Falsettos is a 1992 musical about an unorthodox family living through the AIDs epidemic while exploring themes of gender roles, sexuality, and Jewish identity in New York City around the 1970’s/80s. The original musical was remastered for a Broadway run starting in 2016, which is the version I intend to talk about today (with spoilers, of course).
There is a primary cast of 5 characters (plus 2 which are introduced in the second act), but I wish to deal with the often underappreciated character of Trina. Trina is Marvin’s ex-wife, Jason’s mother, Mendel’s partner, but she is also a complex person in her own right.
When discussing Trina’s enneagram type, many people instinctively declare her as a 2. I’d like to make a case for Trina being a type 6w7, specifically the self preservation subtype. I’ll go over some core aspects of the two types to explain my reasoning, and then analyze each of her solo songs in more detail.
Twos and self-preservation sixes are commonly mistyped because of their outwardly warm disposition and devotion to others, but the key difference lies in motivation. From what we can tell in Trina’s lyrics, she cares for and attends to the needs of the people in her life in order to gain a sense of security for herself.
There is something to be said about the particular role that Trina is cast into as a housewife in the late 1970s, though I believe that to be ultimately unrelated to this analysis. The character of Whizzer is similarly burdened with unfair gender roles forced onto him, but he is clearly shown to be handling that like a typical 7.
The first of three solo songs performed by Trina is “I’m Breaking Down”, a satirized version of a cooking program with plenty of innuendos and thinly-veiled metaphors. It is a tragic first glimpse into Trina’s inner world, filled with nods to her unfulfilling life before the musical takes place. Trina’s desperate motives line up with a typical 6, showing a deep sense of responsibility while also lacking confidence in her own judgement. This leads Trina to seek out someone, anyone, with whom she can satisfy her need for companionship and safety.
“I only want to love a man who can love me….Genius Lyrics from I’m Breaking Down
Or like me…
Or help me…”
Trina’s emotional reactivity is on full display and her sense of self clearly hinges on the attachment to important people in her life (both traits of the harmonics and object relations group that 6 belongs to).
“Trina’s song” (which is grouped together in the official recording) a few minutes later shifts the tone quite considerably, serving as a pained letter to the men in her life. At this point, Trina’s primary strategy for staying in control of her life is to lie low and take on her assumed role. Appeasing other people to assure a support system that won’t leave you is a defence mechanism commonly seen in self-preservation 6s.
“That said, I’ll be his wifeGenius Lyrics from Trina’s Song
I’ll wed and change my life”
In the subsequent reprisal of this song, Trina demonstrates strong growth by denouncing her previous promise to keep things as they’ve always been.
“I’ll commit, that’s agreedGenius Lyrics from Trina’s Song (Reprise)
And with wit and precision
I’ve made a decision
To get the things I need”
The last song that Trina plays a primary part in is “Holding to the Ground”, which is perhaps the most obvious example of her true feelings. Trina grapples with her assumptions around how families are defined and the pressure placed on her since birth to live within the mainstream narrative. She also deals with themes of trying to find comfort in a world unlike anything she prepared for.
“Life is never what you plannedGenius Lyrics from Holding to the Ground
Life is moments you can’t understand
And that is life”
Trina discovers a certain clarity at the end of each of her songs, in which she attempts to solve every problem in her life with carefully planned actions (which never work). After this realization, Trina gains the insight necessary to cope with the reality that her world will be changed at every turn.
Trina’s character development is firmly rooted in breaking out of the expectations placed on her and learning to trust her own guidance and strength. She experiences immense progress from act 1 to 2, and ultimately is able to find solace in the found family she has cultivated, despite being so completely different from what Trina or her parents would have expected.
And she’s definitely a 6.
Trina is one of my favourite characters from Falsettos and I appreciate that she isn’t shoved aside by the writers for the sake of the main 4 men in the show. I had no idea what to expect from her on a first watch, but I found her character to be deeply relatable and immeasurably important to the story.