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Who’s afraid?

Reading this Palko post reminds me of when I saw a performance of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at a local theater. It was ok, although even then it seemed very old-fashioned in its construction, much more so than older classics like Shaw, for example. But what I really remember is when one of the characters did the sing-song “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” song, the actor did not do it to the tune of “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?” I don’t know, but my guess is that the actor had never seen the Disney movie and didn’t know how the tune went. But maybe something else was going on.

6 Comments

  1. John says:

    From Wikipedia: “Because the rights to the Disney song are expensive, most stage versions, and the film, have Martha sing to the tune of ‘Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush’, a melody that fits the meter fairly well and is in the public domain.”

    • Andrew says:

      Ahhh . . . I understood that Disney would charge for the use of the words, but I didn’t catch that you couldn’t use the tune either. I somehow thought a parody was fair use, but I guess I don’t understand the copyright law.

      • Mark Palko says:

        Parody normally falls under fair use, but it gets a little gray and Disney has some of the world’s most relentless IP lawyers.

          • Mark Palko says:

            Parody section starts on p. 58

          • Andrew says:

            Interesting. One thing I’d forgotten was how big the entertainment industry was during the mid-twentieth-century, which seems to have been the period when the key legal decisions in this area were made. I guess that part of the issue was that from the courts’ point of view, a threat to the entertainment industry would be like a threat to the pharmaceutical or tech industries today, a potentially dangerous blow to the economy and the American way of life. Depriving Disney of potential revenue from a stage production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” would be dangerously subversive. I’m somehow reminded of that speech in Animal House about the importance of the fraternity system.

            Also, reading that article refreshed my annoyance at the art museums that display paintings by Roy Lichtenstein, who openly ripped off comic strip artists, while these museums give no space to the original artists who have done all these original and beautiful illustrations. It’s such an obvious case of the cultural world favoring people who are in the club, which I guess mirrors the corporate world which gives millions to people just for being in close social proximity to money (for example here).

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