Our modern day society puts aspects of life into labelled bins and everything that pertains to that label is filed in that section. Boys play sports so that is filed under male, and girls play dress up and that is filed under female. Once one of these aspects is out of place it throws off the standard viewpoint that has been considered the norm for so long. Cross-dressing falls into the out of norm category because it does not follow standardized gender performances. “Cross dressing involves subversion, struggle, and resistance and also modification, reconciliation and recuperation” (Humphreys). These are the different emotions and struggles that a person who cross dresses must go through to attempt to fit into such a close-minded society. Cross-dressing has been around for many centuries but is still not accepted fully into society as a way of life. From the Transgender/Transsexual: Issues and Approaches handout from one of the class presentations it lists many different definitions from the OED to identify the differences between transgender and transsexual. “Transgender: of, relating to, or designating a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender, but combines or moves between these” (Hersheid and Haley). “Tran sexuality: the state or condition of being transsexual, manifested in an overwhelming desire to belong to the opposite sex” (Hersheid and Haley). Now that we know the difference between transgender and Tran sexuality, we can appropriately use them to describe different actors in modern movies.
In the 1993 film, Mrs. Doubtfire a father from a divorced family chooses to dress as an elderly woman in order obtain a job as a house cleaner in his ex-wife’s home where his children live. He embodies the persona of a woman in order to be able to still raise and spend time with his children. This type of cross-dressing would be labelled as transgendered because he does switch back and forth from male to female personas. “It is obstinate core of identification purity, and mothering which helps to underpin the appeal to ‘women’s experience’—and that core is the concept of the female body” (Riley, 101). Denise Riley believes that certain attributes make a woman such as mothering and purity which Mrs. Doubtfire has in her personality but her alter male ego Daniel does not, which differentiates between male and female.
In the 2007 film, Hairspray John Travolta plays the role of Edna Turnblad, Tracy Turnblad’s mother. Travolta takes on the identity of being a woman in order to play a role; it is a desire to be a character that allows him to respond to his inner woman. This could be linked back to the mental thought process of someone who is Transsexual, meaning that they wish to completely act like the opposite sex. Travolta playing a woman threw a lot of his fan base off because he was seen as such a sex symbol for women especially in the film Grease. This is just another example of cross-dressing in the media.
Riley, Denise. “Bodies, Identities, and Feminism.” Am I That Name? (n.d.): 96-115. Print.