Liberal critics have always panned 1965's "The Sound of Music" as conservative and schmaltzy, a throwback to the 1950s during a decade that claimed to be about revolution and progress.
Yet the public loves it.
London academic Martin Gorsky has an explanation that critics seem to have missed: the film actually ‘helped constitute’ an understanding of society.
Gorsky explains that the film’s treatment of two contemporary issues - the importance of play and emotion in childrearing, and post-war perspectives of Fascism – were fundamental to the widespread popularity of the film.
Thus Maria’s energetic and involved governess/parenting is more than just a quirk of the script. The values of the 1960s can also be framed as being found in many of the characters’ relationships with authority figures; the film shows that “social organization based on fealty to the leader ends only in unhappiness. The antidote, love, can both transform the individual and rearrange the social, replacing obedience with collaboration.”
Gorsky concludes that what made ‘The Sound of Music’ so popular with contemporary audiences was the simple statement about love and peace at its core: “and what would be a more characteristically ‘Sixties’ message than that?”
Perhaps. Democrats found a way to give credit for Ronald Reagan bringing down the USSR and got "Charlie Wilson's War" made to try and prove it. So claiming that independent resistance to totalitarian big government is not a conservative belief but rather a liberal one is an easy sell in academia, especially among Baby Boomers obsessed with their own endless self regard.
The public isn't searching for a deeper meaning. It is just a good Rodgers and Hammerstein show about people who like to sing and wanted to escape the Nazis.
Citation: Martin Gorsky, '“Raindrops on roses:” The Sound of Music and the political psyche of the Sixties', The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture , April 2014, DOI:10.1080/17541328.2014.886425
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