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#104. Cross Dressing

Sometimes dressing up can be fun and exciting, but it can also get out of hand. While costume parties give us a chance to be something or someone we are not, if we dress up outside of the confines of these socially acceptable instances, things can get a little weird. When it comes to employment, you should dress for the job that you want. However, this does not necessarily mean dressing as the opposite sex. Even though affirmative action is a reality in the workplace, how far would you go to take advantage of it? If a position requires that it be filled by a man and you are a woman (or vice versa), would you let that opportunity pass you by? This week’s two films look at some individuals who have resorted to cross dressing in order to obtain their dream jobs.

Shakespeare in LoveShakespeare in Love
Year: 1998
Rating: R
Length: 123 minutes / 2.05 hours

A long time before women were liberated from misogynist societies in power around the world, they were not allowed to do many things. In fact, most of the time the only purposes that men of those eras thought that women could fulfill were procreation and child rearing. There was a lot of backward thinking back then that restricted women to essentially the confines of the house. They were defined by their men and their men defined what they could do. With very few exceptions (the most prominent being the Queen of England), men were the primary workforce throughout the land. This even extended to the theater, where the roles of women were actually played by cross dressing men or boys who didn’t fit into “rugged” or “rough” categorizations.

Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow) is the daughter of a famous merchant. Unfortunately, this means that her role in life is to sit around looking pretty until she is married off to further her father’s business. Her true desire is to act on the stage, but women are not allowed to act: that is a role reserved for men. And yet, when she hears that playwright William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is casting for a new play he’s writing, she jumps at the chance. Auditioning for the part of Romeo, Viola disguises herself as a man named Thomas and impresses Will with her acting skill. Of course, when Shakespeare finds out that Viola has been deceiving the acting company, he’s not mad . . . he’s in love. With Viola as his inspiration, he completes the play and moves into production. Unfortunately, since Viola didn’t play by the rules, it’s only a matter of time before she is forced back into her life’s destiny.

TootsieTootsie
Year: 1982
Rating: R
Length: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours

Men in drag is often a comedic trope. Monty Python did it. Saturday Night Live did it. Tim Curry did it. In fact, one of the most famous movies about a man in drag was Mrs. Doubtfire. The purpose for the cross dressing in that film was so that Robin Williams’ character could surreptitiously become close to his family especially after his divorce. And while Tootsie is somewhat similar in plot (as is Some Like it Hot), it has Dustin Hoffman trying to get an acting job in much the same way that Gwyneth Paltrow did in the above, Shakespeare in Love. After all, being unemployed can drive many of us to do things that we wouldn’t normally do. Placed at #69 of AFI’s top 100, Tootsie is a good movie to show that sometimes the best way to respect women is to become one of them.

Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is an actor who can’t seem to get a job. That is until a role opens up on a soap opera. Unfortunately, the role calls for a woman. In order to pay the bills, Michael takes up the persona of Dorothy Michaels and gets the part. While working on the daytime drama, Michael develops feelings for his co-worker Julie Nichols (Jessica Lange), as the director, Ron Carlisle (Dabney Coleman), falls for Dorothy. Everyone falls in love with Dorothy Michaels’ personality which causes the soap opera to become a success. When Michael finds himself in a corner, he has to come clean about his cross-dressing in an impromptu speech during a live taping of the show, which shocks the cast, but is a twist all too familiar to fans of soap opera.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 job gender reversals

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2 responses to “#104. Cross Dressing

  1. Pingback: End of Act Two | Cinema Connections

  2. Pingback: #302. Robin Williams | Cinema Connections

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