For: sensuality, lying, foolish and illegal behavior, and pervasive comical pain and destruction
Singin’ in the Rain’s secret strength is its genre. If it hadn’t been a musical (which it is), it would be a lot sooner apparent that Singin’ in the Rain is a fairly pedestrian film about characters who would be insufferable in real life, in shallow relationships that wouldn’t last in real life, and dependent on humor that would be unacceptable in real life. And while Singin’ in the Rain’s song and dance may be its best qualities, they may also be its worst when measured against the real-life bounds of decency and morality.
Throughout the movie, girls display their legs up to the hip in either a semi-sensual or very sensual way. Segments feature burlesque and Ziegfeld Follies kicklines, or simply rows of legs with the rest of the girls’ bodies edited out. Necklines plunge as low as the navel.
One significant dance sequence involves a strange woman in a fringe skirt trying to attract the main character by shaking her hips and shoulders in a deliberately seductive manner. He watches and dances with her, captivated by her sensuality. Later, he is seen longing for her (since they had never spoken, his longing couldn’t have been for her mind, and her character was already revealed to be manipulative and mercenary). He feels dejected when she displays no further interest in him.
There are numerous scenes of flirting.
Main character Don lies to the public numerous times about his childhood, early career and relationships, in order to improve his image. He gets away with it, it works, and it is never resolved.
His love interest Kathy initially lies to him about her interests and career to seem more important, and while she is later found out, her self-serving deceit is actually commended.
Foolish and Illegal Behavior
Kathy, frustrated by teasing brought on by her own lies, throws a cake at someone’s face at a public party. She is praised for this, even though she is guilty not only of inappropriate behavior but of a chargeable act of assault and battery. Kathy is even portrayed as a victim when she is fired, having committed this act of assault while publicly performing as an employee of the company.
Characters build what is portrayed as a strong romantic relationship on a foundation of ill-feeling, without any meaningful interaction, and without seeing any (biblically speaking) positive qualities in each other.
Mockery is portrayed as an expression of superiority. Name calling is portrayed as suave and witty. Goofing off and making faces behind someone’s back are portrayed as clever.
Characters’ anger and frustration are supposed to be funny.
A character makes an off-color joke about “little people” being humorless.
Positively-portrayed characters are implied to be violating a constitutional amendment.1
Pervasive Comical Pain and Destruction
People injure or otherwise physically mistreat themselves and others throughout the movie, and this is portrayed as a good thing. Pretending to injure oneself is portrayed as an even better thing, to the degree that an entire song is dedicated to it.
The destruction of other people’s property, whether accidental or deliberate, is treated as amusing.
1 Amendment XVIII of the United States Constitution, in effect from 1920 to 1933. The film takes place in 1927.