“Tomboy”

As I was skimming through the genres of Netflix the other day, I saw a category that I had yet to notice titled “Gay and Lesbian.” I scanned this section to see some outrageous comedies that involved gays or lesbians such as, “Brüno” and “I Love You Phillip Morris” as well as other films that took a more serious approach. One of the more serious films that caught my eye was “Tomboy.” While I must admit that I did initially judge this film by its cover—or rather, by its poster—once I watched the trailer and read several reviews on the film, my interest became more sincere. The description of the film below the poster is the following: “Uncomfortable living as a girl 10-year-old Laure spends her childhood as Michael and gradually comes to understand the complexities of gender.” I found this description particularly captivating, as it evolves around a child who at a considerably young age decides to identify with a gender contrary to the one with which s/he was born, without her parents even being aware of hir gender change.

While watching the film, I made note of the various gender-related challenges that the protagonist of “Tomboy,” Laure, had to undergo. Initially, Laure is able to transform into Michael with ease. Laure even becomes romantically involved with hir neighbor Lisa, who is absolutely smitten with Michael. Laure does face several obstacles, however, such as peeing in front of her male peers and wearing a Speedo in front of them, which Laure/Michael stuffs with a phallic piece of clay. When Laure’s mother eventually discovers her daughter’s identity as Michael, she forces Laure to put on a dress and go to her group of guy friends and Lisa to tell them the truth. At first, I assumed that Laure’s mother reacted in this manner because she was homophobic, but instead she tells Laure that it is something that simply must come to an end: “I’m not doing this to hurt you or to teach you a lesson, I just have to. I don’t mind you playing ‘the boy,’ it doesn’t even make me said, but it can’t go on.”  I found the mother’s course of actions disconcerting and certainly did not agree with them, as I felt that she was only suppressing her child’s identity because her daughter’s actions were not parallel to societal norms. Moreover, I found it a bit disturbing that Laure’s mother describes Laure as “playing” another gender, as if hir persona as Michael is a game to hir, and something s/he takes lightheartedly. This film certainly contributes to the argument of nature versus nurture, as Laure/Michael is a poster child for how someone is nurtured into his/her ultimate gender identity. I hope that other audience members of “Tomboy” reflected on this issue, and considered how we can make the growth development for people like Laure/Michael to be filled with health and happiness, and not one of discomfort and anguish.

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One Response to “Tomboy”

  1. gabygos says:

    The critique you have provided of “Tomboy” definitely resonates with our class discussions. What I think we have failed to appreciate in our class is that many Americans are not raised among such progressive ideals like gender-neutral child rearing. Many parents still do not understand their children’s needs to explore their gender identity because such exploration was never allowed in their own childhoods. Activists for gender neutral rearing have a lot of work to do in the way of making gender exploration acceptable for children. Hopefully with time teachers and parents can work together to allow gender exploration to be a regular part of childhood.

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