Oh the Overthinks You Can Overthink: Horton the Elephant, the Wickersham Brothers, and Masculinity in Seussical

Yesterday, I performed in a school matinee for Suessical, dashed back to campus to advise with students working on their 20-page term papers for Literary Criticism, served on oral exam panels for four graduating seniors, then went back to the theater for an evening performance.

20130427-100118.jpgSomewhere along the way, I found myself chatting in an idle moment with one of the teens who play the Wickersham brothers.

I noticed his jaw had dropped open, and then I realized what I was saying.

I was casually approving of how the choreographed comic menace of the Wickershams is just threatening enough to push Horton gradually from passivity to action, a character arc that would be less dramatic if Horton ever felt personally threatened by the Wickershams. They are, after all, only trying to annoy Horton — they don’t believe there are Whos on the dust speck, and as social enforcers they never threaten the egg directly, just Horton’s unconventionally nurturing attitude towards the egg, which threatens their own narrow definition of masculinity.

Oh, and this was all probably while I was wearing a turtle costume.

There was an awkward pause. “Sorry, I’ve started lecturing. Occupational hazard.”

The young man managed to swallow. “I guess someday I’ll have to get used to talking to professors,” he said.