Jason Cochran

Stuff you never knew you never knew

Oklahoma movie poster

Fire down below: Laurey and Curly reach the climax

You may think the musical Oklahoma! is a sweet little show about friendly farmers and cowmen, but I’ve got an arousing awakening for you. Oklahoma! is drenched in sexual innuendo, rape metaphor, and bestiality references. After all, the whole plot revolves around who gets to take Laurey to the “box social” — a coded consummation metaphor if ever there was one.

Many years ago, I wrote this (don’t worry, it’s pretty short and it moves fast) about the 1955 Fred Zinnemann movie version of Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s 1943 Broadway musical Oklahoma!. As I decode this assumed G-rated masterpiece for torrid subtext, I guarantee that you will never look at that chestnut the same way ever again.

I wrote this for a film studies course at Northwestern University. It’s a little-known fact that the history and writing of the American musical is a special discipline of mine. I don’t talk about it much, but it’s true. I even have an MFA in music theatre from New York University, a lot of good may it do me.

I wrote this mostly as a lark to see what I could get away with, but it holds up. May my perspective make this old snoozer recharged with sexual energy for you.


Much has been written about the significance of Oklahoma! in the history of American musical theatre.  Most historians place it as the milestone in the integration of the musical’s construction in conveying themes, plot and character.  Its reputation among laymen is one of a simpleminded, quaint musical.  What both factions ignore in their analyses, however, is that Oklahoma! is full of subtle but rough-hewn sexual and violent undertones that in fact contradict its reputation as mere mild entertainment.

Oklahoma! was released in 1955 after the New York and touring companies had closed and introduced the new wide-screen process called Todd-AO.  It was re-released in 1956 by 20th Century Fox in CinemaScope.  It tells story of Curly McLain (Gordon MacRae) and Laurey Williams (Shirley Jones), who, in a fit of coquettish spite, accepts an invitation to a social from the brute farmhand Jud Fry (Rod Steiger).  Laurey’s ensuing self-torment plus the tension between Jud and Curly drives the plot from that point on.  True to the Rodgers and Hammerstein style, there is also a contrasting subcouple in the form of Will Parker (Gene Nelson) and Ado Annie (Gloria Grahame), who pines for any man with a seductive intent, including the peddler Ali Hakim (Eddie Albert).

Oklahoma! has reached the status of an enduring classic, thanks mostly to its mainstream proliferation through the Fred Zinnemann film.  While its bumpkin characters seem homey and charming in light of modern musical works, the film itself remains fresh and entertaining.  The songs and dancing are in part responsible for that, but one might argue that its nearly perverse subthemes of sexual desire and violence help the film maintain a gripping, if subconscious, appeal.

The primary sexual themes of Oklahoma! play themselves out in its characters.  There is Laurey, the virginal girl coming of sexual age; Curly, the suave, sexy charmer clearly obsessed with bedding Laurey; Ado Annie, the girl, recently come of sexual age and unable to control her sexual impulses — a victim of her own Freudian id; Jud Fry, who represents an unfettered, unchivalrous sexual carnality that contrasts the cultural expectations of Claremore; Ali Hakim, also a victim of his own id but, unlike Annie, quite aware of his manipulatory manner of obtaining gratification; Will Parker, who is like Laurey in his virginal, wide-eyed view of sex; and Aunt Eller, the matriarch-cum-madam of Claremore, wise in the ways of sex and lust and engrossed with matchmaking her Laurey with a suitable sexual partner — the handsome Curly.

It is Aunt Eller who carries out the first sexual act, which, like everything else in Oklahoma!, is disguised with a down-home flavor.  She is seen daydreaming and churning butter (a subliminally phallic gesture), no doubt dreaming of her younger, sexual days.  When Curly chats with her, she keeps her eyes focused on him, surveying him and continuing her phallic strokes.  The first thing she says to him also indicates her sexual desire for the virile Curly: “If I wasn’t an ole woman, and if you wasn’t so young and smart-alecky, why, I’d marry you and git you to set around at night and sing to me [i.e. be intimate with me]”  Aunt Eller’s churning halts when Curly mentions Laurey, her niece.  Although Aunt Eller wears a smile as he mentions her, she promptly stops her action and opens up the churn — in essence, castrating Curly in any hopes of making love to such an “ole woman.”  In a moment, she’s scooping out globs of butter and saying “you young ‘uns!” (The dairy product metaphor for sex is repeated during “I Cain’t Say No”: “S’posin’ ‘at he says ‘at you’re sweeter’n cream/ And he’s gotta have cream er die?”  And later, women’s home-cooked meals are auctioned to their suitors at the Skidmore Ranch.)

The butter metaphor is by no means the only sexual undertheme perpetrated by Aunt Eller.  In fact, throughout the film, Aunt Eller is the only person in Claremore who seems to be wise to the ways of sex and appreciates fully the sexual goals of the courtship ritual.  Her primary function is that of matchmaker for the girls, helping them obtain a suitable sexual partner.

Oklahoma movie still

Nice basket: Curly is obsessed with getting into Laurey's hamper

For example, she opens her home to all the couples on the way to the Skidmore Ranch.  Once inside, the ladies undress and primp themselves in preparation for their evenings with the menfolk.  Not only is the “Many a New Day” scene voyeuristic on behalf of the viewers, but it is a depiction of how Claremore girls pride themselves on catching a man.  The number itself represents contradiction — it’s a feminist stance yet sung while in underwear.  Although Laurey may deny the idea that her world centers around a man, we also discover the shallowness of her decree when she nearly breaks down at song’s end.  During the song, there are a number of sexual issues: girls try to outdo each other with attractiveness and showiness, women tie their corsets with thrusting, rhythmic pulses and two pubescent girls become frustrated with their own lack of expertise.  While the girls primp and preen inside, comparing undergarments and discussing sexuality, the men are outside, dipping their heads in a horse trough.   The statement of who’s luring who is more than implicit.

Aunt Eller in essence affects the whole plot.  She uses Jud to make Curly jealous enough to try harder for Laurey but when Jud’s obsession becomes apparent, she gets worried.

Aunt Eller also endorses the men in their own pursuit of more vigorous sexual satisfaction.  In the “Kansas City” scene, she reacts to the assumed pornography inside the “Little Wonder” first with the expected, gender-ascribed disdain (“The hussy!”) but then gives the men approval from the other side of the sexual fence of experience when she says “How do you turn the thing to see the other pitcher?”  Plus, underneath her grey dress she wears a flaming red petticoat, which she flashes along with her legs to the camera in “Kansas City.”  Later in the number, Will Parker chooses Aunt Eller over the two adolescent girls, presumably because of her knowledge in sexual matters.  The lyric of the song depicts sexual awakening (i.e. the stripper in Kansas City) and sure enough, soon the two adolescent girls are petting Will and sheepishly trying to get him to notice them.  At the point when he does embarrassedly notice the two girls, Aunt Eller vanishes off the left of the screen into the train office.  It’s almost as if she was making herself scarce to matchmake Will with the young ladies.

She matchmakes at other times, too, stressing physical contact over romantic courtship: (“Why don’t you grab her and kiss her when she gets that way, Curly?”)  When Laurey and Curly finally do wed, she protects their intimacy within the house by halting the shivoree crowd at the stoop.

Aunt Eller seems to be very much in control of the townspeople and supervises their mating.  During “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” she is shown as the only object in the Todd-AO vista, gazing intently at Curly and Laurey.  In “Kansas City,” she escorts the ensemble to the far end of the train platform with outstretched arms, as if pushing them.  In “The Farmer and the Cowman,” she whips out a pistol and forces everyone to dance.  Also, even though Curly is about to be killed by the “Little Wonder,” Hakim wastes time in telling Aunt Eller about the hidden knife, and she is the one to save Curly’s life; the matchmaking must go on, and by her hand.  She even literally auctions off the girls at the social like a whorehouse madam.  Yet, however in control she may be, as when she threatens Ali Hakim with an eggbeater down his windpipe, she retains her sexuality, getting a pair of garters in the bargain.

Violence is hardly scarce in Oklahoma! as far as sex goes.  In fact, Oklahoma seems to be teeming with an undercurrent of unfulfilled sexual desire and violence waiting to emerge, be it between farmer and cowman or two eligible ladies.  Each man seems willing to kill to obtain his love.  Curly tries to convince Jud to commit suicide.  Jud tries to kill Curly twice (once with a sexual toy).  Will tells Ali he would kill him for Annie.  Gertie Cummings has fights with both Annie and Laurey (rolling on the ground, of course).

The community structure of Claremore revolves around obtaining sex through appropriate societal channels.  Marriage is usually the way to get that sex.  When a marriage proposal (and thus the promise of sex) arrives, it is monumental.  When Annie is engaged to Ali, she promptly goes to report it to the other girls in the community.  Laurey and Curly’s marriage is also a community spectacle.

Premarital sex is often alluded to, however, particularly through the lusty characters of Annie and Ali, who would be termed “sexual addicts” in today’s America.  Says Will: “I’m goin’ t’marry her!”  Ali: “On purpose?,” implying the famous Oklahoma shotgun marriage.  Obviously, any moral code isn’t apparent to Ali.  He wants to bed Annie in the Claremore Hotel.  He also suggests that he, Laurey and Annie engage in a menage a trois by skinny dipping together.  He’s been “feeling up” Annie behind the haystack (his confession that results in his shotgun engagement to Annie). At the end, he’s caught in illicit (by Claremore standards) sex and forced by shotgun to marry Gertie Cummings.  Finally, he sells garters and bloomers and other forbidden delights like drugs (the Egyptian smelling salts).

In Oklahoma!, women obtain sexual fulfillment when in a semi-drugged state.  “Laurey’s Dream” is the most obvious example.  Ado Annie, too, seems ever-comatose and virtually unresponsive, doggedly singing her number “I Cain’t Say No.”

Gloria Grahame as a vamp

This is how movies audiences knew Gloria Grahame before she played Ado Annie: As a sex addict of another kind

Also, the sexuality of women is related to beasts in Oklahoma!  During “Kansas City,” as Will describes the round shape of the burlesque queen, the non-diagetic sound of a horse whinny is mixed in.  Later in the number, he sings to his horse as one of the pubescent, sexually-unready girls faintly tries to grab his attention.  Before the reprise of “I Cain’t Say No,” Annie compliments Will’s manner of roping horses in between his sexual advances.  He also tells Annie that roping steers all day makes him think of her.  The connection between beasts and sex is obvious. Later, after “All ‘Er Nothin’,” he pens Annie in with a farmyard fence like a common hog before kissing her.  Even Ali Hakim joins in, describing Annie’s “soft, round tail.”  At first glance, these allusions seem rustic and apropos for the midwestern setting, but in actuality they are blatant objectifications.

As in other film musicals, dance implies sex.  In “Kansas City,” Will tries to teach the young girls how to dance — i.e. how to become sexually mature enough to capture his attention.  In her dream, dancing with Jud symbolizes Laurey’s moral decay and at the social, she reels in disgust at the prospect of dancing with Jud.  Also at the social, Annie and Will go from dancing together to immediately and furtively sneaking away for hanky-panky — the natural progression.  Also, Annie laments Will’s own fidelity after he dances with the two pubescent girls.

Unlike other film musicals, however, blatant objectification of sex is not used much.  It is cloaked instead under the character and custom of the Oklahomans.  Lusty observation of the opposite sex is frowned upon.  Jud peeps on Laurey twice in the film but that act is in no way presented as positive or does it instill desire in the audience.  The only time the women are put on pedestals for the men in the town is during the hamper auction.  Although the metaphor of the woman’s sexuality as a scrumptious meal for her suitor is striking (and it is repeated when Will compares Ado’s mouth to ripe berries in the reprise of “I Cain’t Say No”), it is hardly as blatant as, say, a Ziegfeld girl, showing legs and bosom with come-hither glee.  Like all sexuality in Oklahoma!, the sexuality of the girls is obscured by the charm of local custom.  As an audience unused to such coding, we see the custom but not the actual sexuality itself, mistaking it for chivalry.

Each character fits into this chivalric custom.  Jud is ostracized not for his sexual desires (even Will owns the “Little Wonder”) but mostly for his selfish and coarse refusal to cooperate with the chivalric code.  Curly is attractive because he tries to turn its tables and have the women proposition him.  Romance comes when we sense his intense desire to abandon egocentricity and conform to the code, which he eventually does when he proposes humbly to Laurey.  Annie’s sexual drive is not reprehensible because she is unaware of her indiscretions and is instead fulfilled by them.  Furthermore, she obeys the chivalric code and promptly responds to all gentlemanly advances.  Laurey is the perfect ingenue — virginal and a victim of a man’s romantic system, resorting to dreams for her sexual fulfillment.  Will, intent on obeying the code at the cost of $100 total, is just discovering the wonders of romance and thus excusable from his reckless tendency to woo every available female.  Ali Hakim is a rascal for his shrewd manner of circumventing the code, and also forgivable because of his pure wheedling, con-man ability.

Oklahoma! is not without out-and-out innuendo, however.  Take, for example, Will’s “Oklahoma Hello,” in which Annie is straddled (like a horse — the woman as a beast theme) about the groin.  Later, at film’s end, a disheveled Will and Annie have clearly been screwing around behind the house: “You missed all the excitement!” someone says.  Annie responds, dazed: “No, we didn’t.  Hello, Will,” and Will giggles. Did they engage in sex during the trial scene? The audience must guess, but given Annie’s insatiable appetite and Will’s hankering for Annie, we imagine they have.

Naturally, such open-ended presentations and cultural cloaking was the only way that Oklahoma! could appeal both to New York’s sly but conservative audiences and later slip by the film’s censors.  Like Cole Porter’s famous double-entendres, Hammerstein’s suggestive script (which was adapted almost word for word by Sonya Levien and William Ludwig for the film) managed to carry off dozens of sexual themes under the pretense of a simple, enigmatic culture.

There’s a storehouse of sexual activity swarming in Oklahoma! and enough to fill several ten-page papers.  In overview, however, it suffices to note the several main themes in the film: the cloaking of continual sexual pursuit beneath local custom and chivalry, the dependency of each character on that custom, the matriarchal presence of the madam Aunt Eller and the existence of other major themes such as the sexual linkage of beasts and dancing as they relate to Oklahoma!‘s setting and genre.  In those themes alone there is enough to give any Rodgers and Hammerstein fan pause as she or he considers Oklahoma!‘s innate sexuality and perversity.


Gertie Cummings? Really?

College is hot.

Oklahoma movie still

It's not "Porky's." It's R&H: Laurey bathes in front of Ado Annie

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84 comments. Add a Comment:

  1. Great writing, but Rogers and Hammerstein are unworthy of such detailed deconstruction.

  2. Thank you! But I’m not convinced. I have maintained for years that there is a lot more subtext happening in R&H shows than we modern people can discern. It’s just that everything is in code. Did you see my look at “South Pacific”? : http://jason-cochran.com/articles/why-they-sobbed-at-south-pacific-and-why-we-see-only-corn/

  3. Ken says:

    You’re hilarious…and thoroughly convincing! You should write for the politicians. I hope your teacher gave you an “A” and didn’t reprimand you for writing about such filth as “Oklahoma” whilst still in school!

  4. vze easy says:

    Sounds like something only a guy can come up with.

    What’s next? The Sound of Music scandal.

  5. Roger says:

    These are some fascinating and thoroughly entertaining observations. This truly combats the fallacy that musicals are merely lightweight entertainments. The addition of music and dance give the musical the potential to be the most subversive art form of all.

  6. Thanks! You know, there’s more than one film historian who argues that in movie musicals, dance is almost always a symbolic surrogate for sex. Watch a few with that in mind — you’ll agree.

  7. David Ezell says:

    Very funny and on the mark. I’m going to see a new regional production today…and a trained therapist I must agree with your interpretation. Gertie Cummings…..

  8. Riccardo Brains says:

    And what of “The Music Man?” Why did Marian inherit all those book from that old miser? The townspeople raise their eyebrows, but let it go at spreading innuendo (instead of running her out of town, or over to the wrong side of the tracks, probably because they need those books for the library) while Harold Hill tags her as a “sadder-but-wiser girl” and the one for his tom-cattin’, wanderin’ ways. And what of the passion pit that is the River City footbridge?

  9. I and my friend Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn were just talking about these issues. We totally agree. We also do not subscribe to the rumor that “the girl is hard to get” because we heard she will brazenly walk in the flower garden if you ask her to.

  10. Thanks! We’ve all seen a limp production or two of this. Maybe the way to make it more interesting is to make sure the sexy stuff is kept in there.

  11. Ellie Omallord says:

    This gave me a lot of information! I am in this Musical and obviously didn’t have a clue about it!! Thank You!!
    By the way… I am Gertie Cummings.

  12. Sabrina says:

    Interesting stuff! I’ve having deep introspection about Ado Annie’s song, “I Cain’t Say No.” I loved that song as a 9 year old and would dress up and do little “performances” of it. (I made my little sister be Will Parker in the duet, too.) Now studying some feminist theory, I’m wondering how my parents didn’t find this rather precocious for a prepubescent girl and disturbing in some of the implications. Just why CAN’T Annie say no, anyway? Is this purely a liberated woman before her time pursuing her own sexual pleasure? Or is there some pressure, perhaps? Some girls can be “prissy and quaint” and still get male attention despite their being “coy and hard to catch,” but attention is a lot more tangible with physical touch. Attention sure is “fun.” A girl gets cookies for living up to a man’s fantasies. (Cookies being attention and positive feedback.) Although Annie “knows what’s right and wrong,” knows she ought to “give his face a smack” he who tries to kiss a girl, a child is taught to respect her elders and superiors by following instructions. In a patriarchal society, woman’s superiors are men. We know exactly what a man’s fantasy is, even with the outwardly modest values in Oklahoma!: the lewd “burleeque” girls of Jud’s posters and Will’s “Little Wonder.” It is a sexually available woman, of course! What is his fantasy is what is his instruction to Annie, and of course it’s difficult to “dissapoint” that beau.
    It’s more than just “coy” or “prissy” to defy the feller’s desire for access to her body, it can be downright dangerous. When her friend Laurie denies Jud that access, she is threatened with bodily harm. Annie says that when she “loses a wrestlin’ match [she] has a funny feeling that she’s won,” but I’m not so sure it’s such a great thing all the time. Yet she “never make[s] a complaint ’til it’s too late for restraint, then when [she] wants to [she] cain’t. That would make something “inside of me snap,” too.

  13. donnie says:

    They could have called the play ” Kansas” if it had taken place in Dodge instead of Claremore. I wonder if Miss Kitty ever went to the
    Matt”.Probibly not, because Mr. Dillon lived with either chester or Festus Wow. Two men living together. Of course, in some episodes, Matt. Chester, and Festus all three ended up spending time alone with damsels in distress on some lonely “Kansas” farms or ranches. Matt was also usually the biggest man with the fastest “pistol”. Size matters. Even when Matt was smaller than his adversary, he always won the fist fight. Size didn’t seem to matter if you knew the tricks. Or, how to use it.
    This critique of Oklahoma seems to be written by someone with pencil envy. Look anywhere in our world and you see sex. If it’s not openly evident, you can dig out subliminal sexual content. Look at flowers, they have both pistols and ovums. They can’t get together, so that dirty minded little bee becomes the third party in this sexual threesome. Ever call your lover “Honey”? That’s a subliminally filthy nickname if ever I saw one. I could go on and on, but you can see that even our existance depends on sex. Sexual behavior is hereditary. Chances are that even your parents engaged in sexual activity and possibly even enjoyed it. Go ahead, look at any movie, tv show or book and you will find sex. And Adam knew Eve. Again, it sounds like a case of pencil envy

  14. elbe says:

    i just saw the Lyric’s staging of Oklahoma! (It is playing for another week in Chicago – see it if you can!) I was fascinated enough by the production to start scouring the web for any references to its themes, structure, etc. Strangely, I’ve so far only found this post and an interesting BA thesis by someone in … Japan!! Anyway, I don’t know if it’s the Lyric’s staging (I haven’t seen any of the other revivals and haven’t seen the 1955 film), but this production made it clear that it’s about sex. In fact, I went on a lark with my 8-yr-old daughter, thinking it’ll be a fun thing to watch, in a “Mary Poppins” sort of way (though, I guess, come to think of it, there is probably more to Mary Poppins as well). Anyway, I wasn’t expecting much and was completely blown away. There is real depth to the writing, brought in focus by its virtuosity. There is an ease with which word, music and dance are combined to tell the story. And the story is definitely that of the promise and peril of sex. The paper to which I was referring (from Japan) talked about the social allegory of Oklahoma (it opened on the eve of America’s entry into WWII), But the two themes are not mutually exclusive. Sex and politics are not that different. What I found myself wondering about (and I hope someone can chime in) is 1. what are the literary precedents for Oklahoma? I know it was based on a play, but it felt so mythical and so familiar – Shakespearean or even Greek … I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it felt like it was the Wild West version of a much older myth. Is there a similar story in Shakespeare or in Greek Mythology? My knowledge of the classics is pretty slim, unfortunately. The second thing I kept wondering about is the dynamic between Laurey and Jud. Your post says she agrees to go to the dance with him as a way to spite Curly. But it wasn’t that clear in the production I saw or maybe I wasn’t paying attention. But it seemed like she was somehow attracted to Jud – he wasn’t portrayed as a total brute. But it wasn’t made clear what it was that attracted her. He seemed like an alternative to Curly, but in what way? Then, when he is killed, it seems like Laurey and Curly (and the rest of the town) bear responsibility, which they uneasily shake off and move on (with the newlyweds departing in a surrey). Anyway, the whole thing seemed a little muddled in the Lyric production. It left me wondering about what Jud was supposed to be. Really fascinating musical – so much more than what I thought it was. Oh, and one funny thing – my 8-yr-old’s reaction to Ado Annie’s “can’t say no” number was a very loud, head-turning “I can say no”. I commended her for that, though I told her she needs to learn to say no to people other than me.

  15. Rey Mohammed says:

    That wasn’t any old choreography. That was Agnes de Mille’s choreography, and frankly, when I saw it, I figured the only reason it got past the Hays Office was because of Uncle Cecil. You check out the scene where those cowpokes lifted their legs like dogs pissing on the fancy ladies?…

  16. Lauren says:

    I think it’s ridiculous to think of Oklahoma as one of the “dirtiest movie musicals of ALL time” and an “arousing awakening”. It’s one of my favourites, it has one of the best musical scores ever created, brilliant choreography of Agnes de Mille and the gorgeous voices of Shirley jones and Gordon macrae, that’s all people see when they watch it, why dig deeper?

  17. Merl says:

    What a load of crap. maybe you should channel your time into something worthwhile..

  18. I think you might be taking it too seriously.

  19. Georgia says:

    You’re an idiot. You switch from 21st century views on sexism to turn of the century views in a matter of words. It’s a musical, they dance, of course they are going to flash petticoats occasionally, probably so they can perform Agnes De Mille’s incredible choreography to the standard it should be performed. I study Musical Theatre, and I see this article as an immature, narrow minded and bias view on one of the most popular and highly commended musical’s the world has ever seen.

  20. Nice of you to stop by. Also, it’s “biased” and “musicals.” Keep on studying! And smile.

  21. Alisandra says:

    And what about the end of that DREAM SEQUENCE! With Jud lying on top of Laurey. THAT, sir, is what the folks up here in New Jersey call RAPE.

  22. Dan Thompson says:

    Jason, I agree with your article and I have always thought this was a sensual and sexual musical ever since I saw it in my youth. I just saw it performed by the special people in my older son’s special day care program. Even these seemingly innocent childlike adults understood the sexual innuendos. Hurray for them! They had a blast. Good enjoyable writing! Thanks!

  23. Great article! My favorite movie.So sanitized squeaky clean and purty. (sic) I wonder if it’s time for a grittier non musical remake

  24. jitajackson says:

    This “analysis” is completely hilarious! This article says more about your dirty mind, than it does about “Oklahoma.” We are talking 50 years ago, when this film came out. I will tell you, having had the acquaintance of honest older men throughout my life, let me tell you something about that era. Men could say how stunning or lovely a lady was, without it being contrived as sexual. They cannot do that now, since everything is contrived. Why was it acceptable then, because those men, who got married as virgins as well back then, meant exactly what they said, “lovely,” nothing more. And it wasn’t taken the same. They were nothing like the modern man. That was a day of kinder gentler folks. Being attracted to the opposite sex, does not mean a person merely wants to get in someone else’s pants. You have no idea about the greatest generation; you have no idea about the generation before that. These people took pride in being ladies and gentlemen. I am so sorry you are ridden with a pornographic mind. Shame on you, trying to destroy a romantic, fun-loving, slightly-exaggerated comedic musical. Shame on you. Is nothing sacred.

  25. Your indignation pretty much says it all. And I know that people 60 years ago loved sex as much as people do today—-because we’re all here.

  26. jderrico says:

    You need a lot of help. Guys like you are obsessed with sex and see it in everything. You think that you have some sort of secret decoder ring in your head that correctly interprets every symbol, every statement, every idea, every song, etc., as something sexual. Not everyone is like you, or wants to be. lf you see a bull, it’s about sex; a cigar–it’s about sex; a butter churn–it’s about sex; a box lunch–call the police. Good grief! Here’s my recommendation for you that will help all of us. Go home and hang yourself; or put a bullet in your brain. Oh my God! You dangling at the end of a rope–that’s like sex; firing a bullet into your head–that’s like sex.

    You’re an idiot. Your brain has never fully formed. If you see sex in a butter churn you need help from a whole team of psychologists at the university research level. I hope you don’t have any children. If you do you will no doubt screw them up just the way you were screwed up. Who or what did that to you? You fell in love with your fourth grade teacher and ever since then everything has been about sex. Perhaps your mother caught you masturbating and it warped your brain. Did she make you churn butter while masturbating?

    You’re the typical jerk who tries to seek the limelight by criticizing something that everyone else loves. Only you know the real, hidden meaning behind everything, and you feel that you must go through life enlightening everyone else.

    Please follow my suggestions above. We will all be so much better off without you.

  27. What a violent and disturbing comment! And from someone with so many opinions about values. People certainly do take Oklahoma! seriously. Goodness me.

  28. Wordwizard says:

    I found your analysis while looking for evidence to support that Jud Fry is a pivotal character in Oklahoma!, rather than merely a supporting character. I enjoyed it. Perhaps the “J” in J. Derrico stands for Jud?

  29. Wriphe says:

    Clever and funny. Thanks. Perhaps Oklahoma! is a reflectting pool in which you see in it what you want to because the story itself is so shallow. (Personally, I think Carousel is dirtier.)

  30. I loved the book, the play and the movie Oklahoma! For strictly pure and honest reasons… not because I saw it as smut and debased entertainment… but another tale of good conquering evil. It was good clean fun. There may have been bits and hints of hanky-panky, but not even close to the sick level you are on about.

    I read the first couple of paragraphs and scanned the rest. Blah blah blah. You can see evil in anything and everything, if you are looking for it.

    It doesn’t have to truly exist for you to see… only in your mind for it to be. We choose our own realities.
    It’s truly telling to see which ‘reality’ in a story of fiction interests and intrigues you most.

    And as for the previous generations… sure they thought of sex too… but most revered it, not reveled in it. It was for procreation, a deep expression of love, commitment even for recreation and release. Not as a sport merely to be dabbled in between, little more than, strangers.

    Back then, a bare ankle was ‘hot’. They weren’t plagued with a society full of internet porn, foul-mouthed actors and comedians strutting around, daily, with no shame right in front of them and their children… just a mouse click away (if even that far) as we do now… if you never had it, you don’t miss it. Society decides for many how any act is perceived. How even the placement of your napkin after a meal can be taken wrong in certain societies.

    If sex was, for the most part, considered sacred in our (sadly) past society (and it was)… you can bet most folks saw it that way back then too. Our current Kardashian tainted society has downgraded sex to the equivalent of a handshake or sitting on a swing talking about the weather… it’s no wonder you see nothing but sex in everything from an innocent butter churn to a hot enough for back then ‘Oklahoma Hello’.

    Just because our ancestors HAD sex, does not mean they were ruled by it. It’s only in today’s society (and several other historical ones… that crumbled miserably, ridden with disease, I might add) that accepts people’s interactions to be ruled by their hormones and nothing more.

    ‘Just Do it’, ‘If it feels good, do it’ or ‘I want it now’… are all slogans of a fast food and fast love society doomed to fail and suffer from it’s own neglect to honor or value anything besides their own self interests. Society is a group, not a lone person. If you were alone, who would you hurt? But we must survive with others… there must be collective rules of honor among us or there is only chaos.

    Today’s society has no rules except to say there are no rules, save one… Those that would like to have rules that would benefit the whole and not just themselves, even if it means giving up a few personal freedoms to accomplish… well… they need to be quieted or eliminated… they are party-poopers, bigots, hypocrites, etc. right? Everyone that disagrees with YOU, they are wrong and one dimensional, shallow, ignorant, blind… not the other way around, right?

    Your friends and family must be highly proud of your inherent ‘insights’ and this is surely what good money for an ‘education’ should be wasted on… bringing this brand of ‘deep thought’ out in everyone looking for ‘higher learning’. You’re claiming to have had an ‘education’… I don’t see evidence you took ‘class’ or even had ‘class’, only that you lack it entirely.
    Perhaps, you think you are being philosophical? droll? sarcastic? funny, maybe?

    Har har har… such a waste. It may have been an ‘exercise’ to you and for you, but in what? Finding fellow twisted folk, not unlike yourself, to add to your list of Facebook friends? Like-minded low-brows that will applaud you and give you validation as… well something?(not sure what) Tainting another person’s perceptions in innocence, otherwise better left alone? Ticking off more straight-laced folks? Why even do this, if not for a sick and depraved laugh down your nose at others with more honor and higher minded than yourself? Is this what you really wanted? Controversy? Anger? Argument? Discovering or pretending to discover debased innuendo and banter in things otherwise perceived as wholesome entertainment? Are you proud of yourself now? Is this and other observations like it your source of pride? Is this who you want to be? seen as? remembered for?

    This is just another prime and pathetic example of our society’s waste looking for ANY attention… even if it is from the refuse of society… What other motivation to write something like this other than to defecate on purity just for the sake of defecating on purity.

    Next time, try to find the good… better yet, try to find God in everything and see what you come up with. You don’t have to believe in God to benefit from believing in something bigger and better than yourself. Surprisingly, to do so, humbly, is to bring out the bigger and better self that you and ALL of society can benefit from, instead of this trash, you wrote about, which does no one ANY good… save a few sick laughs at decent people’s expense.

    God help us!!! You, especially!!!

  31. I simply love your comment. I wouldn’t dream of rebutting. It’s a work of art! Thank you.

  32. Dave says:

    Oklahoma is a masterpiece. ” A kiss gone by is by gone. Never have I asked an August sky where has last July gone” It doesn’t get any better than that . These are the guys who mentored Sondhiem. “Poor Jud is dead” is as deliciously diabolical as anything in Sweeney Todd. No this isn’t Kiss Me Kate…..this is some serious shit….the show that started it all……and I enjoyed your take on it. Of course it’s about sex……it starts with a guy on a horse…..making a beeline for a very hot tomato….what the the hell else is it about……it’s also about America the one that’s slipping away…… I downloaded it the other night and remembered seeing it with my mom in 56 on the BIG BIG screen and it’s just as amazing today

  33. Rob Morris says:

    Entertaining read. But my guess is that your take on Oklahoma says more about you than it does the movie.

  34. John Miller says:

    When I first began reading your analysis I was prepared to wonder whether you were the oversexed wacko some of your readers seem to think. However, I think I understand where you’re coming from, and I think you really like the musical and are merely providing an honest evaluation. From my school days I always thought analysis of writing was a bit unnecessary, but it’s not wrong.

    I write novels and because some of my major characters are young people I must be careful to maintain appropriate levels of sexuality based upon the plot and the implied nature of the characters. It’s a very difficult task and I’m not sure I always succeed, but I try.

    Some people acknowledge their sexuality. The rest are liars.

  35. Nonoy says:

    Just watched it tonight here in Arkansas at Murry’s Dinner Playhouse. Somewhat I agree with you.

  36. gtnsteve says:

    Yeah, your essay reads like a college kid’s work. However, you make good points and clever observations. Nicely done.

  37. Jobeth lafuria says:

    Or, it could be exactly what it purports to be…a nice little love story with catchy tunes and great dance scenes, with just a few innuendos to keep it from being overly sweet. I love this musical and think your observations are quite a stretch.

  38. While my silly conclusions may be a stretch—I wouldn’t be surprised if they are, because the whole essay, as I have written repeatedly, was written as a lark—I disagree strongly that any piece of entertainment can catch fire with a mass audience without having some deeper resonances. From the beginning of time, stories become popular and enduring because there is something about each of them that is deeply symbolic and there’s a subtle message for audiences in that symbolism. I’m not alone in this belief; read the work of Joseph Campbell, read Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment, which itself indirectly inspired Into the Woods, another musical that seemed like “a nice little…story” on the surface but was actually freighted with universal human meaning. It was no accident that Oklahoma! struck a cultural vein in 1943, precisely as the United States was mired in the horrors of World War Two. Simplicity was part of its appeal, of course—of course it was—but perhaps only on the surface, because simplicity on its own would not be enough. Hundreds of less enduring musicals were even simpler. At any rate, I am continually surprised that this post, more than most of my many others, has inspired such a range of impassioned responses. The resistance with which some people have received it is perhaps proof unto itself that Oklahoma! is stoking something possessive and emotional, albeit deep under the surface. I continue to be fascinated by the hidden influences of this particular work.

  39. TEC4 says:

    And to paraphrase Freud, sometimes a musical’s, just a musical …

  40. Serena Ely says:

    I admire your sophisticated analysis of one of my all-time favorite movies. You are spot on and insightful about movie history and mid-20th century mores. “As in other film musicals, dance implies sex”–great statement! I want more on that, although dance analysis is beyond your scope. (My subject specialty.) Yet, yet, Mr. Cochran, the essay is too long. Please know that as an editor, I think almost every movie is too long. Your punch is weakened by how much you have to say and your delight in saying it. That said, this essay deserves greater exposure (“Cineaste” or “Film Criticism”), if the subject hasn’t been explored already…?

  41. dan pink says:

    “surrey with the fringe on top”. Perhaps the “fringe” is a foreskin.

    What would “duchess of percy”, one of your commentators, say?

  42. Ken says:

    What the hell? It is what it is. A musical. You could literally pick apart any movie with this perverted mind set.
    It is quite obvious what they are getting at in the movie. You need not have a degree from some fancy college
    to figure that out.
    Set it to music and dance and it becomes very entertaining which is what R@H did. I do not believe that there was some sort of “commie” plot to dupe the audience into thinking other wise.
    Good Lord, dissect a Dirty Harry movie. His 44 magnum is a “large powerful phallic symbol”. His disdain for the uselessness of the law makes him a “vigilante”. Not to mention his actions towards woman! Now he is a “rapist”!
    Yeah, you were on target but who the hell cares? Such a waste of time. You were really bored when you wrote this as I was in writing this retort. I just accidentally came across this while looking for who starred in the movie and was surprised anyone would actually waste their time deciphering any hidden meaning.
    Sometimes things are just what they are. No hidden meaning. Just a story. A tree. A river. Put any meaning to it but it is still a story, a tree, a river,

  43. Ellen says:

    Well { for one happen to love all those musicals. People always have to make things dirty. Yall are some sick individuals, Why cant yall just appreciate the classics?

  44. Anne says:

    I am about to direct “Oklahoma!” for a semi-professional company that rehearses and performs in a church under the church’s auspices. After reading the script in detail, I was amazed by the sexual overtones. Promiscuity! Slut-shaming! Rape! Bestiality! (“I shore am feeling sorry fer the pony”) I did a google search and found this. Even if your essay was meant at least somewhat tongue in cheek, it is in so many ways spot on. I’m wondering how much I can get away with in the staging, but I’m surprised by the backlash you’ve gotten. The church ladies won’t know what hit ’em…

  45. Anne, I think you’ll find that you can put on this show without a single change and your audience won’t notice the innuendo. People only see what they want to see, and when it comes to the American classics, they only want to see purity. After all, Tinker Bell spends the entirety of Peter Pan trying to murder Wendy, yet parents think she’s a great character for kids. The subjectivity of morality is a hilarious thing to watch, and so is watching people go blind with anger over something so subjective and trivial, so watching Americans boil over in the comments of this blog post is a giddy pleasure that never tires.

  46. Gloria Schultze-Kraft says:

    AYYAYAY! As we say in Spanish.
    The artist creates and the viewer interpretates!

  47. Ed Craft says:

    I think the author of this article is, himself, obsessed with sex, if not an addict. The perfect candidate for a shrink’s couch.

  48. Trev says:

    Say what you want about Oklahoma and all you can read into it. I love because of the music. Its the music that give laughter to the soul and R&H musicals can do that for me – well I ain’t too worried about the story line.

  49. CES says:

    I think Jason is right on, especially when he wrote “There’s a storehouse of sexual activity swarming in Oklahoma! and enough to fill several ten-page papers.” R&H musicals in my view often have dark undertones (obviously domestic violence in Carousel, but also the rise of the Nazis in Sound of Music, racism in South Pacific, etc.). Although Jason didn’t mention it, the scene in Oklahoma! where Laurey dreams (has a nightmare, really) of seeing the man she loves killed and being forced to become the partner of a brute surrounded in a setting of a dance hall (presumably among prostitutes) is a scene about rape (“forced sexual intercourse”) even though the act itself is not shown on-screen. And, as Jason said, most everything else about the movie has a sexual undercurrent: “Cain’t Say No” is can’t say no to sex (in case anyone didn’t understand that), the little wonder has a picture of a naked woman in it which the men are interested in for *sexual* reasons (yes, sexual reasons, it’s true!). And Curly and Laurey get together in the end as man and wife, again presumably for sexual reasons (yes, there it is again: sex). So, no need to be bashful about sex and Jason is right, there’s a great deal about sex in many forms in Oklahoma! — I’m convinced of it.


  50. Diane McGuire says:

    Wow I loved this. I found your article while writing a scene (in a novel) in which a man is angry that Oklahoma is being staged in a former church. (The church has been renovated; the nave reconstructed into a theater.) Anyhow, this particular character is a pastor in a very strict, Protestant sect, and he is absolutely incensed that Oklahoma – a play about rape and debauchery and has sexual overtones throughout – is being performed in a former church! Oh my God! The skies are about to break open and we’re all going to be hit by lightning bolts!

    Haha, I came up with this scenario BEFORE reading your truly brilliant analysis. (I saw a production of Oklahoma years ago in a high school. My mother was with me; my daughter was in the cast. As we were leaving, my 80-year old mother said, you know that play is all about sex. It’s really dirty in places. And I said, omg Mom, shhhhh.)

    You might say your writing is a bit of a lark, but I think you’re spot-on. Bravo. Love it. 😀

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