Over the holiday weekend, I went to the latest Marvel movie, Spider Man: Far From Home. With the exception of a single scene, it’s a typical installment in the tent-pole franchise but that exception is a doozy in that it takes a swipe at some of the worst stereotypes of live classical music concerts.
Mild Spoiler Alert: in a nutshell, the protagonists need to hide a group of teenagers for a few hours from the antagonists, so they decide to send them to an opera. Because you know, no one goes there, right? The scene is chock-full of negative tropes: empty houses, nothing but old people, and a palpable level of elitism. Here’s the full clip:
The first thing that came to mind when watching the scene was a 2014 Opera America grant panel where I served as an adjudicator. One of the grant recipients was the LA Opera, which used the funding to initiate a pilot program to put opera into popular media culture. Here’s the official project description from 2014:
LA Opera seeks to pilot a program to more heavily insert opera into popular media culture through an entertainment-based content marketing campaign, also known as product placement. This campaign will seek to integrate positive opera related stories and references into film, television and advertisements, exposing wider audiences to the art form and breaking down commonly held stereotypes about opera. LA Opera will partner with a content marketing agency to create pitches and promote opera to industry professionals as a valuable and viable storyline option. The ultimate goal of this pilot program is to develop long term strategies that increase familiarity and enthusiasm for the art form as a whole, thereby benefitting the entire opera industry and its many companies.
I have yet to see any formal reports detailing results from that program, but the recent Spider Man flick has piqued my curiosity.
It’s fair to point out that Spider Man: Far From Home may be an exception to the rule. Walking home after the movie, I thought of several instances where live opera performances were not only presented in a positive fashion, but even played integral roles in films and television.
Nonetheless, this serves as a reminder that pushing back against negative stereotypes is a hole we’ll be digging out of for some time. To that end, recognizing and applauding those inside the film and television industry for their efforts to promote classical music in a positive light is an integral step.
In the meantime, my fingers are crossed that there won’t be too much self-righteous indignation fueled rants about the scene throughout social media and the larger culture blog community. If you’re feeling a rant coming on, resist the temptation. It only plays into those negative stereotypes. Instead, find one person who genuinely buys into it and change his/her mind.