In my most recent day long appointment to have my jaw blown up to comedic gorilla size (sans hair), James offered a new selection of movies I feel obligated to talk about. I would like to mention though that we ended the day with ‘Dot and the Kangaroo’ since I hadn’t seen it in 30 years. Maybe it was the pain, but this time the Bunyip and the Aborigines didn’t scare me as much as they did when I was ten. As usual, I’m off track already since we are really here today to talk about ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’.
I know that the theater production of this was recently in Buffalo, and as usual, I didn’t make time to go. To be perfectly honest, I was turned off by the name. Rather than do a few moments of research and find out what the story was about or why everyone was making such a big freaking deal about it, I decided by the name alone that this is something I would probably hate. I mean seriously, “Hedwig”? It sounded like the name of the shitty band they got to open for Falco on a booze cruise gig.
Well, it turns out it was actually the name of a band, so I was right about that, but not much else. Just so you know, I’m probably going to spoil this for you as I usually do, so buyer beware and all. I absolutely loved it! True, the live performance probably would have been much better, but the movie was good enough for multiple viewings (James, In case you are reading this, I don’t do multiple viewing – not getting any younger here).
The movie opened with what appeared to be a drag show. Hedwig was in full regalia screeching out the exact sort of music I generally hate. Aside from the incessant ‘zap, zap, zap, pluck, pluck, pluck’ it was going to be a long couple hours. I’m not a super big drag fan; not so much that I’m opposed to drag performers, but because I’m constantly worried people are going to mistake me for them, even though I dress all frumpy and shit most of the time. After the opening performance we start diving into the complexity of the characters. Hedwig walks in on Yitzhak, her lover/assistant/ band mate or whatever fondling and trying on one of her hundreds of wigs. Yitzhak has a Hebraic Brett Michael’s thing going on, except with mountains of scruffy beardage. The point of this remains unclear until the end, which at best, is as clear as a day old bowl of Count Chockula and milk left on the counter.
About half the movie is Hedwig’s back story, which if fairly fascinating, but for a few items that annoyed me. Let’s talk about those things because who really likes to hear me gush praise? The oldest scene opens with Hedwig’s mom walking in shortly after she was molested by her American serviceman dad. As you know, I take a bit of exception to the whole notion that we are byproducts of CSA. The counter to this, I suppose, is that just as many trans people are CSA victims, so having this as part of the story doesn’t necessarily feed the myth. Of course I doubt anyone of that mindset has this movie on their Netflix queue anyway.
I also didn’t like that Hedwig’s husband, yet another American serviceman (Luther) who seduces her with candy, leaves her on their first anniversary for a young man. I’m probably over sensitive, but I viewed this as an implication that Luther is gay and therefore saw Hedwig as male. The other unpalatable implication was that Hedwig was used as a gateway gender for Luther to come out to himself. Then again, it did add to the richness of the story.
I had a weird premonition that ‘The Angry Inch’ part of the title somehow was a genitalia reference. At first I thought I was wrong, since it was the name of the band. Mid-movie, however, it was explained in a song that faded into a flashback. Seems I was right about this all along. In order to leave East Germany, she had to marry Luther, and doing that required a medical exam. To get around this, Hedwig’s cupcake of a mom hires a hack surgeon to give her a quickie kitchen table top sex change. The operation is botched, leaving Hedwig with an inch long mound of flesh between her legs. I’m not sure how the medical examiner was fooled into mistaking a stumpy little penis for a vagina, unless her underpants stayed on. In that case she should have just used a tight gaff, but whatever, it worked and advanced the plot.
As I mentioned, the ending was kind of weird. Like ‘Rocky Horror’ weird. Honestly, I’m not sure what I was looking at. After some kind of bizarre mental reconciliation with her love/ hate ex, a popular rocker who stole credit for her songs, she rips off her wig and clothes and adopts a male appearance. At the same time, Yitzhak suddenly transforms from Scruffy McGee to a stunning Miriam Shor as if the female identity can just be traded to a good pal. I’m not totally clear if Hedwig (originally Hansel) was really trans, or just adopted the trans identity as a circumstantial thing. Of course if Hedwig is really going to go forward as Hansel, having an inch long dick is going to really blow as size seems important to men.
All in all though, excellent watch and makes me wonder what else I’ve been missing out on because I’m judging by the name or title? Only one way to find out. Off to the diner for a nice plate of rocky mountain oysters.