Response to Crafton – She’s The Man

Crafton’s ‘Pie and Chase: Gag, Spectacle and Narrative in Slapstick Comedy’ looks at the 1925 film His Wooden Wedding and highlights a trope common in both comedy and melodrama: “the insistence on a woman’s body as the site for restoring natural order through heterosexual coupling.”[1]  The wooden leg in His Wooden Wedding represents a castration of sorts, and thus the female body is “projected as the scene of the man’s fears and anxieties concerning familial responsibility and sexual performance.”[2]

Expanding the theme where the female body is potently symbolic as a site of subversion, I wanted to look at the 2006 teen comedy film, She’s the Man (dir. Andy Fickman), and see how the female body (in the nude) is once again used as the site for restoring “natural order.”[3] In the final few scenes of the film, comedic tension has been built up throughout the film due to the characters’ confusion about the sex of Sebastian/Viola (played by Amanda Bynes).

Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opCf3mp24dE&ab_channel=Movieclips

 

When Bynes’ character confesses her love to Tatum’s Duke, the gag comes from the potential that there is a homosexual relationship on the football team. In the same way that Crafton highlights the interrelationship of gag and narrative, the gag in the clip (Viola flashing her breasts to prove that she is a woman) is used to both tie up the loose ends of the narrative, and to restore order “through heterosexual coupling.”[4] Through the female nudity, Duke can confirm that his friend is indeed a woman, thus, in She’s the Man, the female body is presented as the site for restoring order to the narrative, whilst also confirming heterosexuality as the means to quell male anxieties.

 

[1] Crafton, “Pie and Chase: Gag, Spectacle and Narrative in Slapstick Comedy,” in Brunovska Karnick, Kristine an Jenkins, Henry (eds.) Classical Hollywood Cinema (Routlegde: 1994) p.113

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

2 comments

  1. Your expansion of Crafton’s point that the “female body (in the nude) is once again used as the site for restoring “natural order” is really insightful. In addition to the oppressive norms you outlined, I would add that She’s The Man’s display of body anatomy to confirm the “natural order” of gender reinforces transphobia.

  2. I think this was a brilliant connection to make, and a clear demonstration of how this rom-com rigidly portrays both gender and sexuality to fit the heteronormative and, as Eva mentioned, transphobic ideologies of the time. When Violet shows her physical form as a clarification of gender, the film equates breasts to womanhood in a manner that appeases the discomfort of the male gaze.

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