thoughts on the relationship between marvin and jason? :0 (i know we've discussed this a bit before but !!! i love them)
OH BOY NOW DO I HAVE SOME FEELINGS™ ABOUT THOSE TWO.
As a preface, let me just say that Marvin and Jason are indisputably the most important characters in the entire musical. It’s honestly a fierce debate on which of those two are the quote-unquote “main character” because literally everything is centered around these two (the conflict, the subplots, the other characters, etc). They both single-handedly as well as together drive home the whole musical through their internal struggles, dynamic with the other characters, and character developments. I cannot articulate how much I love these two characters and esp how they mirror and struggle against one another.
The whole focus of Act 1 is centered on the estrangement between Marvin and Jason. As we know from the preface in Tight Knit Family, Marvin not only “divorced his wife…ran off with a friend” but he also “left his child.” Marvin essentially abandoned his family (or at least, that’s definitely how Jason sees it) in order to pursue a relationship with Whizzer and cultivate his true sense of identity as a gay man. Marvin’s abandonment of Jason is the direct cause of Jason acting out, and - as we see Mendel assuming the role of father figure after Tight Knit Family (Reprise) - Jason seems way more grounded and controlled while Jason’s (and Trina’s) perceived abandonment causes Marvin to snap (as seen clearly in “Marvin Hits Trina”). It was very, very pointed in the behavior reversal - In “My Father’s a Homo / Everyone Tells Jason to See a Psychiatrist,” Jason is shown to be stomping around and knocking over blocks, much to the annoyance of his parents; in “Marvin Hits Trina,” Marvin does the exact same thing. They pull the exact same temper tantrum (except Marvin’s is obviously way more extreme).
Jason is very visibly angry and hurt by his father’s abandonment, and this anger clearly manifests in his fear of being gay (he is so averse to being anything like Marvin). Throughout Act One, he tries very hard to make Marvin angry and exasperated (”Daddy is a prick…Daddy isn’t mine” / ”just because you failed as parents” / “I wanna speak with Whizzer” / there’s more, but you get the gist). It’s to the point that Marvin is convinced Jason doesn’t even love him (Jason, “I love my mother,” / Marvin “Why not me?”). And what’s so frustrating is that Marvin even thinks that he’s trying so hard (taking him to ball games and museums, encouraging Jason about how smart he is, trying to speak “words of wisdom”) when it’s then revealed/heavily implied in “Father to Son” that Marvin had never even apologized for what he had done to his son until then. Marvin literally was “marching in one place” because he refused to see his actions as selfish and kept trying to have this “tight-knit family” when he was the one who tore it apart in the first place.
And it just always hurt me because it’s not like Marvin and Jason don’t love each other. In “I Never Wanted to Love You,” Jason says, “I love my dad / I love the things I never had” (
which could mean a positive role model in the form of a father but shh that’s just me being super super meta). Jason - despite his behavior and affirmations to otherwise - loves Marvin and desires his presence in his life. Marvin had just been so blinded by the perception of what a family should look like that he had ignored Jason, who was acting out specifically to get Marvin’s attention. And Marvin acknowledges his son’s internal conflict (“How he adores and hates me”) as well as admitting (quite cruelly) that he never even wanted to love Jason in the first place. He just wanted to “see [Marvin’s own] face in [Jason’s].” He wanted a mini-Marvin, but Jason wasn’t that. And it frustrated Marvin to no end throughout the entire first act, and it isn’t until “Father to Son” that he gives Jason “his blessing” to be his own person and learn from Marvin’s mistakes.
SPEAKING OF FATHER TO SON - OH MY. Most musicals have a “let’s see how many throwbacks to prior songs we can fit into this last one in the act” song as the act one finale (obv it should be noted that Finn maybe didn’t do this because “Act One” of Falsettos was originally written as its own stand-alone musical entitled “March of the Falsettos”), but Falsettos didn’t do that. No, it stayed focused on the one relationship that Marvin had any semblance of saving: his relationship with his son.
And it’s just so powerful because it’s in “Father to Son” that you really see Marvin’s redemption arc. Like, he realizes his mistakes (”what I’ve done to you is rotten”) and he freely admits to wanting that closer connection to him (”Kid, be my son”) and he is finally dropping his expectations of Jason being a mini-Marvin (”I’ve made my choice. You can sing a different song”). And Christian Borle and Anthony Rosenthal really, really did an amazing job with this scene - the soft tones, the crumpled looks, the hug at the very end oh don’t even get me started. Like, it was one of the most powerful songs in the entire musical and it can get me real choked up so I’m just going to move on to Act Two now, okay?
Act Two is less heavily focused on Marvin and Jason’s relationship, but it is still very prominent. Marvin is a lot more open and doting on Jason (”My child” - tbh literally all of Year of the Child), and his “becoming of a man” is shown to be really, really important to Marvin. He supports Jason and is a lot less self-absorbed, but we can still see some friction between them. In “Everyone Hates His Parents,” Jason is shown to be really fed up with his parents bickering and fighting, demonstrating that though Marvin has grown up considerably, he can still be over-bearing and self-absorbed about things.
And like? I wasn’t going to mention this, but it should be mentioned that Jason is the whole reason that Marvin found happiness again by inviting Whizzer to his baseball game, knowing damn well that Marvin is still not over him. Like honestly?? Jason, way to be a bro.
But OH LORD, JASON’S BAR MITZVAH!!!! Don’t even talk to me about “don’t know why but he looks like Marvin.” It is one of my favorite lines of the musical, and yeah, it seems kinda offhanded and stupid (because of course he looks like Marvin - it’s his son???) but it ISN’T.
Do you remember how averse Jason was in act one to resemble his father in any way (see: Jason’s therapy)? Act One Jason would have balked at this line, but that’s not the reaction that we see from Jason. Instead, we have Marvin fiddling with Jason’s clothes and Jason smiling up at him and Marvin’s whispering words of encouragement, and it’s important because that line isn’t an insult anymore.
Jason and Marvin are parallels to each other. They throw temper tantrums and are very, very idealistic (Marvin’s “Tight Knit Family” Dream and Jason’s “Another Miracle of Judaism” Prayer”) and wrestle against insecurities and had loved and lost someone that meant the absolute most to them.
Trina was right in that Jason certainly is “Marvin’s child.”