Human lives are rented, thus, for every action there is a consequence that must be paid. At the same time, life should be maximized before death claims its dues. Just like the craft of Jonathan Larson, the musical RENT portrays every character trying to find and create meaning in a life full of cruel realities. Their avant-gardism approach in life revolved on how they struggle to make something out of their skills and talents by drawing out their purpose of their life. The musical is a colorful illustration of how the lives of the struggling artists are interconnected by the issues of HIV, homosexuality, and poverty.
In the middle of a highly urbanized New York, the characters are shaped by their eclectic beliefs and plunged into a never-ending search of their lives’ purpose. It is depicted in RENT that the search continues despite of the chaos which encapsulated their ambitions and goals as artists. Their difficulties are further aggravated because they are part of issues which set them apart from the society, making it harder for them to survive in the corporate environment of New York. RENT centralized the characters as part of the marginalized sector of the society.
Their lives revolved around coping with sexually transmitted disease, fighting off the taboos of same sex relationships, and the miserable impoverished state of their residence. As the characters battled against these circumstances, the story continues to focus on the bonds of their friendship and unrequited love. The issues of STD, poverty, and homosexuality are central to the plot of the musical and portrayed how the characters revolved around these aspects. Four of the characters namely Roger, Mimi, Tom, and Angel are all HIV positive.
Though masked by their lively and merry performances and songs, they’ve been struggling with the illness as its effects are felt by the time it slowly robbed them off their loved-ones’ lives. Based on the film, it gives the impression that HIV is prevalent in the community where they live in. HIV somehow symbolizes the illness that surrounds the characters, their illness to survive and thrive for life’s purpose. The scene of the second Life Support meeting showed other HIV positives, asking how they ought to move on with their life even though their days are numbered.
Amidst the experiences of being sick, the Life Support group still holds importance for self-preservation. To pursue a life of dignity despite of the prejudices and judgments that should be dealt with having sexually transmitted disease. They openly expressed their fear of isolation and death itself as the disease slowly eats them up inside. HIV is presented as a disease which penetrates into society as a challenge to preserve their lives and change their meaningless life. Two pairs of characters are engaged in same-sex relationship.
The open-mindedness displayed by people in East Side Manhattan as bohemians when they tolerated this relationship despite of it as being considered a taboo in the society, was portrayed in the movie. Homosexuality is being exercised freely in the community where the characters moved around. One can see that the other person within the same-sex relationship portrays a character to become similar with heterosexual relationship more. Such example of this would be the cross-dresser Angel and the lawyer Joanne who dressed in coat and tie.
Though affections are openly exchanged in the same-sex relationship, the idea of cross-dressing for a man to look like a woman and vice-versa, is a way they used to blend into the society just like normal couple. The film portrayed that it was easier for the characters of Maureen and Joanne, and Tom and Angel to be homosexual couples when one of them dressed the part. It can be seen how society’s opinions against homosexual have been prevalent and by portraying some of the characters as cross-dressers, it made the homosexual relationships a bit subtle.
RENT , first and foremost revolved around the lofty apartment wherein the characters lived in. They faced the danger of having their home being evicted due to the plans of building a digital studio and an extra lot. From the film, the East Side Manhattan is a residence to a lot of people struggling financially, and spiritually. Its impoverished state will be aggravated when Benny announced their eviction and he gave the condition to his friends that the rent will be free if Maureen’s protest will be stopped.
As the story progressed revolving on this particular plot, the sceneries in the musical showed a great amount of poverty surrounding the apartment and Maureen knows that building the digital studio entails a displacement of a lot of the residents leaving no place for them to consider as home. It can be said that poverty, in the musical, has been presented as the root cause of the artists’ struggle to hopefully uplift themselves not just from the slums they live in but from the restless lifestyle that they have.
Their struggles to carry out their ambitions equates with their impoverished soul that hungers for direction and sense out of life. It presented a gap as well between Mark, Roger, and Benny. Having married the daughter’s landowner, Benny alleviated from the kind of life that he shared with his former roommates. In a scene where all of them are inside Life Cafe, Benny told them to steer their life into purpose by making a move that showed maturity and responsibility, not the same laid-back attitudes that most of the character has.
To alleviate from poverty, it is the same as finding direction in life. RENT is definitely a mirror of life itself, for all of us share the same struggles to be as carefree as we can and at the same time, to find our place in this world. The musical touched the realities which every human being may encounter, in a certain way or another. The importance that this film has pointed out is that the rented life that God bestowed should be felt in its full advantage.
An individual’s role in the earth may be difficult to achieve because this is not a tangible thing that can be grasped by hand or can be seen by the naked eye. RENT focused on the concept that life can be measured by love. That love can be the very thing that an individual has been searching for all of his or her existence. For love, is one of the things that can not be bought nor rented, it is one of the aspects that can measure the purpose of one’s life.