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Tutor profile: Hollie T.

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Hollie T.
British Teacher with a passion for all things creative
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Subject: Film and Theater

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The development and representation of sexuality and gender in musicals

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Hollie T.
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Chapter One- Introduction Musical theatre is renowned for its representation of LGBT+ characters. From Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Elliott, 1994) to Rent (Larson, 1996), LGBT+ characters have regularly starred in stage productions. However, theatre has not always been so open to presenting their queer characters as explicitly as they do now. Theatre has always mirrored society’s attitudes towards LGBT+ characters and the introduction of gay characters reflects in part society’s acceptance of LGBT+ people as a result of the activist movements such as Gay Liberation (1960) and ACT-UP (1987). This dissertation will explore queer theatre and queer characters within the musical theatre genre. It will examine whether the representations in musical theatre accurately represent LGBT+ characters and whether this has helped the LGBT+ community to be represented in a positive way within society. The musicals The Rocky Horror Picture Show (O’Brien, 1975) by Richard O’Brien and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Mitchell, 2001) by John Cameron Mitchell will be analysed as case studies, as although being written twenty years apart, both feature similar topics about sexuality and gender. Whilst assessing the representation of LGBT+ characters within musicals, gender theorists such as Sue-Ellen Case and Stacy Wolf, and queer theorists such as Judith Butler and Jill Dolan will be referenced in order to support any claims. By referring to queer and gender theorists throughout, a range of theories can be provided in order to support any claims as to how gender and sexuality are presented through characters in musicals, and why they are presented in the way in which they are. This dissertation will focus on the two protagonists of both The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hedwig and the Angry Inch as these characters, Frank n Furter and Hedwig, exemplify unconventional gender identities and queer sexuality. It will explore Hedwig’s gender-neutral identity, as they appear to have no binary gender, and also Hedwig and Frank N Furter’s sexual fluidity. Whilst doing this, other significant characters within these two musicals will be discussed and compared in order to conclude whether the representation of sexuality and gender within musicals has become progressive and if so, why. The aim throughout this dissertation is to find out if and how representation of gender and sexuality has altered throughout time, as well as aiming to discover whether a musical which may have been iconic for being progressive within the LGBT+ community could eventually be seen as problematic as society becomes more accepting towards unconventional gender and sexuality identities. Chapter Two- Lets Do the Time Warp Again Despite LGBT+ characters being written about within plays dating hundreds of years beforehand, many of these characters lived their lives in desperate isolation, and some resorted in committing suicide, or being murdered due to their sexual identity. From Suddenly, Last Summer (Williams, 1959) by Tennessee Williams, to The Children’s Hour (Hellman, 1934) by Lillian Hellman, many plays dating before the Stonewall Riots, the convenient marker for the beginning of the Gay Liberation movement, featured queer characters in a demeaning manner. This can be seen through Sebastian Venable’s traumatic death in Suddenly, Last Summer and Martha’s suicide in The Children’s Hour. It is clear that these characters were written in order to show society’s views of the queer community at the time, and due to this, it potentially caused more damage to queer people than it was beneficial to them as it reminded them of the reality of their situation. Playwrights writing about queer characters subtly as opposed to explicitly could be due to productions being banned due to being considered offensive. An example of this is the on stage lesbian kiss in The God of Vengeance (Asch, 1922), which led to the arrest of the cast and the closing of the production. The lack of explicit LGBT+ characters within plays could also be due to the 1930 Motion Picture Production Code which prohibited the portrayal of ‘sexual perversion’ within productions. This law ensured that there would be no explicitly queer characters shown to an audience, and so any playwrights wanting to include queer characters has to present them through queer subtext instead, such as featuring female characters with masculine features or male characters with feminine personality traits. Examples of these can be seen in a range of films and plays, from the character of Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan (Jackson, 1953) to characters Brandon and Philip in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (Hitchcock, 1948). After the Motion Picture Production code previously mentioned was dropped in 1968, plays began writing about their queer characters more explicitly. The Boys in the Band (Crowley, 1970), written by Mart Crowley was one of the first influential theatre pieces involving homosexual characters. First performed a year before the Stonewall Riots, and the same year that the Motion Picture Production code was dropped, the play has been often cited as ‘the beginning of the modern gay civil-rights movement, [The Boys in the Band] portrays the humour and resilience of the characters as well as their pain’. (Cohen, 2015) Whilst talking about The Boys in the Band, playwright Tony Kushner stated ‘it was the first time I saw gay men represented in any other way than as a pathetic fuddy-duddy old bachelor or a figure of complete hatred or mockery’. (Oliver, 2010) Due to this, it could be suggested that The Boys in the Band on stage and as a 1970 film contributed towards the beginning of writing plays featuring strong and openly queer characters, and most likely resulted in educating people towards the LGBT+ community, thus helping the queer community in the 1960s. This claim can also be supported due to the playwright Doug Wright telling the New York Times that The Boys in the Band helped him to stop hiding, and showed him that there was a world where he could talk to other gay men and write about gay people and live in a manner consistent with himself. (Oliver, 2010) In reference to The Boys in the Band, it was stated in a 1970 Time review that ‘if the situation of the homosexual is ever to be understood by the public, it will be because of the breakthrough made by this humane moving picture’. Forty-five years later, Time once again wrote another article about the play, this time stating that the film version of the play had helped to make the gay community culturally visible during a moment in which openly discussing homosexuality was still taboo, and a time when many Americans were yet to encounter an ‘out’ gay man in person. (Cohen, 2015) Throughout its time on stage, the play has been thought of as the cause of the Stonewall riots and Gay Liberation Movement. (Fujita, 2005) Film critic Peter Filichia described how ‘after gays saw The Boys in the Band, they no longer would settle for thinking of themselves as pathetic and wouldn’t be perceived as such any longer.’ (Clugston, 2016) It cannot be confirmed that The Boys in the Band contributed to the Stonewall Riots and the beginning of the Gay Liberation Movement as there is no physical evidence of this, however, it is clear by the masses of people who have given the original play and film edition as the reason for why they came out that it gave the queer community a platform to be seen and heard for the first time. On the contrary, although when it first was shown it created a platform that the queer community had not been given in the past, and encouraged many queer people to come out, as the world has evolved and become more open to equality, there have been more criticisms about the play and the ‘self-deprecating and self-loathing humour’ that features throughout. An example of this is the quote ‘show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse’. Many have argued that the reasoning for this is due to the time in which the play was written, and society’s attitude towards queer people. Including self-deprecating humour throughout the play at the time provided an honest view of how society had made the queer community feel about themselves, and thus could be justified at the time. Because of this, The Boys in the Band can be a prime example for how plays and films that may have once been liberating and progressive towards the queer community may eventually be seen as offensive and problematic due to the change of society over time. One strategy gay and lesbian audiences used to compensate from their erasure in mainstream theatre is taking plays that did not have any queer content and reading them from a queer perspective. In A Problem like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical, (Wolf, 2002) Stacy Wolf argues that all texts can be ‘queered’, and due to this, anything can be reread from a queer perspective. Wolf states that as a young lesbian woman, she could relate to the character of Maria from The Sound of Music (Wise, 1965) due to both her physical and aesthetic traits. As Maria has short hair and a disassociation to any of the male characters, Wolf viewed her as a lesbian character. Because of this claim, Wolf suggests that queer subtexts within plays can be easily interpreted. This is something which can be analysed further within many different films and musicals; however, there are also many musicals which are much more explicit in their representation of queer characters. It is these more explicit musicals which give musical theatre its label for being LGBT+ friendly, and so it is these musicals which can be analysed when assessing the change of representation of sexuality and gender. A subgenre of musicals which appears to be one of the most explicit with its representation of queer characters is the Rock Musical genre. Rock Musicals have always broken conventions within the musical theatre genre. This genre is what both The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hedwig and the Angry Inch fall under, and one which many similar pro LGBT+ musicals also fall under. As the Rock Musical genre usually carries connotations of rebellion due to its themes of sex, drugs and rock n roll, it comes as no surprise that these rock musicals break so many classic theatre conventions. As the usual audience for the rock genre tends to be linked to a sexually experimental, anarchistic, punk-like youth, it is clear whilst watching Rock Musicals that the playwrights have kept their audience in mind throughout writing these productions. One of the first Rock Musicals to be performed on stage is the 1968 American Tribal Love-Rock musical Hair. (Rado, 1968) Referred to as ‘a product of hippie counterculture and sexual revolution of the late 1960s’, songs from Hair became anthems of the anti-Vietnam War peace movement. The main theme of the musical is self expression and the urge to live freely. This is shown throughout Hair and its narrative by its hippie-like characters that just want happiness and health of mankind. (Unknown, 2014) The musical also features scenes of nudity and drug use, and is focused around trying to stop war and find love. This is something which is common within Rock Musicals, as most of them carry the message of a freedom of self expression. Chapter Three- I’m just a Sweet Transvestite The Rocky Horror Picture Show was first performed in 1973 in The Royal Court, which typically performed more edgy material that was deemed likely to attract smaller audiences, and a film adaptation was released in 1975. Rocky was first performed in the same year that the first gay on screen kiss was aired, the year that Gay Pride week was first established and when the board of American Psychiatric Association voted 13-0 to remove homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders. Due to this, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was first introduced in the year that society had started to begin its journey of acceptance and equality for the LGBT+ community. It could also be suggested that the musical could have had some significance in furthering the development of the rise for equality as it has become a cult classic despite its unconventional and taboo characters and themes. In Rocky Horror, From Concept to Cult, Gaye Brown says ‘our audience was almost completely gay, because they were also breaking ground at the same time. We were all coming up at the same time, to be recognised.’ This further suggests how The Rocky Horror Picture Show correlated in helping the LGBT+ equality movement and could have encouraged people to open their minds and support each other, as the musical was so popular with people regardless of their sexual or gender identity. The characters within The Rocky Horror Picture Show are unconventional due to both their appearance and personality traits. The musical consists of three main protagonists; Frank N. Furter, Janet Weiss and Brad Majors. Janet and Brad are the only two characters whom are first introduced to the audience with the perception that they are both innocent and more open to conforming to society’s rules and regulations. This is shown through their clothing as they enter the castle, due to wearing conservative and more typically socially acceptable clothing. However, this is something which vastly changes once the couple are introduced to scientist Frank N. Furter, as they are instantly stripped down to their underwear which could be foreseeing the future and how they find their sexuality. During the scene where Frank enters Brad’s bedroom pretending to be Janet and has sexual intercourse with him, Frank says ‘”Oh come on, Brad, admit it, you liked it, didn’t you? There’s no crime in giving yourself over to pleasure, Brad. Janet needn’t know, I won’t tell.”’ Brad then replies with ‘”Well, promise you won’t tell…”’. The fact that Brad replied with this suggests that he enjoyed having sexual intercourse with Frank, and the only shame that he experienced from the act is that he had cheated on Janet, not that he had sexual intercourse with a man. This suggests that Brad’s sexuality is fluid as opposed to him being either homosexual or heterosexual. It appears that he is a three on the Kinsey scale and having intercourse with Frank may have made him realise this. Including bisexual characters into the narrative as opposed to homosexual characters suggests that O’Brien may have been hesitant to break too far out of typical conventions of the time, and despite wanting to introduce queer characters to society, he wanted to play a safer option in order for his audience to be more likely to accept them. Although bisexuality is still a less accepted sexuality in the modern day, and was rarely heard or talked about when The Rocky Horror Picture Show was created, including queer characters with some heterosexual traits may have made an audience be more open to accepting them as they could still relate to them to some extent. Due to this, bisexuality and sexual fluidity is a common theme throughout the film, and the film heavily suggests that everyone is potentially bisexual. With the exception of Rocky, Frank is the only protagonist of the film whom is introduced as an unconventional character. First introduced in the film during the song ‘Sweet Transvestite’, Frank is presented to us in a corset and stockings. This is an outfit which you would not usually see a male character in, however Frank N. Furter is not necessarily a male character, but more a other-worldly alien transsexual. The pronoun ‘he’ is often applied to Frank due to originally being played by male actor Tim Curry, however Frank’s gender and sexuality are both fluid. This has been shown throughout some of the stage performances of the musical, as Frank can be played by actors of any gender. Actress Amber Riley played Frank in The Rocky Horror Glee Show (Glee, 2010) and Laverne Cox also played him in The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (Ortega, 2016). As well as this, O’Brien himself has stated in Rocky Horror: From Concept to Cult (Michaels, 2002) that he wrote the character of Frank N. Furter to be played by any gender. Frank initially appears to be homosexual due to him creating Rocky for sexual purposes and having sexual intercourse with Brad, however he also has intercourse with Janet. Due to this, he is best described as bisexual, or sexually fluid. As well as Frank’s sexuality being fluid, he also does not conform to monogamy as his overwhelming sex drive and urge to love others makes it impossible for him to confine to one person. Having a character that is fluid in both gender and sexuality and does not conform to a monogamous lifestyle is something that is rarely seen within plays and films. In a time where monogamy was and still is romanticised, seeing polygamous characters on stage and film was definitely controversial when the musical was first performed, however it is one of the main contributors of it becoming a cult classic as it gave its audience the freedom to say ‘it’s alright’. Despite Frank N. Furter being a character whom many look up to when they need encouragement to be themselves, it explains in Rocky Horror, From Concept to Cult how original actor Tim Curry is embarrassed by the fact that he once played him. After finishing The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Curry eventually distanced himself as far away from the Rocky phenomenon as possible. The book explains how Curry rarely refers to his role as Frank, and when someone else mentions it to him; he appears to find it irritating, infuriating or embarrassing depending on the company he is in and how far he feels he can express his displeasure. He also distanced himself from all cast and crew after filming. Why this is has not been stated as Curry is known to be a very private individual, however it could be suggested that Curry did not realise the extent of how popular the film would be at the time of filming, and his embarrassment may be due to him being more publically known as a bisexual transsexual alien. When choosing the names for O’Brien’s two conservative protagonists, he decided that Brad and Janet were the most suitable as ‘those names seemed to exemplify a clean-cut, boy-girl relationship’. (Michaels, 2002) Janet’s character is first introduced as very conservative and sexually restricted. However, after meeting Frank in the castle, she soon becomes very empowered by her sexuality. This is shown during the song Touch-A Touch-a Touch Me as she sings ‘touch-a touch-a touch me, I wanna be dirty, thrill me, chill me, fulfil me, creature of the night’. Despite the film seemingly celebrating Janet’s sexual liberation, often audience participation scripts include the audience calling her a slut, thus seemingly condemning her behaviour. In the article Dammit, Don’t Call Janet a Slut by Daniela Costa, (Costa, 2015) she explores this concept of audience participation calling Janet a slut and why that may be. Some may say that the slutshaming of Janet is in order to reverse slut-shame and thus claim the slur back, but Costa explains that she doesn’t buy that excuse, and that element of audience participation made her feel uncomfortable as an audience member. O’Brien’s inclusion of these two typical American clean-cut characters could symbolise what he wanted to achieve by writing the play. By having these two conservative, reserved characters end up becoming sexually liberated and finding their true selves during the film, O’Brien could be showing to the audience how it is okay to embrace your sexuality and live freely doing so. If this was O’Brien’s motive whilst creating Rocky, whilst looking at audience members and how they dress to see the play, it is clear that this motive has been somewhat successful. Punk Rocky In Rocky Horror, From Concept to Cult by Scott Michaels and David Evans, it states that punk people and homosexuals tolerated each other. It explains how punk fashion and other main fashion began with homosexuals, and Richard O’Brien explains how some people say that The Rocky Horror Picture Show started punk itself, however he believes that it just all happened at the same time. Due to punk youth at the time being more open towards the queer community, it suggests that creators of Rock Musicals may feel that writing about queer subjects may be more tolerated due to their audience typically being punk youths who are more accepting of LGBT+ topics. It is shown throughout these musicals that the playwrights are not afraid to break all conventions and provide to an audience an openly diverse set of characters and a list of controversial songs along with it. Examples of these are the songs Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Sugar Daddy from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. When watching both The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, it is clear how both of these musicals were influenced by the punk movement due to the aesthetic and score of the films. This may be due to both O’Brien and Mitchell knowing how the musicals may be more successful with its punk audience due to them being more accepting, and so wanted to apply punk aspects to the musicals, or it could be emphasising the connotations that The Rocky Horror Picture Show have a political anti-establishment message due to how LGBT+ individuals are in fact a rebellion against old fashioned ideals. David Evans states that sexuality was starting to be more evenly spread in the days that The Rocky Horror Picture Show was first introduced, and that it was a time where male beauty was allowed as long as you were confident in your sexuality, regardless of what that was. (Michaels, 2002) This implies that The Rocky Horror Picture Show was introduced at a time where it was possible for an audience to be more accepting of the topics that it featured. In an interview, Richard O’Brien states that he used to wear make-up in the 1970s and that it was never considered odd. Also, in Rocky Horror, From Concept to Cult, it says ‘straight men in layers of Max Factor had never looked so good, and not a drop of blood had been shed. The gay boys had already done all the fighting for their straight brothers to come out in a bloodless coup.’ Despite this being said quite lightly in the book, this is something which could be used against The Rocky Horror Picture Show when analysing whether or not it was progressive for the LGBT+ community. During the time that the film was released, LGBT+ people had come some way in their fight for equality but they were also still fighting. It may have been coincidence that the film came out at a time where LGBT+ people were starting to stand up for their rights; however it also could be seen that the film took the spotlight away from them and focused it on the heterosexuals who wanted to dress up in androgynous clothing for entertainment, such as Richard O’Brien for example. The thought of seeing heterosexual men dressed up in fishnets and corsets on screen may have seemed appealing to a vast majority of people at the time, but maybe for the wrong reasons, as many viewed it as some sort of punch line. Besides spreading a message of sexual liberation to its audience, it doesn’t necessarily have a purpose for its use of gender non-conforming characters other than simply for entertainment, or to provide a quirk to the narrative. In Queer Popular Culture, (Peele, 2007) Thomas Peele states that ‘Hedwig [and the Angry Inch] is different from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as Tim Curry’s infamous transsexual performance is merely a spectacle with no points of empathy. This supports that viewing The Rocky Horror Picture Show years after the film was released, it is quite outdated in its representation of gender, and is something which may be seen as problematic to the modern day audience. Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me The Rocky Horror Picture Show carries a message of pro-sexual intercourse, and seems at times like the musicals intention is to convince its audience to become more sexually experimental. Towards the end of the film, Frank says ‘”give yourself over to absolute pleasure. Swim the waters of the sins of the flesh. Erotic nightmares, beyond any measure, and sensual daydreams to treasure forever. Don’t dream it, be it.”’ He then persuades the others to join him in the swimming pool for what is seemingly an orgy. At the bottom of the swimming pool which everyone goes into, there is an image of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. This could be symbolic as it is reminding the audience that Adam and Eve are the only two people to have ever been created without sexual intercourse. The image on the bottom of the swimming pool calls out the hypocrisy of demeaning sexuality, as no one would be alive without it. Contrasting to this, Richard O’Brien has stated that he always believed that Rocky was a family show. In an interview, Patricia Quinn, who played Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show exclaims ‘”I didn’t realise it was so gay of a movie and thought it was a bit crude. In the play we never got the sexual thing.”’She further explains how in the play, the audience are not shown any scenes of a sexual nature, however she found the scene with Frank having sex being shown through silhouettes was tasteful, as it was clever. (Michaels, 2002) As the play appears to be more restricting of the sexual aspects of the narrative, it could be said that the play was used in order to ‘test the waters’ within an audience, and once they knew that it was successful, they felt that they could be more daring in its portrayal as a film. However, some die-hard Rocky fans argue that even the film is family friendly, such as Bill Henken in The Rocky Horror Picture Show Book (Henken, 1979) where he argues that The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not sexual, and apologises for there being any implication of sexual behaviour within the film. Whether Henken is ignorant to the sexual content of the film or whether he is cleverly denying that the film may be inappropriate to younger audiences due to the belief that sexuality is not something that should be monitored is unknown, however as a die-hard fan, it is likely to be the latter. Chapter Four- Angry Inch Twenty years after The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch was released. As the film’s releases came after the development of AIDs and HIV medications in 1987, and so after the public were no longer in fear, Hedwig and the Angry Inch continues to openly explore the spectrum of sexuality and gender. Hedwig and the Angry Inch was first performed in 1998 and a film adaption was first released in 2001. Much like Frank from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwig is mostly played by men, and is played by writer John Cameron Mitchell in the film, however the character has also been played by women, such as Lena Hall who played Hedwig on Broadway. The film features a transsexual protagonist, whom undergoes a failing back alley sex reassignment surgery. As Hansel had no intentions to undergo the sex reassignment before realising that he has to in order to marry his partner and move to America for a better quality of life, it isn’t clear as to whether Hedwig is actually transgender or not, since they never felt the urge to live their life as a woman beforehand. However, due to Hedwig’s surgery failing and them being left with genitalia which does not resemble neither a man nor a woman’s anatomy, it could be suggested that Hedwig in fact has no gender and thus is non binary as they do not fall under male or female biological labels, and would likely be classed as intersex. Due to this, Hedwig falls under the trans umbrella as a non-binary individual. This is suggested in the song Origin of Love as Hedwig sings about there being three sexes when the Earth was created; ‘two men glued back to back’, ‘two girls rolled up into one’ and ‘part daughter, part son’. Through these lyrics, it is clear how Mitchell used the beliefs and teachings of Plato in order to present this ideology through the narrative. This song shows to the audience that Hedwig believes in mixed gendered people, people who do not fall under male or female social conventions but rather a mix of the two. This thus supports the claim that Hedwig could be mixed gendered. Hedwig also implies that they stand on the crack between the two different sexual and gender spheres, that they are neither man nor woman, neither a he nor a she. Due to this, it is correct in referring to Hedwig in gender neutral pronouns, as the character was created in order for people to realise that both sexuality and gender can be fluid. Gender fluidity is something which Gender Theorist Judith Butler has addressed. In Gender Trouble, (Butler, 1990) Butler states that gender is a social construct and is influenced through the media and different cultures, as opposed to biology. This theory suggests that it is possible for an individual to fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of man and woman, and be in fact neither male nor female. Whilst talking about Hedwig and the Angry Inch, John Cameron Mitchell explained how he wanted to create a world where identification and categories were as fluid, changing and confusing as they are in real life. This could be supported by the fact that Hedwig has been played by both men and women. In Queer Popular Culture, it says that Hedwig’s self proclaimed in between identity is not a point of orientation for people’s identification but of disorientation. It states ‘recognising her symbolic existence as an object of abomination in the world, Hedwig pleads for her listener to tear her down and challenges the world to reconsider the ideological binaries’. These two quotes can sum up Mitchell’s motives in creating a character like Hedwig. Having characters who are completely fluid in their gender and sexuality is something which can be viewed as very progressive for the LGBT+ community as it is something which has very rarely been seen before, and needed to be addressed in order to become normalised. The characters of Yitzhak and Hedwig succeed in breaking this boundary and bringing progression to the queer community as their portrayal of Trans individuals is done in such a politically correct way which modern audiences to date can learn about the struggles of being trans without glorifying them or making them villains. Hedwig and the Angry Inch shows what it is like to be trans, and what they show is that trans people are just like anyone else. Not aliens, not mad scientists, just people. In the song Sugar Daddy, Hedwig sings about how they use their femininity in order to take advantage of men for men to buy them ‘Versace blue jeans’ and ‘black designer underwear’. How Hedwig’s feminine identity is presented through the film could be seen by an audience as a very empowering feminist view. Before Hedwig’s sex change, they were mentally abused by their mother and boyfriend, and molested by their father. However, after the sex change, Hedwig forms their own band, writes songs and travels the world. This shows to the audience how empowering presenting feminine is, and also how empowering being trans and openly living the life you want to live can be. It also creates an aura of empathy between the audience and Hedwig, allowing viewers to become more accepting of the trans community the more they learn about Hedwig’s story as they are being educated about what it is like to be trans and the struggles that trans individuals go through on a daily basis. On the contrary, it may be viewed that Hedwig abuses their trans status in order to further their singing career by capturing the hearts of men, exploiting their newfound identity as a woman in order to become more successful. In Deviant Eyes, Deviant Bodies, (Straayer, 1996) Chris Straayer writes that ‘”there is a lineage of cross-dressing male characters who draw their power from wearing women’s clothing, while maintaining the bravado and some obvious sexual characteristics of a man, including chest hair and showcasing a prominent bulge in their underwear”’. Straayer refers to this type of character as a ‘she-man’. This could be a word that could be applied to the likes of Frank N. Furter, however could not be applied to a character like Hedwig as Hedwig does not show any physical signs of masculinity until the end of the film. This could also suggest that Hedwig is more progressive in its representation of trans people, as the trans community are more likely to relate to a character like Hedwig than Frank due to Hedwig presenting fully feminine throughout the film, as well as their struggle as a trans individual being shown rather than just glorifying and sexualising the fact that they present feminine. The representation of Hedwig during the film is one which is refreshing as it is a much more honest and raw view on trans people that most films and plays have avoided showing. Although Hedwig is a trans character as they are not cisgendered, they are presented as powerful. A specific moment in the film where Hedwig is shown to be powerful is the scene where they name Tommy ‘Gnosis’. Gnosis means knowledge in Greek, and is a name which used to be passed from teacher to their young disciple in Ancient Greece. Another thing which may show Hedwig’s dominance in the scene is the use of camera angles, as Hedwig is shown towering over Tommy, thus showing their authority. This is quite refreshing to see in the representation of a trans character. Another character in Hedwig and the Angry Inch whom breaks conventions of being socially normative is Yitzhak. Yitzhak is introduced to the audience as a male character, whom is played by a female actress. Yitzhak comes out as transgender towards the end of the film, which is something that could be seen as powerful symbolism towards the trans community as being played by a female actress from the start of the film could symbolise how Yitzhak has always been female on the inside despite dressing and presenting herself as male throughout the film. This is something that all transgender people can relate to, and could be seen as very progressive in the representation of gender through film due to this. Whilst addressing the character of Yitzhak, Mitchell discussed the deliberate intent to confuse the audience with Yitzhak’s gender by having a woman play an overly masculine man, as he wanted him to symbolise gender fluidity. Another notable thing about the character of Yitzhak is the symbolism of the name. Yitzhak is Hebrew for Isaac. This could be related to the story of Abraham and Isaac, as Hedwig is the equivalent of Abraham to Yitzhak and has Yitzhak’s life in their hands. Hedwig and Yitzhak’s relationship is something to be noted whilst watching the film. In a deleted scene in the film, Hedwig and Yitzhak are shown meeting for the first time. Yitzhak is dressed as a woman and whilst backstage asks Hedwig to get her ‘”out of this hell hole”’. Hedwig then responds by removing Yitzhak’s wig and make-up, thus robbing her of the socially constructed signs of what it means to look like a woman due to jealousy and a fear of having a competitor. In this moment, Hedwig has been the catalyst for Yitzhak changing sex, as they wanted to be the only woman in the band. By taking away any feminine signs of Yitzhak’s appearance, it shows to the audience how Hedwig believes that there is power in being female, and by stripping away the femininity of Yitzhak, they are stripping her away of all power. This makes the ending of the film more symbolic, as Hedwig gives their own wig to Yitzhak, thus giving her back her authority and gender identity. Both Yitzhak and Hedwig are contrasting with their identities, as Yitzhak lives life as a man in order to escape from her past where she was unhappy and felt trapped, and Hedwig lives life as a woman in order to escape from their past of being abused. However, both characters felt powerless as men, and were more empowered identifying as a woman. Towards the end of the film, Hedwig peels off their drag appearance. As Mitchell’s intent with the film was to show to an audience that gender is fluid, this could have been done in order to remind them of this. If an audience is watching Hedwig present heavily as female throughout the film, they may forget this intention, and so by having them strip themselves of their feminine traits at the end, it is reminding to the audience that gender is not binary, and allows Hedwig to regain gender autonomy. Once Hedwig strips themselves of their feminine appearance, and is accepted by those around them, there is a celebration of gender fluidity. This ending is significant as it shows to its audience that although the journey to be yourself may be difficult, it can be rewarding in the end. Hedwig tells a tale of self discovery and unlike many other films that tackle LGBT+ subjects, it represents queer identities in a positive light. Due to this, it can be said that Hedwig and the Angry Inch shows one of the most positive representations of the queer community in film. Chapter Five- Conclusion Although The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hedwig and the Angry Inch both feature very similar topics, from punk rock to the freedom to be yourself and love who you want to love, it is clear when analysing the two together that Hedwig is more progressive in a modern day society due to its portrayal of its queer characters being more true to that of current real life. As the two were made twenty years apart from each other, this is not something which is shocking. It is expected that society will change over the years and the fact that something that was once seen as a staple in the LGBT+ movement may now be seen as problematic to the LGBT+ community, is actually a good thing. It shows how far society has come in merely twenty years, and gives hope to the LGBT+ community that we will go even further come another twenty years. It is important to remember whilst watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show that despite it being quite problematic to a modern day audience; at the time of its release it helped a vast majority of queer people. As a modern day viewer, we cannot fairly judge the sexual politics of 1973 as society has changed significantly since then. However, Rocky was part of a movement that changed the world, and that we should be thankful for. Millions of people worldwide may watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Hedwig and the Angry Inch and find comfort and solitude in the characters that are on their screens because it reminds them that they are not alone. It is not wrong to be yourself, to embrace your gender or your sexuality, in fact it is liberating, beautiful and brilliant. That fact alone is something that is timeless. Bibliography Rope (1948) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. California: Warner Bros. Asch, S. (1918) The God of Vengeance. Corgi. Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble. Routledge Classics. Rent (2005) Directed by Chris Columbus. California: Rent Productions LLC. Costa, D. (2015) ‘Damn It, Don’t Call Janet A Slut’. Enqueery. [Online] [Accessed on 1st May 2017] https://enqueery.com/2015/11/06/janet-rocky-horror-slut-shaming/ Clugston, H. (2016) ‘The Boys in the Band: The Groundbreaking Gay Play Returns To London After 16 Years’. The Culture Trip. [Online] [Accessed on 6th April 2017] https://theculturetrip.com/europe/united-kingdom/england/london/articles/the-boys-in-the-band-the-ground-breaking-gay-play-returns-to-london-after-16-years/ Cohen, S. (2015) ‘How One Movie Changed LGBT History’. Time. [Online] [Accessed on 1st April 2017] http://time.com/3742951/boys-in-the-band/ Crowley, M. (1968) The Boys in the Band. Samuel French, Inc. Fujita , A. ‘Responses to Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band- The Discourses of Minoritizing and Universalizing Views’. Lang Nagoya. [Online] [Accessed on 1st April 2017] http://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~nagahata/amlitchubu/journal/vol8/fujita8.html ‘The Rocky Horror Glee Show’. Glee. (2010) [Online] Fox. Aired 26th October 2010. [Accessed on 3rd May 2017] Hellman, L. (1961) The Children’s Hour. Directed by William Wyler. Henken, B. (1979) The Rocky Horror Picture Show Book. Hawthorn Books. Hair (1968) Directed by J. Rado. The Rocky Horror Picture Show- Let’s Do The Time Warp Again. (2016) Directed by K. Ortega. Canada: Fox 21 Television Studios. Michaels, S. (2002) Rocky Horror: From Concept to Cult. Sanctuary Publishing LTD. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) Directed by John Cameron Mitchell. Canada: Killer Films. Oliver, R. (2010) ‘Evolution of Contemporary Gay Theatre’. The Julliard Journal. [Online] [Accessed on 1st April 2017] https://www.juilliard.edu/journal/evolution-contemporary-gay-theater The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) Directed by Richard O’Brien. England: Twentieth Century Fox. Peele, T. (2007) Queer Popular Culture: Literature, Media, Film and Television. Palgrave. The Sound of Music (1965) Directed by R. Wise. Austria: Robert Wise Productions. Straayer, C. (1996) Deviant Eyes, Deviant Bodies. Columbia University Press. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) Directed by Stephan Elliott. Australia: PolyGram Filmed Entertainment. Unknown. (2014) ‘Analysis’. Hair The Musical. [Online] [Accessed on 1st May 2017] http://hairthemusical.com/en00004musical_content.html Peter Pan (1953) Directed by Wilfred Jackson. Walt Disney Productions. Williams, T. (1959) Suddenly, Last Summer. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Wolf, S. (2002) A Problem Like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical. University of Michigan Press.

Subject: English

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Question:

The development and representation of sexuality and gender in musicals

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Hollie T.
Answer:

Chapter One- Introduction Musical theatre is renowned for its representation of LGBT+ characters. From Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Elliott, 1994) to Rent (Larson, 1996), LGBT+ characters have regularly starred in stage productions. However, theatre has not always been so open to presenting their queer characters as explicitly as they do now. Theatre has always mirrored society’s attitudes towards LGBT+ characters and the introduction of gay characters reflects in part society’s acceptance of LGBT+ people as a result of the activist movements such as Gay Liberation (1960) and ACT-UP (1987). This dissertation will explore queer theatre and queer characters within the musical theatre genre. It will examine whether the representations in musical theatre accurately represent LGBT+ characters and whether this has helped the LGBT+ community to be represented in a positive way within society. The musicals The Rocky Horror Picture Show (O’Brien, 1975) by Richard O’Brien and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Mitchell, 2001) by John Cameron Mitchell will be analysed as case studies, as although being written twenty years apart, both feature similar topics about sexuality and gender. Whilst assessing the representation of LGBT+ characters within musicals, gender theorists such as Sue-Ellen Case and Stacy Wolf, and queer theorists such as Judith Butler and Jill Dolan will be referenced in order to support any claims. By referring to queer and gender theorists throughout, a range of theories can be provided in order to support any claims as to how gender and sexuality are presented through characters in musicals, and why they are presented in the way in which they are. This dissertation will focus on the two protagonists of both The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hedwig and the Angry Inch as these characters, Frank n Furter and Hedwig, exemplify unconventional gender identities and queer sexuality. It will explore Hedwig’s gender-neutral identity, as they appear to have no binary gender, and also Hedwig and Frank N Furter’s sexual fluidity. Whilst doing this, other significant characters within these two musicals will be discussed and compared in order to conclude whether the representation of sexuality and gender within musicals has become progressive and if so, why. The aim throughout this dissertation is to find out if and how representation of gender and sexuality has altered throughout time, as well as aiming to discover whether a musical which may have been iconic for being progressive within the LGBT+ community could eventually be seen as problematic as society becomes more accepting towards unconventional gender and sexuality identities. Chapter Two- Lets Do the Time Warp Again Despite LGBT+ characters being written about within plays dating hundreds of years beforehand, many of these characters lived their lives in desperate isolation, and some resorted in committing suicide, or being murdered due to their sexual identity. From Suddenly, Last Summer (Williams, 1959) by Tennessee Williams, to The Children’s Hour (Hellman, 1934) by Lillian Hellman, many plays dating before the Stonewall Riots, the convenient marker for the beginning of the Gay Liberation movement, featured queer characters in a demeaning manner. This can be seen through Sebastian Venable’s traumatic death in Suddenly, Last Summer and Martha’s suicide in The Children’s Hour. It is clear that these characters were written in order to show society’s views of the queer community at the time, and due to this, it potentially caused more damage to queer people than it was beneficial to them as it reminded them of the reality of their situation. Playwrights writing about queer characters subtly as opposed to explicitly could be due to productions being banned due to being considered offensive. An example of this is the on stage lesbian kiss in The God of Vengeance (Asch, 1922), which led to the arrest of the cast and the closing of the production. The lack of explicit LGBT+ characters within plays could also be due to the 1930 Motion Picture Production Code which prohibited the portrayal of ‘sexual perversion’ within productions. This law ensured that there would be no explicitly queer characters shown to an audience, and so any playwrights wanting to include queer characters has to present them through queer subtext instead, such as featuring female characters with masculine features or male characters with feminine personality traits. Examples of these can be seen in a range of films and plays, from the character of Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan (Jackson, 1953) to characters Brandon and Philip in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (Hitchcock, 1948). After the Motion Picture Production code previously mentioned was dropped in 1968, plays began writing about their queer characters more explicitly. The Boys in the Band (Crowley, 1970), written by Mart Crowley was one of the first influential theatre pieces involving homosexual characters. First performed a year before the Stonewall Riots, and the same year that the Motion Picture Production code was dropped, the play has been often cited as ‘the beginning of the modern gay civil-rights movement, [The Boys in the Band] portrays the humour and resilience of the characters as well as their pain’. (Cohen, 2015) Whilst talking about The Boys in the Band, playwright Tony Kushner stated ‘it was the first time I saw gay men represented in any other way than as a pathetic fuddy-duddy old bachelor or a figure of complete hatred or mockery’. (Oliver, 2010) Due to this, it could be suggested that The Boys in the Band on stage and as a 1970 film contributed towards the beginning of writing plays featuring strong and openly queer characters, and most likely resulted in educating people towards the LGBT+ community, thus helping the queer community in the 1960s. This claim can also be supported due to the playwright Doug Wright telling the New York Times that The Boys in the Band helped him to stop hiding, and showed him that there was a world where he could talk to other gay men and write about gay people and live in a manner consistent with himself. (Oliver, 2010) In reference to The Boys in the Band, it was stated in a 1970 Time review that ‘if the situation of the homosexual is ever to be understood by the public, it will be because of the breakthrough made by this humane moving picture’. Forty-five years later, Time once again wrote another article about the play, this time stating that the film version of the play had helped to make the gay community culturally visible during a moment in which openly discussing homosexuality was still taboo, and a time when many Americans were yet to encounter an ‘out’ gay man in person. (Cohen, 2015) Throughout its time on stage, the play has been thought of as the cause of the Stonewall riots and Gay Liberation Movement. (Fujita, 2005) Film critic Peter Filichia described how ‘after gays saw The Boys in the Band, they no longer would settle for thinking of themselves as pathetic and wouldn’t be perceived as such any longer.’ (Clugston, 2016) It cannot be confirmed that The Boys in the Band contributed to the Stonewall Riots and the beginning of the Gay Liberation Movement as there is no physical evidence of this, however, it is clear by the masses of people who have given the original play and film edition as the reason for why they came out that it gave the queer community a platform to be seen and heard for the first time. On the contrary, although when it first was shown it created a platform that the queer community had not been given in the past, and encouraged many queer people to come out, as the world has evolved and become more open to equality, there have been more criticisms about the play and the ‘self-deprecating and self-loathing humour’ that features throughout. An example of this is the quote ‘show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse’. Many have argued that the reasoning for this is due to the time in which the play was written, and society’s attitude towards queer people. Including self-deprecating humour throughout the play at the time provided an honest view of how society had made the queer community feel about themselves, and thus could be justified at the time. Because of this, The Boys in the Band can be a prime example for how plays and films that may have once been liberating and progressive towards the queer community may eventually be seen as offensive and problematic due to the change of society over time. One strategy gay and lesbian audiences used to compensate from their erasure in mainstream theatre is taking plays that did not have any queer content and reading them from a queer perspective. In A Problem like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical, (Wolf, 2002) Stacy Wolf argues that all texts can be ‘queered’, and due to this, anything can be reread from a queer perspective. Wolf states that as a young lesbian woman, she could relate to the character of Maria from The Sound of Music (Wise, 1965) due to both her physical and aesthetic traits. As Maria has short hair and a disassociation to any of the male characters, Wolf viewed her as a lesbian character. Because of this claim, Wolf suggests that queer subtexts within plays can be easily interpreted. This is something which can be analysed further within many different films and musicals; however, there are also many musicals which are much more explicit in their representation of queer characters. It is these more explicit musicals which give musical theatre its label for being LGBT+ friendly, and so it is these musicals which can be analysed when assessing the change of representation of sexuality and gender. A subgenre of musicals which appears to be one of the most explicit with its representation of queer characters is the Rock Musical genre. Rock Musicals have always broken conventions within the musical theatre genre. This genre is what both The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hedwig and the Angry Inch fall under, and one which many similar pro LGBT+ musicals also fall under. As the Rock Musical genre usually carries connotations of rebellion due to its themes of sex, drugs and rock n roll, it comes as no surprise that these rock musicals break so many classic theatre conventions. As the usual audience for the rock genre tends to be linked to a sexually experimental, anarchistic, punk-like youth, it is clear whilst watching Rock Musicals that the playwrights have kept their audience in mind throughout writing these productions. One of the first Rock Musicals to be performed on stage is the 1968 American Tribal Love-Rock musical Hair. (Rado, 1968) Referred to as ‘a product of hippie counterculture and sexual revolution of the late 1960s’, songs from Hair became anthems of the anti-Vietnam War peace movement. The main theme of the musical is self expression and the urge to live freely. This is shown throughout Hair and its narrative by its hippie-like characters that just want happiness and health of mankind. (Unknown, 2014) The musical also features scenes of nudity and drug use, and is focused around trying to stop war and find love. This is something which is common within Rock Musicals, as most of them carry the message of a freedom of self expression. Chapter Three- I’m just a Sweet Transvestite The Rocky Horror Picture Show was first performed in 1973 in The Royal Court, which typically performed more edgy material that was deemed likely to attract smaller audiences, and a film adaptation was released in 1975. Rocky was first performed in the same year that the first gay on screen kiss was aired, the year that Gay Pride week was first established and when the board of American Psychiatric Association voted 13-0 to remove homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders. Due to this, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was first introduced in the year that society had started to begin its journey of acceptance and equality for the LGBT+ community. It could also be suggested that the musical could have had some significance in furthering the development of the rise for equality as it has become a cult classic despite its unconventional and taboo characters and themes. In Rocky Horror, From Concept to Cult, Gaye Brown says ‘our audience was almost completely gay, because they were also breaking ground at the same time. We were all coming up at the same time, to be recognised.’ This further suggests how The Rocky Horror Picture Show correlated in helping the LGBT+ equality movement and could have encouraged people to open their minds and support each other, as the musical was so popular with people regardless of their sexual or gender identity. The characters within The Rocky Horror Picture Show are unconventional due to both their appearance and personality traits. The musical consists of three main protagonists; Frank N. Furter, Janet Weiss and Brad Majors. Janet and Brad are the only two characters whom are first introduced to the audience with the perception that they are both innocent and more open to conforming to society’s rules and regulations. This is shown through their clothing as they enter the castle, due to wearing conservative and more typically socially acceptable clothing. However, this is something which vastly changes once the couple are introduced to scientist Frank N. Furter, as they are instantly stripped down to their underwear which could be foreseeing the future and how they find their sexuality. During the scene where Frank enters Brad’s bedroom pretending to be Janet and has sexual intercourse with him, Frank says ‘”Oh come on, Brad, admit it, you liked it, didn’t you? There’s no crime in giving yourself over to pleasure, Brad. Janet needn’t know, I won’t tell.”’ Brad then replies with ‘”Well, promise you won’t tell…”’. The fact that Brad replied with this suggests that he enjoyed having sexual intercourse with Frank, and the only shame that he experienced from the act is that he had cheated on Janet, not that he had sexual intercourse with a man. This suggests that Brad’s sexuality is fluid as opposed to him being either homosexual or heterosexual. It appears that he is a three on the Kinsey scale and having intercourse with Frank may have made him realise this. Including bisexual characters into the narrative as opposed to homosexual characters suggests that O’Brien may have been hesitant to break too far out of typical conventions of the time, and despite wanting to introduce queer characters to society, he wanted to play a safer option in order for his audience to be more likely to accept them. Although bisexuality is still a less accepted sexuality in the modern day, and was rarely heard or talked about when The Rocky Horror Picture Show was created, including queer characters with some heterosexual traits may have made an audience be more open to accepting them as they could still relate to them to some extent. Due to this, bisexuality and sexual fluidity is a common theme throughout the film, and the film heavily suggests that everyone is potentially bisexual. With the exception of Rocky, Frank is the only protagonist of the film whom is introduced as an unconventional character. First introduced in the film during the song ‘Sweet Transvestite’, Frank is presented to us in a corset and stockings. This is an outfit which you would not usually see a male character in, however Frank N. Furter is not necessarily a male character, but more a other-worldly alien transsexual. The pronoun ‘he’ is often applied to Frank due to originally being played by male actor Tim Curry, however Frank’s gender and sexuality are both fluid. This has been shown throughout some of the stage performances of the musical, as Frank can be played by actors of any gender. Actress Amber Riley played Frank in The Rocky Horror Glee Show (Glee, 2010) and Laverne Cox also played him in The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (Ortega, 2016). As well as this, O’Brien himself has stated in Rocky Horror: From Concept to Cult (Michaels, 2002) that he wrote the character of Frank N. Furter to be played by any gender. Frank initially appears to be homosexual due to him creating Rocky for sexual purposes and having sexual intercourse with Brad, however he also has intercourse with Janet. Due to this, he is best described as bisexual, or sexually fluid. As well as Frank’s sexuality being fluid, he also does not conform to monogamy as his overwhelming sex drive and urge to love others makes it impossible for him to confine to one person. Having a character that is fluid in both gender and sexuality and does not conform to a monogamous lifestyle is something that is rarely seen within plays and films. In a time where monogamy was and still is romanticised, seeing polygamous characters on stage and film was definitely controversial when the musical was first performed, however it is one of the main contributors of it becoming a cult classic as it gave its audience the freedom to say ‘it’s alright’. Despite Frank N. Furter being a character whom many look up to when they need encouragement to be themselves, it explains in Rocky Horror, From Concept to Cult how original actor Tim Curry is embarrassed by the fact that he once played him. After finishing The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Curry eventually distanced himself as far away from the Rocky phenomenon as possible. The book explains how Curry rarely refers to his role as Frank, and when someone else mentions it to him; he appears to find it irritating, infuriating or embarrassing depending on the company he is in and how far he feels he can express his displeasure. He also distanced himself from all cast and crew after filming. Why this is has not been stated as Curry is known to be a very private individual, however it could be suggested that Curry did not realise the extent of how popular the film would be at the time of filming, and his embarrassment may be due to him being more publically known as a bisexual transsexual alien. When choosing the names for O’Brien’s two conservative protagonists, he decided that Brad and Janet were the most suitable as ‘those names seemed to exemplify a clean-cut, boy-girl relationship’. (Michaels, 2002) Janet’s character is first introduced as very conservative and sexually restricted. However, after meeting Frank in the castle, she soon becomes very empowered by her sexuality. This is shown during the song Touch-A Touch-a Touch Me as she sings ‘touch-a touch-a touch me, I wanna be dirty, thrill me, chill me, fulfil me, creature of the night’. Despite the film seemingly celebrating Janet’s sexual liberation, often audience participation scripts include the audience calling her a slut, thus seemingly condemning her behaviour. In the article Dammit, Don’t Call Janet a Slut by Daniela Costa, (Costa, 2015) she explores this concept of audience participation calling Janet a slut and why that may be. Some may say that the slutshaming of Janet is in order to reverse slut-shame and thus claim the slur back, but Costa explains that she doesn’t buy that excuse, and that element of audience participation made her feel uncomfortable as an audience member. O’Brien’s inclusion of these two typical American clean-cut characters could symbolise what he wanted to achieve by writing the play. By having these two conservative, reserved characters end up becoming sexually liberated and finding their true selves during the film, O’Brien could be showing to the audience how it is okay to embrace your sexuality and live freely doing so. If this was O’Brien’s motive whilst creating Rocky, whilst looking at audience members and how they dress to see the play, it is clear that this motive has been somewhat successful. Punk Rocky In Rocky Horror, From Concept to Cult by Scott Michaels and David Evans, it states that punk people and homosexuals tolerated each other. It explains how punk fashion and other main fashion began with homosexuals, and Richard O’Brien explains how some people say that The Rocky Horror Picture Show started punk itself, however he believes that it just all happened at the same time. Due to punk youth at the time being more open towards the queer community, it suggests that creators of Rock Musicals may feel that writing about queer subjects may be more tolerated due to their audience typically being punk youths who are more accepting of LGBT+ topics. It is shown throughout these musicals that the playwrights are not afraid to break all conventions and provide to an audience an openly diverse set of characters and a list of controversial songs along with it. Examples of these are the songs Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Sugar Daddy from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. When watching both The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, it is clear how both of these musicals were influenced by the punk movement due to the aesthetic and score of the films. This may be due to both O’Brien and Mitchell knowing how the musicals may be more successful with its punk audience due to them being more accepting, and so wanted to apply punk aspects to the musicals, or it could be emphasising the connotations that The Rocky Horror Picture Show have a political anti-establishment message due to how LGBT+ individuals are in fact a rebellion against old fashioned ideals. David Evans states that sexuality was starting to be more evenly spread in the days that The Rocky Horror Picture Show was first introduced, and that it was a time where male beauty was allowed as long as you were confident in your sexuality, regardless of what that was. (Michaels, 2002) This implies that The Rocky Horror Picture Show was introduced at a time where it was possible for an audience to be more accepting of the topics that it featured. In an interview, Richard O’Brien states that he used to wear make-up in the 1970s and that it was never considered odd. Also, in Rocky Horror, From Concept to Cult, it says ‘straight men in layers of Max Factor had never looked so good, and not a drop of blood had been shed. The gay boys had already done all the fighting for their straight brothers to come out in a bloodless coup.’ Despite this being said quite lightly in the book, this is something which could be used against The Rocky Horror Picture Show when analysing whether or not it was progressive for the LGBT+ community. During the time that the film was released, LGBT+ people had come some way in their fight for equality but they were also still fighting. It may have been coincidence that the film came out at a time where LGBT+ people were starting to stand up for their rights; however it also could be seen that the film took the spotlight away from them and focused it on the heterosexuals who wanted to dress up in androgynous clothing for entertainment, such as Richard O’Brien for example. The thought of seeing heterosexual men dressed up in fishnets and corsets on screen may have seemed appealing to a vast majority of people at the time, but maybe for the wrong reasons, as many viewed it as some sort of punch line. Besides spreading a message of sexual liberation to its audience, it doesn’t necessarily have a purpose for its use of gender non-conforming characters other than simply for entertainment, or to provide a quirk to the narrative. In Queer Popular Culture, (Peele, 2007) Thomas Peele states that ‘Hedwig [and the Angry Inch] is different from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as Tim Curry’s infamous transsexual performance is merely a spectacle with no points of empathy. This supports that viewing The Rocky Horror Picture Show years after the film was released, it is quite outdated in its representation of gender, and is something which may be seen as problematic to the modern day audience. Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me The Rocky Horror Picture Show carries a message of pro-sexual intercourse, and seems at times like the musicals intention is to convince its audience to become more sexually experimental. Towards the end of the film, Frank says ‘”give yourself over to absolute pleasure. Swim the waters of the sins of the flesh. Erotic nightmares, beyond any measure, and sensual daydreams to treasure forever. Don’t dream it, be it.”’ He then persuades the others to join him in the swimming pool for what is seemingly an orgy. At the bottom of the swimming pool which everyone goes into, there is an image of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. This could be symbolic as it is reminding the audience that Adam and Eve are the only two people to have ever been created without sexual intercourse. The image on the bottom of the swimming pool calls out the hypocrisy of demeaning sexuality, as no one would be alive without it. Contrasting to this, Richard O’Brien has stated that he always believed that Rocky was a family show. In an interview, Patricia Quinn, who played Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show exclaims ‘”I didn’t realise it was so gay of a movie and thought it was a bit crude. In the play we never got the sexual thing.”’She further explains how in the play, the audience are not shown any scenes of a sexual nature, however she found the scene with Frank having sex being shown through silhouettes was tasteful, as it was clever. (Michaels, 2002) As the play appears to be more restricting of the sexual aspects of the narrative, it could be said that the play was used in order to ‘test the waters’ within an audience, and once they knew that it was successful, they felt that they could be more daring in its portrayal as a film. However, some die-hard Rocky fans argue that even the film is family friendly, such as Bill Henken in The Rocky Horror Picture Show Book (Henken, 1979) where he argues that The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not sexual, and apologises for there being any implication of sexual behaviour within the film. Whether Henken is ignorant to the sexual content of the film or whether he is cleverly denying that the film may be inappropriate to younger audiences due to the belief that sexuality is not something that should be monitored is unknown, however as a die-hard fan, it is likely to be the latter. Chapter Four- Angry Inch Twenty years after The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch was released. As the film’s releases came after the development of AIDs and HIV medications in 1987, and so after the public were no longer in fear, Hedwig and the Angry Inch continues to openly explore the spectrum of sexuality and gender. Hedwig and the Angry Inch was first performed in 1998 and a film adaption was first released in 2001. Much like Frank from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwig is mostly played by men, and is played by writer John Cameron Mitchell in the film, however the character has also been played by women, such as Lena Hall who played Hedwig on Broadway. The film features a transsexual protagonist, whom undergoes a failing back alley sex reassignment surgery. As Hansel had no intentions to undergo the sex reassignment before realising that he has to in order to marry his partner and move to America for a better quality of life, it isn’t clear as to whether Hedwig is actually transgender or not, since they never felt the urge to live their life as a woman beforehand. However, due to Hedwig’s surgery failing and them being left with genitalia which does not resemble neither a man nor a woman’s anatomy, it could be suggested that Hedwig in fact has no gender and thus is non binary as they do not fall under male or female biological labels, and would likely be classed as intersex. Due to this, Hedwig falls under the trans umbrella as a non-binary individual. This is suggested in the song Origin of Love as Hedwig sings about there being three sexes when the Earth was created; ‘two men glued back to back’, ‘two girls rolled up into one’ and ‘part daughter, part son’. Through these lyrics, it is clear how Mitchell used the beliefs and teachings of Plato in order to present this ideology through the narrative. This song shows to the audience that Hedwig believes in mixed gendered people, people who do not fall under male or female social conventions but rather a mix of the two. This thus supports the claim that Hedwig could be mixed gendered. Hedwig also implies that they stand on the crack between the two different sexual and gender spheres, that they are neither man nor woman, neither a he nor a she. Due to this, it is correct in referring to Hedwig in gender neutral pronouns, as the character was created in order for people to realise that both sexuality and gender can be fluid. Gender fluidity is something which Gender Theorist Judith Butler has addressed. In Gender Trouble, (Butler, 1990) Butler states that gender is a social construct and is influenced through the media and different cultures, as opposed to biology. This theory suggests that it is possible for an individual to fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of man and woman, and be in fact neither male nor female. Whilst talking about Hedwig and the Angry Inch, John Cameron Mitchell explained how he wanted to create a world where identification and categories were as fluid, changing and confusing as they are in real life. This could be supported by the fact that Hedwig has been played by both men and women. In Queer Popular Culture, it says that Hedwig’s self proclaimed in between identity is not a point of orientation for people’s identification but of disorientation. It states ‘recognising her symbolic existence as an object of abomination in the world, Hedwig pleads for her listener to tear her down and challenges the world to reconsider the ideological binaries’. These two quotes can sum up Mitchell’s motives in creating a character like Hedwig. Having characters who are completely fluid in their gender and sexuality is something which can be viewed as very progressive for the LGBT+ community as it is something which has very rarely been seen before, and needed to be addressed in order to become normalised. The characters of Yitzhak and Hedwig succeed in breaking this boundary and bringing progression to the queer community as their portrayal of Trans individuals is done in such a politically correct way which modern audiences to date can learn about the struggles of being trans without glorifying them or making them villains. Hedwig and the Angry Inch shows what it is like to be trans, and what they show is that trans people are just like anyone else. Not aliens, not mad scientists, just people. In the song Sugar Daddy, Hedwig sings about how they use their femininity in order to take advantage of men for men to buy them ‘Versace blue jeans’ and ‘black designer underwear’. How Hedwig’s feminine identity is presented through the film could be seen by an audience as a very empowering feminist view. Before Hedwig’s sex change, they were mentally abused by their mother and boyfriend, and molested by their father. However, after the sex change, Hedwig forms their own band, writes songs and travels the world. This shows to the audience how empowering presenting feminine is, and also how empowering being trans and openly living the life you want to live can be. It also creates an aura of empathy between the audience and Hedwig, allowing viewers to become more accepting of the trans community the more they learn about Hedwig’s story as they are being educated about what it is like to be trans and the struggles that trans individuals go through on a daily basis. On the contrary, it may be viewed that Hedwig abuses their trans status in order to further their singing career by capturing the hearts of men, exploiting their newfound identity as a woman in order to become more successful. In Deviant Eyes, Deviant Bodies, (Straayer, 1996) Chris Straayer writes that ‘”there is a lineage of cross-dressing male characters who draw their power from wearing women’s clothing, while maintaining the bravado and some obvious sexual characteristics of a man, including chest hair and showcasing a prominent bulge in their underwear”’. Straayer refers to this type of character as a ‘she-man’. This could be a word that could be applied to the likes of Frank N. Furter, however could not be applied to a character like Hedwig as Hedwig does not show any physical signs of masculinity until the end of the film. This could also suggest that Hedwig is more progressive in its representation of trans people, as the trans community are more likely to relate to a character like Hedwig than Frank due to Hedwig presenting fully feminine throughout the film, as well as their struggle as a trans individual being shown rather than just glorifying and sexualising the fact that they present feminine. The representation of Hedwig during the film is one which is refreshing as it is a much more honest and raw view on trans people that most films and plays have avoided showing. Although Hedwig is a trans character as they are not cisgendered, they are presented as powerful. A specific moment in the film where Hedwig is shown to be powerful is the scene where they name Tommy ‘Gnosis’. Gnosis means knowledge in Greek, and is a name which used to be passed from teacher to their young disciple in Ancient Greece. Another thing which may show Hedwig’s dominance in the scene is the use of camera angles, as Hedwig is shown towering over Tommy, thus showing their authority. This is quite refreshing to see in the representation of a trans character. Another character in Hedwig and the Angry Inch whom breaks conventions of being socially normative is Yitzhak. Yitzhak is introduced to the audience as a male character, whom is played by a female actress. Yitzhak comes out as transgender towards the end of the film, which is something that could be seen as powerful symbolism towards the trans community as being played by a female actress from the start of the film could symbolise how Yitzhak has always been female on the inside despite dressing and presenting herself as male throughout the film. This is something that all transgender people can relate to, and could be seen as very progressive in the representation of gender through film due to this. Whilst addressing the character of Yitzhak, Mitchell discussed the deliberate intent to confuse the audience with Yitzhak’s gender by having a woman play an overly masculine man, as he wanted him to symbolise gender fluidity. Another notable thing about the character of Yitzhak is the symbolism of the name. Yitzhak is Hebrew for Isaac. This could be related to the story of Abraham and Isaac, as Hedwig is the equivalent of Abraham to Yitzhak and has Yitzhak’s life in their hands. Hedwig and Yitzhak’s relationship is something to be noted whilst watching the film. In a deleted scene in the film, Hedwig and Yitzhak are shown meeting for the first time. Yitzhak is dressed as a woman and whilst backstage asks Hedwig to get her ‘”out of this hell hole”’. Hedwig then responds by removing Yitzhak’s wig and make-up, thus robbing her of the socially constructed signs of what it means to look like a woman due to jealousy and a fear of having a competitor. In this moment, Hedwig has been the catalyst for Yitzhak changing sex, as they wanted to be the only woman in the band. By taking away any feminine signs of Yitzhak’s appearance, it shows to the audience how Hedwig believes that there is power in being female, and by stripping away the femininity of Yitzhak, they are stripping her away of all power. This makes the ending of the film more symbolic, as Hedwig gives their own wig to Yitzhak, thus giving her back her authority and gender identity. Both Yitzhak and Hedwig are contrasting with their identities, as Yitzhak lives life as a man in order to escape from her past where she was unhappy and felt trapped, and Hedwig lives life as a woman in order to escape from their past of being abused. However, both characters felt powerless as men, and were more empowered identifying as a woman. Towards the end of the film, Hedwig peels off their drag appearance. As Mitchell’s intent with the film was to show to an audience that gender is fluid, this could have been done in order to remind them of this. If an audience is watching Hedwig present heavily as female throughout the film, they may forget this intention, and so by having them strip themselves of their feminine traits at the end, it is reminding to the audience that gender is not binary, and allows Hedwig to regain gender autonomy. Once Hedwig strips themselves of their feminine appearance, and is accepted by those around them, there is a celebration of gender fluidity. This ending is significant as it shows to its audience that although the journey to be yourself may be difficult, it can be rewarding in the end. Hedwig tells a tale of self discovery and unlike many other films that tackle LGBT+ subjects, it represents queer identities in a positive light. Due to this, it can be said that Hedwig and the Angry Inch shows one of the most positive representations of the queer community in film. Chapter Five- Conclusion Although The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hedwig and the Angry Inch both feature very similar topics, from punk rock to the freedom to be yourself and love who you want to love, it is clear when analysing the two together that Hedwig is more progressive in a modern day society due to its portrayal of its queer characters being more true to that of current real life. As the two were made twenty years apart from each other, this is not something which is shocking. It is expected that society will change over the years and the fact that something that was once seen as a staple in the LGBT+ movement may now be seen as problematic to the LGBT+ community, is actually a good thing. It shows how far society has come in merely twenty years, and gives hope to the LGBT+ community that we will go even further come another twenty years. It is important to remember whilst watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show that despite it being quite problematic to a modern day audience; at the time of its release it helped a vast majority of queer people. As a modern day viewer, we cannot fairly judge the sexual politics of 1973 as society has changed significantly since then. However, Rocky was part of a movement that changed the world, and that we should be thankful for. Millions of people worldwide may watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Hedwig and the Angry Inch and find comfort and solitude in the characters that are on their screens because it reminds them that they are not alone. It is not wrong to be yourself, to embrace your gender or your sexuality, in fact it is liberating, beautiful and brilliant. That fact alone is something that is timeless. Bibliography Rope (1948) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. California: Warner Bros. Asch, S. (1918) The God of Vengeance. Corgi. Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble. Routledge Classics. Rent (2005) Directed by Chris Columbus. California: Rent Productions LLC. Costa, D. (2015) ‘Damn It, Don’t Call Janet A Slut’. Enqueery. [Online] [Accessed on 1st May 2017] https://enqueery.com/2015/11/06/janet-rocky-horror-slut-shaming/ Clugston, H. (2016) ‘The Boys in the Band: The Groundbreaking Gay Play Returns To London After 16 Years’. The Culture Trip. [Online] [Accessed on 6th April 2017] https://theculturetrip.com/europe/united-kingdom/england/london/articles/the-boys-in-the-band-the-ground-breaking-gay-play-returns-to-london-after-16-years/ Cohen, S. (2015) ‘How One Movie Changed LGBT History’. Time. [Online] [Accessed on 1st April 2017] http://time.com/3742951/boys-in-the-band/ Crowley, M. (1968) The Boys in the Band. Samuel French, Inc. Fujita , A. ‘Responses to Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band- The Discourses of Minoritizing and Universalizing Views’. Lang Nagoya. [Online] [Accessed on 1st April 2017] http://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~nagahata/amlitchubu/journal/vol8/fujita8.html ‘The Rocky Horror Glee Show’. Glee. (2010) [Online] Fox. Aired 26th October 2010. [Accessed on 3rd May 2017] Hellman, L. (1961) The Children’s Hour. Directed by William Wyler. Henken, B. (1979) The Rocky Horror Picture Show Book. Hawthorn Books. Hair (1968) Directed by J. Rado. The Rocky Horror Picture Show- Let’s Do The Time Warp Again. (2016) Directed by K. Ortega. Canada: Fox 21 Television Studios. Michaels, S. (2002) Rocky Horror: From Concept to Cult. Sanctuary Publishing LTD. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) Directed by John Cameron Mitchell. Canada: Killer Films. Oliver, R. (2010) ‘Evolution of Contemporary Gay Theatre’. The Julliard Journal. [Online] [Accessed on 1st April 2017] https://www.juilliard.edu/journal/evolution-contemporary-gay-theater The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) Directed by Richard O’Brien. England: Twentieth Century Fox. Peele, T. (2007) Queer Popular Culture: Literature, Media, Film and Television. Palgrave. The Sound of Music (1965) Directed by R. Wise. Austria: Robert Wise Productions. Straayer, C. (1996) Deviant Eyes, Deviant Bodies. Columbia University Press. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) Directed by Stephan Elliott. Australia: PolyGram Filmed Entertainment. Unknown. (2014) ‘Analysis’. Hair The Musical. [Online] [Accessed on 1st May 2017] http://hairthemusical.com/en00004musical_content.html Peter Pan (1953) Directed by Wilfred Jackson. Walt Disney Productions. Williams, T. (1959) Suddenly, Last Summer. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Wolf, S. (2002) A Problem Like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical. University of Michigan Press.

Subject: Education

TutorMe
Question:

Is the education system neglecting the creative arts sector?

Inactive
Hollie T.
Answer:

Throughout the decades, there has become a rapid decline in funding towards creative arts. Whether it is drama, music or art, the lack of funding towards the subjects has made it increasingly difficult to provide good quality creative arts lessons. Given my own personal experience within schools, I have seen this lack of funding affect different schools in different ways; two of which stand out the most. A lack of funding towards non-mandatory subjects has lead many schools across the UK to rely on their own pupils and the community around them in order to fundraise. This means that students, whether that be current or past, and their families have taken time, effort and money out of their own personal savings in order to fund the subjects that they so widely enjoyed participating in, in order to keep the courses going. However, this is something which quickly grows to become tiresome and unfortunately a lot of communities do not have the extra income to fund these topics for an entire school year. Due to this, most schools opt to stop teaching them entirely. But is it such a big loss if we stop teaching the creative arts within schools? Well, I guess that comes down to your own personal views. On one hand, cutting down on funding these subjects allows schools to have more financial support towards the compulsory subjects that they teach. More financial support towards subjects like Maths, English, Science etc means that the schools can make these subjects more engaging for their pupils, and can spend more time focusing on making their students thrive in the subjects that they will be assessed on throughout their academic year, eventually hopefully making them gain the qualifications that they need to thrive within their time in the education system. Despite this, as someone who has studied the arts throughout the entirety of my life, and continues to do so merely out of enjoyment, I believe that the arts should be taken just as seriously as any other subject. Having a healthy balance between academic studying and a creative outlet allows children to enjoy their time in school more, and even find passions that they may continue to thrive in throughout their adult life. For one, I know that the only lessons that I particularly looked forward to during school were those that involved the arts, and knowing that I would be learning about all of the different aspects that are included within creative arts was what motivated me to get up and go to school of a morning with a smile on my face. Equally, providing children with these subjects allows those who may struggle with the academic side of education to succeed in something that may be more tailored towards their skills. Not everyone in the world is exceptional at mathematics, I know that I most certainly was not. Within the creative arts sector, there are hundreds of opportunities for children to thrive in something, to try something new, have a creative outlet and let their imaginations run wild; even if it is only for a hour a day. The arts is so important to helping a child develop their creativity, their imagination and their motor skills; and on top of all of this, it allows children to express themselves in a healthy and creative way. That, to me, is something that is simply priceless.

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