Newsies and The 99%


Blog by: Ellice Soliven

Over the weekend, while all of you were out watching Twilight or The Muppets, I posted up shop in my living room – Thanksgiving leftovers in one hand and eyes glued to the Idiot Box (a.k.a the TV). Vacations are for vegging out, right?

Anyway, while I was flipping through the cable channels, I came across Newsies, the 1992 Disney musical based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. I hadn’t watched it since I was about seven years old. The first thought that came to mind? Newsboy outfits will never go out of style.  I remember having crushes on all those little newsies back then, and I STILL love when men wear suspenders with trousers and a newsboy cap. Classic.

My next thought? At just 18, a young Christian Bale was just as handsome and talented as he is now. OK, maybe he’s a just a tad more skilled now. Just a tad. Bale plays the vivacious Jack Kelly, a newsboy selling papers for Joseph Pulitzer (Robert Duvall). When Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise the purchasing price of newspapers by one-tenth of a cent, Kelly and his fellow newsies start a strike. With the help of reporter Bryan Denton (a young Bill Pullman), newsies and the other non-union child workers from all over New York rise up against the powerful businessmen.

Cue the empowering song and dance numbers: “Carrying the Banner”, “Seize the Day”, “High Times, Hard Times”, “King of New York” and “The World Will Know”. Not to mention the vaudevillian Medda the “Swedish Meadowlark” (played by the wild Ann Margaret) on their side, singing and dancing her way through the riot. Supported by his friend David (played by an adorable David Moscow), Kelly and his newsies publish their own newspaper about the strike in a secret basement.

And this is where I get the chills. Especially during the ending scenes. The solidarity! The passion! I absolutely love the scene in which the newsies are furiously hacking away at the printing press during the “Seize the Day” number. I feel their anxious anticipation when they get their paper out and everyone joins them in the streets. Teddy Roosevelt (then a governor) pops out, grateful the newsies brought this movement to his attention.

“You see, it ain’t about the money Dave. If Joe gives in to nobodies like us, it means we got the power,” Kelly tells David in front of Pulitzer. Then he opens up the windows to show Pulitzer the throngs of people in the streets yelling and protesting. Pulitzer plugs up his ears like a child, and when he finds out those sneaky newsies printed their secret newspaper on his own press, BAM! The strike is over. Everyone’s cheering, Kelly and his girl are making out. Everything is right in the world again!

Occupy Wall Street, anyone? If only it were that easy. “Seize the Day” and “The World Will Know” could basically be the theme songs for the Occupy Movement. Apparently Walt Disney was down with the 99%.  With taglines like “A Thousand Voices. A Single Dream.” and “They Found the Courage to Challenge the Powerful!” it sure seems like Newsies occupied Wall Street first.

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