Sunday, March 15, 2015

Happy Ever After? 15 Messages in Into the Woods

Anyone who knows me well knows I am obsessed with musicals and Broadway, so there's a chance a lot of people will read the title of this post and think I'm biased.

And yes, I really love this movie. A lot. But that's because actors and actresses and songs. I know it's imperfect, but I really think this is an important Disney movie for people to watch, and today I'm going to break down the lessons and important things in this movie.

There's been a lot of parental discussion around this movie. A lot of people have said they don't want their kids watching it because it doesn't have happy endings all around, and that's what Disney generally is about. When kids are taught these lessons is debatable, but I still feel like there are important lessons in this movie. Granted, I am not a mother. This post is full of my own opinions as a teenager.

*SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT* You've been warned. Many death and plot twists revealed. Go watch the movie!

1-Even Flowers have their dangers

There's quite a bit dealing with male species in this movie. First off, The Wolf.

In the original play, the scene with Wolf and Red wasn't very subtle. It very clearly dealt with the serious nature of this story. Honestly, the scene was plain uncomfortable. And the costume was...anatomically correct. 
 In the movie I feel like it was done a little more tastefully, with some good teaching points for kids. They very clearly used the obvious example of him opening his coat and showing candy and sweets. We know that Red liked sweets, and this was a good example of evil people using things kids like to trick them.

Another interesting part is the Prince. In the original play the actor who played Cinderella's prince also played the role of the Wolf. This was some really great symbolism to show that are just dangerous, even if they're dressed up all nice and seem charming.

In her song "I Know Thing's Now", Red perfectly sums this up in the line "Even flowers have their dangers," Things seem pretty and perfectly safe....but everything in the world including the prettiest things have their dangers.

2-Scary is exciting, but nice is different than good-

After the Baker frees Red from the wolf, she breaks into her little self-explanation song, "I know things now", This is the song where anyone who didn't catch the innuendos in "Hello Little Girl," figure out what this whole relationship is dealing with.

"He showed me things many beautiful things
That I hadn't thought to explore"
"....And he made me feel excited, well, excited and scared,"

Yeah. In the movie it's easier to miss, but looking back at the song you can really see the subjects dealt with here. I know that a lot of parents don't really want to teach their kids this type of lessons so soon, but personally I feel like our world is in that state where we really can't wait too long to teach our kids about the dangers in these situations. Sure, we don't have to dump all this scary info on kids so soon, but it's important to teach some information. I feel like movies are a really good way to do that. 

At the end of I Know Things Now, Red says "... and though scary is exciting, nice is different than good." That really sums it up well. Scary can be exciting. As said in the last point, really pretty things can seem good. But there's a level of caution you should have in every strange situation. Nice people aren't always good.

3-It's nice to know a lot. And a little bit...not

The very last line of I Know Things Now goes: "Isn't it nice to know a lot? And a little bit...not,"

This is another very relate-able line. Think about being a kid. When I was young, every conversation that was told in whispers drove me insane. When people told me that they'd explain when I was older, I'd get angry. I wanted to know. I wanted to know everything.

Now that I'm older....well gosh. I wish I could be a kid again. It is nice to know a lot, but really it's nice to have that stretch of time where you don't.

This is also explored in Jacks song "Giants in the sky"

"And it's then that you miss
All the things you've known
And the world you've left
And the little you own-"

"...The roof, the house and the world you never thought to explore.
And you think of all of the things you've seen,
And you wish that you could live in between,
And you're back again,
Only different than before,"

Sometimes you want for really great things, like adventure. But then sometimes you find yourself in that adventure (not always as crazy as a castle in the sky, of course), when you realize that there's adventures waiting for you at home, in the simple life. That you miss the things that are familiar and the places you 'never thought to explore'.

4- People aren't always what they seem-

Stay With Me is one of the most heart breaking songs in the movie.

For the people who went into the theater with no knowledge of the story, the Witch is evil to them. For the first part of the movie she comes across as the usual Witch character. Stay With Me changes all of that.

While many of the things she does in this movie are bad, you can see in this movie and other parts that she truly cares for Rapunzel. She's not locking her away for no reason. She has a real attachment for her, but ends up showing it to her all the wrong way, by growing possessive.

Streep's performance really brought this to life at the line "Don't you know what's out there in the world?" you can really see the pain on her face. I never realized how much I wanted to know about the Witch's past until Meryl Streep's performance.

And this really shows how much people are different than you think. The line at the end of the movie in No One Is Alone goes "Witches can be right, Giants can be good," and that goes with the theme that people aren't always what the cut out to be. Princes aren't always charming. Witches aren't always bad.

The whole "Mothers are more caring than they seem" lesson is also shown in Jack's mother, who starts out seeming rough, but is very clearly caring. You can see it every time she touches him that she really cares about the boy.


Another aspect Meryl rocked as the witch was the obsession with beauty. In Stay With Me, the witch quickly uses what she thinks to be so to sort of guilt trip Rapunzel into staying.

"I am old, I am ugly, you are ashamed of me,"

During the scene where the spell doesn't work, the witch curls up into a ball with tears in her eyes. You can really see there how badly she wants to be beautiful. Whether it's because she wants it just to be pretty, or so Rapunzel will not be ashamed, you can see that beauty is her main goal.

6-It takes two

"It Takes Two" is the adorable duet between the Baker and his wife. Throughout the whole movie he's been pushing her away, but this is the song where they sing about how they've changed in the woods. While kids have no marriages to relate this song to, it still has some good messages. I speak from experience when I say how easy it is the want to do everything on your own. It's a good message, reminded people that sometimes it does take two to finish something you started. 

It's good to remind yourself that it's okay to ask for help. It's okay to
need help. There's nothing wrong with doing it on your own but really need to let others in.

It takes one
To begin, but then once
You've begun,
It takes two of you.
It's no fun,
But what needs to be done
You can do
When there's two of you.

7-People make mistakes-

When I first discovered this play after the original teaser came out, I was hooked. I listened to the original soundtrack obsessively, but it took a while to really get the stories behind the songs. When I realize that the song "Any Moment" was about Prince Charming seducing the Bakers wife I was shocked and partly horrified. What sort of fairy tale was this? Cinderella's prince betraying him? And going after a married woman? 

The whole movie I was dreading that scene. Was it going to be awkward? Why would they do this? The scene was done tastefully, but I was still pretty sure a lot of people we're going to be upset about this. And yet that scene went so well with the themes of the movie. It tied in perfectly the ending notes of people making mistakes and happy endings not always being what you think they're going to be.

I do agree that parents should definitely know about this bit before taking their kids to see it. I'm sure many parents don't want their kids perfect fairy tale fantasies being crushed. But I still think this is an important message. Not only does it show that there will be temptations in life, but it ties in well with the other messages of first loves not always being true and how no one is perfect. 

Because no one in this movie is perfect. The Witch was cruel to her daughter. The Baker pushed away his wife at times. Jack's mother was harsh, Cinderella's step-family were cruel, and the Prince was unfaithful. Disney movie have always been full of perfect people. Prince Charming was....charming.Sleeping Beauty was perfectly beautiful and docile. Everyone had few faults. I greatly appreciated the realism of this movie. Disney really needed more realistic characters, and their live action movies they've been making have done a really good job of that.

People aren't what they seem. No one ever stopped to think about that maybe Maleficent wasn't evil. That maybe Prince Charming was Charming but not sincere. These are ways of thinking that people should get early on, so they don't continue in their lives assuming everyone is what they seem to be on the outside.

8-If life were made of moments than you'd never know you had one

One of my favorite songs in the musical is the song the Baker's Wife sings after she has a fling with the Prince. Moments in the Wood is her song of inner-monologue, walking through the crazy thing that just happened. 

Oh. if life were made of moments,
Even now and then a bad one-!
But if life were only moments,
Then you'd never know you had one.

Can we just talk about how relate-able this is? If life were made of all the good moments then you'd never realize a moment was good. This is such an important message for everyone and one I want to tell so many people. If life didn't have all those super sucky things that'd never ever realize it when you were having a good moment. Those good moments are contrast the bad and that's what makes them good. One of my favorite inspiring messages is "You have to fight through some of the worst days of your life to get to the best,"

That. That is so important. 

9-Not all choices that seem right are good

One of my favorite moments of the movie is the scene right after the Witch turns into a tar pit when the characters remaining are staring out and they say one after the other "Maybe I shouldn't have attended the ball," "Maybe I shouldn't have stolen from the giant," "Maybe I shouldn't have strayed from path,"
And that's life. Life is full of moments of "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda,"

Life is completely full of those moments where you wonder what you could have done differently. And that's so important to know. Not every choice you make is a good one. Sometimes you mess up. And that's what life is.

10-Not all first loves are true

The romance between Cinderella and Charming was quick...and over quickly as well. I really like this story line, because of the truth. Every girl ever has at some pointed wanted to meet their prince Charming. And most girls have loved someone only to realize they weren't the right one. Young girls are watching movies with princesses who've never let their tower fall in love and marry the first person they meet. Granted, those stories are sweet and cute...but they aren't true. This story line is important because there's a lot of people in the world who need to know that not every perfect person you meet is going to be the right one for you.

11-You are not alone. No one is alone

And now for my favorite song of the movie. This song is one I listen to so much and it makes me smile every time.
At this point in the movie, both Jack and Red are orphans. Cinderella has lost her prince, the witch has lost her daughter and her life, and the Baker has lost his wife. (This is some fairy tale, huh?) So, at this point everyone is alone.

Loneliness sometimes can be one of the most underrated problems in the teen world. Sometimes people don't realize just how much loneliness hurts. Loneliness can tear apart someone. And loneliness is everywhere. Everyone is lonely at some point, but sometimes people feel lonlier than they are.

Sometimes I wish I could tell the whole world that no one is alone. Even if you feel like it there's always going to be someone looking out for you. There's going to be someone on your side, someone who will help you.  Even when people leave. Even when no one is around you and you feel lost things will be alright.

Just remember:
Someone is on your side
...Someone else is not
While we're seeing our side
...Maybe we forgot: they are not alone.
No one is alone.
Hard to see the light now.
Just don't let it go
Things will come out right now.
We can make it so.
Someone is on your side
No one is alone.

12-Sometimes people leave you

This ties in perfectly with the last one. In the finale of the movie, the Baker's wife sings to the grieving Baker these words.

Sometimes people leave you
halfway through the wood.
Do not let it grieve you,
No one leaves for good.
You are not alone.
No one is alone.

And it rings with so much truth. People always leave. When I was younger I had a happy little world with all my friends and I was certain that they'd never leave.

I'm almost 16 now. People close to me have died, I've had to struggle through friends growing apart from me, and families I was getting close to moving away. It's not always death, or family members passing away. Sometimes you don't even realize someone means a lot to you until they're gone. Sometimes you start wondering if it was you, and if there was anything you could have done differently.Into the Woods is so full of real messages, and this is one of them. People? They don't always stick around. 

13-You effect people by what you say and do-

The directors ended the movie not in the fun and upbeat reprise of the opening, but with the gorgeous song "Children will Listen," 

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful you do them too
Children will see
And learn
Guide them, but step away
Children will glisten
Tamper with what is true
And children will turn
If just to be free
Careful before you say
"Listen to me"
Children will listen

Also, before all of this happens the cast sing a upbeat song "Your fault," where they tie together everything they did and how the giant attack was a certain character's fault. In that song you see how every decisions the characters made caused the tragic things to happen.

These two songs are very different in feel but both have the same underlying message. Everything you say and do will affect people. Children/people will listen to what you say. 

14-Not everyone gets a happy ending, but sometimes the happy ending is different than you though it would be-

Throughout this post, it's been pretty clear that this movie is far from the ordinary Disney movie or fairy tale. People die, princes are unfaithful, some couples are together and some aren't. Characters end up alone and hurt.

And yet it still has that tinge of hope. The movie ends with everyone sitting around the mourning baker who tells his now motherless child and the remaining characters the story of how it all happened. Everyone has lost someone at that point, and yet it still is a somewhat happy ending.

Because they're not all alone. They've messed up and been through so much but they're strong characters and they've found their happiness in other means. 

Sometimes happy endings aren't what you think they're going to be. Sometimes you don't have your happy ending in the arms of a handsome prince or with the wife and your child. Sometimes winning a battle takes things from you, and many people are left hurt.

15- There are always wolves

In the song that ends the original play and is played during the credits, there's some great final themes.

Though it's fearful,
Though it's deep, though it's dark
And though you may lose the path,
Though you may encounter wolves,
You can't just act,
You have to listen.
You can't just act,
You have to think.
There are always wolves,
There are always spells,
There are always beans,
Or a giant dwells there.

Every step you take in life you're going to run into wolves or problems. In the end, this movie is giving the same message over and over in various ways,

Life is full of messes and moments and mistakes but all of it can be overcome. 

That's cannot be said enough. You can't allow yourself to go through the motions of life. You have a chance to live and wish and do so much.

This whole overly mushy post is basically telling you how much I love this movie.

Nothing is really all perfectly happy in the end. It's the most realistic Disney movie I have seen. And through the whole thing there's messages that need to be said over and over again. Not just the practical ones, like not talking to strangers, but the one's that can make a big difference in someone's life and happiness. 

 Happy endings come in many ways. Let the moments go, but don't forget them for a moment. People make mistakes. Be careful what you wish for. No one is alone.

I wish


  1. Ohmygosh yes.
    SO much yes.
    To everything in this post.

  2. Hi, I talked to you about this on the Nano page as Dixie, but this is how I show up here on the blog, so I wanted to say again, I loved this blog and signed up to follow it.

    1. Thanks! That's reallyyy encouraging

  3. Sondheim musicals are awesome. Sweeney Todd is another great one. :) Even though I haven't seen it yet, I was really impressed when my best friend showed me the original musical and I think it does a great job of showing how a fairy tale can be magical without being happy. And I really want to see it, because I love listening to the soundtrack and I am still waiting for it to come to Redbox. D:

  4. This is such an excellent post. I love this play and this movie so much! I love all these messages. It was such a well done film. I actually like it better than the play.

    Stori Tori's Blog

    1. Same! While the original was stunning, I think I enjoyed the music and visuals more in this,