Tuesday, August 4, 2009

GMC on the Roof

by Linsey Lanier

I don't watch a lot of TV. Why? I'm busy, I've got blog posts to write, I often get home late, and . . . my husband hogs the remote. Don't get me wrong. He's a sweetheart of a man most of the time. He's give-you-the-shirt-off-his-back generous in other areas. But when it comes to that little black piece of plastic, he's like a running back hugging a football as he drives toward the goal line. In fact, we watch a lot of football. And basketball. And baseball. Or he does. That's when I write . . . grin.

With all that power over the electronics comes a chronic obsession to channel-hop. (I once heard that a surefire way to get your husband to do sit ups is to tape the remote to his feet.)

Anyway, one night recently I was relaxing on the couch while my Dear One was doing his usual channel surfing when he lighted on a movie we hadn't seen in a long time. One of my favorites. Fiddler on the Roof. Hubby lingered on the station and we both got goosebumps as the gorgeous music filled our living room.

While I was sitting there singing along to the familiar tunes, it struck me how strongly GMC is built into those first two numbers. In fact, it's right there in the titles. If I Were a Rich Man and Matchmaker, Matchmaker.

"Dear God," Tevy laments, "you made many, many poor people.
I realize, of course, that it's no shame to be poor.

But it's no great honor either!"

I decided to do a quick Deb Dixon analysis: The character wants ___ because ___ but ___.

"If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
Wouldn't have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man."

Tevye wants to be rich because he wouldn't have to work so hard and his family would have it easier, but he's a poor man with little opportunity, living in a nation that oppresses his race. Good conflict!

Tevye's daughters have another GMC:

"Matchmaker, Matchmaker, I'll bring the veil,
You bring the groom, Slender and pale.
Bring me a ring for I'm longing to be,
The envy of all I see."

Hodel and Chava want to have husbands because in their world, a woman without a husband has it even rougher than a woman with a husband. But, as their sister Tzeitel reminds them, they are so poor, they can attract only creeps.

"Hodel, oh Hodel,
Have I made a match for you!
He's handsome, he's young!
Alright, he's 62.
But he's a nice man, a good catch, true?

She continues,
"You heard he has a temper.
He'll beat you every night,
But only when he's sober,
So you're alright.
Did you think you'd get a prince?
Well I do the best I can.
With no dowry, no money, no family background
Be glad you got a man!"

Is that good GMC or what? All these problems are right up front in the opening of the film. What a great start. And a good model for any writer.

Fiddler on the Roof, whether you see the play or watch the film is a masterpiece. For almost ten years, it held the record for longest-running musical on Broadway. The movie version won three Academy Awards. Looks like a strong GMC could be the secret to this wonderful story's longevity.

As we all know, memorable writing doesn't start with ABC, it starts with GMC.

Right? Of course, right.

So what's your opinion?

wikipedia - film
wikipedia - stage play


Dianna Love said...

Good morning Lindsey -

How clever to look at the GMC in something as simple as the songs, which are part of the plot and story. I'm always impressed by the way songwriters who write ballad type songs get their message and/or story across in minimum words. It would be interesting to see a blog on songs at some point, to analyze how each word has to really count to tell the story in a short time frame.

I agree that Fiddler on the Roof is a timeless movie, beautifully done.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Great catch on the GMC, Linsey! Never thought about it that way. Darn, now you'll have me analyzing musicals! :)

Cyrano said...

Ohh how I adore your posts Linsey!!
Excellent way of defining GMC to those who don't quite know that term yet and a profound and entertaining way of prodding those of us who do know Ms. Deb's fabulous work into applying it to our own!!
Wow, that was a long ass sentence huh?
But it got the point across I hope...that you are the bomb!
Thanks for the post.
Have a splendid day,

Sandy Elzie said...


Enjoyed the post. Great analysis. I had the radio on and I started picking apart some of my Golden Oldies...drama, drama, drama. Boy loses girs, thinks he will die, boys gets girl...happily ever after. Then the next three were similiar themes but from the girl's POV. Gads!


Marilyn Baron said...


Great post. Fiddler on the Roof is one of my favorite musicals. I know all the words by heart so it was nice to see them again in your post. I never thought about GMC in terms of songs but what you say is true. Thanks for bringing back some fond memories. This weekend we're going to New York to visit my daughter and we have tickets to the revival of West Side Story so I'll be analyzing as well as enjoying that production.

Marilyn Baron

Tammy Schubert said...

Great post. I never thought of identifying the GMC in songs.

Linsey Lanier said...

Thanks, Dianna. Good to see you here again. Yes, songwriting takes a special talent. My husband is a musician and we've tried our hand at songwriting. It's not as easy as it looks.

Sorry, Debbie. I can't help it. I'm the analytical type. But don't let that spoil the show. :)

Tamara, Thanks! You've made my morning. Glad to see you here again.

Sandy, You're right. No wonder we use music to get in the mood to write romance. I've gotten story ideas from several songs.

Oh wow, Marilyn. I'm jealous. Fiddler always gives me goosebumps. I used to know all the words, too. I first saw it on the stage in Chicago. But West Side Story is wonderful, too. LOTS of tension there. Hope you have a great time.

Hi Tammy. Glad you liked it.

CiCi Barnes said...

Great post, great musical, too.

Now that I'm into writing, I look for GMC everywhere: TV show, movies, books I'm reading for pleasure. And now I will add music to the list.

My hubby, too, is a musician and he just put his rock band back together. They're practicing in my basement, so now I'm sure I'll be analyzing every song.

I can't wait to see which one I'll use for my next WIP.

GMC is everywhere.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.


Sally Kilpatrick said...


Great post--somehow I've never seen Fiddler on the Roof, but I'll give it a look-see on your rec.

Great look at GMC.


Linsey Lanier said...

Way cool, CiCi. Glad you're among us analyzers. You'll either be analyzing your hubby's songs or wearing earplugs. I've had experience in that area. :)

Sally, You've got to see Fiddler. You'll love it. Yes, as CiCi said, GMC is everywhere.

Thanks everyone, for your kind comments.


Barbara Monajem said...

Dang! Another movie to add to my TBW pile. I'm SO behind on popular culture.

Thanks for the GMC reminder. And taping the remote to his foot? What a great image that conjures up.

J Perry Stone said...

Linsey, you are absolutely right, of course. Memorable writing starts with GMC.

I, too, am starting to look for it in everything I read, watch and listen to.

It's becoming an obsessive past-time.

Tami Brothers said...

Too funny! I love all the comments. I too am a newbie to the muscial/movie. I'll have to watch it.

It is amazing how writing changes a person's life. In a good way, though.

Cici, I can just picture your hubby down in the basement putting together a rock band. I LOVE IT!!!


Pamela-reader said...

Linsey, Great post! Between your writeup and the comment references to West Side Story, my crazy brain is trying to find GMC in "I feel pretty" (That's my favorite song in WSS.)

Humm... my brain gives up because I can't remember all the words to the song... However, the song is now stuck in my head!!!

Thanks a lot guys!

Linsey Lanier said...

Hi Barbara! Thanks for stopping by. You haven't seen Fiddler either? Maybe we should request it for movie night at M&M.

J, Glad to know I'm not the only obsessive out there. :)

Tami, You too? I think I need to contact MGM for some commission!

Pam, You're on to my secret. I just wanted these songs to be dancing around in everyone's head as much as they are in mine. But yes, you have to know the words before you can analyze for GMC. LOL.

Thanks again everyone for your wonderful comments! Let's all go see if there's any musicals on TV tonight.


Nicki Salcedo said...

I love Fiddler, too. Proof that a good story can stand the test of time. Can you imagine picking up everything you own and walking out of town? Beautiful story. Lots of GMC. Great music, too. Thanks, Linsey.

Maxine Davis said...


I enjoyed your post. I'm like the others: GMC and music - Great!

I'm not real big on musicals, but I do really enjoy Fiddler on the Roof. The songs are fantastic.

Carol Burnside said...

Very entertaining and thought-provoking post, Linsey. I love Fiddler On The Roof.