Monday, October 7, 2013

Lectures vs. Arguments: Brought to You By Tangled and Les Mis

I've been thinking lately about the difference between a lecture and an argument. If you're a teenager and you try to argue with your parents, it usually turns into the first one.
I try to leave my personal life out of this blog because (1) boring and (2) irrelevant. You don't care about my life. The only famous historical arguments are formal debates. So now I turn to fiction.
Introducing...Princess Rapunzel* and Monsieur Valjean**!

Mother Knows Best from the movie Tangled
Background: Mother Gothel kidnapped Rapunzel as an infant. Rapunzel, who has lived in the same one-room tower her entire life, doesn't know that. Now she's asking for permission to leave the tower.

Look at you as fragile as flower
Still a sapling just a sprout.
You know why we stay up in this tower

"I know but-"

That's right to keep you safe and sound dear.
Guess i always knew this day was coming
knew that soon you'd
want to leave the nest.
Soon but not yet.
trust me pet.
Mother knows best.
Real Parent:
You're growing up so fast. I just want to help you.
Mother knows best listen to your mother,
it's a scary world out there.
Mother knows best one way or another something will go wrong i
Ruffians, thugs, poison ivy, quicksand, the plague.


Also large bugs, men with pointy teeth. And stop no more you'll just
upset me.
Mothers right here, mother will protect you.
Darling here's what i suggest.
Skip the drama stay with Mama.
Mother knows best.
Go ahead, get trampled by a rhino
Go ahead, get mugged and left for dead
Me, I'm just your mother, what do I know?
I only bathed and changed and nursed you
Go ahead and leave me, I deserve it
Let me die alone here, be my guest
When it's too late
You'll see, just wait
Mother knows best
Mother knows best
take it from your mumsy
on your own you won't
Sloppy, underdressed, immature, clumsy.
Please they'll eat you up alive.
Gullible, naive positively grubby,
Disty and a bit...well vauge.
Plus i belive your getting kind of chubby.
I'm just saying cause i wuv you.
Mother understands, Mothers here
to help you, all i have is one request.


Don't ever ask to leave this tower again

Yes, Mother.

Oh, I love you very much dear.

I love you more

I love you most
Don't forget it, you'll regret it.
Mother knows best!

This is a lecture.

The Confrontation from the musical Les Miserables

Background: Jean Valjean (aka convict number 24601) broke parole several years ago. Since then he learned the importance of honesty, became a business owner, and is now the mayor of the town. After revealing his identity to Inspector Javert, he's pleading for time to help a dying woman with a young child.

Valjean, at last,
We see each other plain
`M'sieur le Mayor,'
You'll wear a different chain!

Before you say another word, Javert
Before you chain me up like a slave again
Listen to me! There is something I must do.This woman leaves behind a suffering child.
There is none but me who can intercede,In Mercy's name, three days are all I need.Then I'll return, I pledge my word.Then I'll return...
There is a duty that I'm sworn to do
You know nothing of my life
All I did was steal some bread
You know nothing of the world
You would sooner see me dead
But not before I see this justice
I am warning you Javert
I'm a stronger man by far
There is power in me yet
My race is not yet run
I am warning you Javert
There is nothing I won't dare
If I have to kill you here
I'll do what must be done!

You must think me mad!
I've hunted you across the years
A man like you can never change
A man such as you.

(in unison with Javert
Believe of me what you will

(in unison with Valjean)
Men like me can never change
Men like you can never change
My duty's to the law - you have no
Come with me 24601
Now the wheel has turned around
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Dare you talk to me of crime
And the price you had to pay
Every man is born in sin
Every man must choose his way
You know nothing of Javert
I was born inside a jail
I was born with scum like you
I am from the gutter too!

[to dying woman] And this I swear to you tonight
[to Valjean] There is no place for you to hide

Your child will live within my care

Wherever you may hide away

And I will raise her to the light.
I swear to you, I will be there!

Valjean and Rapunzel are asking for the same thing: temporary freedom. But look at what happens. Mother Gothel gives a lecture. She only lets Rapunzel complete a sentence if she's praising her. Valjean and Javert get the same amount of lines. Sure, they're singing in unison for part of it, so clearly they'd rather listen to themselves talk.
What makes the difference between a lecture and an argument? And more importantly, how can you turn a confrontation into the one you want?
If you're the authority (Mother Gother and Inspector Javert) you have to respect your petitioner. Even if they're asking for something wrong or stupid or just plain pointless.
If you're the petitioner (Rapunzel and Valjean) you have to stand up for yourself. Interrupt your authority's sob story. Even if they won't listen to you. Even if they think what you're asking for is wrong or stupid or just plain pointless. You cared enough to ask for it, didn't you? Then follow through with it.
Don't lecture. Argue.

Disclaimer time, yay!
*This post is not meant to offend people. And by people, I mean Rapunzel. I love your songs, love your show, I just think you should've stood up for yourself.
**This post is also not meant to encourage you to argue with your parole officer. Unless you happen to be a nineteenth century French convict who stole a loaf of bread to feed your starving nephew. In that case, congratulations for inventing time travel. Can we hang out?

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