Newsies

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Name: Newsies
Abbreviation(s):
Creator: Disney, Kenny Ortega
Date(s): 1992
Medium: movie, musical
Country of Origin: United States of America
External Links: Newsies at Wikipedia
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Newsies was a movie produced by Disney in 1992 in an attempt to bring back the live-action musical movie. The attempt failed dismally, and the movie bombed in theaters, but a steady cult following continues.

Movie Synopsis

The story follows (vaguely) the history of the Children's Crusade--a worker's rights movement in the summer of 1899 most notable for the fact that it was run by and for child workers. Specifically, the movie focuses on the Newsies, who are a little different from most child workers as they have the run of the city instead of being shut into sweatshops and factories. It also follows the growing friendship and coming-of-age trials of Jack and David--two very different boys, both named for giant-killers, and both all kinds of stubborn.

Character Synopses

Jack Kelly

Played by Christian Bale, Jack is the undisputed leader of the Manhattan newsies. He's brash, charismatic, protective of his younger coworkers, and the best newsie in New York- at least, according to him. He's not above "improvin' the truth a little" in order to sell his papers. He meets David when David is buying his very first set of papers (papes) and they strike a deal on the spot- with a little haggling- for Jack to teach David how to sell, in exchange for Jack getting to increase his sales with the help of having David's little brother Les work with them.

When the strike begins, he's the one who tells the newsies what to do and why they're doing it. But it's David who gives him the words.

David Jacobs

Played by David Moscow, David Jacobs comes from a nice family (two parents, sister Sarah, much younger brother Les) and is apparently a polite, law-abiding citizen... before he meets Jack. He's educated, bright, and is outspoken in his opinions - undeterred by peer pressure or new situations. He is, nonetheless, stubborn, and asks Jack all the questions that the other newsies won't.

David's sister Sarah, by the way, is supposedly Jack's love interest. Fandom has had a lot to say about that. Back when the movie was just a glint in some producer's eye (and a period drama rather than a musical) she and her dad were going to be socialists- unlike David, who was "too practical" for it. By the time the movie got made, most of her personality had been removed.

Joe Pulitzer

Played by Robert Duvall, Pulitzer owns the world- er, sorry, The World; that is the paper that the newsies in our movie sell. He's out to make a buck, and has a finger in a lot of pies. He also really hates to lose. As soon as the strike starts he puts a printing ban on all strike news, so that the newsies' message won't spread.

Brian Denton

Played by Bill Pullman, Denton is a reporter for the New York Sun, and handily his editor is out of the country at the start of the strike, so he's allowed to print a couple stories about the newsies. Formerly the Sun's "Ace War Correspondent" who trudged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt, he's back in NYC for undisclosed reasons- but he does seem to enjoy hanging out with teenage boys well enough.

Racetrack Higgins

Played by Max Casella, Racetrack is obsessed with the ponies, as you might imagine. Also cards, and any other gambling that comes his way or he can force into a conversation. He's sort of Jack's unofficial second in the Manhattan newsies, but doesn't seem to have any interest in power in the group. He's something of a jokester and there are a couple bits in the movie that show him being kind to the younger boys in the newsies, particularly Les.

In order to get to Sheepshead, where his very favorite betting would take place, he'd have to get through Brooklyn first, which leads a lot of fandom to assume he gets along okay or better with Spot Conlon.

Spot Conlon

Spot is the king of newsie muscle in this movie. He's from Brooklyn and proud of it, and seems to run the Brooklyn newsies a little more strictly than Jack runs (or doesn't run) the Manhattan boys. The guys from Brooklyn tend to be a little bigger and a little brawnier than the guys from Manhattan- and they are apparently universally excellent marksmen with a slingshot.

Spot is a surprisingly little guy for all this- yet his Brooklyn newsies treat him with respect and the Manhattan boys with fear, so we're led to believe he's one of the scariest boys. Still, he spends a chunk of the movie hanging out with his buddies in Manhattan, carefree and happy to all appearances.

Medda, the Swedish Meadowlark

Not actually a bird. Played by Ann-Margaret, Medda owns and is the star of her own vaudeville theater. Her act is mildly burlesque but mostly clean, as far as we see, but she's a big hit with the newsies. According to Jack, she's an old friend of his father's, and she allows the newsies to use her theater for their rally. She also has a slight maternal streak for some of the boys, but she doesn't get a lot of screentime. On the rare occasions when she shows up in one of the many modern-day AU fic, she's often a drama or dance instructor, with weird taste in clothes and bright red hair.

Fandom

Newsies fanfic, when it has a romantic spin (and it's based from a Disney movie, so most of it does) is usually based on a slash pairing between the boys, Jack and Sarah, or one of the boys and an original female character - usually a Mary Sue. The three slash pairings below easily have the largest followings, and each has an essay on ship_manifesto.

Newsies is also an unusual fandom because there is one type of AU that is so common it's barely an AU at all anymore - that is, putting the characters in a modern setting. A third to a half of Newsies fic does this, sometimes aging them up, sometimes not.

Jack/David (Javid)

Jack and David are, by far, the most obvious pair in the movie. They trust each other, they challenge each other, and sometimes they even speak to each other in complete sentences, so hey, it must be true love. They are also constantly all over each other on the screen, and they even have a balcony scene. Fic for them is usually warm and fuzzy of the fluff variety, but slightly serious - not a lot of crack!humor.

Spot/Racetrack (Sprace)

Sprace is the snarky pairing of the group. Not a lot of canon evidence for these two compared to Jack and David - though when both are in a scene, they do tend to be near each other, and Spot once nods when Race says "Ain't I pretty?" But Spot's mix of badass and humor, and Racetrack's sarcasm and nurturing tendencies, make this a great oddball couple. They do tend to get all the best lines in fandom.

Blink/Mush (Blush)

Blink and Mush - two fairly minor characters - are barely ever seen without each other in the movie. Both characters are fairly sweet and perfect in the movie - though Blink does have a slight hair-trigger temper - so this couple tends to be sugary-sweet, with occasional forays into crack!humor.

Jack/Sarah

Jack and Sarah have a number of issues - most of which center around Sarah's lack of screentime, decent writing, and indeed any characterization at all. Fans have been speculating for years that she was added in at the last moment to dampen the obviousness of the love between Jack and David - but she was in the script even before the show-stopping musical numbers were. Still, some fans have tried to drag Sarah out of obscurity, and sometimes it works.

Mary Sues

Mary Sues were huge in the beginning of Newsies fandom, but while you can still find them on fanfiction.net they don't show up elsewhere very often anymore. The need for OFCs to make het stories work is obvious - Sarah is the only girl the same age as the boys in the movie, and almost no one writes fic about the adults - so Mary Sues arrived in hordes. Often she is a newsie, usually with an unusual past (either rich, traumatic, or both) and fits all the other standard Mary Sue tropes. She has no trouble selling papers, one of the boys (the author's favorite) takes an instant shine (or dislike) to her, and she might be related to another of the boys. Unlike other fandoms, Sarah is almost never turned into a Mary Sue - perhaps because so many fans are annoyed by her lack of personality in the movie.

Newsies Sites & Communities

Fandom Resources

Meta & Fandom Overviews

Canon & Historical Resources

References