The year is 1659; the first cheque is written, Robinson Crusoe has been shipwrecked, and women aren’t allowed to be on stage. Flashback to 535 BCE; Thespis leaps onto a wooden cart and performs poetry in character birthing what is now known as Thespianism (the art of acting). Between the years 1580 and 1613, playwrights William Shakespeare and John Lyly wrote 45 plays. Shakespeare alone wrote 147 female characters.
With women legally barred from performing on stage, and over 147 roles to be filled, who played all of Shakspeare’s iconic female characters? Characters like Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Helena, or Hermia were all played by boys until 1660. In fact, it was quite normal for prepubescent boys to play female roles during a majority of performance history.
To this day, many roles are filled by people of the opposite sex or gender. Whether it’s John Travolta in the musical Hairpsray (2007), Angelina Jolie in Salt (2010), Cillian Murphy in Breakfast on Pluto (2005), or Hillary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry (1999); many modern actors play (and absolutely crush) these roles. It’s safe to say that actors playing their opposites is a long standing theatrical tradition.
Many people have been scrutinizing Elliot Page for his role in The Umbrella Academy (2019). After the 33 year old actor came out as transgender, identifying as male rather than female, some voices claim he should “stay in his lane” and no longer play female roles. Such claims are not only ignorant but are often from a transphobic stance. Famous cisgender men like Patrick Swayze have won acting awards for their performances in such roles. Why shouldn’t the same mindset apply to transgender people playing cisgender roles or cisgender people playing transgender roles.
To sum this up from an objective stance; acting is a subjective art form with talent from all walks of life and actors playing their opposite sex or gender has been completely normal since the beginning of theatre itself. A transgender man playing a cisgender woman is no different than a cisgender man playing a transgender woman. In the 1992 film Reservoir Dogs Willem Dafoe played a cross-dressing detective, and his performance is one that remains impressive to this day. Elliot Page should be given the same chance to play female roles, just in the consciousness that he himself does not identify as a woman.
What do you think? Would we be erasing history by not letting Elliot Page continue his role on The Umbrella Academy? My name is Holly-Jane Chogyoji, thank you for reading this article of Holly-Pop media, enjoy your life. <3
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