Celebrities are often described as being in the spotlight (which can be literal) or put on a pedestal (which is usually figurative—unless you're Sofia Vergara being objectified at the Emmy awards in 2014).
The reason for these phrases is the admiration that celebrities receive from society. They seem more important than others. All eyes are on them. But Chicago explores what celebrities have to do as they scale that pedestal, and how many dead bodies they leave in the shadows near the spotlight.
Committing a crime to gain fame is like opening a can of Pringles: once Roxie pops (a cap in Fred Casely) she can't stop.
Roxie Hart may be guilty of killing a man, but she isn't guilty of riding that wave to fame. The public is guilty for making the wave.
The pen is mightier than the sword. While the sword can change the way a person looks—a scar here, a stump there—the pen changes the way a person thinks. The media can change public perception on any issue. But who is in charge of the media? Is it the company that owns it, the celebrity feeding them stories, or the lawyer wrapping an entire courtroom around his little finger? Chicago takes a look at all parties' powers of persuasion.
Being a lawyer and being a celebrity have something in common: both have to be able to manipulate their audience.
The manipulation game is a long con—the celebrity has to manipulate the press who, in turn, manipulates the public. It is almost impossible to find the truth in this chain.
What's black and white and red all over? A newspaper with a sensational murder as part of its front-page story.
The media love sensational crimes, and the bloodier the better. The more violent a crime, the more people find out about it, making it a fine line between infamy and fame. And you better believe that the majority of the characters in Chicago want to use their infamy to gain (more) fame.
The women in Cook County Jail tend to get off of death row because women were viewed as inherently innocent in the 1920s.
Society glamorizes violence in the same way it glamorizes women—so a murderous hottie is doubly sexy.
If Roxie Hart earned $1,000 a week in 1920, she would earn a little more than $12,000 a week today, accounting for inflation. We're not sure how much her monetary value as a vaudeville singer and dancer would change in almost a century, but one thing would most likely remain constant: her sex appeal.
Sex appeal is a currency in any industry, whether we want to admit it or not, and in no industry more than the entertainment industry. It's a business where you have to look good to succeed, and you have to succeed in order to afford to look that good. Chicago is a world of bribery and manipulation, and it shows us how important Roxie's sex appeal is to all these transactions.
Like violence, sex is both condemned by and alluring to the public. The public and the press are drawn to its appeal.
While it may seem like Roxie is using sex appeal to her benefit (and in a way she is), she is still just a sex object.
In any generation, there will be someone who thinks that the modern trends of the day are the downfall of society… whether it's Twitter and rap, video games and disco, or speakeasies and jazz. All of these things will destroy our children and bring ruin upon us!
Except… they haven't. But Chicago illustrates the fears of 1920, and it shows us how they're used to both appeal to and to control society.
Chicago is still popular—and relevant—because its critique of popular culture and society is timeless.
As much as people condemn the lifestyle of their generation, they are drawn to it and want to be a part of it. That is why people buy Roxie's things and get her haircut. She is the epitome of society, as well as its nadir.