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Comic Flaws. Moral Ambiguity - Essay Example

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It is this susceptibility that describes his great comic flaw and the moral ambiguity that makes him such an easily relatable character, moreso in many ways than Max. In the end Leo suffers a comic downfall but escapes excessive punishment. Yet fear of being caught and guilt over his complicity in Max’s scheme exacts its own kind of punishment. It is this ethical crisis, of being caught between “good and bad,” and the attendant physical and psychological manifestations to which we can so readily identify. Leo is rather unexceptional, the stereotypical accountant, a character given to processes and rules. From a comedic standpoint, it is his “ordinariness” and the ethical angst that the musical and his involvement with Max brings about that makes us laugh at his plight. Not only is he of “unexceptional birth,” but he is to all appearances unable to rise above the circumstances of his birth: he will always be an average accountant. So when Max comes along, it is with the chance of a lifetime. The idea to produce a flop actually comes, albeit inadvertently, from Leo and adds to the humor of the situation. Breaking with his past is no simple matter. After Max tries to convince him to “fix” the books, Leo refuses and returns to his old job at the firm of Whitehall and Marks. Leo needs a nudge, something that will spur him to take a chance and risk security and his sense of well-being. That nudge comes from his boss, Mr. Marks, who berates him, thus eliciting a fantasy about becoming a Broadway producer. Leo relents, joins with Max to form Bialystock and Bloom and they begin looking for the worst play they can find. That Leo chooses to pursue his fantasy with Max is what makes him such a comic figure. He entertains the same fantasies and harbors the same dreams that we all have. The Producers is an exaggeration of the traditional American rags-to-riches story and the lengths to which people will go to make a fortune. Leo takes a monumental risk by quitting his job and joining with Max, only to seek his fortune by producing a bad play. To that end, he is forced to patronize Liebkind, a former Nazi and the musical’s author who insists that Max and Leo take the “Siegfried Oath.” The world of entertainment is incongruous to Leo, who has never been more than a button-down corporate functionary. We laugh at his discomfort as he and Max discuss the play with their director, Roger de Bris, an openly and outrageously gay character. Leo’s naivete reaches its height when, on opening night, he wishes the company “good luck,” thereby unwittingly committing the cardinal sin of the stage (Stroman, 2005). His cluelessness is honest, however, and reveals to the audience a fundamental unfamiliarity with his surroundings, which indicates his fundamental vulnerability. As such, one is inclined to hope that he will succeed, or at least that he will survive the production’s unforeseen success. In pursuing this unlikely goal, Leo has to “go along” with the unsavory means by which Max secures the funds to produce Springtime for Hitler. The ethical dilemma is part and parcel of being a comic hero, and it is this dilemma that pulls Leo in different directions. As such, there is an element of the bemused “straight man” in Leo, who plays a sort of straight man, or foil, to Max’s flamboyantly unscrupulous raconteur. And though he becomes ensnared in the riskiness of their “ ...Show more
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Summary

Name Class Instructor Date Comic Flaws, Moral Ambiguity: Leo Bloom and the Crisis of Conscience Comic heroes are, historically speaking, prisms through which we may consider the nature of human weakness. Their flaws are flaws with which we can identify and, in so doing, come to have a better understanding of ourselves…
Comic Flaws. Moral Ambiguity
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