this verse sets up a motif we’ll be following throughout this song. Escapism! Christine uses play rehearsal as an escape from the rest of her life, explaining why she gets “depressed” as soon as it’s over.

It’s also worth noting the tone she sings these lines with – namely, the difference in enthusiasm between the second and third lines. “Because it’s the best!” is cheered, while “Because it is fun,” is toned down purposefully, as if Christine is trying to remind herself to remain calm. Considering she is saying all of this to Jeremy, a guy she has never talked to before, the audience can assume she doesn’t wish to come off too enthusiastic to a guy she’s just met – she’s self-conscious about her enthusiasm.

But not depressed as in like kill yourself depressed
No, I’m not into self-harm
Dude, I swear, here check my arm!

In another telling verse, Christine makes it a very specific point to tell Jeremy that she is not depressed, or suicidal. It’s such a quick and desperate point that I would be surprised if it wasn’t meant to imply the opposite.

This brings me to another important point about Christine in “Be More Chill.” As I mentioned above, she doesn’t play that huge of a role in this musical. Honestly, this makes sense to me, since the story we’re presented is Jeremy’s, and one of Jeremy’s biggest character flaws is the fact he doesn’t seem to care all that much about the problems of other people.

This is directly stated in his treatment of Michael and Brooke, but I think it applies to Christine too. The implication that she might be depressed or suicidal here is basically skipped over by the musical, and I think that’s on purpose. Jeremy doesn’t care about Christine in any way other than as an object of his affection, a prize once he finally becomes “cool.” So, we only get implications of Christine’s problems, because Jeremy doesn’t notice and doesn’t care, and so neither does this story.

See, I just use the word to emphasize a point,
Show the passion I have got
I am passionate a lot.

Christine’s passion is another important part of her character we’re given in this song. Christine is actually one of the only characters to have a defined “passion” in the musical, except maybe Michael with his love of retro products and video games. I think that sets her apart as slightly more mature than the rest of her classmates, assured enough in herself that she knows exactly what she loves to do.

The other characters spend most of their time concerned with the drama of their high school life, while Christine seems to flit above it all. She’s not pegged as one of the “popular crowd,” but she also gets attention from Jake, who is one of that crowd. I find that interesting when compared to Jeremy, who is absolutely obsessed with his status in high school, but loves the girl who seems pretty disconnected from it all.

I have mad, gigantic feelings,
Red and frantic feelings,
About most everything
Like gun control, like spring,
Like if I’m living up to all I’m meant to be.
I also have a touch of ADD.

Where was I?
Oh, right!

I love the juxtaposition of the two things she names as passions of hers. Gun control and spring… doesn’t that just say so much about her? Passion for the political and the downright fluffy. Precious.

But anyway, we get a little more implication of depth and conflict in Christine’s life in these lines. She wonders if she’s “living up to all [she’s] meant to be.” From this line, we can assume she’s probably a very self-determined person, with an image of who she needs to become one day.

I love play rehearsal,
Cause’ you are equipped with direction and text,
Life is easy in rehearsal,
You follow a script so you know what comes next.

These lines also reveal an interesting motivation for Christine. Her love of how the script provides direction for life speaks to a discomfort with the unpredictability and difficulty of real life. This matches up pretty well with Jeremy’s motivations, actually. Like Christine alludes, he also seeks an easy answer to life’s problems.

That’s a pretty easy way for Jeremy and Christine to connect right here, but as I’ve mentioned a few times at this point, Jeremy is currently too wrapped up in his own problems to notice Christine’s. He’s not even able to recognize his own problems in hers! That will change as the plot of the musical progresses but… yeah.

Anywho the point that I’m getting to is sometimes life can’t
Work out in the way
It works out in the play
Like the only time I get to be the center of attention,
Is when I’m Juliet or Blanche DuBois
And can I mention?

That was really one of my best roles,
Did you see that?

These lines continue with the idea that Christine longs for an easy solutions for life’s problems, but then implies that Christine also longs to be “the center of attention.” I already briefly talked about how Christine doesn’t seem to factor into her school’s popularity hierarchy, but it’s interesting that despite this, she still longs for attention.

Also, I can’t help but look into the two roles she namedrops. Juliet is something that comes up again later in the musical, so I can discount it as a story beat, but Blanche DuBois is especially notable, especially since she calls it “one of her best roles.”

Blanche DuBois is a formerly wealthy southern belle who comes to live with her sister and her sister’s husband in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Without spoiling the plot of that excellent play, Blanche is an incredibly complex character who ends up slipping into a state of insanity. It’s a really intense role for a high schooler to play, and I can’t help but think that it not only speaks to Christine’s talent as an actress, but also perhaps her connection to the character?

I think later parts of the musical confirm that Christine deals with mental health problems of her own, so I think that she connects so deeply with a role like that.

And no matter how hard I try,
It’s impossible to narrow down the many reasons why-y-y,
I love play rehearsal.
I happiness cry whenever it starts!
It’s just so universal
Getting to try playing so many parts.
Most humans do one thing for all of their lives,
The thought of that gives me hives!
I’ve got so many interests I wanna pursue,

And another interesting point about Christine! I really love the concept of loving acting as a way to escape from yourself. I’m not an actress, but I am the daughter of two actors and the granddaughter of an actress, so I’m acquainted with their mentality well enough, I’d think. I also think writing has a similar appeal. I love sitting down and writing about other people and worlds for a while. It’s a wonderful form of escapism.

But anyway, Christine reveals she has a lot of interests beyond acting, but acting gives her access to all of them. It’s a rather fascinating approach to interests. It implies that Christine would be doing so much more if she had the time, but uses acting as a way to efficiently explore all her many interests. It sheds more light on her insecurities regarding whether or not she’s living up to all she’s “meant to be.”

And why am I telling this to you?
Guess there’s a part of me that wants to.

These two lines get reprised in “A Guy that I’d Kinda Be Into.” I mention this because I think they take on a different meaning if you consider the context the reprise adds. At this point, the audience is meant to think this means Christine might be harboring secret romantic feelings for Jeremy. However, “A Guy that I’d Kinda Be Into” reveals that these lines show more platonic feelings for Jeremy. She trusts him without knowing why, a fact that isn’t enough for selfish Jeremy at first, but eventually becomes a basis for their relationship.

Back to play rehearsal,
My brain is like ‘bzz’
My heart is like ‘wow!’
‘Cause we’re here at play rehearsal,
And it’s starting,
We’re starting,
It’s starting,
Soon.
Oo

Not much more to say, just more cute lines.

Overall, “I Love Play Rehearsal” is a really fascinating introductory song for Christine’s character. It explores her love of theater as an escape and as a way to explore many of her passions. It touches on her inner worries and motivations. And it also, in a low key way, points out Jeremy’s character flaws and the way they align with hers, setting up their relationship throughout the musical.

While I don’t think Christine is a perfect example of female representation in a musical, what strengths in her character exist are unique and worth celebrating.