Examining Your Desire (Ep. 183 - Ragtime)

Bonus Episode Guest: Zack Ford

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Zack Ford never planned to become the LGBTQ Editor at ThinkProgress.org. He was going to be a music teacher, and writing about current events was just a hobby. But after he came out in college and began living a more authentic life, he realized that he was holding himself to some expectations that he simply didn't want to meet. And that his happiness depended on a radical shift in his assumptions about work, pleasure, social justice, and sex.

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This Week's Recommendation: Urinetown

Thanks again to Zack for joining me. Do check out Ragtime, it's a fantastic and too-often overlooked show. And if you like musicals with something to say, you might also enjoy one of my favorites -- the title is Urinetown, and that does not even begin to prepare you for just how unsettling an experience it can be.

The show is set in a sort of fabled speculative future, where water is so scarce you need to pay in order to use the bathroom. From this bleak dystopia emerges a folk hero named Bobby Strong, whose father was seized by authorities for his refusal to pay for urinating. Bobby, determined to usher in a more just world, falls in love with Hope Cladwell, the daughter of the wealthy madman who controls the town's water.

Together, they believe that there's a better way, a more just system by which all people can live together.

They are wrong, and everything goes very badly.

While the show is a goofy comedy full of in-jokes about overdone musical theater tropes, it's also a very dark comedy about how the best of intentions don't always lead to the best of results. A few weeks ago I recommended Assassins as a musical that leaves you feeling a sort of cold weary dread about humanity. Urinetown is, for its part, often just as alarming... but at least in this show, we're laughing about it. 

Stuff We Talked About