"Shall We Dance"--The Song That Makes a Musical and Explains a Romance Motif

Quite frankly, the story of The King & I is odd.

The musical is based on a book Anna and the King of Siam which is based on a memoir which is reportedly dull (I tried reading it many years ago and remember being unimpressed) although, by all reports, the king of the book, film, and musical, King Mongkut, was a fairly interesting guy.

The musical heavily streamlined everything, concentrating on the savage-seducing-a-civilized-lady theme: Thug v. Maid Marian.

This is a classic motif in romance literature--its better known (and more usable) alternative is the-rogue-reformed-by-a-lady. Modern writers are fully aware that rogues don't always reform, so the alternative to the alternative is the-rogue-who-is-accepted-as-he-is-and-loved-by-the-lady-anyway.

The latter, to my mind, is perfectly acceptable and can even be written rather sweetly.

The original, however, is a little hard to take--ladies impressed by serial killers, Mafia lords, and other dirt-bags are, um, "idiots" is the word that pops to mind. I think there is some (minor) truth to the idea that an evil thug can be faithful and decent to one person; it is just far more likely that that one person will end up dead either BY the thug or DUE TO the thug.

So The King & I is a bit daft. Until "Shall We Dance" swats away the logic side of the brain in favor of pure wow-ness.

Yul Brynner and Anna are discussing the waltz. He takes over the man's part and--they're off! It's a romp, pure and simple. Head thrown back, Deborah Kerr glides without effort. Brynner leaps. They circle the room at full tilt--obstacles no question: impediments will remove themselves. It is energetic, exciting, fun, and . . . hot.

If one wishes to understand the attraction of the rogue or the thug to women, this dance by these actors explains it.

Of course, it's always best to let the logic part of the brain back into the conversation--at some point.


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