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A Politically Correct Guide to the Broadway Musical 'How to Succeed in Business'
TO: O. Leo Leahy, Drama Teacher
FROM: Political Correctness Committee, Nunzio Saccamano High School
This memo concerns your field trip to take students in our Dramatics Club to see the Broadway musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." We understand the students are very excited to see Daniel Radcliffe (who played Harry Potter in all those movies) in the starring role, although some were disappointed that he isn't running around naked as he did in "Equus" a couple of years ago.
As we all know, this musical is a relic of the "Mad Men" era of the early 1960s: The business world and America in general have evolved quite a bit since this show was first on Broadway.
We have examined the songs in this musical and we are concerned about some of the lyrics, which you may need to use as "teachable moments." This memo contains some guidance for you in explaining this show to your students and answering the questions they no doubt will raise. As always, you ignore our suggestions at your peril.
"The Company Way": A very disturbing song. The character who sings it — a corporate "lifer" — suggests that the key to success in corporate America is to go along with everything the company suggests, however ridiculous. As you know, we believe strongly in teaching our students to question authority whenever possible, especially when it wears a business suit. You will need to explain how this was a very misinformed, pre-enlightenment outlook that no longer applies in today's America.
You will also need to warn your students about the final lyric of the song, where the character sings, "Whoever the company fires, I will still be here." Many of our students have one or both parents who have been downsized from corporate jobs, and they may be traumatized by this message. If necessary, the services of our school psychologist are available to you.
"A Secretary Is Not a Toy": We understand you have already tried to explain to our students what a secretary was — we admire your explanation that she (and sometimes he) was a human being who did everything the iPad does today. We approve this song, as it conveys a strong, positive message against sexual harassment in the workplace...
"Been a Long Day": ... a message which unfortunately is contradicted in this song, by which a young executive invites his secretary out to dinner.
"Grand Old Ivy": While superficially a football fight song, this song can be read as suggesting that only an Ivy League education can help you get to the top of the corporate heap. As such, it conveys an extremely elitist message that will make most of our students feel second-rate because, let's face it, most of them aren't smart or rich enough to attend State U., much less an Ivy League college. You need to explain to them that a community college degree is just as good as Harvard, and that the flag squad is just as great a path to business success as the football team.
"Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm": Your female students will no doubt giggle during this song, in which a young woman fantasizes about married life to a fast-rising corporate executive, "to bask in the glow of his perfectly understandable neglect." They will appreciate the irony in these lyrics, which were very forward-looking for the time. You will need to speak to your male students, however, and make sure they appreciate the irony as well. Even the thought that someone will sacrifice or subordinate her career ambitions to those of her spouse is completely un-American.
"Coffee Break": A song which talks about substance abuse and addiction in a positive way is extremely troubling. Even though the substance is not illegal, you will need to remind your students that drinking coffee throughout the day is not healthful or beneficial to society. Unless, of course, it's fair trade...
"Brotherhood of Man": If it weren't for this song, we might have suggested you not take our students to see this show. This is a song for our times, one that preaches the universal equality of all men and women, whatever their station in life. This life-affirming song stresses that we shouldn't compete with each other, but rather place others' interests before our own, since "mediocrity is not a mortal sin."
When they're singing that song, you can relax, Mr. Leahy. Sure, the lyrics were meant as ironic back then, but they now perfectly describe today's business world. Or, at least, the business world we will have once we've finally beaten these progressive ideas into our kids' heads.
Cliff Ennico (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2011 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.
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