A lot of critics will cite fictional characters such as Tony Soprano or Walter White as being some of pop culture’s first fully embraced anti-heroes. But could it be that audiences were embracing anti-heroes before Tony or Walter came onto the scene?
Watching The Music Man this time around, I was stuck by how when we first meet Harold Hill, he’s a bit of an anti-hero himself. The first song establishes that Hill is a con-man, who has possibly had several other assumed identities before becoming the purveyor of boys’ band, and that he’s ruining the territory for the other salesmen. When he hears that Iowa might a challenge or an untapped opportunity, Hill decides to stop in River City and run his boys’ band con on the town.
He does this by creating and problem and then attempting to solve it via the goods only he can provide — in this case musical instruments. Watching as Hill avoids providing his credentials to various officials through the play is amusing and shows how quickly he can think on his feet. But then his attempted courting of Marion Paroo, the local librarian and piano teacher also shows how slick and savvy Hill really is when he puts his mind to it. Continue reading