I saw School of Rock live and it was very strange

Tags:review

I saw the musical school of rock on stage recently and I just want to write something about just how weird this story is and how much it messes with my head to even think about it for more than just like, a second. I understand that school of rock is a comedy musical that exists for the sake of being a fun watch with fun music that you don't think too hard about, but I think too hard about all the media I consume, so here's some thoughts.

Firstly, I think I should probably give a brief summary of the plot of school of rock, so this is vaguely understandable to people who haven't seen it. It basically goes like this:

Dewey Flynn is a burnt-out wannabe rock star who has always dreamed of winning the battle of the bands. He lives with a high school friend (who works as a substitute teacher) who get tired of him living in their house and threaten to evict him if he doesn't pay rent. The teacher gets a call from a prestigious school and Dewey pretends to be him in order to get the job.

When Dewey shows up at the school, completely unqualified, instead of teaching the children math he teaches them about rock music and they form a band to go compete in the battle of the bands. The school is unhappy about this but after he goes on a date with the headteacher and gets her drunk she allows it. The parentsand his teacher friend find out that he's not a qualified teacher and are very angry and treat him like a predator, but he takes the kids to the battle of the bands anyway and they play and win, and all the parents and school are happy. (this summary leaves out a lot of the weird points, but to include all of them in the summary would defeat the point of the post)

This story is WILD to me, especially the way it deals with morality. Dewey Flynn is portrayed generally as not being a bad person - the story does deal somewhat with the blatant immorality of Dewey's actions when he's found out for decieving the children, school, and his teacher friend - but this is all resolved almost as quickly as it comes up, especially in the ending scene where the kids win the battle of the bands and everybody's so happy, all the parents are happy, the school hires Dewey as an actual member of staff, and it all works out great.

This is very strange, especially as it implies that the people in the world of the school of rock follow very strongly the idea that the end justifies, no matter what, the means. The end reached in school of rock is a good one - a bunch of kids learn more about themselves, confront their overcontrolling parents and have fun in a cool rock band. In-universe this is all completely good and justified, but what did Dewey actually do to reach this point? (keeping in mind that he's overall characterised as likable and well-meaning, if slobbish):

Now, I'm not sure about you, but to me these range from dick moves all the way to pretty serious actual problems. I don't think that anybody could have their child literally *abducted by a fake school teacher and taken to perform live* and be OK with all of that just because the music is good, but this is how morality in the world of school of rock works. It turned out fine and the kid is good at music, so this is all apparently forgivable (and even laudable, given that Dewey is then contratulated by the school headteacher).

This also makes school of rock's message a very strange one. It's easy to say that school of rock does not have a message or that the message of school of rock is very simple - to follow your dreams. The kids and Dewey both end up happy because they did what they wanted instead of what THE MAN wanted them to do. But the actions of Dewey to get there are downright criminal, and the children didn't dream of being rock stars - they were used by Dewey, who would likely have pushed that even if they didn't want to. It just so happened that they all secretly dreamed of being rock stars the whole time and it just took Dewey for them to realise? But I guess "do what you want and it doesn't matter if you rope 10-year-olds into it on the way as long as they later find out that it's what they want to do as well" is not really a uplifting conclusion for a show, so this is glossed over. Further muddying those waters is what school of rock is - a stage musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who is a conservative party peer in the house of lords, which is an adaptation of a successful hollywood movie. If the message is "stick it to the man", then it would seem hypocritical made by folks who are literally "the man".

Another strange thing is the one kid in the show who's entire characterisation is pretty much "he's gay". He becomes the costume designer for the band and has his (overwhelmingly glam and 80s-ish) outfits rejected, with comments that he needs help or needs therapy. This just rubs me the wrong way more than anything, because he's pretty exclusively used as the butt of jokes and as somebody who "needs help" when his behavior is 100% just a gay stereotype.

So, yeah. It's a strange show.