The Sound of Music: The Real Story's in the Details
From Maria’s clothes to Rolf’s Sexuality, the film is a treasure trove of detail.
UNDER normal circumstances, The Sound of Music isn’t my cup of tea. For one thing, I hate almost all musicals because my tiny brain can’t manage the suspension of disbelief required to accept people just singing and dancing their way through life1. For another, the style of music in most of these movies—yanno, musical music—makes me sad and angry2. But as with many things in this life, just because I dislike something doesn’t mean I don’t have to experience it—a lot, and repeatedly, mainly when my wife The Duchess—one of the most powerful sorcerers in the universe—makes me3.
For example: Every holiday season my aversion to musicals becomes an amusing albeit minor detail as she announces we will once again be watching The Sound of Music in its entirety. And possibly singing along4.
What this means is that I’ve seen this movie many, many times despite my clear inclination against seeing it. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t despise the film. I can see its charm for some folks, and it’s a remarkably well-made film. In fact, The Sound of Music is actually visually astounding, and an incredibly detailed film. Those details deepen and expand the story in surprising ways. If you pay attention, there’s a whole other story going on under the surface, and that story is pretty much all about sex5.
The Poor Didn’t Want This One
Much of this is headcanon and interpretation of course, but that’s what the details in a story are for, after all. And the details tell us that all of the adult (and near-adult) characters are pretty damn horny.
Initially, the most obvious example is Liesl and Rolf, who are a pair of horny teenagers. Their duet “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” is pretty obviously a boy pretending to be more worldly and knowledgeable than his girlfriend, lecturing her on what men will see in her very soon6. Or possibly a kid deep in the closet, based on his absolutely terrified facial expressions.
There’s another couple burying their horniness in this film, of course, but there are plenty of clues that Captain Von Trapp is imagining Maria in many compromising positions almost from the moment she arrives. First of all, one of the first things he comments on is her awful, neutral, androgynous outfit7, almost immediately sending out for some nice fabrics for her to make pretty dresses so he can better see her calves (thighs would have been a step too far for either 1938 or 1965)8. From this point forward, Von Trapp pretty obviously can’t stop staring at Maria despite the almost blinding innocence and purity she exudes like some sort of virus being shed from a deeply sick person.
Later, after their very sensual dance in the garden when Maria realizes that she loves The Capitan and the Baroness “helps” her choose a dress, Maria is informed that the dress she wore while helping the children put on a puppet show9 was one he couldn’t take his eyes off (a scene in which both Von Trapp and Maria stared at each other with a naked hunger so obvious the Baroness was nonplussed). This causes her to rush off in a fit of torment, as she’s a girl who was studying to be nun a few weeks before and is now a girl urgently imagining her employer naked, possibly chopping wood or engaged in some other sweaty activity.
But when she returns, sent back by the kindly, wise Mother Superior who clearly sees the steam rising gently from Maria’s body as she discusses Captain Von Trapp10, she wears that exact dress as she prances barefoot about the grounds. She might as well be sucking a lollipop and calling him “Daddy” at this point, and it basically takes the lust-addled Von Trapp a hot second to pack the Baroness off to whatever camp exists for unwanted baronessi and race down to Maria. And after they return from their honeymoon, Maria emerges a fully-grown woman at last, wearing a chic little designer number and strolling about the place with the gleam of ownership in her eye. This, in case you’re wondering, isn’t subtle: Captain Von Trapp has made a woman of her. This is a guy who already had seven children, after all, which, you know: Do the math.
What’s fascinating about all this sexy stuff under the surface of one of the most wholesome films ever made is how these details subtly deepen and complicate the story. Anyone thinking about it for a moment would know that of course there was sexual attraction between Maria and Captain Von Trapp—that’s how human romantic relationships work. Putting that front and center would have made the story a bit more adult than anyone wanted, so it got pushed into the background and communicated by details so we could focus on the ridiculous notion that a group of children would prefer singing folk songs with their nanny to literally anything else. And that’s a trick any writer can use in their stories.
Of course, every time I watch this movie I go around singing Do-Re-Mi to myself for days like a lunatic because I am weak-willed and basically a level seven susceptible.
Next week: Emily in Paris: Archetypes! Archetypes all the way down!
Time travel? No problem. The enormous apartment in Friends? I want to believe. but singing? Come, on, man, we’re all adults here.
Yes, I am always sad and angry, so technically musicals just make me sadder and angrier. I assume my death will involve some sort of flash mob singing Seasons of Love.
Her power over me is so complete I watch every episode of The Voice and am now experiencing Stockholm Syndrome with the show.
There is no singing along, TBH. In my booze-soaked youth I regularly sang along to songs in bars, but that’s because I was the star of that particular musical.
As are most stories, and almost every issue of this newsletter.
I don’t know what the real person was like, but in the film Liesl presents as a slightly above-average houseplant or perhaps a slightly below-average housecat on the intelligence scale. Actually, all of the Von Trapp children in this movie seem like they’d be incredibly easy to kidnap.
To be fair, as a man who wears the same pair of pants every day people do comment on your awful, baggy, neutral clothing on a regular basis. And it is hurtful.
As one … does? This movie is a good reminder of how lucky we are to have television and video games.
"Climb Every Mountain” might as well be titled “Girl, Get Some!”