On the grand scale of musicals that are perpetually playing in Utah, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” probably ranks third (the first two being “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Forever Plaid”). I can’t speak for when it was originally produced, by the play strikes me as exceedingly perverse. Kidnapping your potential bride is not the sort of activity we would generally expect to find in plays that the Mormons laud (even if written by Sam Shepherd). So, what is the deal?
Do Mormons love it just because it is a musical set in the West that isn’t “Paint Your Wagon”? Are we waxing nostalgic for a period when kidnapping and forced marriage could be seen as innocent fun? Or it is something more sinister?
10 Replies to “Seven Brides for Creepy Brothers”
I believe the Seven Brides play is a semi-modern version of the ancient Rape of the Sabine Women legend. There is a whole song in the musical about this isn’t there? Posted by Geoff Johnston
Geoff,It seems so .To be honest, I am much interested in why the folks in Utah seem to be fascinated with the thing. I don’t believe that it derives from an appreciation of Roman history. Posted by John C.
Hey, I really enoyed Paint Yer Wagon! To this day, my brothers and I will launch into, “they call the wind Mariah!” at the drop of a hat. What other movie has that winning combination of Mormons, polyandry and Clint Eastwood singing “I talk to the trees” ?That said, I’d actually expect Mormons more than others to have plays about kidnapping brides on the basis of Mosiah 24 :)I really don’t know, I guess. Posted by Ben S.
Interesting you should mention this musical. I teach the 15y/o sunday school class in my Utah ward. I ran out of things to talk about one Sunday and began asking the kids what their favorite movies are. One girl (who happens to be the girl who criticized me the week before for spending too much time talking about the priesthood–she wants more lessons “relevant to me”) said the movie version was her favorite movie. Other girls popped up saying how much they liked it too. None of the boys care for the movie. I was surprised to say the least because several of the girls, especially the girl who liked the movie the best, have expressed what I consider to be almost feminist views (at least for Utah)on several occasions. These girls are not traditional molly mormon types.As we discussed the movie the girls really couldn’t articulate why they liked the movie. But the discussion about the movie led to a discussion of how in some cultures arranged marriages predominate. The same girls who liked the movie also said that they were intrigued by the idea of arranged marriages. Very wierd conversation.Anyway, if my instincts are right, its not Utah men that are facinated by Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but Utah women. Any idea why? Posted by Jason
Stereotypical straight male aversion to musicals? Honestly, I think it is still around due to old folk nostalgia for the musicals of their youth (no matter what the underlying message may be). Posted by John C.
But how do you explain 15 y.o. feminist girls who love Seven Brides? Is it because in reality the women in the musical have all the power, the men, with the exception of the kidnapping are complete wet noodles? I seem to recall that at one point the women lock the men out of the house for some supposed infraction. Posted by Jason
The stereotypical impression that in a patriarchy it is the women who hold the ‘real power’? The way the play turns male into female domination may play into this kind of ‘man behind the woman’ worldview. Admittedly, they come to a point of codependance by the end. I dunno, maybe it is because it is one of those plays that are always playing somewhere in Utah and, in particular, at Tuacahn? I’ve only lived out here for 10 years or so but I think it has played there twice. Maybe your 15 year olds don’t get out that much.That’s not the point. Obviously, the play is deeper than its surface story suggests. But there are plenty of other stories that examine the gender divide without kidnappings and do it much better. Why has this one caught the attention of the 15 year olds and Utahns in general?Perhaps because it is set in the West and seems to tell a story from the 19th century. Perhaps we see the Mormon pioneers involved in similar shenanigans. Posted by John C.
When you’re a fifteen year old girl, movies about arranged marriages are fascinating, because your parents appreciate you much better than the boys know. Your parents could negotiate you up-market better than you can. And you’re dealing with being measured by the question of whether any boys will ever like you. Posted by Johnna
I was thinking about this. The play depicts girls manipulating sexually curious boys. This is probably very true to the life of 15-year olds today. Posted by John C.
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