Sunday, February 23, 2014

Idea Garage Sale: Genderswapping the Oldies

We're all genre-savvy and sophisticated these days. We know the rules, we understand the games, there is nothing new under the sun. We can let ourselves get bored, or we can play with it. Our choice.

I've seen a post going the rounds on tumblr (unfortunately I can't trace it back to the original publication, because it's not cited on the tumblr post everybody's reblogging - get your act together, y'all!) about what happens when a script is performed with all the actors reading women's roles and all the actress's reading men's roles. (The guys start whining about how much their parts suck, that's what.)

I look at this and I see several creative opportunities. One, of course, is to stage or rewrite some classic work, genderswapped. Otherwise, play it straight. How is Pride and Prejudice different if Elizabeth Bennet is rich and proud, Fitzwilliam Darcy poor and prejudiced; or if Georgette Wickham is a woman with a past and Charlie Bennet and George Darcy are naive boys? How do we feel about Edwina Rochester keeping her mad husband in the attic and John Eyre returning to her after she's lied to him and very nearly entangled him in a crime? What sort of an America produces a male Scarlett O'Hara and a female Rhett Butler? If the protagonist and title character in The Devil Wears Prada are male, how do we react to them?

Another possibility is to be meta about it, and write a story about the process of pulling the genderflip. It is not unusual for acting groups, from high school drama to community theater, to have more female than male participants; so isn't this a logical way to address a shortage? What if a high school puts on a genderswapped production of Macbeth, for example? The guys would have nothing to whine about, because the scant female roles in that are doozies; but they also put the whole question of gender power and politics on the line. I have faith that high school girls who can pull off Macbeth, MacDuff, Malcolm, and Banquo can be found in most drama departments; but the high school guys who can play Lady Macbeth and the witches? Who can get their macho attitudes and privileged assumptions under control enough? What if the drama department's Stereotypically Required Gay Guy gets the part - can he resist the urge to camp it up? What does the principal say? How about the parents and the booster clubs? What if the reason the school play can't get guys is that the football coach won a turf war in a small school with limited resources? What if the Drama Club is one bad night away from being cut altogether?

That'd be interesting. I'd read that.

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