Saturday, 14 March 2009

The Birdcage

In 1973, a French play opened, by Jean Poiret, about a group of drag queens saving the marriage of a young couple from the girl's uptight conservative parents. It was called 'Le Cage aux Folles', and in 1996, director Mike Nichols made a English speaking version called 'The Birdcage'.

Starring Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, and Gene Hackman, the story has been slightly changed. Williams and Lane star as a gay couple who own a very popular drag club in California, who have brought up Williams' character's (Armand) son from a failed straight relationship as their own. The son, Val, has gone to college and met a girl, Barbara, and got engaged.

Barbara's father is a far-right republican senator, and founder of the 'Coalition of Moral Order', who hates just about everyone except white, straight, male conservatives, and so cannot know about Val's 'parents'. Unfortunately, the two young lovers have already arranged for their parents to meet, and so so Armand and Albert must change their house, their style, their life, their names, and in Albert's case, his gender, to keep Barbara's family happy.

The film is, quite refreshingly in an age of emotional dramas, a true farce. There are people coming in through doors, looking shocked and leaving, people falling down, wigs slipping, running around the house, while the 'straight guys' (in every sense of the word) sit looking slightly confused but completely unaware of the insanity developing just a few feet from them.

The film received very mixed reviews. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) praised the film for "going beyond the stereotypes to see the character's depth and humanity. The film celebrates differences and points out the outrageousness of hiding those differences.", while other gay groups found it too simplified.

I think what people seem to forget is that in the modern world, homosexuality should be so accepted, that jokes can be made about it without them being offensive. The film shows straight people as being uptight, and conservative, but can also laugh at gay men for sometimes being slightly over-dramatic. It is not neccessarily a stereotype. I am friends with several straight men, and can confirm that plenty of them act fairly 'theatrically'!

The film says that every gender, sexuality, and political leaning are ripe for parody, and doesn't feel the need to protect one minority as though they can't protect themselves.


1 comment:

  1. brilliant.
    this film sounds good - i've never seen it and now i really want to.
    i think i may steal it off you