For example: Janice, the Muppet from The Electric Mayhem. I met her when I was around…six, maybe? When I saw her I thought she was a man in woman’s clothing, and I never mentioned that “fact” to anyone because I assumed everyone knew it. Janice was a natural part of my world. As I got older my view of her became more complex, but she was always Janice. It wasn’t until my first year in college someone decided to “correct” me, and they were pretty cruel about it as they set out the canon material that stated in no uncertain terms she was a woman. At the time I didn’t understand why it hurt so much, because I didn’t understand what was going on inside of me at all well.
Then there’s “Some Like it Hot.” A movie I saw when I was very young and remains one of my all-time favorites. When I was a kid, I didn’t understand it was a comedy. Sure, it had some truly hilarious scenes, but for me it was always about the love stories. Joe/Josephine (played by Tony Curtis), who was all about hooking up with Sugar (played by Marilyn Monroe), and Jerry/Daphne (Jack Lemmon) who suddenly won the attentions of Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown).
I loved Daphne. So, so much. While Joe pretty clearly disliked dressing and acting like a woman, the lines were much more blurred with Daphne. Even with something as basic as picking out feminine names for themselves. At first, Joe and Jerry decide on Josephine and Geraldine, but at the last second, Jerry blurts out that her name is Daphne, earning a look of confused consternation from Joe. When Joe grabs her for explanation, Daphne replies:
Daphne: Well, I never did like the name Geraldine.
Names are important. Especially when you’re picking out your own. I never liked the name my parents picked out for me, and for a long time I felt guilty about it. That scene, that one little line, gave me permission to think about what I might like to be called instead, and that whatever I chose didn’t necessarily have to be a retooled version of what I had.
And then there are the scenes with Osgood. They are funny, and I laugh every time I watch them, but for a long time I didn’t understand they were meant to be *gags.* I thought their relationship was like any other romcom relationship, and I adored it. Especially their final scene, which is also the final scene in the movie:
Osgood: I called Mama. She was so happy she cried. She wants you to have her wedding gown. It’s white lace.
Daphne: Yeah Osgood, I can’t get married in your mother’s dress. [nervous laughter] She and I… Well we’re not build the same way.
Osgood: We can have it altered.
Daphne: Oh no you don't! Osgood, I'm gonna level with you. We can't get married at all.
Osgood: Why not?
Daphne: Well, in the first place, I'm not a natural blonde.
Osgood: Doesn't matter.
Daphne: I smoke! I smoke all the time!
Osgood: I don't care.
Daphne: Well, I have a terrible past. For three years now, I've been living with a saxophone player.
Osgood: I forgive you.
Daphne: I can never have children!
Osgood: We can adopt some.
Daphne: But you don't understand, Osgood! Ohh...
[Daphne pulls off xyr wig]
Daphne: [In a much deeper voice] I'm a man!
Osgood: [shrugs] Well, nobody's perfect!
See? See? Osgood loves Daphne for who she is. The stuff on the outside doesn’t matter to him. That means there’s hope for me, right? I mean… right?
I didn’t know it was supposed to be a gag. And now I choose to believe it wasn’t. I choose to believe that Osgood and Daphne got married and that Janice is far more complex than her bio on Wikipedia would have me imagine.
The scene I quoted above is my favorite scene in “Some Like It Hot,” as well as one of my favorite scenes of all time. Not just because it’s funny and that last line gave me such a terrific happily ever after, but because through that entire exchange, where Daphne’s desperately trying to convince Osgood that they can’t get married, she never once says “I don’t love you” or “I don’t want to be with you.” In the grand scheme of things, none of the other reasons matter, and Osgood happily has an answer to each one until we get to his “nobody’s perfect!” line. Daphne has no response to that, and the last moments of the film show her confused and taken aback, in a “Holy shit, is this really an option?” kind of way. It was a revelation for her.
It was a revelation for me.
And that, right there, is why we need more movies/shows/cartoons/comics/books that tell gender queer and trans* stories. Because I was lucky enough to meet Janice and Daphne and take them to heart, but how many other kids who were just like me didn’t have the luxury of accidently misinterpreting what they saw on TV? How many children had the “truth” of those characters explained to them long before they were old enough to build their own truths, their own stories?
How many kids never had a chance to discover that a third option even exists?
I think we’ve come a long way since the day I met Janice. Networks like Hub are airing shows like SheZow that I couldn’t have imagined existing even five years ago.
I’d like to see more shows I couldn’t imagine when I was a child. Because I could imagine a *lot.* We all could, even if we weren’t aware. Some liked Joe. Some liked Kermit. Some liked Daphne. Some liked Janice.
Some still do.
Note: This post is part of the NER LGBT Pride Blog Fest. It lasts all June, and there are a lot of authors posting interesting articles this month. The site is also giving away its own prizes, so if you'd like to read and enter, go to http://naughtyeditionreviews.com/ and please check it out.
I am giving away an e-copy of Paul's Dream, as well as a never-before-seen expanded print of the cover designed by the fabulous Anne Cain.
Nice, yeah? I'll sign it if you want. ;)
To enter, all you have to do is join my newsletter (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rowan_mcbride) and post a comment with your email address below. If you're already a member of the newsletter--no worries. All you have to do is post here.
I'll announce the winner July 1st. Good luck. XD