Every year, probably not-coincidentally around Mardi Gras time, the State Theatre in Sydney comes alive with people singing along to the Sound of Music. There’s a costume parade, and props, and audience callbacks. One of the callbacks is to hiss when The Baroness comes onscreen, and in my fourth attendance last week I decided I would no longer boo. I would cheer.
This was only in part because I’d decided to finally dress up as the Baroness on this occasion (having previously worn a sailor-esque outfit to emulate a von Trapp child, and a rather wild interpretation of ‘silver white Winters that melt in to Spring’). I’d hoped to go for the baller gold gown:
But I left that costume for a friend when I struggled to find an appropriately fab dress at short notice, and instead went for the outfit where the Baroness attempts to bond with her future stepchildren and they all act like total fuckos because they miss the lady who dressed them with curtains:
So here’s my defence of The Baroness: she doesn’t deserve the hisses, because her only crime is not being an enthusiastically vocal 21-year-old failed nun. It’s probably not going to shock you that a movie made in 1965 has some Madonna/whore complex bullshit going on, but let’s look at it in detail.
The Baroness is a grown-ass woman. She’s sophisticated and worldly. She has fucked (don’t argue with me on this). She has the goddamn finest couturier in Vienna. But she’s clearly just looking for a good man. She doesn’t need someone to look after her, she’s got her own money and a dope life partying it up in the city. She clearly thinks the world of Captain von Trapp, because honestly? Seven kids. Seven kids. This guy returned a hero from WWI and clearly thought that he and his wife needed to single-handedly repopulate Austria. And his wife got so sick of bearing his children that it was obviously easier to just die. This should really be a dealbreaker.
(The real Captain von Trapp was even less familiar with the concept of contraception or even just pulling out occasionally – he had TEN kids. Unacceptable).
Apparently the Baroness is a bit evil for thinking they might send these kids away to boarding school. Yeah well, guess what your girl Molly Weasley does. She sends her excessive brats to boarding school, to get mostly almost and sometimes fully killed under someone else’s roof. Chill with the judgement. Anyway the von Trapp kids have been getting shit-all education at home. Apparently there’s been a cavalcade of governesses, the disruption hardly serving their education, and then suddenly Maria turns up to ruin the one thing these kids had going for them: a shred of discipline.
Let’s be fucking clear here: at this point, it is evident that war is on its way. The Nazis are not being at all chill in Austria. Rolf doesn’t dress up in uniform because he’s just really fond of the colour brown. So some good things to teach the kids would be, say, rope skills or basic first aid. Maybe some survival shit like starting a fire. Tell you what doesn’t help? Deciding that this is a great time to discover fun, ignore the fact that probably none of them can write a letter or know basic maths, but make sure they know their scales and can sing nonsense lyrics. Oh, and those essential puppetry skills.
Dammit Marta you even fucked that one up
I think we can all agree that the von Trapp children could have been served well by some dark ages boarding school discipline.
Another of the Baroness’ crimes is convincing Maria to run away back to the convent. At the ball where she is literally the most stunning bitch in the room, Elsa sees the Captain and Maria doing a cheeky folk dance in the courtyard and knows Georg is bone city for this young ingenue. Taking Maria aside, Elsa tells her pretty straight that the Captain is in love with her. She makes no suggestion that she flee back to the abbey, and if Maria is too scared of the Captain’s overly-virile peen to stay in the same building, then that’s her own damn problem.
“Also, can you get pregnant from dancing the Ländler?”
This is not to say that the Baroness doesn’t indulge in a little light manipulation, but how many young pretenders has this boss had to take down to remain the social queen of Vienna? I suspect a few. Maintaining control of the situation is part of her nature. She has seven kids who mostly hate her and have taken to hanging out of trees to deal with (uh, what happened to that whistle system that Georg boasted about when he was five sherries deep at the Count’s soiree?). She doesn’t have time to deal this young upstart when she’s trying to cope with the overwhelming reality of seven brats (including Kurt, the most extra human being on the face of the planet), and striving to get a hottie to make up his damn mind and propose. Distractions are to be disposed of.
“Jesus Christ kid, I’m BFFs with Max, the gayest man in Austria and even I think you should tone in down”
Eventually, of course, Elsa faces defeat. The Captain has shitty taste and would prefer a doe-eyed virtual child rather than the kind of woman who could probably take down Hitler over the course of a single dinner party. So be it. Men are garbage, including sexy, incredibly camp war heroes. So what does she do? She exits with goddamn dignity.
She starts by putting on her hottest outfit, to remind him that this is all woman he is giving up here:
And then she takes the fall. This dude would have dragged this shit out for months until the SS was actually on his godforsaken doorstep. But he can’t do that if she just goes ahead and dumps him. Self-deprecating but not self-pitying, she tells him she’s off to find some dude who at least needs her for her money. And in doing this, she gives this spineless talking sperm the opportunity to finally go deflower a woman who had promised herself to Jesus. What a gift. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t cheer for the Captain and Maria – or as we do at Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music, let off party poppers when they finally kiss – I’m just saying it never would have happened if she hadn’t said ‘Yo, you fuckers are in love, and I’m out of here’.
I wonder what happened to Elsa? I like to think she became a Resistance spy. Or a flagrant bisexual with many lovers, emboldened by the ‘we-could-die-at-any-moment’ atmosphere of the war. Either way, I think we can all agree that the Baroness is actually the hero of the story, and hissing her is a crime.