A-to-Z Challenge 2023 – Z is for Zendaya and Zac Efron – Resilience in Songs #atozchallenge #songs

The 2023 A-to-Z blogging challenge theme is resilience. Resilience is the ability to get back on our feet and keep going after life knocks us down and kicks sand in our faces. Resilience is how the psyche survives and copes, but resilience doesn’t necessarily wear a cape of positivity.

The 26 songs I’ve chosen show us, musically, what resilience looks (sounds?) like. I’ll offer a reflection of the resilience in each song. The songs are alphabetical by the artist’s first name or the group’s name, except for M, O, U, and X.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter Z

Z is for Zendaya and Zac Efron and Rewrite the Stars.

I’ve got a Double Z to end this month of resilience in songs. It’s also the only duet I featured. I feel a little Hannibal Smith-ish… I love it when a plan comes together.

Rewrite the Stars was written by Behj Pasek and Justin Paul for the movie The Greatest Showman (2017).

timelapse photography of warped linesIn the movie, we know the characters who sing this duet — Anne Wheeler and Phillip Carlyle — are from completely different social classes, different cultural backgrounds, and different races at a time in history when all of those were barricades to their love. This is a song of forbidden love. One person sees hope for their relationship. The other sees no hope. One believes love is enough. The other knows love is not enough.

For this resilience look, I’m using Anne and Phillip and the social mores of the time that prevent them from being together.

The Zac Efron character Phillip begins the song.

He’s full of hope with stars in his eyes.

You know I want you
It’s not a secret I try to hide
I know you want me
So don’t keep sayin’ our hands are tied

He goes on to plead his case that even though Anne keeps refusing his love, because she believes it’s not in the cards, a.k.a. they aren’t fated to be together, he can’t accept that. She’s in his heart. He loves her. No one has the right to tell us who we can love.

In his mind, they can buck society and rewrite the stars (Change their Destiny). What if we were fated to be together? It’s up to us to decide.

Zendaya’s character, Anne, responds.

She admits she loves him.

You think it’s easy
You think I don’t wanna run to you

She explains all the obstacles in the way. She reminds him that privately, they can be in love, but publicaly, theirs is a forbidden relationship. He is privileged and no one can tell him how to live. She doesn’t have that luxury. She is held to different expectations of which she can’t break free. We can’t rewrite our stars. No one can. It’s hopeless, she says.

Then for just a little while, she allows herself to imagine they really could have a life together. A thin ray of hope shines in. They sing together about defying everyone who looks down on them and disapproves of their relationship. For a few wonderful moments, they share a future together in a world that will accept them for who they are.

Say that it’s possible…

Nothing can keep us apart
‘Cause you are the one I was meant to find
It’s up to you
And it’s up to me
No one can say what we get to be
And why don’t we rewrite the stars?
Changing the world to be ours

Then, sadly, disappointingly, reality returns. Anne is nothing if not a realist. She sings this harsh truth as she leaves him.

You know I want you
It’s not a secret I try to hide
But I can’t have you
We’re bound to break and my hands are tied

Anne and Phillip have different experiences with life and, consequently, different perspectives and vastly different ways to cope with what life hands them.

Phillip’s resilience comes from affluence, education, and his social standing and connections. Anne’s resilience comes from a hardscrabble existence all the while enduring discrimination for her race and her gender. No matter how enticing a life with Phillip is, she can’t pursue it. The repercussions of their relationship would eventually tear them apart. More for his sake than hers, and because she loves him that much, she cuts their ties.

Anne is a survivor and a realist, because she was born poor and disadvantaged. Her resilience is comprised of realizing her place in her society, and that she can get along ‘okay’ in life as long as she abides by those expectations. She is of the ‘haves-not’. She understands the rules of that game all too well. Phillip is a ‘have’. She understands the rules of his game more than Phillip understand it himself.

Phillip has never done without and can’t conceive what that’s like. His resilience is steeped in the fact that he is a ‘haves’, and the obstacles in his life are generally solved with throwing money at them or speaking out. Anne can do neither.

*Image – night sky starburst by Casey Horner at Unsplash

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer
writing through history one romance upon a time

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