Friday, June 7, 2019

She-Man: A Story of Fixation

She-Man: A Story of Fixation
Bob Clark

Lt. Albert Rose (Leslie Marlowe) finds himself being blackmailed by the mysterious Dominita (Dorian Wayne). If he doesn’t live for a year as Rose Albert and be Dominita’s personal servant, she will release damning evidence that could ruin Albert’s life. “Reluctantly” Albert agrees, he’s shaved, dressed, and given a handful of pills. Before long Rose Albert finds herself not only enjoying her new life but she finds love as well in the form of Ruth (Wendy Roberts).

Taking a note from Glen or Glenda (1953), She-Man opens with an appeal for compassion from an authoritative figure. In this case, it is supposed to be a medical doctor of some sort. Whether this is a legitimate call from the film or just a way for setting up the audience to fall for the ultra-ridiculous plot, I can’t say for sure. Director Bob Clarke, better known for Black Christmas (1974), and A Christmas Story (1983) (and around these parts, Karate Dog (2004)) is a clever person and more likely than not he understood that the real draw for this film wasn’t the thin revenge plot but the crossdressing and kink.

"That Tribble you ordered finally came in."
It is a stretch to call She-Man progressive, it is an exploitation film through and through but interestingly enough, Albert Rose/Rose Albert is never really an object of ridicule. Yes, he’s forced into servitude and living life as Rose Albert, but the film makes a point to show that this side of Rose was there before these events occurred. Rose even falls in love with Ruth who is a lesbian and it pains her that Ruth is having trouble reciprocating. A mainstream film wouldn’t touch any of these topics and it the strength of small exploitation films like this that they can address these things more openly. It is also interesting to see that Dominita enjoys coercing people to present as more feminine or masculine, it is a power move that is never commented on but becomes a notable element by the end of the movie.

Dominita feels like a proto-Dr. Frankenfurter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), she’s a cruel dominatrix who lashes out at her lackeys. There is a cool elegance about her, but she is never as well developed a character as Rose. Her reasons for forcing Rose into being a servant make a kind of sense but her methodology goes unexplored. I’m not so foolish as to call out for real character depth in a movie like this but it would have been interesting to see that they shared the core need to express themselves as feminine.

"I am going to be the Queen of Posture if it kills me."
While it lacks the bizarre energy of Glen or Glenda, She-Man should be viewed as a very minor stepping stone on the road to trans representation in film. It has plenty of faults (estrogen doesn’t instantly turn you into mind-zonked slave for example), aside from Dorian Wayne, the acting is, at best, unremarkable, the sets are cheap and the pace too languid. Still, I can’t totally write-off She-Man as complete trash, because it does attempt to retain just a small amount of sympathy and understanding for its put-upon main character.

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