FTS 100: American Drama and the New Millennium
Dramaturgical Research Paper
November 26th, 2016
Green Day’s American Idiot and the Redefinition of Political Conversation & Theatre
When one envisions classic musical performances on Broadway, one is most likely to
picture something such as Phantom of the Opera or West Side Story, but not often does one
picture an intrepid punk rock band finding its new theatrical roots. From their origins in
California in 1987 to their Broadway debut in New York in 2010, American punk rock band
Green Day has brought a whole new meaning to the definition of theatre and musicals
themselves. Green Day’s critically-acclaimed 2004 rock opera and concept album,
turned-Tony-award-winning musical, American Idiot, brings zest to the traditional definition of a
classic performance on Broadway, through its portrayal of American youth entering a new era of
discontentment and political uprising in a post-9/11 world. 12 years after American Idiot’s
release and in today’s social and political climate, its themes become relevant once again in
contemporary news. Green Day’s decision to take American Idiot to Broadway was not only
artistically new and invigorating, but necessary when discussing past and present sociopolitical
issues. American Idiot, as a musical adaptation, helps to create a safe space for the discussion of
past and contemporary issues in society.
The musical of American Idiot follows the lives of 3 young men living in a suburban
wasteland, named Johnny, Will, and Tunny, who are angered with the state of post-9/11 America
(Armstrong). The presentation of their stories models a typical sitcom in the way an audience
follows the characters, cutting in and out of their lives and activities. One character’s story can’t
be told without the other. The musical opens with all 3 men sharing in mutual disgust with their
country. Johnny and Tunny seek to leave their dead-end town to start a new life, but Will is
forced to stay behind when he learns his girlfriend, Heather, is pregnant. While Johnny and
Tunny are out exploring the country, they become even more angered by America’s condition.
One night, Johnny heads into the city and spots a lonely girl whom he tries to flirt with. The next
morning, Johnny returns, but when Tunny wakes, he becomes entranced with media-induced
patriotism via his hotel TV and decides to enlist in the military.
Johnny becomes determined to win the mysterious girl he met earlier, who is referred to
as Whatsername, by conjuring up a drug-induced alter ego named Saint Jimmy. Johnny and
Whatsername hit it off, while Tunny becomes injured in combat and suffers hallucinations in a
military hospital. However, he is comforted by a nurse named the Extraordinary Girl. In
suburbia, Heather gives birth to the baby, and Will finds parenting increasingly hard due to
“pot-and-alcohol fueled apathy,” which prompts Heather to leave him with the baby.
Johnny and Whatsername’s love grows...