Hedwig And The Angry Inch Essay

2078 words - 8 pages

A large portion of contemporary film and theatre has been lacking in substance. More often than not, we are presented with a “been there, seen that” scenario. One such exception to this rule is Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a film by John Cameron Mitchell that was released in 2001. Set primarily in post-Cold War America, Hedwig is a film that characteristically breaks convention. Our story follows Hedwig, a forgotten and confused homo…trans…well, human being. Growing up in East Berlin during the Cold War, Hansel Schmidt (John Cameron Mitchell) lives what I would call a horrible childhood in the bleak landscape of communist occupied Germany. He falls in love with an American soldier, and undergoes a sex change in order to marry him and leave East Berlin. The operation is botched, leaving him/her as a physical contradiction. Not quite a man, but not yet a woman, Hansel (now Hedwig) has what she describes as an “angry inch.” When describing it in lighter terms, she calls it a “Barbie doll crotch.” Upon arriving in America, the soldier leaves her the same day the Berlin wall comes down. Destroyed, Hedwig spends some time discovering her new self and eventually finds a soul mate in a young boy named Tommy Speck (Michael Pitt). They collaborate musically and romantically, but upon discovering Hedwig’s secret he leaves with all of their music. He becomes a huge rock star, living Hedwig’s dream while simultaneously leaving her in the dust. From then on, Hedwig and her band “The Angry Inch” follow Tommy as he tours the nation while Hedwig tries desperately to gain the notoriety she deserves for her music. Viewing this film through the lens of a feminist gender perspective, I find that Hedwig is a pioneer on the forefront of changing the gender norm. In this film, it is clear that Hedwig both transcends and in many ways fails to perform the stereotypical role of any gender, as defined by our patriarchal society.
In order to understand the ways in which Hedwig bucks these norms, it is important to first understand gender as society defines it. As stated in our textbook, “traditional gender roles cast men as rational, strong, protective, and decisive; they cast women as emotional (irrational), weak, nurturing, and submissive.” Granted, these are stereotypes. What is disturbing about this is that, upon failing to perform these roles to certain societal standards, one is immediately ostracized and outcast. A skeptic would argue that in today’s progressive society one no longer needs to put such emphasis on fitting in. Historically, women’s liberation has been an arduous journey wrought with subjugation and discrimination. The role of women in our patriarchal society has been so ingrained that the very notion of them voting is a fairly young idea. When breaking their assigned roles as women, these suffragists were labeled as radicals or disrespected despite their struggles. Even today, we find that people who unabashedly strike out against our established rules...

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