Some Like It Hot is a 1959 movie by Billy Wilder starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe. Set in 1929, the movie narrates how two cross-dressing male musicians try to escape mafia gangsters in Chicago as they witnessed a St. Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago. As a result, they decide to join an all-female band bound for Florida where they meet Sugar Kane, who becomes the love interest of one of the lead male characters. The movie illustrates how gender disguise has become rampant in society in order to avoid some misdemeanors committed against other people and its corresponding effects to others. Additionally, the movie touches on themes such as gender categories in Hollywood and transgression, in general, including how it shapes resulting events and actions.
Lieberfeld and Sanders (1998) reiterates that the gender-bending movie attempts to reconstruct gender categories as depicted in Hollywood now (1). With the male leads cross-dressing as women in order to elude the gangsters, they also faced having to act and think as women do. Although the response of both Joe and Jerry varies considering that Joe (who cross-dresses as Josephine) exhibits a more consistent and sure man/woman persona, without confusing himself as a woman, Jerry’s (who cross-dresses as Daphne) response to situations are simply included and exaggerated to make the movie funny and not to confuse the audience or to question Jerry/Daphne’s persona. Joe/Josephine was more confident in his demeanor as a man/woman, which makes one think of how sure the character is with his sexuality. However, Jerry/Daphne’s portrayal was not a reflection of reality. While he may have said he felt uncomfortable and felt “naked, like everyone’s staring” (4) at him, it was a natural reaction for a man pretending to be a woman. While some scenes also showed Jerry/Daphne enjoying his role as a woman after spending the night dancing with Osgood and accepting his engagement proposal, his reactions were more of an exaggeration because reality does not dictate that a real man would enjoy such attention from another man, even if the other one is filthy rich. Thus, I do not necessarily share the same sentiments as the authors that the sexual identity theme in the movie undermines and reconstructs gender categories (1). At most, the scenes as portrayed in the movie only provide comic relief to viewers because the audience is intelligent enough to decipher between what is reality and what is not. Additionally, allowing the male leads utter lines that women actually say makes it more appealing and funnier hearing it from the mouths of men.
Another central theme that the authors mentioned is transgression and how it is intertwined with gender disguise and other social categories (2). Lieberfeld and Sanders (1998) argue that the movie is laden with transgressions beginning with the car chase in the opening scene until the final scenes we shown. Most scenes were interlaced with comedic situations, but were deeply associated with punishment or chastisement, some of which led to death while others were mostly chases within the vicinity of the hotel. In the scene leading towards the end of the movie, Joe/Josephine was shown kissing Sugar (2), which is not typical of the 1920s, but was made comical as Joe/Josephine was chased around by the gangsters. Additionally, as Jerry/Daphne continued to pretend that she is a girl made for another form of misbehavior because he/she was actually playing on the feelings of Oswald. However, it did not seem to matter to Oswald as he had all answers to Joe/Daphne’s admission why he/she could not marry Oswald, including admitting that he/she is a man, which Oswald dismissed as people not being perfect anyway (3).
On this note, I agree with the authors’ position on transgression and how it is intertwined with gender disguise and other social categories because the fact that an individual has to conceal his or her true identity from other people is already a form of transgression in itself. More so if the individual assumes a different identity and knowingly uses that hidden identity to achieve what he or she wants.
Considering the situation now, I do not believe the themes in the movie are still applicable now because we live in a society which is more permissible of the existence of various gender classes and categories. College students are aware of these gender-bending comedies that only highlight ambiguity in the sense that they present real life situations in a very exaggerated manner and in a way that the audience will realize that it is not a form of reality. Also, society now is more permissible of various notions such as cross-dressing, gender disguise, and gender categories, among others, that we are no longer surprised about the different situations that we find ourselves or others to be in. The transgressions that were depicted in the movie are only temporary and nothing that the generation now cannot handle. While it may disrupt social order momentarily, in the end, the result is still a society that will accept changes happening around them. What makes these gender bending movies interesting is how they are able to create humor using gender and sexual inconsistencies that people can relate to, thus, the audience are afforded the ability to access to otherwise socially taboo and forbidden pleasures and experiences. But conventional times call for changes in the way people think, thus, this way of thinking is outdated for college students and the masses in general.
Lieberfeld, Daniel, Sanders and Judith, Sanders. “Keeping the Characters Straight: Comedy and Identity in Some Like It Hot.” Journal of Popular Film and Television. 1998. 26.3: 128-135.