re: Does Melchior rape Wendla in SPRING AWAKENING?**SPOILERS**

BBBoy
Chorus Member
joined:2/2/05
**SPOILERS**

I thought it was a very big mistake to make the rape in SA ambiguous in any way in the transfer from off-bway to Broadway. A distinct theme in the play (and the musical as well - one of most interesting I feel) is how blossoming sexual energy in a repressed society is bottled up and redirected in unusual ways.

Melchior knows what sex is. He is a smart, if slightly rebellious young man, but he is always in control of himself. He knows that with his knowledge comes great responsibility.

But when Wendla asks him to strike her with the switch, we suddenly see the extent of his own personal emotional repression. He loses control - becomes masochistic, abusive, and enraged. But he is also empowered by it, and that is what leads him to rape Wendla - attaining his own sexual freedom through force and violence. It is part of his sexual awakening - to give in to the base desires of his blossoming sexuality.

Turning the rape into a psuedo-consensual act turns what is a potent analysis of the extremes of sexuality into a simple and boring love story. It also creates a number of problems with his character. There needs to be a justifiable explanation as to how Melchior, in all of his wisdom, would just go ahead and do the deed with Wendla without being wary of the consequences. The act, as currently portrayed, deprives Melchior of the intelligence that was key to his character up to that point. For the rest of Act II, he is turned in to a soppy, love stricken romantic, who is merely jazzed (if a little surprised) at the news of his impending fatherhood. There's a goldmine of thematic potential there that is never even touched.

Nonetheless, no matter what way you put it - it is still rape - simply because Melchior knows what he is doing, Wendla doesn't, and he seems pretty lucid while he is doing it. Returning it back to a moment of sexual agression (as it is in the original play) would both justify the event itself, and I don't feel it would turn Melchior into an unsympathetic character (as it also works out in the play).

We understand that, despite Melchior's intelligence, he is still a young man learning to battle the growth of his sexual desires in a repressive society, and any act of emotional rebellion (yes - including rape) is forgiveable considering the context of the play. He is still our hero, because he has never been, despite his hopes, in complete control of his life/world. It is his battle and journey to find his place in the world and within himself, and the rape is an important part of that.

Making it consensual just makes it boring, and I think really sabotages the second act.

Becoz_i_knew_you21
Broadway Legend
joined:4/29/06
That was fabulous BBoy.
Borstalboy
Broadway Legend
joined:2/9/04
Agreed, BBoy. Political correctness drowns yet another great work of art.
"It's now rather very common to hear people say 'I'm rather offended by that'. As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more than a whine. It has no meaning, no purpose. It has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that'. Well, so f**king what?"--Stephen Fry
uncageg
Broadway Legend
joined:5/13/04
My best friend and I saw it at the Atlantic and discussed it at intermission. One of the things we came up with is that it was not really rape. They were young and inexperienced. He may not have realized the physical pain she was feeling at first. He may have know about sex, but not the physical pain a girl feels, especially the 1st time. And we do not see the full act itself, so we don't know if she actually gave in. Which I think she did after the initial shock. But then again, no means no. Just my thoughts.
Just give the world Love.
sidjones09
Leading Actor
joined:1/4/07
*SPOILERS on 2 counts, SA and CRASH*

I agree with 95% of what you said BBBoy.

I still think it's a great show though. But instead of omitting the rape, I would have loved to see them explore how Melchior deals with that even deeper in ACT 2.

I don't know why this analogy keeps coming up in my head, and it may be a bad one, but I keep thinking of the movie CRASH. You know how Matt Dillon's character, Officer John Ryan, saves the life of Thandie Newton's character, Christine Thayer, from the car accident a good while after he had molested her in front of her husband. Can you imagine how much less powerful that scene would have been without the molestation preceding it.

I keep thinking if Melchior had to carry his rape of Wendla with him into the discovery that she was now pregnant from it, and when he finally shows up to talk with her for the first time since this news only to find out that she and his baby are dead. Now THAT's riveting theatre. Just that ONE moment, could have made such a difference for everything that came after it.

"If you've got something to say, say it, and think well of yourself while you're learning to say it better." - David Mamet
sidjones09
Leading Actor
joined:1/4/07
"My best friend and I saw it at the Atlantic and discussed it at intermission. One of the things we came up with is that it was not really rape. They were young and inexperienced. He may not have realized the physical pain she was feeling at first. He may have know about sex, but not the physical pain a girl feels, especially the 1st time. And we do not see the full act itself, so we don't know if she actually gave in. Which I think she did after the initial shock. But then again, no means no. Just my thoughts."

Uncageg, I have to disagree. I thought it was CLEARLY a rape at Atlantic. From what I remember, Wendla was physically and verbally pushing Melchior away all the way up until the actual insinuated penetration. Although there were still signs that she had feelings for him, I did not get the impression that she wanted any part of that experience.
"If you've got something to say, say it, and think well of yourself while you're learning to say it better." - David Mamet
uncageg
Broadway Legend
joined:5/13/04
I saw it in June. And don't remember specifics. I do remember that we talked about it and we were back and forth on the rape thing. Would take up too much space to type the whole conversation.
Just give the world Love.
jg4892
Broadway Star
joined:11/2/06
I'm torn on this one. I agree with muscle on that she said no at first just because she knew something about what they were doing was taboo, but she really wanted him, as shown in the second act when she tells her mother she just wanted to be with him. However, Melchior did push her a lot into the act.
defyingravity11
Broadway Legend
joined:2/26/06
Mechoir does rape Wendla in the original play, but Wendla doesn't really know that she is being raped. I was under the impression that she kept saying "No!" because her mother told her that babies came from a man loving a woman. Wendla didn't want Mechoir to love her, not necessarily to have sex (she doesn't even know what sex is at this point). I haven't read the oringinal play in some time, so I could be wrong about this, but it's just what I remember.
"In theater, the process of it is the experience. Everyone goes through the process, and everyone has the experience together. It doesn't last - only in people's memories and in their hearts. That's the beauty and sadness of it. But that's life - beauty and the sadness. And that is why theater is life." - Sherie Rene Scott
iluvtheatertrash
Broadway Legend
joined:11/9/04
Muscle, that makes so sense. She had no idea about what was going on. She thought babies came from the stork, for God's sake. What "social pressure?" She's scared, has no idea what he's doing, anything.
"I know now that theatre saved my life." - Susan Stroman
jg4892
Broadway Star
joined:11/2/06
When I said I agreed with muscle, I agreed about her wanting to do it but knowing it's wrong somehow. she feels love for melchior, and realizes thats where babies come from and it's taboo for her in that way.
shesamarshmallow
Broadway Legend
joined:3/23/06
She doesn't know that that's where babies come from. Hence her being all "...that???" when she finds out she's pregnant.
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jg4892
Broadway Star
joined:11/2/06
She doesn't know babies come from sex, but she knows they come from love, as explained by her mother. So when she starts to fall in love with Melchior and is about to engage in this act that comes from her feelings of love, she is scared that she'll have a baby but is still confused.
caitlinette
Broadway Star
joined:1/23/07
What about these lyrics:

Had a sweetheart on his knees
So faithful and adoring
And he touched me
And I let him love me
So let that be my story


That makes it sound like it was consensual.
uncageg
Broadway Legend
joined:5/13/04
jg4892 - That was part of the discussion that my friend and I had at the Atlantic. She wanted to do it but knew it was wrong. So it was not the physical pain of it, it was what was going through her mind and knowing it was wrong. We actually went round and round about it.
Just give the world Love.
Becoz_i_knew_you21
Broadway Legend
joined:4/29/06
Updated On: 3/25/07 at 11:49 PM
CurtainPullDowner
Broadway Legend
joined:11/4/04
are those lyrics suppose to rhyme?

What was he doing on his knees anyway.
ashbash1990
Broadway Star
joined:10/15/06
In the original play, the sex scene is quite clearly a rape...
What a night! I was in more laps than a napkin!
BroadwayGirl107
Broadway Legend
joined:8/26/03
"I agree with muscle on that she said no at first just because she knew something about what they were doing was taboo, but she really wanted him..."

There's multiple layers to that "wanting." Just because a woman physically desires some sort of sexual satisfaction, it doesn't mean she's emotionally ready for it. Saying no wasn't just her knowing it was taboo and a "bad" thing to do, but it's an intense physical intimacy and saying "no" is also a resistance to THAT. If he had more knowledge about the act than she did, and he still tried to seduce her into doing it after her initial resistance, that's rape...regardless of what her hormones are telling her. At the very least, it's a SEVERE physical (and emotional) violation, and it's taking advantage of her BIG time.
"This country, this experiment, America, this hubris: what a lament if no one saw it go. Here today, gone tomorrow. Dissipation is actually much worse than cataclysm."--August: Osage County
Updated On: 3/24/07 at 12:38 AM
C is for Company
Broadway Legend
joined:7/16/05
Brilliant BroadwayGirl, simply brilliant.

:-p
Updated On: 3/24/07 at 12:39 AM
mint0621
Broadway Star
joined:10/10/04
Wendla cannot give consent to something she does not understand.

Thinking that she wanted it, or that she asked for it...can be dangerous reasoning similar to what rapists say in court.
teka21
Leading Actor
joined:12/19/06
The SA songs are inner monologues of the characters' thoughts. In several songs- Word of Your Body, Whispering, and The Guilty Ones, Wendla sings about wanting Melchior. The lyrics citied from Whispering in an earlier response are the same lyrics from the Atlantic version. The Guilty Ones however, did not appear in the Off B'way show. In the Broadway show, it is clear that Wendla and Melchior continued their sexual relationship consensually beyond the hayloft with the second act opener and The Guilty Ones lyrics about the hours they spend together. Wendla may not have known about the consequences of sex, but she sings of wanting to be touched, acts upon her curiosity about what it feels like to be beaten, and is clearly experiencing "awakening" sexual desires. That's why she refers to herself as "bad" in Mama Who Bore Me. There is nuance to these characters. That's why so much discussion has been generated by SA- and this is a good thing, no matter how one views the show.
Becoz_i_knew_you21
Broadway Legend
joined:4/29/06

Updated On: 3/25/07 at 01:08 AM
CurtainPullDowner
Broadway Legend
joined:11/4/04
"The SA songs are inner monologues"

Well in Musicals, any song sung alone by a character is an "inner monologue"
Billy Bigelow in CAROUSEL
There is nothing new about that.
Saying all the songs in SA are inner monos is ridiculous,
when all the character are singing together are they having the same inner monologue?
No, they are stating their feelings about what is going on around them.
Just like the picnicers in THIS WAS A REAL NICE CLAMBAKE.
jewelchk
Stand-by
joined:12/21/05
**more SA spoilers**

That verse in Whispering always struck me as ambiguous-- I was never sure if she really meant it or if, by "And let that be my story", she was trying to convince herself that it was more romantic and perfect than it actually was, both for her sake and to justify the baby being conceived out of love.

I felt like, because they did deviate to make it into a love story in the second half, once she learned what sex was and the consequences and was happy about the baby, she may have had consensual sex with him going forward (ready or not). But that first time, by saying things like "down there?"-- she may have wanted to slowly start experimenting with him (even though he was still pressuring her just to undo her top), but she did not want to go as far with it as they did.

Either way, the creative team of the show has come out and said in the original play he rapes her and we felt we had to tone it down for the Broadway audience. Since we as the audience are supposed to feel sorry for hero Melchior at the end, it's harder to make him a likeable character if he's raped the girl he "loves" so much. It's hard to consider, because it can be viewed as they ended up romanticizing rape, but I think they just made it ambiguous enough for the audience to interpret it how they want to in whatever way makes them connect more with the story. If you want to feel like it's a star crossed love story, you can, and if you want to feel like it's a psychological look into the consequences of rape for two emotionally immature teenagers (ie is Wendla trying to deal with rape by tricking herself into believing it was consensual? is Melchior trying to convince himself it wasn't rape by insisting that he loves her?), you can. As proven by this thread, there are arguments for either interpretation.
"I thought that that was just going to be a like one shot deal for me, you know, but they kept talking about it like, 'when we do the production, when we do the production', and I was like, 'yes, yes, when you do the production, cool, I will come and see it'". - John Gallagher Jr. on SA
Jyn326
Broadway Star
joined:12/7/05
I think a lot of how you view this show has a lot to do with your own first experiences with sex.

I liken that scene to many teenage girls these days. Say she wants to remain a virgin until she's married, or at least until she's older. But her boyfriend constantly makes comments about how it's difficult for him to wait. Because he "loves" her and wants to "be closer to her" and all those lines boys tell girls to get them in bed. Maybe the guy really does love her, but he clearly doesn't care enough about her to see that she's not ready. So the girl ends up giving in and getting it over with because she's scared to lose the guy. She gives permission, so they have consensual sex. It isn't rape, really. But it also isn't really wanted by the girl.

Granted nowadays most teenagers know all the risks involved with having sex, but I don't know if that point alone decides whether or not Wendla was raped. I do think that the fact that Melchior knew he was more knowledgable and ready for the act than she was makes it even worse than if he had only pressured her (like in the above teen scenario)

So in short- my vote is that it was not rape in the musical. But Wendla was not ready and most likely would have preferred to wait. Melchior was wrong to go through with it, but I don't think he raped her. That's my opinion anyhow.