Sweeney

 Posted by (Visited 5815 times)  Art, Watching  Tagged with: ,
May 172008
 

Sweeney Todd disposes of Pikachu

We watched Sweeney Todd tonight. The kids had my tablet PC in the room, so I grabbed it and doodled a bit. Then they got ahold of it. It was a bad end for one Pokemon who got the closest shave of his life, and perhaps ended up in a meat pie.

Was a bit disappointed that “More Meat Pies!” wasn’t in there. Or this lyric, which has stuck in my head ever since some of our friends in college staged this musical as their senior project.

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd

He served a dark and a vengeful god

He shaved the faces of gentlemen

Who never thereafter were heard from again

We’d been telling the kids for weeks about those two bits, singing them over and over…

So, why can the kids watch this with us, but not GTA? Good question. Perhaps because Rockstar just isn’t Sondheim for me yet.

  23 Responses to “Sweeney”

  1. I prefer the Broadway version featuring Angela Lansbury and George Hearn. The look on Hearn’s face as he sings that song is riveting.

  2. Alas, the version available of that is just a sing-through, not a full staging. 🙁

  3. I tried watching Sweeney Todd, but I just can’t stand musicals…

  4. So, why can the kids watch this with us, but not GTA? Good question. Perhaps because Rockstar just isn’t Sondheim for me yet.

    Mind-boggling. I’m not sure how old your kids are (12? 11? older now?), but my oldest is nine and there is no way I’d let him watch the new Sweeney Todd or play GTAIV. Stage Sweeney Todd, maybe early teens. Movie Sweeney Todd, maybe late teens. GTAIV, that’ll have to wait until he can buy it himself. Of course, I’m just guessing, not confronting the actual decision now.

    I think most people would agree that it requires more maturity to handle being the agent of bad acts (eg deliberately running down pedestrians in GTAIV) than it does to merely witness bad acts (eg watching Todd slit throats). How much more is up for debate.

    But here’s a few questions I find interesting: how mature do you need to be to handle watching someone else be the agent of bad acts (eg watching someone else play GTAIV)? And what responsibility do you, as an agent of bad acts (as a player, not a game designer), have to your audience?

  5. Phil wrote:

    I think most people would agree that it requires more maturity to handle being the agent … than it does to merely witness …

    There is plenty of research into why spectators of violent sports become violent themselves, and surely there have been more reports of “baseball dads” going bonkers than the kids who play the sports.

    I think the role of spectator (or passenger) requires more maturity to handle being without control, or the illusion of control, over the outcomes.

  6. I’m a little confused. What does “handle” mean, in this case?

  7. In the absence of a gaming console, kids will quite easily “handle” switching from “good guy” to “bad guy” multiple times over the course of a session of Cowboys and Indians or Cops and Robbers (yeah, I’m dating myself; substitute whatever it is that kids play at these days when the system is down). And in a gaming context, they’ll gleefully join SWG’s Imperial forces, WOW’s Hoard, or CoH’s minions of Recluse just as readily (or more readily) than they’ll sign up with the heroes of those games.

    I think part of the visceral reaction to GTA is just a matter of genre. Reimagine it as a game where the protagonist runs down peasants on a horse, slaughters the city watch, and regains health from helpful faeries whom he can swat like moths afterwards. The mechanics and moral framework of the game aren’t substantially different, but isn’t the gut-level response… at least from the parental standpoint?

    Sweeny Todd is enough removed in time and space from our experience that there’s a certain comfortable distance from the material. Would that be true if it were a tuneful musical about a contemporary serial killer? Or would the latter be subjected to the same sort of hue and cry we see surrounding GTA?

  8. Michael Chui wrote:

    I’m a little confused. What does “handle” mean, in this case?

    What else could the word mean?

  9. And in a gaming context, they’ll gleefully join SWG’s Imperial forces, WOW’s Hoard, or CoH’s minions of Recluse just as readily (or more readily) than they’ll sign up with the heroes of those games.

    The geek in me really, really wants to point out that the Horde (overall) are not evil bad guys…

    …but that’s just asking for a really tangential flame war. :p

    (You have to give WoW credit, though, for the intriguing and intentional moral ambiguity they’ve written into their game)

  10. True, Peter, but that underscores my point… moral ambiguity and the ability to make “evil” choices in a game framework hardly raise a ripple in the context of a fantasy environment. Apply roughly analogous choices to a game set in a modern urban environment, however, and we lose the comforting psychological distance provided by the fantastic elements. I’m not convinced that the effect on kids is much different, but the effect on parents can be drastic.

  11. I think that Michael’s question over what ‘handle’ means is quite relevant. Kids can handle virtually anything. I watched my brother die from a gunshot wound mere feet from me growing up and I “handled” it. Doesn’t mean I’d wish to repeat the experience or that it’d be “good” for other kids to experience it, but I don’t think GTA IV or any other video game/movie/book/experience is a matter of kids “handling” it or not. Heck, the horrible things that kids in impoverished countries handle on a daily basis makes most Western kids look impossibly spoiled.

    They can handle it. The question is more whether parents/society believes that the consequences of kids handling it are desirable or not, both for the kids and for everyone else.

    –matt

  12. Matt Mihaly wrote:

    I think that Michael’s question over what ‘handle’ means is quite relevant.

    Handling, or managing [as is the synonym], being without control or the illusion of control over the outcomes of a situation, whether the situation be a game, story, or as a passenger in a speeding vehicle, in an intellectually reasonable and emotionally intelligent manner confers a significant degree of maturity on the spectator.

    Whether the situation is undesirable is irrelevant to that point, that observing a situation, especially an undesirable or otherwise difficult situation, requires a higher level of maturity than the performance that creates or furthers the situation.

    I think a more relevant question would be, “What does maturity entail?” The answer probably differs from person to person. To me, maturity entails self-control and the capacity to make sound decisions.

  13. I “handled” it.

    Are you sure you didn’t escape into Virtual Worlds because of it?

    Matt: They can handle it.

    Some handle it by commiting suicide.

    Matt: The question is more whether parents/society believes that the consequences of kids handling it are desirable or not

    An interpretation which of course makes the term “handle” completely useless.

  14. Well, it’s because saying “can handle it” is at best incomplete. It’s “can handle it without x happening” that’s the real issue. I may be able to “handle” a stressful situation without blowing up in someone’s face, but the methods I use to allow myself to do so may or may not be desirable.

    That being said, the most obvious completion is also the least useful: “without being affected in any negative way”. Negative here means, in a way that makes them less happy and/or functional within the context of society.

  15. I think a more relevant question would be, “What does maturity entail?”

    So by “X can handle Y”, you mean “X is mature with respect to Y”?

  16. I wrote:

    I think the role of spectator (or passenger) requires more maturity to handle being without control, or the illusion of control, over the outcomes.

    If you don’t cut that emboldened phrase off at the first two words, you might actually be able to understand what I wrote.

    I did not say “handle it” whatever the heck “it” is.

  17. I found the movie version of Sweeny Tod to be far more violent than anything I’ve seen in a GTA game so far – sure, in GTA the violence is callous – it allows and even encourages attacks on NPCs for no particular reason. The ST movie on the other hand really relishes the details of the violence.
    Of course it was made more traumatic for me due to the incredibly bad fake cockney accents…

  18. Ahem, *Sweeney Todd…

    …just woke up

  19. how mature do you need to be to handle watching someone else be the agent of bad acts (eg watching someone else play GTAIV)?

    We put “bad acts” in front of our kids more often and eagerly than you might think. Queens shouting “Off with his head!”, witches offering poison apples, pacts with evil gnomes. Yes, most of those threats are unrealized, but most kids witness plenty of evil early on…and they turn out just fine.

    Would they turn out better if they were not exposed to imaginary “bad acts”? I doubt it, for one simple reason: I guarantee they will eventually be exposed to real “bad acts” on the news, if not personally (God forbid). Maybe witnessing imaginary violence (quantity and quality carefully regulated) inoculates us against the horrors of real life.

  20. The lyric from the original Broadway musical was stuck in your head wrong, Raph. You’ve got two verses overlapping:

    Attend the tale of Sweeny Todd.
    His skin was pale and his eye was odd.
    He shaved the faces of gentlemen
    Who never thereafter were heard of again.
    He trod a path that few have trod,
    Did Sweeny Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

    and

    Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd
    He served a dark and a vengeful god
    What happened then, well that’s the play
    And he wouldn’t want us to give it away
    Not Sweeney. Not Sweeney Todd
    The demon barber of Fleet Street.

    Though, for whatever reason, I remembered the lyric as “dark and an angry god,” and a friend remembers, “dark and a hungry god.”

  21. Andy Havens wrote:

    Though, for whatever reason, I remembered the lyric as “dark and an angry god,” and a friend remembers, “dark and a hungry god.”

    Same thing though, right? ;p

  22. I said:

    how mature do you need to be to handle watching someone else be the agent of bad acts (eg watching someone else play GTAIV)?

    Todd Ogrin said:

    We put “bad acts” in front of our kids more often and eagerly than you might think. Queens shouting “Off with his head!”, witches offering poison apples, pacts with evil gnomes. Yes, most of those threats are unrealized, but most kids witness plenty of evil early on…and they turn out just fine.

    Would they turn out better if they were not exposed to imaginary “bad acts”? I doubt it, for one simple reason: I guarantee they will eventually be exposed to real “bad acts” on the news, if not personally (God forbid). Maybe witnessing imaginary violence (quantity and quality carefully regulated) inoculates us against the horrors of real life.

    Read my question more carefully. I am not talking about putting kids in front of the Alice in Wonderland or Snow White dvd. I am talking about you or I actually acting out the bad act, not you or I being a spectator along with the child. It’s the difference between the situation of taking your child to a production of Snow White and the situation of your child being in the audience of a Snow White production where you are playing the part of the wicked queen. It’s not a new situation. It does happen much more often now because of the games we play.

  23. LOL. Good to know, I haven’t seen it yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.