6 Reasons Cross-Dressing Comedies Should Be Retired
"Adam Sandler Sucked Into Jet Engine" was the headline many newspapers were reluctantly unable to use this weekend, following the release of Sandler's poorly received comedy movie Jack and Jill. Sandler plays both titular roles in the film, a gender bending dual-performance which by all accounts will earn him many invitations to stand close to jet engines in the near future. "Holy shit, Mr. Sandler," many of these critics said in their reviews. "Holy shit," they added, jabbing the pen into their notepad to form a final spite-filled period, before throwing both pen and pad over their shoulders.This is as good a time as any to point out that I haven't actually seen this film, and don't intend to. Why? Because this isn't that kind of website and because you can't make me. But it turns out that I probably didn't have to see it to comment on it because of the fact that it features a man dressed as a woman. Having grown up in an era when VHS cassettes were the only form of non-book entertainment available, I've stood witness to many other cross-dressing based comedies before, and can report that this is not a genre known for its startling originality. I know you refuse to believe that the Corey Haim would deign to star in a derivative piece of trash, but it's true. It turns out that every single film which decides that a dude wearing pantyhose is a funny idea routinely relies upon six tiring cliches. These have been collated below for the benefit of bored office workers and archaeologists of the trivial.
A Real Sturdy WomanThis is the most primitive level of humor related to cross-dressing, sight-gags featuring a burly man with his burly features, donned in a lady's accouterments. The audience is expected to react as thus:Audience: Ahh, look at this lovely woman with her dress and blouse and humongous hands and mustache? BWAAAAAH??????This is sort of funny the first time you see it, especially if you're watching in a movie theater and everyone around you goes "BWAAAAAH??????" at the same time (it's kind of contagious). And then, like every joke ever before, it becomes less funny when you see it again. And again. And again. This is well known, and few directors will dare use the same joke multiple times in a film, but the thing that many forget is that this same effect occurs even when watching different movies. It's why test audiences loved it when Cameron Diaz got semen in her hair in There's Something About Mary but hated it when the same thing happened a couple months later to Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth -- an embarrassing realization which forced an 11th hour scramble to fix the scene. "Well then put a tiny little hat on her instead. No, tinier." But this isn't a lesson that cross-dressing filmmakers seem to get. They don't realize that
Lady ActivitiesLadies, bless them, have vastly more involved grooming routines than men, many of which involve products and equipment unfamiliar to the average male. Each individual body part has its own set of waxes and scrubs and pneumatic chisels, the application of which is necessary lest a woman become ostracized from society. Consequently, there isn't a single cross-dressing movie that doesn't have at least one scene of the hero messing around with wax, or nearly sheering his knee caps off with some kind of high pressure depilatory jet. I think women use this one to make their eyes twinkle more. "Men Are Idiots," these scenes say triumphantly, and although most of my adult life suggests that's not too far off, it's unfair to suggest that all men are as dim as me. Ripping hair out
Fucking Aerosmith SongsActually, scratch that. If there is a montage in a cross-dressing film (there is [probably several actually]) it's almost guaranteed that it will be set to Aerosmith's "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)." This is the one where the chorus goes "dude looks like a lady" which is a handy way for an audience to be reminded that the director is a fucking moron. It's the least original choice for a soundtrack ever, having been featured in every cross-dressing movie, novel, movie novelization and other gender bending work for the past 500 years. Scholars have found references for it in the margins of some of Shakespeare's original folios. Chorus: "She hath the figure of fair Venus, Lord imagineth mine surprise!"
Driving the LaneYou know how this one goes. Some idiots are playing basketball when our hero(ine) steps on to the court. "Oh look, a girl thinks she can play with the big boys," the head idiot says, shortly before he gets dunked over by our broad-shouldered fauxy-lady. "Oh shit! What just hit me in the face?" he asks, unable to sleep soundly for the rest of his days. A huge amount of sports psychology is helping athletes deal with accidentally touching penises.
Low Standards GuySo we've got our movie trucking along now, following a guy filling out a dress like it's a sack of onions. And even thought the unattractiveness and colossal wrongness of this man-lady's appearance has been made light of for the past hour of screen time, inevitably a pervert appears on the scene whose pants get smaller in the presence of our hero(ine). "She's just my type," he'll say, tugging at his collar and slicking back his hair, because it's that kind of movie. And as we presume that his "type" isn't actually a woman with "a penis tucked between her legs" this will make the resulting series of escalating romantic mishaps all the more awkward and hilarious. Or so the filmmakers hope. Who wouldn't love a woman with the carriage of a street fighter and the breasts of a Dali painting? But what makes this cliche so awful is that no one seems to ask what this poor sap might do if he discovers his beloved is packing meat. If you take a straight man and tell him he's been trying to bang a dude for the past several days, odds are he's not going to cope with that too well.
Hinting At LesbianismThe flipside of the terrifying prospect of accidental "man on man-lady" romance is the terrifyingly hot prospect of "lady on man-lady" romance. Because it is all but certain that after brushing off the advances of the pervert, our man-lady protagonist will meet a beautiful lady-lady, and as is commonly the case, decide that he wants to give her lots of kisses. But there's a problem: This lady-lady isn't interested in men-ladies! If this is a typical cross-dressing movie, this will be the final straw which coaxes our protagonist to rejoin the rest of us in the world of regular-dressing. The world of regular-dressing. Goddammit. But don't expect this to happen simply, not when there are hi-jinx to be had. Instead, this will certainly play out in a climax where our hero, now dressed as a man-man, will use the information he's gathered as a man-lady to win the heart of the lady-lady, probably during a sequence of rapid costume changes at a fancy restaurant. "Cut!" the director says, not looking up from the game of
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