Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Epic Power of Gender Confusion

I just finished watching The Guilt Trip, starring Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogan as a widow and her grown son who go on a road trip across America, and it was surprisingly good.  Nathan Rabin's review at the A.V. Club nudged me toward watching it by referring to Streisand's "newfound humility":
... Streisand in The Guilt Trip is largely devoid of her famous vanity and narcissism. Her performance captures how parents are often annoying to their grown progeny because of their good intentions, not in spite of them: If they didn’t want the best for the children they so selflessly raised, they wouldn’t be such goddamned persistent pests. 
And he's right.  The writing about the interaction between mother and son is remarkably smart for a mainstream Hollywood movie, though Rabin's also right about the film's faults: "schmaltz and shtick, wacky eating contests, contrived plotting, and a horribly hokey happy ending."  Still, on balance I was impressed.

I also finished reading Stephen Orgel's Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England (Cambridge, 1996), which tries to make sense of the convoluted motivations and meaning behind the cross-dressing boy actors (often playing cross-dressing young women) of Renaissance English theater.  It's short, intelligent, and I hope to write about it some more.  Maybe this weekend.  Orgel didn't succeed in explaining why English theater mostly excluded female actors for so long while theater in other European countries mostly didn't -- as he shows, the usual explanations don't really work -- but that may be because there is no explanation.  At any rate, I hope to have more to say about this soon.