Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

You want to know how far our culture has come since the fifties?

In 1954 there was a movie called "Seven Wives for Seven Brothers", which is a happy-go-lucky musical retelling of the ancient Roman story "the Rape of the Sabine". It's about seven brothers in Oregon's rural timber country in the 1850's who go into their local town, kidnap some women in their horse-cart, take them up a mountain, then cause an avalanche to shut down the pass behind them so that no one can come or go until the spring. The women's families eventually do come to rescue them... but by that time it's too late and the parent's moral code makes them sanctify the illicit unions with shotgun weddings lest the incoming babies be born bastards.

It is such a bizarre mixture of tame and offensive. It is totally PG in traditional terms but it also confuses Stockholm Syndrome with consent; there's nothing sexually explicit about it but its sexual implications are nonetheless very troubling because it treats women as property that men need to own by any means necessary. After all, if our hardworking hard fighting lumberjack types don't have brides how will they ever have clean clothes and warm meals?

Seven Wives would never, ever get made today. It's insane insistence that this whole mess is cute and fun and an excuse for song would be seen as deeply, deeply offensive in the era of films like Room which examine sexual enslavement from a female perspective. And although the brothers just hit each other on-screen and are never shown mistreating the brides you have to imagine that men with tempers this bad would have to be abusive monsters to their spouses; we no longer live in a society where that sort of unprovoked violence can be condoned as just boys being boys.

But by both critical and commercial metrics Seven Brides was a huge hit back in the fifties. It was one of the top ten highest grossing films of the year. It was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, and even won one for Best Song back when that was a super-competitive category. There was an entire generation of people who saw absolutely nothing wrong with treating kidnapping and enslavement as a cute little diversion, and there are quite a few people from that generation that are still alive today.

That's a crazy distance to go in such a short time.

Winner: The Cat

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on IMDB