October 19, 2004

That cross-dressing reality show.

Stephen Bainbridge wants to know what Tung Yin and I think of the new reality show "She's a Lady," a cross-dressing competition for men. Prof. Yin characterizes it as a dumb makeover show. It looks as though they are trying to get some (lame) excitement out of fooling the men:
They thought they were competing for the title of "All-American Man." They couldn't have been more wrong.

This fall, eleven manly men will compete to become...the ultimate lady. And the winner will take home a quarter of a million dollars!
Thanks for informing us that the men are "manly." That reminded me of this Virginia Heffernan critique (in the NYT) of Bravo's "Manhunt: The Search for America's Most Gorgeous Male Model":
When the guys, who have manly names like Tate and Blake, talk, their conversation is about how definitely not gay they are. When induced to strip to their underwear and skydive, each with a male instructor strapped to his back, they get very serious in their complaining that everyone would rather be skydiving with a girl. Got it?
So let's have a reality show about cross-dressing, but let's structure a competition to assure the home viewer that no one is gay. Having a very masculine man dress as a woman is an old comedy theme, though. The oldest example that springs to mind is Cary Grant in "I Was a Male War Bride." It was Milton Berle's game. And everyone remembers Gene Hackman in "The Birdcage." Cross-dressing actually is a field of endeavor that lends itself to humorous competition, and by using contestants who (we are assured) aren't otherwise interested in cross-dressing, the audience can stay in its comfort zone.

Another harmless TV confection. I'm not offended, really. But I certainly won't watch.

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