In Defense of Benny from 'Rent'
There are several steps to proper adulthood that we must all take one day. Those steps are different for all of us. For me, it went like this: (1) remove all Dave Matthews Band tracks from iPod; (2) realize I now hate everything at Urban Outfitters; (3) come to the sudden and terrifying realization that Donnie Darko isn’t actually a very good movie and (4) discover that, despite everything I held dear from the ages of 13 to 25 years old, Benny was not only not the bad guy of Rent, he was the hero.
See, as youthful artistes (meaning: we did musical theater in high school and listened to a lot of Broadway soundtracks) we believed what the show posited: that Benny was a supreme sell-out, a villain heinously attempting to force his friends to pay their rent and get jobs. WHAT A DICK. Then, we grew up, and realized, “holy shit. Benny just wanted them to pay their rent and get jobs. LIKE A PERSON DOES.”
And it’s not like Benny was just sitting around counting pennies, threatening them with eviction and definite homelessness. He offered them free rent and a lucrative job doing exactly what they wanted to do with their lives! DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO GET A JOB IN YOUR PARTICULAR ARTISTIC CONCENTRATION IN NEW YORK CITY? And they rejected him. Coldly. And set a bunch of fires.
Immediate eviction would be wholly warranted, but NO, Benny doesn’t even care. All he wants is for them to cancel Maureen’s shitty performance art. But they are so committed to LA VIE BOHEME! (here meaning shitty performance art) that they refuse and a violent riot ensues.
Also, Angel kills his dog. No one talks about that. But Angel totally killed Benny’s dog. RIP, Evita.
Then, they all go out to dinner and order an exorbitant amount of food and drink for people who haven’t paid rent in a year. Then he tries to make nice with everyone and everyone’s all “fuck you, guy with job” while he’s dating Mimi who somehow we’re all still cool with even though she is TROUBLED to say the least and the absolute only healthy decision she makes this whole musical is to date Benny. THEN he pays for her to go to rehab. THEN he pays everyone’s rent and everyone’s cool. Because Benny had to learn a lesson. BENNY HAD TO LEARN A LESSON.
People. I do not like feeling Republican. It gives me wrinkles and bloat. But this show is making me side with the guy with the job and the money instead of the artists BECAUSE THE GUY WITH THE JOB AND MONEY IS TRYING TO HELP HIS DYING AND UNEMPLOYED AND DESTITUTE FRIENDS WHO HAVE ONLY SCARVES TO THEIR NAMES.
So, Benny, shit, man. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I saw you as the bad guy for so long. Rest of the cast, I GET IT. You are struggling to say the least. But if Collins can get off his ass and go teach and Angel can drum and murder dogs for a living, Roger and Mark have zero excuses. GET A JOB, HIPSTERS.
Now I’m going to curl up in a ball and sing “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)” to my dead soul.