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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Sales over songs: What’s up with undercover musicals?

Molly Boyke
Illustration Molly Boyke

Opinion editors are not responsible for agreeing or disagreeing with their writers but rather elevate each individual’s specific voice.

You are sitting down to watch a movie in theaters. Based on the trailer, you have a good feeling on the tone and how the movie will go. But then all of a sudden, you are watching the main character break into a “High School Musical”–esque sequence in the middle of a Safari. Casual viewers were bound to be taken back by “Mean Girls” (2024) being a musical as the trailer had very little hints.

The “Mean Girls” musical component was no shock for me as I had been a fan of the Broadway musical adaptation. Fans of the original 2004 “Mean Girls,” however, might not be as enthusiastic about the musical change-up, not realizing the movie was an adaptation of the musical rather than the original film—and this may not have been due to inattentiveness.  

You can’t really blame the fans for not knowing—although, the title did have a music note in the “A.” The only clips in the trailer hinting that the movie is a musical are when Regina sings “My Name is Regina George” and a short clip of choreography. Yes, there are elements to hint that it’s a musical, but the advertisement team for the new “Mean Girls” (2024) did the absolute most to imply the film is a musical adaptation without saying it outright. 

The same marketing failure was seen with “Wonka” (2023). 

“If you knew nothing about [‘Wonka’ (2023)] aside from what you saw in the previews, you would be a bit surprised when, in the opening seconds of the film, [Timothée Chalamet’s] Willy Wonka climbed the mast of a ship and started singing his emaciated little heart out,” said Bulwark+ culture editor Sonny Bunch.

When watching the “Wonka trailer, the advertisement team seemingly hid from viewers the musical aspect, showing no music other than the classic Oompa Loompa song. 

When asked about the advertisements for “Mean Girls” (2024), Marc Weinstock, Paramount’s president of global marketing told Variety, “We didn’t want to run out and say it’s a musical because people tend to treat musicals differently. This movie is a broad comedy with music … it appeals to a larger audience.” 

Weinstock explains that in the trailers of other movie musicals, like “Wonka” (2023) and “The Color Purple” (2023), they don’t explicitly reveal it’s a musical either. He says that audiences treat musicals differently, but this “different treatment” may stem from the marketing failure of the movie in the first place. 

Why are we acting like musical movies can’t be successful? Have we forgotten about “The Greatest Showman,” “Mamma Mia!,” “A Star is Born,” and “La La Land”? What about classics such as “The Sound of Music” and “The Wizard of Oz”? Musical movies are nothing new, so why is this genre being outcasted, as if they aren’t profitable? 

To say that the new “Mean Girls” (2024) is simply a “broad comedy with music” is beating around the bush. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a musical can be used to describe anything “relating to music,” so dismissing what genre a movie is will not change that these are being falsely advertised to their audiences on purpose to seduce a larger audience. 

The sole purpose of this misdirection is to fill seats in a theater and get box office numbers up. Studios are setting movies up for failure. Trailers and advertisements should reflect what the movie actually is so the right audience is brought to the table to enjoy the movie.  

Studios must stop sacrificing the craft of filmmaking in favor of maximum sales. It’s not embarrassing to produce musical movies if they find the right audiences. It has been evident in the past that movie musicals have been successful in Hollywood time and time again, proving that, if given a chance, there is an audience for these films.

So next time, let’s do better than a single music note in the title.

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