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Meet John DeVore. His written piece here is more than an awesomely defiant love letter to a great American art form — it's a radical testament to individuality, love, and truth ... with bonus lightbulb moments about violence in the media, useless gay stereotypes, and singing Batman.Forgive the guy his deliciously strong language — he's having some strong emotions — and take six minutes of reading to see what I mean.*

"You Hate Musicals Because You Are Dead Inside" by John DeVore:

I love musicals.

Oh, you hate musicals? Really? I’ll get to you and your opinion in a second.


First, I’m making a public confession: I am a white, heterosexual man who loves musicals. I don’t give a shit who knows. You are not your demographic. The people who make up focus groups are demented human beings.

I eat bacon cheeseburgers. I love pranks. I watch professional wrestling. Well, maybe that last one doesn’t prove anything. Pro wrestling is just Redneck Broadway.

But my point is this: “Defying Gravity” is a legit good song. Do I only listen to musicals? No. I’m not a monster. But I’m not here to defend my Dave Matthews and Electric Light Orchestra Pandora channels.

I know musicals can be cheesy. Some can be boring. There are plenty of awful musicals, too.

But any excellent example of anything is excellent. You have to understand that musicals are, mostly, an irony-free artform. There is no way to be ironic, or even cool, when singing a power ballad in the car or a torch song during a booze-soaked karaoke party.

Now, you. You with your opinion. Fuck your opinion.

I will argue with you using, simply, reason. Your opinion is wrong. You’re ignorant. I don’t have to respect opinions from stupid people. All I have to do is let you finish your undercooked thought. Now, you. You with your joyless opinion.

Shut up. Don’t finish your thought. I don’t care. Art doesn’t fail. Humans fail. You have failed art, you magnificent douche.

No one ever says “when I grow up, I want to be an emotional void.”

Let me address some of the basic arguments I have heard from dudes who hate musicals. These dudes, by the way, are always the sort who will punch a wall then run away to cry in the rain the moment fate demands they suffer, as all mortals must.

First: is it really weird that characters in musicals suddenly break out into song when the emotions become too intense? You know what’s weird? When characters in movies suddenly break out into shooting bullets or karate chops when emotions become too intense.

Action movies are just musicals with knuckles. Of course the main difference is action movies celebrate violence. So many explosions. Emotions are dangerous. Most civilizations pacify their citizens with displays of violence. Blood spurts are hypnotic. Distracting.

Feel something for a change. FEEL GOD DAMN YOU.

I have also heard, for years, how musicals are “gay.” Is that an insult? I don’t know what to say to that. I’m a living thinking person who loves? Fine. Whatever. Then I am gay. I am gay. I am gay. I am gay. I am gay. Proud & loud!

“Musicals suck,” is another retort. Why do you hate your father so much?

You’re a tiny pink worm piloting a robot husk that looks like a human. If I cracked that shell open you wouldn’t last a day in the light.

I might be overreacting. No, I’m not. Think before you talk.

Musicals don’t get respect from most people, and that’s fine. I don’t watch hockey, and that’s okay. I don’t talk trash about it.

Just hear me out. Because I’m going deep. I’m basically singing to you right now. Man up. You can take the truth. I’m not suggesting we hug it out, because I think you’d be a crap friend. But, check it: the bar jukebox? You feed it money because your soul needs songs.

Musicals can turn my bones to wind chimes. They make me feel drunk. I know of few American artists who can gut you with a sad, beautiful song like Stephen Sondheim.

Here, step into the time machine of imagination and let’s journey back to when I first fell in love with musicals. Oh, you don’t have an imagination? Okay. Then I will just tell you the tale.

The first musical I ever saw was a production of “Les Miserables” at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. It was a high school field trip. I was 15. My Trapper Keeper was stuffed with love letters I didn’t have the courage to fold up into little triangles that could slip into her locker.

She was in love with someone else, anyway. He was a total puke bucket, with a car.

I spent the day leading up to the musical employing every single form of teenage emotional expression. All three of them. I sneered. I rolled my eyes. I stared off into the distance in despair. Repeat.

So when Eponine took to the stage to sing about her unrequited love for Marius, I could feel my heart try to claw its way up my throat.

I, too, am on my own! Holy Christ, just like her! I wanted to stand up and sing along with her. I didn’t know the lyrics or melody, but I would have bravely bleated along in solidarity.

Finally, as she lays dying in the arms of the SHIT HEAD WHO OBVIOUSLY SHOULD HAVE LOVED HER AND NOT THAT DOOFUS LADY COSETTE, singing the song “A Little Fall Of Rain,” I suddenly saw myself on my deathbed. The cause of death? Heartbreak, probably. Terminal heartbreak.

And there she was, sitting next to me, sobbing. Maybe someone had given her my Trapper Keeper? Maybe she had read my nearly illegible insane hobo cursive handwriting that covered both sides of multiple pages of torn out spiral notebook paper?

Had she broken up with the total puke bucket, with a car? It did not matter. I forgave her. Cough, cough.

“Les Miserables” is a sprawling singalong opera about a superstrong sensitive dude, an uptight maniac cop, and a failed French student uprising. It’s a musical that loves weepy solos, endless crescendos and synthesizers. So many synthesizers.

It’s great. So is “Phantom of the Opera.” That was the next musical I saw after “Les Miserables.” Look, to me, as a kid, “Phantom of the Opera” was basically “Singing Batman.”

A year later, my wonderful father begrudgingly took me to see my first Broadway show in New York City. IT WAS A MUSICAL ABOUT THE VIETNAM WAR.

I have spent a lot of time sitting in theater seats. Not just for musicals, either. Plays, performance art, Shakespeare in parking lots. Theater is the original social network.

I love it. I also love, in no particular order, Music Man, West Side Story, Fiddler On The Roof, The King & I, Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, Sweeney Todd, Hedwig & The Angry Inch, Chicago, Spring Awakening, Assassins, Book of Mormon, and, honestly, it’s a long list that also includes musicals performed at midnight in basements in the Lower East Side, years before Manhattan turned into Bankhattan.

The American musical is the cradle of contemporary pop music. It’s an art form that connects us to the vaudevillian music halls of our shared past. The musical is what happens when the church meets the saloon. These songs are all pagan hymns to first kisses and lost loves. There is so much cruelty in the world, and the American musical knows that. Sometimes it tells us everything will be okay — the curtain will come down on dancing and singing and triumph. Sometimes it tell us everything won’t be okay and that kind of honesty can set you free.

Love what you love. This is a truth you can only read on a non-ad supported internet digital web blog platform. I’m not selling anything. I’m not telling you what to love. Just that you should love what you love. Love what you love.

Bear hug it. Whisper to it. Cut any bitch who tries to diminish that love.

We cool, and all that jazz, bro?

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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