My teenage daughter is taking theater classes and some time ago, her teacher assigned the class to see a musical every few weeks. I was excited when it came time to watch Annie Get Your Gun because I hadn’t seen it yet. I’d learned some of the songs in junior high, and I particularly loved the song “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun.” Finally, I was going to learn what it was all about! We found the DVD at the library, gathered our snacks, and settled in for nice evening. But I wasn’t at all prepared for the message in Annie Get Your Gun.
The songs were fabulous!
The songs were great. All of them. You can see for yourself the song “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” here on YouTube. I think you’ll agree that Betty Hutton is nothing short of amazing. But I confess the overall musical was, well, a little long. We’d been watching the other musicals and loving them, but we kind of got distracted three quarters of the way through this one. (I think it was sometime when they went to Europe). Fortunately, our snacks were pretty good, so we pushed through.
And like I said, the songs were absolutely fantastic. It was definitely worth watching just for the music.
Then the end rolled around, and I was astonished at the resolution.
Spoiler—the message in Annie Get Your Gun
The end goes like this: Annie, in order to win her man, throws the shooting contest she challenged him to.
Really? Is this the kind of message we want to send to our daughters—that you can’t get a man by doing your best, but you might be able to get him to love you if you don’t do your best? If you let him win, if you let him be better—or think he’s better—you might find true love. If you put aside your own abilities and play second fiddle, he might find room for you in his heart.
Ugh. I doubt this musical would have been as successful if it’d been released today instead of in the 1950s. Women now are too strong to appreciate that message. We’ve learned that we have to be better than our male counterparts to even get half as far. We’ve taught our daughters to always be their best. We’re not about to miss a target to make a man love us—and we shouldn’t have to! The message in Annie get your gun made me roll my eyes. I was also just a little bit angry.
And yet . . .
And yet, is it so bad to let someone win if their pride at losing would make them throw away something that would be very good for both of you? Is playing a little less hard at something any different than holding back to give someone you love a chance to shine?
I admit, I’ve played dozens and dozens and dozens of games with my young children where I lost purposefully. I loved seeing them happy. And, I admit, it was easier than enduring the tantrums four and five year old tend to throw when they lose.
As a bestselling author, I’ve spent time in the limelight, and sometimes that means the supporting members of my family have taken a back role. But their talents in their chosen professions or passions are every bit as good as mine. Take my husband, for example, who is an amazing software engineer with an unusual ability to not only give you exactly what you asked for but also several dozen other things you didn’t know you’d need. Or my oldest son who created this website and other sites far more complicated. Or my daughter who is talented with editing, design, typesetting, and article-writing. They’ve all rushed to my aid and been been the wind beneath my wings more times than I can count. They’ve helped me shine.
I’d definitely be okay not shooting my best on one day if it meant letting them have their well-deserved moment in the limelight.
So I have no problem with the message in Annie Get Your Gun. It’s a fun movie that reminds us love is important more than winning the game. Essentially, Annie not shooting her best was equivalent to a man bringing flowers to his girl to make her feel wonderful. It was as if Annie stood up and said, “Look at my guy. He’s got talent too.” She was giving her man a chance to shine.
In my mind, the next day she’d outshoot him again.
Will I watch it again?
Oh, I’ll watch it again, mostly for the music. And I’ll make sure to have plenty of chocolate and popcorn.
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Copyright 2017 Teyla Rachel Branton
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