The musical made me think of why awareness does not always help us make good choices. For those who don’t remember, Little Shop of Horrors tells the story of Seymour and Audrey who work in an unpopular flower shop. Seymour is in love with Audrey, but she is desperately stuck in an abusive relationship with a bike-riding sadistic dentist. Things change when Seymour discovers a weird plant that likes being fed with human blood (and later flesh). The creepy plant brings Seymour fame and Audrey’s love, but makes him choose between staying a decent man and becoming a manipulative murderer.
The dentist was creepily hilarious in his craziness, and the chorus girls were lovely, but I was particularly interested in choices that Seymour and Audrey were making throughout the musical. Venus-trap-like bloodthirsty aliens don’t happen to visit Earth that often (I hope!). However, the story of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship is not just an eerie fantasy. This is a real thing. And while Audrey from the musical is portrayed as a stereotypical not-too-smart blond, real world women in abusive relationships are not necessarily stupid. They might be aware of what abuse is, they can see it in somebody else’s life, but they are often unable to notice red flags when they are hanging too close to home.
This is where people who think that knowledge is what we need to deal with social ills are wrong. We may know that smoking is bad for us, and continue smoking. We might well be aware of dangers of not using condoms, and still engaging in unprotected sex. There is no straight and well-lit road from awareness to change. That is why improving things is so challenging.
The story of Seymour is another example of the same problem. Seymour is aware of the fact that what he is doing is morally wrong, that he is becoming a criminal, that he is hurting people. And yet he continues making choices that eventually lead to the destruction of all he holds dear (I prefer the on-stage musical finale to that of the second movie, as I find the former to be more thought-provoking). Same as Audrey (and maybe even more so), Seymour knows that his decisions are problematic, and yet he finds himself unable to get out the abusive relationship with the plant. Paradoxically (but very realistically), Seymour perceives flaws of Audrey’s love affair with the cruel dentist, but is unable to notice similar patterns in his own life.
Conclusion? It is easy to say: Why didn’t he/she make the right choices? – and I am not talking about the musical here, I am talking about the real world. My answer: when somebody is in a wrong situation, right choices might not seem right to her/him. Not because this person is stupid or weak, not because it is her/his fault – but because right and wrong are all relevant. It is easy to blame, to laugh or be condescending: “Well, I would have never done that!” For many, knowing better is a luxury they do not have. Be kind. One day you might wind up in their shoes.