Was it ever really a laughing matter?

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien / As to be hated needs but to be seen;/ Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, /We first endure, then pity, then embrace.” Alexander Pope wrote that in the early 18th century, but it seems we didn’t learn that lesson by the 20th century, and neither do I think we took that exact path.

I caught the tale end of the 1982 movie Tootsie which reminded me of the 1993 movie Mrs. Doubtfire. They are both about a man masquerading as a woman. Dustin Hoffman did it in Tootsie to get an acting job, and Robin Williams played Mrs. Doubtfire to get a nannying job.  On the basis of these two movies, notably 10 years apart, I would like to amend Pope. We first deride “then pity, then embrace.”

The above mentioned movies testify that anybody who wanted to be a cross-dresser was a socially acceptable target for jokes up until the mid-90s, but the joke is on us now. By the mid-90’s – after the AIDS scare had about run its course, i.e. after it seemed God wasn’t going to bring a plague on the house of homosexuality – cross-dressers were to be pitied as victims of gender confusion brought on my poor biology or poorer upbringing.

In other words before they were part of the alphabet suit of the new sexual normalcy they were fair game for jokes; then on their way to becoming the T in LGBT we were to be ashamed for our bullying (another key word), now that have their niche in what none dare call deviancy it’s not enough not to deride or even to pity now we must embrace.

Hollywood doesn’t imitate life. It records the history of its downfall.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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