The film preaches many moral messages, but best of all, it teaches how to up your manipulation game.
Broadway sensation turned movie “Dear Evan Hansen” attempts to tackle several serious issues faced by modern teenagers from suicide to family relations, centering its plot around a stammering, anxiety-ridden underdog and music that resembles Christian pop more than showtunes. Most of all, for junior Mechanical Engineering major Trent Calbert, the movie spurred a realization: mental health is a real problem that can be exploited.
“Yeah, my girlfriend made me go see it with her,” Calbert explains, “and at first, I was like, this blows, this totally fucking sucks. But then that skinny whelp Evan Hansen guy opened my eyes. I thought anxiety was just, like, something you had before an exam.”
Indeed, the protagonist struggles with his mental illness throughout the film, and actor Ben Platt attempts to utilize overexaggerated affectations to portray anxiety. He constantly wrings his hands and hunches his back, likening him and his perpetually damp hair piece to a wet, shaking Persian cat. In conversation, he stammers and darts his eyes about in an uncomfortably lizard-like manner. His prescription pills feature not only in the background but in multiple instances of passing dialogue (a special moment for viewers to gasp and say, “So relatable, I also take Zoloft!”).
“Could also just be Beta Male Disorder,” says Calbert before letting out a snicker. “Just kidding! Don’t call the PC Police on me. I know now people with anxiety Frankenstein walk around and mouth breathe because they just can’t help it.”
Notably, mental illness appears to be a reliable excuse. The protagonist brushes off his deception and meddling with a dead guy’s life because he has depression, anxiety and uwu soft boy symptoms. So, the moment this touch-starved attic child first tastes delicious attention, he does not want to set any record straight. Explaining the plot, Calbert lists the pros of deception: “Well, he gets a hot piece of ass, everyone loves him and he receives hella Instagram followers.”
“It totally works, too,” he continues. “I started over-apologizing in class, like an ‘oh, this might be a stupid question’ or ‘I’m not sure I have the right answer’ or whatever, and you should see how nice the professor gets or how people look at me, like I’m a fragile fucking vase or something. It’s like a Fortnite skin: put it on and look how people react.”
Calbert also points to using mental illness as a get-out-of-jail card in his social life. He cites an example of missing an anniversary with his girlfriend (“Had a fantasy football draft to attend,” he explains), a situation that would usually result in a big fight and hurt feelings. Instead, Calbert hunched his shoulders and fiddled with his hands then admitted that his anxiety has been so bad lately. He made sure to point out that it would be super shitty for her to get upset with him because he cannot control how his new disorder manifests. Plus, remember what happened to the Connor dude in the movie when he could not deal with his mental health? He killed himself, Jessica.
Offering advice to those who struggle with mental illness, Calbert says, “Instead of having anxiety, maybe you could, like, put yourself out there or something? It worked in the movie. He got so much better after he made some friends. I don’t know. I just feel like it’s not that hard.”