Gender Bending in Film Comedy

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Discovery: the Nucleus of Gender Bending in Film

The most memorable scene in a good gender bender is the revelation scene, where the other characters learn that the protagonist is not who they appear to be. The three films Some Like it Hot, Tootsie, and Mrs. Doubtfire feature the best discovery scenes of the genre. Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire rely heavily on anticipation and suspense to make the revelation scenes entertaining while Some Like it Hot utilizes verbal humor to make a classic discovery scene. The theme of discovery also displays itself in the self-discovery of the central characters. Michael, Daniel, Joe, and Jerry each discover something about themselves when looking at life through a different lens.

The revelation scene in Tootsie can be likened to a car crash played in slow motion, you know it’s coming, your cringing, but you cannot take your eyes off of it. Much of the suspense comes from the setting. The soap opera is in a rare live taping (set up throughout the movie) and Dorothy Michaels is set to recite a long birthday monologue as she descends a tall staircase. As Tootsie goes off script the producers as well as the other actors look around in confusion. We as the audience know what is coming, and cringe to our seats as she goes through a long drawn out back story that doesn’t make much sense. Finally Dorothy Micheals takes off her glasses, rips off her wig, and reveals her male identity. What makes this reveal so stunning is that it is a double reveal. Tootsie was essentially the same person on and off camera but her reveal unearthed both the onscreen persona of Dorothy Michael’s estranged brother as well as the actual person Michael Dorsey. The multiple reaction shots add to the dramatic and comedic effects of the reveal. Les - who had a thing for Tootsie - drops his sandwich, Bill Murray – who knew the whole time – says, “Now that’s one nutty hospital”, and an extra on set downs the rest of his alcohol once they hit cut, all of which...
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