Serious Snippet

Boy is working tech crew for the school play: Oliver! He's having a blast, and had the idea this past weekend that we should watch the movie. He'd seen it as a young child, but barely remembered it.

Spoilers ahead for a 180-year-old book. If you haven't read Oliver Twist or seen the movie versions, you really ought to go back to high school and get your money back from your tenth-grade English teacher.

ME: There's a lot of the story that probably will make more sense to you now that you're older.
BOY: Yeah. Like, why does Nancy love Bill?
ME: ... Why does any woman love a man who treats her like shit? You can't really help who you fall in love with. You can choose whether you stay with someone who treats you like shit, but sometimes even that isn't so easily decided.
BOY: I don't get it.

Later, the chilling Oliver Reed as Bill viciously beats Nancy in front of Fagin's boys to coerce her into helping him kidnap Oliver. It's awful and humiliating, as reflected in the boys' horrified faces. This is not a candy-colored movie, as much as people like to think. It never flinches away from what Bill is or what he represents, and more than any other, the faces of the children reflect it.

Then Nancy sings her soliloquy: "As Long As He Needs Me."

ME: This song is somewhat controversial.
BOY: Yeah. I just don't get it.
ME: Some see it as splashing sentimentality on domestic violence, that it's making excuses for Bill's behavior. I see it as Nancy telling herself what she wants to believe so that she can stay with him.
BOY: ... That makes more sense.
ME: Remember Nancy's line earlier, when she was singing about having a normal family with a husband? She said, "But for the likes of such as me, mine's a fine life." That's kind of showing what Nancy thinks of herself. She's the den mom, but she doesn't think of herself as being worth being treated better than Bill treats her. She loves him, though he totally doesn't deserve it, and so she stays with him even though he treats her like crap.
BOY: And it's not like they had shelters and stuff.
ME: No, there wasn't much support or help for domestic abuse. It happened a lot and nobody did anything. Unfortunately that's sometimes still the case.
BOY: *contemplative face*

And we all know what happens to Nancy. It's too often the way the story ends, of course.

I am oddly pleased that Boy has such a hard time understanding it. He doesn't get domestic violence, why it is perpetrated or why the subject stays. His image of intimate relationships doesn't include violence. That's a good thing. Would that it were so for all.

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