Ok. So there’s this sign I walk by every day, on my way to and from work.
It’s the marquee above the main entrance of the Eugene O’Neill theater, on West 49th street in Manhattan, between 7th and 8th Avenues. The theater is home to the smash hit The Book of Mormon.
The quote is by New York Times chief theater critic Ben Brantley. Here’s the whole thing:
Maybe I’m overreacting — you tell me — but this quote bugs me to no end.
Ben Brantley penned it back in March of 2011, in his review of the show when the musical first opened on Broadway.
He was apparently quite smitten with the iconoclastic profanity-infused tour de force romp by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the genius duo behind the cultural touchstone South Park.
The best musical of the century, though?
I mean, it was only 2011.
Eighty-nine percent of the century hadn’t even happened yet.
It is 2019 now, we are barely a fifth of the way into the century, and the statement above seems no less absurd. In the few years that passed, we’ve already had some worthy contenders for Best Musical of the Century make their debut — Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda comes to mind. Or Dear Evan Hansen, which also cleaned up at the Tony Awards after it opened in 2016. I suspect that we will have quite a few more in the eight decades ahead.
What is this human tendency toward hyperbole, this predilection for puffery?
Is it a reflection of our over-saturated consumer culture that only the most over-the-top claims, the most outlandish exaggerations stand out from the noise?
Do we crave being lied to, to relieve us of the hard work of real decision making?
Or have we become numb to biased suggestions and deceptive marketing practices, despite our better instincts?
Is this why BUY recommendations for stocks routinely outnumber SELL recommendations?
Is this why a majority of wine vintages are considered “good years”?
I’m reminded of Garrison Keillor’s famous line: “That’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”
What do you think?
A catalog of my previous tongue-in-cheek rants: