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June 27, 2024 77 mins

Jamie, Caitlin, and special guest Manuel Betancourt discuss The Birdcage. We! Are! Family! Check out Manuel's piece at https://editorial.rottentomatoes.com/article/men-smear-revisiting-seminal-lgbtq-comedy-the-birdcage/ and Matt Baume's video essay at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozTjoeHy7mI&t=2s 

Follow Manuel at @bmanuel on Instagram and Twitter, and buy his book 'The Male Gazed' at https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/719500/the-male-gazed-by-manuel-betancourt/ 

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
On the Bechde Cast.

Speaker 2 (00:02):
The questions asked if movies have women and them, are
all their discussions just boyfriends and husbands, or do they
have individualism? The patriarchy zeffi beast start changing with the
Bechdel Cast.

Speaker 1 (00:16):
We are family. I am a Republican official. I mean
certainly not us, but certainly Gene Hackman. What an iconic.

Speaker 3 (00:29):
Oh god, I'm so excited to talk about today's I've
already just started the episode by accident, but just like,
there's so many beautiful parts of this movie, and ultimately
it's like, how can we as a community help this
Republican avoid a scandal? And you're like, oh, what if
we didn't, What if we didn't Callista Lockhart would live,

(00:53):
She'd be fine.

Speaker 4 (00:54):
Anyways, Anyways, welcome to the Bechdel Cast.

Speaker 5 (00:58):
Welcome. Indeed, my name is Kaitlin Durante.

Speaker 3 (01:01):
My name is Jamie Loftus, and this is the podcast
where we talk about all of your favorite movies from
an intersectional feminist perspective. And today we are covering a God.
I feel like this is one of this qualifies as
a movie. We have almost covered like six or seven
times at this point, and we just never had the
right guest come along until to today.

Speaker 5 (01:23):
Yeah, let's bring them in. Our guest today is a
film critic and writer. It's Manuel Bettencourt.

Speaker 6 (01:29):
Welcome, thank you for having me. I love talking about
this movie. So I'm very excited about today.

Speaker 5 (01:34):
We're so excited to have you. I forgot we didn't
tell anyone what the Bechdel Test is?

Speaker 1 (01:39):
Well, what is it?

Speaker 3 (01:40):
Well?

Speaker 1 (01:40):
What is it?

Speaker 5 (01:41):
Well, here's what it is. It is a media metric
created by queer cartoonist Alison Bechdel, sometimes called the Bechdel
Wallace Test. It is a media metric that has many
different versions. Ours is do two characters of a marginalized
gender have names? Do they speak to each other? And
is there cover about something other than a man. We

(02:03):
particularly like it when it's a substantial conversation and not
just throw away dialogue. And also, this is something that
we bring up now and then. Important context that often
gets left out of the conversation around the Bechdel Test
is that the comic that it appeared in Alison Bechdel's
Dikes to Watch Out For showed characters talking about whether

(02:27):
or not movies past this test because they were specifically
looking for women in movies talking to each other about
something other than a man, because if they weren't talking
about a man, the characters in the comic could ship
those characters together. Because there was so little lesbian representation
on screen, right, we're a representation on screen in general.

Speaker 3 (02:48):
We've mentioned this on this show over the years, but
I feel like, especially like it's worth bringing up every
once in a while because Alison Bechdel was truly playing
a game of five D chess that I don't think
the general public gives her credit for. Like it's just
reduced to, you know, people of marginalized genders talking about anything.

Speaker 4 (03:07):
But it's like, no, she she had a reason, she
had a motivation.

Speaker 5 (03:12):
So that's all the context. Menuel, thank you for being here.
Of course, tell us about your relationship with The Bird Cage.

Speaker 6 (03:23):
I feel like I don't know a world in which
The Bird Cage was not part of my life. It's
one of those nineties movies that were so played in
my house. I think it's one of those that it
was in constant rotation. I don't remember that we had
a VCR, A VHS of a Baby just played on
TV all the time, and every time I was on.
I just watch it, and it has to have been

(03:45):
one of the first mainstream Hollywood films that I remember
watching that was about gay men, and it was about drag,
and like they were not punchlines, like this was before
Will and Grace, Like it was a sort of a
round sort of time. It was like Robin Williams, who like,
of course I knew, and Nathan Lane, who I then
fell in love with. But it just I've always watched it.

Speaker 7 (04:08):
It was so central in.

Speaker 6 (04:08):
My like teenage years, and I always loved it, and
it's it was only until I sort of went to
college and you know, reading something like fun Home and
reading Bechdell and sort of reading queer theory and sort
of then going back to it and being like, oh,
this is a movie that at its time it was
both so radical and so traditional. And I think that's

(04:29):
where the for me has always been the crux of it,
because it is, you know, how do we help those
Republicans Cenator not have a controversy, have a scandal and
also let celebrate family, but also do it with.

Speaker 7 (04:40):
The power of drag and the power of you.

Speaker 6 (04:43):
Know, battling against toxic masculinity, And how do we value
femininity and gay men, and the fact that I could
do both those things at the same time has always
fascinated me. So I think about it a lot. I
laugh about it every single time. I quote it infinitely.
And also everyone's you have Robin Williams, you have Nathan Lane,
you have Christine Baranski, you have you have. I mean,

(05:06):
it is Hank Azaria doing a very very problematic quant character.

Speaker 5 (05:11):
Yeah, we'll talk about that, Hank Azaria being you know,
Hank azarias.

Speaker 7 (05:17):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (05:18):
Yeah.

Speaker 3 (05:19):
The thing is, I like the bit about the shoes
so much.

Speaker 1 (05:23):
It's funny.

Speaker 4 (05:25):
The bit about the shoes gets me every single time.

Speaker 3 (05:28):
Like the shoes bit would have carried me for a
six hour like a whole Lord of the Rings marathon.
I could have watched the shoes bit. It's so funny.

Speaker 5 (05:36):
Yeah, absolutely, Jamie, what's your history with the movie.

Speaker 1 (05:39):
I've seen this movie so many times.

Speaker 3 (05:41):
I feel like it is one of the more quotable
movies that exists.

Speaker 1 (05:46):
I feel like.

Speaker 3 (05:47):
There's people who quote this movie all the time and
don't even know that they're quoting this movie. And that
is the power of a good Elaine mayscript. And I'm
very excited to talk about her and Mike Nichols as well.

Speaker 1 (05:58):
But I just I love this.

Speaker 3 (06:00):
My mom this is one of her favorite movies ever.

Speaker 1 (06:03):
She had it on a lot.

Speaker 3 (06:05):
I remember very clearly my mom being like, Jamie, this
is the movie where the Genie and Timone are married.

Speaker 4 (06:14):
And I was like, awesome, and she's like, yeah, it
is awesome.

Speaker 3 (06:19):
So I think, I, yeah, I've probably been watching this
movie since I was like ten, maybe I don't even
maybe even sooner, like it's just a great movie to
have on.

Speaker 4 (06:30):
And I don't know, I didn't even realize.

Speaker 3 (06:32):
I think, Manuel, it's like a great way to put it,
is like this movie is both very subversive and very
like grounded in more traditional values than you would think
when you like go back to look at it.

Speaker 4 (06:44):
It's so interesting and it was wildly successful.

Speaker 3 (06:48):
So yeah, I mean, this is like a v This
was a VHS standby.

Speaker 1 (06:53):
I spent a.

Speaker 3 (06:54):
Lot of you know, sick days watching The Birdcage alone
and in my whatever, eight nine, ten year old brain,
it was the movie where the Genie and Timone were married,
and it will always be YEA, yeah, Caitlin, what's your
history with the Bird Cage?

Speaker 5 (07:13):
So I bring this up on the podcast every now
and then where there's a movie that I've seen a
few clips of before I actually saw the movie. And
I saw the clips by playing the movie trivia game.
Seen it.

Speaker 4 (07:27):
Oh my god, right this movie got play.

Speaker 3 (07:31):
Whoever did see it was a big bird Cage fan.

Speaker 5 (07:35):
The bird Cage because I would see the clip where
Robin Williams is teaching or kind of like demonstrating to
this dancer for an upcoming performance, different dances that he
can do. He's like Madonna, Madonna, Twila, Twila.

Speaker 3 (07:52):
You know that part is so like when I was
rewatching it, I was like, oh, that's just a moment
where they were like Robin Williams, just do Robin Williams
think here and he and boy did he?

Speaker 5 (08:03):
He sure did. And so it was that scene. It
was the scene where Robin Williams is telling Nathan Lane
to keep his pinky down and that men's smear, you know,
iconic scenes, and I would watch them and I'm like,
what is this movie? What movie is are these scenes from?
And then I eventually saw the movie, I think when

(08:27):
I was probably a freshman in college, and I was like,
oh my gosh, I get why it was so heavily
featured and seen it. It's such a fun, funny movie,
and I watched it every few years after that. Again,
not one I grew up with, but one I've appreciated
as an adult. And I'm glad we're finally covering it.

(08:48):
There's so much to talk about.

Speaker 1 (08:49):
It's an awesome It's also just like I love a farce.
I love a damn farce.

Speaker 6 (08:54):
Right.

Speaker 3 (08:54):
I didn't realize, because i'm, you know, uncultured swine, that
this was based on a French play. And I love
finding out something like that because it makes me feel
like I'm secretly, like so smart. And that's actually why
I watched The Bird Cage one hundred times, is because

(09:15):
I love French theater culture exactly exactly.

Speaker 5 (09:22):
Well, let's take a quick break and then we'll come
back for the recap. And we are back, and here
is the recap for The Bird Cage. We open in

(09:44):
South Beach in Miami, Florida. Ever heard of it on
a drag club called the bird Cage. That's the name
of the movie.

Speaker 1 (09:53):
We're Cheering, We're Cheering, Woo.

Speaker 5 (09:56):
It is run by armand played by Robin Williams. We
also meet his partner Albert played by Nathan Lane, a
drag performer whose stage name is Starina and Armand and
Agadoor played by Hankazaria, who is Armand and Albert's man servant.

Speaker 1 (10:19):
Cool boy.

Speaker 8 (10:20):
Yeah really, I'm like, there's so many things to talk
about with that character, but one of them was like,
I hope he's getting paid in more than rent.

Speaker 1 (10:30):
I hope he's getting paid money.

Speaker 5 (10:34):
Right, We're not sure, but anyway, Armand and Agador are
trying to convince Albert to get ready and go on
stage for the performance. But Albert is too upset because
he thinks Armand is cheating on him.

Speaker 3 (10:49):
There's nothing like Nathan Lane sobbing, like no one sobs
like Nathan Lane.

Speaker 5 (10:56):
Him sobbing him, gasping, him, squealing, It's incredible. Yeah, So
he thinks that Armand is cheating on him, and we
the audience are kind of led to believe that that
might be true.

Speaker 3 (11:09):
This is a very weird fake out. I will say
every time I see this fake out, you're just like,
why did they?

Speaker 4 (11:15):
But whatever, It's it's farcie, but you're still like.

Speaker 5 (11:18):
Okay, unclear why this was done. So what happens is
a young man comes to see Armand, but twist it's
his son, but not his secret lover. So his son
Val played by Dan Futterman, is there to ask for
his dad's blessing because he wants to get married to

(11:40):
his girlfriend Barbara, and Armand is like, you're twenty years
old and you're too young to get married.

Speaker 1 (11:48):
But and he was right to say it. He was
right to say it. I'm just not wrong.

Speaker 3 (11:53):
I was seeing a lot of letterbox reviews of this
movie that put in words something that I was like, Oh,
that is sort of because we're told they're twenty repeatedly,
but like in nineteen ninety six, twenty year olds looked
thirty five. Like it's just I don't know if it's
like a dressing thing. I don't know if it's like
a skincare thing. I mean, they're dressed like adults. But

(12:15):
I just kept being like, they're yeah, they're too young,
but they also look like, you know, they're in their thirties.

Speaker 1 (12:20):
They probably have I don't know.

Speaker 5 (12:23):
It's confusing, yeah, but they are twenty. And Armand is like,
what are you doing? But I guess go ahead and
have your hetero wedding. Then we meet Barbara played by
Klysta Flockhart and her family. Her dad is Kevin Keeley
played by Gene Hackman. He's a conservative senator and co

(12:44):
founder of something called the Coalition for Moral Order. Her mom,
Louise played by Diane Weist, is a very like wife
of a conservative senator type, you know, very like in
Pearl Clutching. Yeah, and her parents are not thrilled with

(13:05):
the idea of Barbara getting married so young either, but
they kind of warm up to the idea when Barbara
says that VAL's dad is a cultural attache to Greece
and his mom is a housewife. But we know that
VAL's dad is the owner of a drag club and
his quote unquote mom is Nathan Lane.

Speaker 1 (13:27):
So way better. But they did they didn't better.

Speaker 4 (13:29):
They didn't realize, they didn't know how good they had.

Speaker 5 (13:32):
It, I know. So then Senator Keeley gets embroiled in
a scandal where his colleague and the other founder of
the Coalition for Moral Order was found dead with an
underage black sex worker. And we will unpack that later. Yeah,

(13:53):
but her parents are like, hmm, maybe our daughter's wedding
to vow can rehabilitate our image especially because they think
Val comes from this very traditional, wholesome, heterosexual family, and
especially because right now the press is having a field
day with this scandal and Senator A. Kiley's reputation is

(14:16):
on the line. Then we get that famous scene where
Albert is rehearsing and Armand is directing, and Albert says,
he blew a bubble with gum at me while I
was singing. He can't do that while I'm singing, And
then Armand does that demonstration of all the dance moves

(14:36):
the other.

Speaker 1 (14:37):
Preferred culturally impactful indeed.

Speaker 5 (14:42):
Then Val takes Armand aside and tells him that Barbara
and her parents are coming for dinner the following day
and how they're very conservative, and that Barbara told them
all that stuff about VAL's parents being a cultural attache
and a house life. So Val asks his dad and

(15:03):
Albert to play that part, which will mean hiding all
of their penis art and quote unquote so much dick art.
It's hilarious.

Speaker 3 (15:15):
I honestly like it's I And you don't realize how
much is there until they have to remove.

Speaker 5 (15:19):
It, until they're packing it up, and you're like, hmm,
that's quite a bit. Yeah, so they have to hide
all of that. They have to quote unquote act more straight,
which includes sending Albert away for a few days. He
can't even be present.

Speaker 3 (15:34):
And this is where I mean, like, I don't know,
I'm so excited to talk about I think, you know,
evil villain.

Speaker 5 (15:43):
Val, like Val, Oh my gosh, yes.

Speaker 1 (15:46):
How ungrateful.

Speaker 3 (15:47):
His mother is literally Nathan Lane and look how he's
dealing with Like ugh, Val, Yeah, we'll talk about it.

Speaker 5 (15:55):
So Val makes all these homophobic demands, and Armand is like,
fuck that, I'm not going to pretend to be somebody
else for this conservative asshole. But then Armand changes his
mind and agrees to play along for the sake of
his son, because ultimately, every movie is about fathers and sons.

Speaker 3 (16:16):
Yes, and see it's like that's where it's like, it's
it's subversive and it's traditional. It's still about fathers and sons,
so people can be comfortable.

Speaker 5 (16:25):
Yes, exactly. So Armand suggests to Albert that he go
away on a trip, because again, Albert is quite effeminate
and doesn't fit this image that they're trying to create
a vow coming from this traditional hetero family, and Albert
is very very understandably hurt by this, and Armand tries

(16:49):
to comfort and reassure him, and then Albert's like, well,
what if I pretend to be a relative who drops in,
you know, Uncle al I could play it straight. And
this is the scene where Armand tries to coach Albert
on how to you know, quote unquote act straight, how
to keep his pinky down, and how to smear condiments

(17:10):
like a man, and walk like a man and chew
tobacco like a man. Yes, but like a man.

Speaker 1 (17:16):
I was hoping this was taking a turn for Titanic.

Speaker 5 (17:19):
Yes, yes, of course, naturally. And meanwhile, Barbara and her
family have snuck away from the hordes of press surrounding
their house. They drive from Ohio to Florida over the
course of I think a single day, and it takes
longer than that, but anyway, who's counting. They make this

(17:40):
quick trip to Florida to meet VAL's family, but there
are a couple journalists who saw them escape and now
they are following the family back in South Beach. Val
finds out that Armand told Albert that he can stay
and pretend to be uncle al Val is freaking out,

(18:01):
and really, this is the peak of him being a
little shit and our mom's like, okay, well what we
really need is a woman to pretend to be your mother.
Hey wait, let's just ask your actual birth mother. Who
turns out to be Christine Baranski.

Speaker 1 (18:19):
Which, if you have to choose a birth.

Speaker 7 (18:20):
Mother, you like, that's like you couldn't do better.

Speaker 1 (18:24):
Yeah, that's truly about as good as you can do, truly.

Speaker 5 (18:27):
Her name is Catherine Armand goes to see her. They
reminisce about how they met, that one time that they
slept together where she got pregnant and had vowel.

Speaker 1 (18:38):
It's a great scene.

Speaker 3 (18:39):
I also love the like like this is the very
nineties two thousands contrivance. I'm sure it's still around, but
like she's just vaguely business like, like you don't like
she has an office, and you're like, good for her.
We like whatever it is.

Speaker 1 (18:55):
She's like too, she's girl bossing.

Speaker 7 (18:58):
Yeah, or like woohoo executive realness.

Speaker 5 (19:01):
Yes, yes, the SHEEO of a company. And Albert walks
in on them being kind of handsy slash. It's Christine
Baranski who's like really touching Armand in a way that
we're not sure that he's comfortable or consenting to it.

(19:22):
But anyway, Albert sees this, he gets upset and he
threatens to leave. Armand comforts him once again gives him
calamony papers saying that he has like rightful ownership of
the club, and Armand decides to tell Catherine not to
come to dinner after all. Meanwhile, Val is continuing his

(19:47):
little homophobic meltdown. Then Catherine calls to be like, wait,
so you don't want me to come, and Val is
like no, no, no, no, we do want you to come,
because again he's just too ashamed of Albert. So Catherine
makes her way to the house. Albert, who is upset
that he's not effectively passing as straight, locks himself in

(20:10):
his room. Then the Kiley family arrives to the house
for dinner, and Armand and Val are doing their best
to pretend that Armand is straight. The whole situation is
awkward and uncomfortable and funny. We have Hank Azarias slipping
all over.

Speaker 3 (20:27):
This is where the iconic shoes bit comes in and
I just love, like whatever, Gene Hackman, who knows he's
I don't even know where I would rank him in
the you know, he's in the bottom half of this cast,
which is saying something because I think he's awesome, right,
But like the second how he like instantly connects with
Albert without knowing, Like it's just it's so funny.

Speaker 1 (20:49):
It's like they're they're just killing it.

Speaker 5 (20:51):
It's great, right, because before that the dynamic is extremely awkward,
and Gene Hackman goes on this long, boring ti rae
about the foliage in Virginia or something like that, and
everyone's like.

Speaker 1 (21:05):
Uh huh.

Speaker 5 (21:06):
And then the big moment comes where Albert, dressed as
a woman, comes in pretending to be VAL's mom, who
is a conservative housewife, and then yeah, Gene Hackman's character
immediately takes a liking to her, which also like kind
of threatens Barbara's mom and she's like.

Speaker 1 (21:25):
You like her better than me? And low key he does.
Like they hit it off.

Speaker 5 (21:32):
Especially because Nathan Lane in drag pretending to be VAL's
mother is like spewing some of the most like the
wildest conservative rhetoric where it's like, no, I don't even
I don't think we should kill abortion doctors. We should
kill the mothers who are trying to have abortions.

Speaker 1 (21:50):
Just like ugh, it's like it's I don't know.

Speaker 4 (21:53):
It's part of why I love this movie is so
much because it works on it. Like he, you know,
Albert's playing five D chess.

Speaker 3 (21:59):
He's like doing conservative drag too, like he's intellectual drag
on top of like it's amazing.

Speaker 5 (22:06):
It's so funny.

Speaker 1 (22:07):
Okay.

Speaker 5 (22:08):
So meanwhile, the journalists have lost track of the Kighleis,
but they're taking what information they do have to try
to figure out where they've gone. And they find out
about the Birdcage nightclub owned by someone named armand Goldman,
and there's this mix up of like are they the
Coleman's or the Goldmans because another component of it is

(22:32):
that they're pretending not to be Jewish in order to,
you know, impress this conservative Christian family. So that's part
of it. Now it's time for dinner, and this is
where things really start to fall apart because there are
these gay horny bowls. Albert's wig is falling off. Catherine

(22:53):
shows up because she still thinks they need her to
be there, and then Senator and Missus Keeley are like
who is this and why do you have two moms?
So Val finally reveals the truth, which is that Armand
and Albert are together as a gay couple. They run

(23:15):
the drug club downstairs. They are his parents. The Kilis
are horrified and they're about to leave, but the journalists
are on the doorsteps, so they're kind of trapped there.
The press have gotten wind about the senator possibly being there,
so then they get the idea to sneak the Kihlis
out through the club by dressing them in drag so

(23:38):
that they will escape undetected, and that works, and then
we cut to Val and Barbara's wedding and it's all
of you know, like Barbara's conservative friends and family looking
over at VAL's queer friends and family being like, what

(23:59):
what's going? And that's the end of the movie. So
let's take another quick break and we will come back
to discuss. Okay, there's a lot to unpack.

Speaker 1 (24:20):
Where did they get Yeah, and then well what stands
out to you?

Speaker 4 (24:24):
Where would you like to start, guests, Honor.

Speaker 7 (24:26):
There are so many places to start.

Speaker 6 (24:28):
I always like starting in a conversation about this movie
with Nathan Lane because I think he I mean, we
can talk about Nichols and May sort of being the
DNA of the film, but I think the film lives
and dies on Lane's performance and the way that he
really keys into the tone. And I think in that
dinner scene when he is doing this like conservative drag

(24:48):
to the m degree is working on so many levels
for audiences who are keyed into what he's doing. Najie
Hackman obviously not senator to Chilly, who's always only seeing
the little stuff in front of him, which is like,
this is what a woman looks like, this is what
a woman's supposed to think, this is what I want.
She's only agreeing with me, she's only right, like she's

(25:08):
of course, he takes a liking to her. Yeah, And
I think the farce of the movie, which I think
is what Lane does so well, is what helps for
me sand down a lot of the problems, right, So,
like the fact that Val is an asshole, right, and
the fact that he's like really an ungrateful son. The
only reason that works is because this is a farce
and not a melodrama. If this were a melodrama, then

(25:30):
we would be encouraged more to like examine why, like
the whys of what he's being such a little bastard
of a son, and like why he's being so ungrateful.
But because this is a farce and because we know
this is sort of this plot that's going to put
into motion all of these like hilarious antics, I think
it makes me a little bit softer on valid because

(25:53):
I think the movie actually ends it pushes us to
disagree with him. I think there's no if you walk
out of the bird cage thinking that, well Val I
was asking was normal or acceptable, Like, I think you've
not read the film, because the film really just wants
to get you to the point to be like this
never should have happened, right, And so it indicts Val.
And it does that by giving Lane and giving Albert

(26:15):
so much power in those funny scenes in like you
you're so drawn to him and drawn to what he's doing,
and those right as we were talking at the beginning,
like he can sigh and it's funny, he can squeal
and it's funny. He can gasp when it's funny. He
can like look as scans and it's funny. His wig
can be like coming off and it's hilarious. And he
does so much with every single line reading that of

(26:37):
course you're falling in love with them in every single
version of them, so I think in that sense, like
that's where I always begin.

Speaker 5 (26:46):
Yeah, and in an ideal world or you know, an
alternate universe, the plot of this movie wouldn't even have
to exist because val would have just been like, yeah,
these are my parents, armand and all, and they are
happily together as a gay couple. Okay, right, but that's

(27:06):
not the world we live in. And so you know,
the movie hinges on them pretending to be a straight
couple to appease a conservative senator. And you know, we
can talk about the way that culminates as far as
like and the conservative family learned their lesson not to
be so homophobic and.

Speaker 3 (27:28):
Right, And it's like if we don't even I mean
not until like head can it. We don't even know
that they like probably they didn't learn their lesson. I
don't I don't think that this leads like this leads
to Senator Kelly, you know, proposing legislation that's friendly to
queer people.

Speaker 1 (27:44):
I just don't see it.

Speaker 3 (27:45):
It feels almost like, I mean sorry to immediately go here,
but almost like a like a Donald Trumpian thing where
you know, as someone who has a ton of queer
people and in their life, but would never in his
life put forth any legislation for them to be treated equally.
But yeah, I mean, I think minimiir to your point,
Like if we're viewing this movie and I feel like

(28:07):
we have to because of the culture it was released into,
as like nineteen ninety six, in general, a movie will
be successful if it is presented in the US to
a straight audience, and the.

Speaker 4 (28:22):
Fact that this movie's resolution is.

Speaker 3 (28:25):
Hinged on letting Armand and Albert be who they are
is meaningful and that like Val, like you were saying, man, well,
like Val did the wrong thing by asking his parents
to which feels so obvious now right, like obviously, you know,
I think.

Speaker 1 (28:43):
From a twenty twenty four perspective.

Speaker 3 (28:44):
Like he is a villain, and like Albert should be
allowed to legally kill him if he chose.

Speaker 1 (28:52):
I That's just how I feel.

Speaker 3 (28:54):
But but like, yeah, for in the culture that this
movie was released into, I feel like it really tracks.
And it's like, while there is a part of me
that wants this movie to push even more, I also
know that, you know, it's very likely because we've talked
about this in a lot of movies that have queer protagonists.
How it's so easy to be totally screwed over in

(29:17):
terms of ratings, in terms of distribution, and in terms
of just getting your work out there, especially the further
back you go in history, if things are if whatever
invisible line is crossed, and I think for the time
this movie came out and the cast and just like
all of these incredible things that it goes way further
than most movies at this time were, and it like

(29:38):
definitely doesn't hurt that it's so fucking funny, no, right.

Speaker 5 (29:43):
And like we said, it centers a story that, at
least at this time and especially in mainstream American media,
was acknowledging something that was not often brought up, which
is that, you know, in order to survive, queer people
often had to hide significant parts of themselves. They had

(30:06):
to you know, code switch in a number of ways
just to be safe out in the world and not
be you know, quote unquote detected. And we see all
those scenes where Armand is teaching Albert how to quote
unquote act straight, smear, pinky down, walk like John Way

(30:27):
and all that kind of stuff, and then that brings
up this concept of performing gender and what society's idea
is of what it is to be a man or
to be a woman, which generally speaking is a very
you know, rigid, binary, heterocentric view from society.

Speaker 3 (30:48):
Yeah, and well that's like perfectly demonstrated by how like
Senator Keeley is immediately taken in by Albert's conservative drag,
like it's it couldn't be clear, and that like gender
is constructed based on how immediately he's like this lady
rocks yea, like she looks and sounds like I need
her to.

Speaker 7 (31:06):
Yeah. I think so there's two things.

Speaker 6 (31:08):
I think, Yes, this that the context in which the
movie was made is sort of very important, I think
sometimes gets cossed over. But I think also the fact
that it takes place in South Beach, because I think
it reminds us that there are and were places where
gay folks queer folks created a community.

Speaker 7 (31:23):
Where they didn't need to coad switch. Right.

Speaker 6 (31:25):
So that scene where Arman and Albert are walking to
the restaurant where he's going to teach him how to
smear like a man, they passed through so many gay
men and they say hi, And the film really paints
South Beach, you know, as you know, Fire Island, or
as Province down or as pump Springs as these like
havens of queer community that live in isolation, right, Like

(31:46):
this is a place where they've created a community and
a space and a business and a life that doesn't require.

Speaker 7 (31:52):
Them to coad switch.

Speaker 6 (31:54):
And I think, right, that's that also can key us
into sort of like, oh, this is what happens when
val leaves. Right, val grew up in but as soon
as he's needing to interact with the with the outside world,
with Achilles of the world, like, he has no way
of doing that because he's never had to. And I
think to me, that's also fascinating. Thing is like it's
usually queer folks who have to be like being like, oh,
this is what the world expects of me, But in

(32:15):
this case, it's Valve being like, I don't have the
language I have, I have no way of doing this,
so of course I'm going to retreat into what I know.
And in terms of this, like the gender performance, I
hear this is also like farce. Like if we've seen
Shakespeare in comedy, it's like it's always men dressing as
women and like everyone So I think it's it's fascinating
that Nicholson may sort of like really be like, this

(32:36):
is the genre in which to do that, and this
is what allows us because this is what we've always
seen in comedy and it's and it and it doesn't.
What does it differently is like it never does it
at the expense of drag performers.

Speaker 7 (32:47):
It never does it.

Speaker 6 (32:48):
At the expensive it's queer characters. It's really so reverential
to them, Like it really is an awe of what
Storrena can do and what Albert can do, and they can,
you know, create a character of nothing while they're in
their bedroom. Like I every time, I'm like, oh, he
had that wig, and he had those pearls, and he
had that dress like just in his closet, So what

(33:09):
many other women could he have like drum up in
five minutes while he was you know, crying and wailing
about I would.

Speaker 1 (33:17):
Love to see the other options.

Speaker 5 (33:19):
The incredible that's a trying on clothes montage that I
would have loved to see.

Speaker 6 (33:25):
I mean, its dout fire like moment right like is
this wig?

Speaker 7 (33:29):
Is this? As these these nails?

Speaker 3 (33:32):
I also, I mean just from uh whatever, having first
seen this movie when I was a kid, I think.

Speaker 4 (33:38):
If you don't count Timone and Pumba, which arguably you could.

Speaker 3 (33:42):
This was the first movie at least that I had
ever seen where there were gay parents and and and
really I mean, while you know, being flawed in all
the way people are are flawed, both really really good,
loving kind parents and and it feels like crumbs now,
but I know for sure if you don't count Timon

(34:05):
and Pumba as adoptive fathers, which again I do, but
but that, yeah, that Albert narmand are we're probably the
first example in a in a movie I saw of
queer parents, which is wild because it's like I had
uncles who were parents, but I had just never seen

(34:26):
it in a movie before. And and yeah, I mean
as much of a you know, sort.

Speaker 1 (34:32):
Of like a fearful dipshit that Val can be. You know,
he had amazing parents and he knows that.

Speaker 3 (34:40):
And that's like part of the frustration of watching that
character go through this is like, you do know that
at his core he knows that his parents love him
so much, and he's trying to like fit himself into roundhole,
square peg whatever that metaphor is, right, Yeah, which like
one of the things that I mean, I don't know,

(35:02):
it's sort of like, I don't really I don't actually
feel like, man, I wish Callista Flockhart was in this more.
No disrespect to her, but it's just like I don't
want to take a second of screen time away from
Nathan Lane.

Speaker 1 (35:14):
But I don't know. I was kind of curious about
I guess why.

Speaker 3 (35:19):
Even in the space of a farce like I would
have loved to see her be more willing to push
against her parents, right, I feel like that would have,
you know, characterized her a little bit more and also
just like would have honestly for you know, would have
made sense to be more because I'm just like Val.

Speaker 1 (35:40):
If Val grew up in a queer flirty in Paradise,
why her?

Speaker 3 (35:45):
Like?

Speaker 1 (35:45):
Why her?

Speaker 3 (35:46):
If she's absolutely unwilling to move like It's just I
don't know, I was a little confused and put off
by her character, and I mean that's just personal, but
also I mean, if we're looking, like looking at the
women in this story as well, like I was just
kind of like baffled that even by nineteen ninety six standards,

(36:06):
that she wasn't at least challenging vals, you know, because
that's an interesting dynamic too, is if Val.

Speaker 1 (36:13):
Is like here's what I'm gonna do.

Speaker 3 (36:14):
I'm going to do the most evil thing of all
time in an attempt to be accepted by your family. Like,
what is the response to that? And she's but she
sort of is just like, yeah, it makes sense to me.

Speaker 5 (36:25):
I wonder if that's why those characters are written to
be the age that they are twenty and eighteen, because like, because.

Speaker 1 (36:35):
They're still basically kids. Yeah.

Speaker 6 (36:37):
I also think as soon as you see her mom,
you maybe sort of understand why she would be such
a wilting flower, because for most of the movie, Senator
Achilly's wife his sort of mum and submissive and it's
only through the moment of a dinner and again it's
a credit to Weese's performance that she's sort of blossoms. Like,
if we're going to head canon the future of the couple,

(36:59):
I think like she's one who will have emerged from
this being like, oh, not only are queer people I
don't know people, but maybe I should not be so
subservient to my idiot husband because she she is the
one who like sort of pushes back the most out
of her and Callista sort of in the film.

Speaker 5 (37:18):
But I wonder if that's only because she's feeling threatened
by how much Gene Hackman seems to be taking a
liking to you know, Albert in Conservative Lady Drag, which
is kind of like a misogynist trope of like, oh
I find this other woman threatening, and so women are

(37:39):
in conflict now because of it. The movie doesn't really
examine that very thoroughly, but I was like, I wonder
if that's kind of why there's any pushback from the
Dian Weiest character.

Speaker 3 (37:53):
But I do think like her performance like brings a
ton and I don't know, I mean an ultimate like
this is not a women's movie necessarily, Like I feel
like to some point it's like that is a lot
of what we talk about. And I do think that
there is even in like nineteen ninety six by nineteen

(38:14):
ninety six standards like questions I had.

Speaker 4 (38:16):
I don't know how much of that is lost in adaptation.

Speaker 3 (38:18):
I'm not familiar with the source material because I'm not
actually that smart. I've just seen The Birdcage, but I
mean clearly like this is a story that is centered
on the Goldman family. But I did, yeah, there were
a few questions I had just about how it felt
like the women were characterized less thoughtfully, but I mean,

(38:38):
I think it's because two out of the three women
we see in this movie are kind of these like
conservative stock characters, which makes sense in the space of
a farce. And then we have Christine Baranski, who's just awesome.
Like one thing I was really happy about in this
space of this movie is that I feel like, you know,

(38:58):
so often when you see a mother character, whether it's
just like a biological mother or someone who's taken on
the role of a mother, you know, someone who has
a child but is not a mother to that child,
like there's just an inherent like how dare you? Or
a woman who gives up a child for adoption, you know,
like it's there's a how dare you aspect to it

(39:19):
that this movie just completely foregoes, Like it's there's not
a moment of shame placed on this character, which I
was I mean, again, just I think maybe it's like
something that you're sort of conditioned to expect in a movie.

Speaker 4 (39:34):
It's like, you know, if if someone gives.

Speaker 3 (39:37):
Birth and then the child is adopted, there is an
expectation of shame, of regret, and that the adoptive parents
could not possibly be sufficient and that's just not entertained.
By the end, it makes total sense in the story,
but it's like this was the arrangement. She doesn't regret it,

(39:58):
No one regrets it, and she's just like happy to
see Ramand again, I think it's really nice.

Speaker 7 (40:03):
Yeah.

Speaker 5 (40:04):
I made that note too, that it's so rare to
see in a movie where if like people had a
one night stand and a pregnancy happened because of it,
you would typically see the mother raising the baby, you know,
possibly as a single mother, and then the father may
or may not be in the picture. But in this case,

(40:25):
it's the father who raises the baby, and that's just
something you rarely see in movies.

Speaker 3 (40:32):
Knocked Out came out like twelve years after this, and
it's like far more conservative and its view of one
night stands.

Speaker 5 (40:38):
Like we have kind of mentioned the context a bit,
and I like to go through it more thoroughly because
it is super interesting of you know, how this movie
came to be and the backs here. So I'm pulling
most of this from a video essay from Matt Baum

(40:59):
entitled The Bird Cage and uh oh French words coming
The Cage of Full The Inside Story, No, No, thank you.

Speaker 1 (41:11):
It's perfect.

Speaker 5 (41:13):
Okay, I recommend you know watching this video essay. It
does a really deep dive into the history of how
the movie The Bird Cage came to be. This is
a very kind of summarized version of that. But basically,
two French theater performers, oh more French coming, Jean Pirot
and Michelle Serol, they write a play in I believe

(41:37):
nineteen seventy three called The Bird Cage but in French,
which more or less has the same plot as the
movie The Bird Cage and was kind of loosely inspired
by a British play from the late nineteen sixties called
The Staircase, not to be confused with the true crime
docu series The Staircase.

Speaker 3 (41:58):
Which we have actually talked about extensively, extensively. We've been
on a real journey. We don't have time. But yeah,
he probably did do it.

Speaker 5 (42:06):
He probably did do it. Or maybe it was an
owl owl.

Speaker 3 (42:09):
Yeah that was how that was how I knew my
brain was fully developed. Where prior to my brain's full development,
I was like, it was the owl. And then the
second that shit was locked in, I was like, no.

Speaker 7 (42:20):
He obviously did it.

Speaker 5 (42:21):
Yeah it yes, So this staircase is about a gay
couple who, even though they bicker a lot, they love
each other and they're together and they face the world together.
So La caage a Full was then adapted to a
French movie in nineteen seventy eight, and both the play

(42:44):
and the film were loved by audiences straight and queer
audiences alike because of its nuanced depictions of the queer
experience and queer relationships. So the French film got a
very small distribution in the US and it screened at
a couple dozen art house theaters in the late seventies,

(43:07):
but it got rave reviews and I think at least
one OSCAR nomination, So it was appreciated by the audiences
who did see it, although it wasn't a large number
of people, and it was one of the first films
about a gay couple to get a theatrical release in
the US. So an American producer, Alan Carr saw the

(43:30):
movie and wanted to adapt it to an American film,
but no one took him seriously, but they did sell
him the rights for the stage play, so Alan Carr
went to work putting a musical stage production together for
an American audience. He hired Mike Nichols, among other people,

(43:52):
but he fired them all and then hired another team,
including Arthur Laurent and Harvey Feierstein.

Speaker 7 (44:00):
Yeah, oh yeah, he brought brought the big guns for lag. Yeah.

Speaker 4 (44:05):
Yeah, it's like, okay, not fucking around, not fucking around.

Speaker 5 (44:09):
And so they developed the script together. There were artistic
differences in vision throughout the development, but eventually the musical
debuted in Boston. Okay, hello, I ever heard of it,
and I believe nineteen eighty three, and they were really

(44:30):
concerned about how especially Boston audiences would receive it. But
the audiences loved it. And so the musical.

Speaker 3 (44:38):
Boss is full of surprises. And I say this as
someone currently sitting in it. Yeah, it's it's you never
know what you're going to get, but often it's love
and acceptance.

Speaker 6 (44:49):
I know.

Speaker 5 (44:49):
It's so nice. Okay. So then because of the success
in Boston, the musical opened on Broadway and it was
a huge hit. It was nominated for eight Tonies. It
ran for several years, It toured around and an American
film adaptation was the next logical step, but they still

(45:10):
didn't have the film rights at this time. There was
also a bunch of like messy stuff happening in Hollywood
with MGM, the studio that would have been the one
to produce this movie. But eventually the film rights were secured.
This is like the early nineties now that we're talking about, okay,
and Mike Nichols came on board to direct after being

(45:33):
fired from the stage production like a decade earlier. There
was apprehension on the part of the studio because a
major studio doing a mainstream broad comedy about a gay
couple was pretty unheard of at the time, and no
one was really sure how American film going audiences would

(45:53):
respond to this, especially around this time and you know,
throughout much of history. But there was so much homophobic
rhetoric from conservative politicians who were like running on the
platform of homophobia.

Speaker 1 (46:08):
The Senator Achilles of the actual world.

Speaker 5 (46:11):
Of the real world exactly.

Speaker 6 (46:13):
Yeah, this is in the context we had Jesse Holmes.
But also, I mean we should also say, like this
was also don't Ask, don't tell, So it is Clinton here.
So it's not just the right wing people that are
sort of presenting a homophobic front.

Speaker 5 (46:25):
For sure, it was conservative and you know, democratic politicians alike,
but Mike Nichols was just like very adamant about making
this movie. He cast Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, and Hankazaria
among the other cast members, and many of them and
the studio were nervous about how the movie would be

(46:47):
received by audiences. Ultimately, it was a huge box office success.
It was made on a thirty million dollar budget. It
made one hundred and eighty five million at the box
office or less, saved MGM, which was absolutely flopping as
a studio at the time, and it paved the way

(47:08):
for more queer characters and queer relationships to be present
in mainstream media.

Speaker 3 (47:15):
So and it also reunited I mean as like a
comedy had it reunited Nichols in May, which is like
so beautiful and so cool. I mean, they were like
a truly like still modern comedy defining a duo in.

Speaker 1 (47:29):
I think the fifties.

Speaker 3 (47:31):
And they eventually went their separate ways in the sixties.

Speaker 1 (47:35):
And you know, Nichols went on.

Speaker 3 (47:37):
To direct a lot of theater and direct movies, and
May also went on to direct and write a lot
of movies.

Speaker 1 (47:44):
Although I think she is still.

Speaker 3 (47:46):
Comparatively underappreciated and she's still with us shout out Elaine May.
But this was I mean, they hadn't worked together in gosh,
I mean I think it was decades. I mean it
had been easily twenty five years since they had worked together.
It wasn't like a bad blood situation, but they just
hadn't worked together in a really long time. And to
come back together in this collaboration is like what a dunk?

Speaker 4 (48:11):
Like that's so great.

Speaker 3 (48:14):
Yeah.

Speaker 6 (48:14):
This is also where I should say, like if you
have not watched the Broadway show, because it is fantastic
and it is sort of you know, looking back in
the nineteen eighty three if you think of Hiri Feirestein
doing the show, writing the show, and in the Tony
broadcast having there's this big number called I Am What

(48:35):
I Am, which is sung and dragged by the character
about this. That's the number that the producers chose to
do on the Tony broadcast, which they knew would be
watched by like, you know, millions of people. That in
itself was also kind of like groundbreaking to see drag
performers on stage at the Tony Awards, you know, on
network television. So this is the kind of like ip

(48:55):
if you will, that has really been breaking ground sort
of for decades and being away and you know when
we talk about you know, as you said, you know,
it is one of the first examples of like a
queer couple in a mainstream comedy. And then I was like,
where are those films today, Like in twenty twenty four,
I think we're still struggling that that would be, right,
Like The Bird Cage was number one in the box
office three weeks in a row, right, and it was

(49:17):
like in box and I was like, how are we
doing that in nineteen eighty six, And how are we
struggling to even get independent queer cinema in twenty four?

Speaker 7 (49:26):
Like sometimes it's just so baffling.

Speaker 3 (49:28):
Waffling, it's so and it's like that we learn this
in so many different with so many different marginalized communities
where you know, like you have stories about like, oh, well,
no one wants to see movies with women over a
certain age, and then the First Wives Club comes out
and everyone's like, oh, never mind, but it's still going
to be another twenty years before we get something like

(49:48):
that with an equal success rate. I mean, it's like
we went through that level of discourse when Black Panther
was a billion dollar movie, Like it's just like crazy
rich Asians like it just all it happens over and
over it over, and people just never learn.

Speaker 1 (50:03):
It's so frustrating.

Speaker 3 (50:05):
And I feel like the nineties, I mean there were
more Yeah to your Apartment, Well, there were more movies
about queer people that starred mainstream, you know, huge actors
than happens now.

Speaker 7 (50:18):
Yeah. Absolutely.

Speaker 6 (50:19):
I mean I always think of bird Cage, Tu Wang Fu,
thanks for everything, Julie Newmar and Priscilla Queen of the
Desert at this sort of like this tripartite like moment
where like drag was having a moment, so every time
right now we're having comfortable conversation with like, you know,
RuPaul's Drag Race bringing Dragon to the Masses. I was like, yeah,
but also, twenty five years ago, we had Guy Pearce,

(50:40):
we had Patrick Swayzee, we had John Agisma, we had
Robin Williams and Nathan Leen, all these films that were
really capturing the zeitgeist. And then it still tags decades
for us to do it again, and I'm just waiting
for it to ebb again and flow, And it's kind
of frustrating to keep having these same conversations and either
Hollywood learning the wrong less or belatedly learning them, or

(51:02):
then just forgetting them once in you CEO comes in,
possibly taking over Warner Brothers, I mean, or someone else,
but like, right, it's always it's just.

Speaker 1 (51:12):
So I don't know, like so much of it, in
my mind has to do with.

Speaker 3 (51:15):
Like the rise of studio takeovers and how like you know,
Disney is far less likely to make this movie than
whatever other studio, and then you have like whatever, even
if even if you like a handful of them, Marvel.

Speaker 1 (51:29):
Movies just like fabreezed the entire landscape of like what.

Speaker 3 (51:33):
A blockbuster movie could look like, because this is a
blockbuster movie, like and also just like a hostility towards
original stories, like this is an original story.

Speaker 4 (51:43):
But also I mean, Caitlin just hearing the fact that it.

Speaker 3 (51:47):
Took you know, the better part of twenty years to
get this from the front on stage in France to hear.

Speaker 4 (51:54):
Yeah, it's like, even when we have a story that
centers queer.

Speaker 3 (51:57):
People, it has to be tested for twenty years before
it can be considered a viable American movie, and even
then it has to be sort of like couched in
these very careful ways in order to get the proper
rating and get the proper release, and the stars and
just like all this stuff like it's for the fault

(52:19):
that this movie has. It's like one that you're just
like it's a miracle that it came out and that.

Speaker 1 (52:25):
It's so good.

Speaker 3 (52:27):
And I just wanted to shout out really quickly as well,
because Elaine.

Speaker 4 (52:31):
May is a Jewish writer, and also she.

Speaker 3 (52:34):
Sort of intersects like it's not just the fact that
Senator Keeley is homophobic, which he overtly is, but also
that he's anti Semitic, and like, you know, I don't
think he would as openly or proudly say that as
he would I'm homophobic, but clearly there is also a

(52:56):
like cultural code switching on that level too, and just
to see, don't know, I just feel like it speaks
to Elaine May's skill as a writer, that like, this
family is being forced to hide a lot of things
about themselves, and of course their queerness is at the center.

Speaker 1 (53:11):
Of that, but there's also like there's just a.

Speaker 3 (53:13):
Lot and I don't know, in some ways it it's
like VAL's a villain, but it's also like kind of
tragic that he has grown up in such an accepting
environment and still is so affected by the greater cultural
forces that he is tempted to become hostile towards the
people he loves most.

Speaker 5 (53:36):
Senator Keeley is also deeply racist. He says different things
about the Agador character as does armand says racist and
xenophobic things about the Agador character. And then the Agador
character himself is Hanka's Area playing a from Guatemala. Hanka's

(54:01):
Area is not a Guatemalan or LATINX actor. He's doing
one of his hank Azaria accents.

Speaker 1 (54:09):
Hank Azaria.

Speaker 3 (54:11):
I mean, I've kind of forgot that this was like
on his list of crimes.

Speaker 1 (54:15):
Honestly, Yeah, because.

Speaker 3 (54:17):
There's a lot of discussed, popularly discussed crimes with hank Asaria,
and this one, I feel like is maybe because there's
whole documentaries on his performance as Uphu.

Speaker 5 (54:27):
Yes, we will refer you to a documentary called The
Problem with a Poo, where comedian Hari Kuonbalu examines the
representation of South Asian characters in Western movies and TV
and how a poo from The Simpsons, which is voiced
by Hanka's Area, significantly set that representation back, he's doing

(54:50):
a very similar thing with the Agador character in this movie,
and it's just incredibly frustrating to watch.

Speaker 3 (54:58):
It's like the part of this movie that very clearly
ages the absolute worst.

Speaker 7 (55:03):
Yeah.

Speaker 3 (55:04):
And then also there is like precedent for this prejudice
and quiet brown face in comedy and in farce, and
like he's certainly not the first.

Speaker 4 (55:13):
To do it, but it's like it's so agreedious.

Speaker 3 (55:15):
And otherwise close to in my close to perfect, like
wonderful movie sticks out like a sore thumb.

Speaker 6 (55:24):
Yeah, And especially because like this movie is set in
South Beach. So it's also when I was like, oh,
why we would need one Latin character, right, like Latino
Latin character, because that would make sense for the time,
wouldn't make sense with the geography. And so I could
see that there was a reason to like have an
Aggador like character, but he didn't have to be this way,
and it didn't have to be like this, and it
didn't have to be played by Hanka's area. I used

(55:47):
to to wonder, like who might have been able to
sort of do a much more interesting job or a
much more nuanced but this is very much this. It
is the lowest hanging through jokes of the entire film,
and they're hard to They do make it hard to watch,
just sort of like the Nicky Rooney part of Requisitiphanies,
which is like, oh yeah, I can't there's no I

(56:07):
don't know how to reconcile I just because there's no way.

Speaker 3 (56:10):
To, right. Yeah. I mean, in the fact that this
Naday is shot partially in Florida and partially in Los Angeles,
there are so many talented Latin comic actors, Like, there's
absolutely no excuse for Castingcazaria in this not to mention
it's like it's not like Hanka's area is the reason.
Like he's like the tenth most famous person in this movie.

Speaker 1 (56:31):
Like just don't cast him.

Speaker 5 (56:32):
You don't need him in that way. This movie is
still very much a reflection of the kind of standards
of the nineteen nineties where, you know, as we've been saying,
it's mostly white characters were white actors. It's all sis
actors and characters. There are physical embraces and like pecks

(56:57):
on the cheek between Armand and Albert, but there's no
significant like romantic kiss things like that that you're like, oh, yeah,
This movie came out in the nineties, but as I
was touching on in the kind of context corner of
this movie, it was very groundbreaking in many ways, and

(57:18):
I think the reason it has such a lasting legacy
from its, you know, kind of conception as a French
production in the seventies is that it did present queer
characters with far more nuance than audiences had seen. And
part of that is because there's an exploration of how

(57:42):
these characters feel while being forced to fit this like
you know, rigid mold of heteronormativity and masculinity and to
pretend to be someone there not. You have different monologues
from Armand and from Albert saying like, I know who
I am. It took me twenty years to get here,

(58:04):
but I'm not gonna let some idiot senator destroy that.
Fuck the senator. I don't give a damn what he thinks.
Like he is embraced who he is and he doesn't
want to backtrack from that. Albert, you know, when he
learns his family wants to send him away, he's like, oh,
I get it. You think I'm some monster. I'm a freak.
And he's you know, saying something like I'm not gonna

(58:27):
stay where I'm not wanted, where I can be thrown
out on a whim without legal rights. So these characters
are advocating for themselves, and they're very steadfast in who
they are. And yes, they're in this community of you know,
South Beach where they don't have to deal with the
same level of homophobia as other parts of the country.

(58:52):
Not to say that this is the first time they're
dealing with this, but I imagine if they've been in
South Beach for a while, this is the first time
in a while that they've had to kind of retreat
back into the closet and hide their authentic selves. So
as we discussed, yeah, like interesting to see vow make
these demands, I chalk it up to him being again

(59:14):
this child, twenty year old child. All this to say
that I appreciate that part of this is letting the
characters express how they feel about this harmful societal expectation,
showing how traumatic it is for the characters to have
to deal with. Those scenes were some of the most
powerful to me, and I'm glad the movie took the

(59:37):
time to show that those were some of my favorite
moments in the movie.

Speaker 6 (59:41):
And also everyone in Drag. At the end, I think
just the shot of Gene Hackman in Drag is worth
the price of admission.

Speaker 3 (59:49):
And just like, yeah, Gene Hackman is again and like
I would rank him like fifth in performances I.

Speaker 1 (59:55):
Love in this movie.

Speaker 3 (59:56):
But like he is showing this like simultaneous, like I
don't think I've ever quite seen a facial expression that
both demonstrated like wow, this is so exciting and like
I'm not supposed to like this, it's not actually awesome,
like and just seeing that in a space of express
like one expression is really lovely.

Speaker 5 (01:00:15):
For sure. I want to unpack the scandal, like the
you know, Senator colleague, the.

Speaker 3 (01:00:25):
Other thing that ages inexcusably poorly.

Speaker 5 (01:00:29):
Right where it's you know, the co founder of the
Coalition of Moral Order, this very ultra conservative, you know,
family values guy being found with an underage black sex worker,
and the way she has talked about the way she
is framed by the movie to some extent, I see

(01:00:51):
what they're trying to do, which is that they're trying
to emphasize the irony that this you know, Christian Crusader
would cheat on his wife, the irony that she is black,
when this politician is very likely racist, but also the
sex worker being black feels like it's a thing that

(01:01:12):
makes it all the more scandalous. Also, her being underage
is not addressed.

Speaker 1 (01:01:20):
And what I found.

Speaker 3 (01:01:21):
Most frustrating about all of this because yeah, I think
it is like an attempt at satire of like, here
is a person, like an underage black sex worker is
someone who this politician would absolutely have a vested interest
in disadpranchising and you know, not someone that you think
he would ever want to meet, right, and so like

(01:01:43):
not only are they, you know, exposing him to be
a child sex abuser, but also you know, obviously it's
but it's like the way that that character is then
presented by the movie, which is also as a joke,
kind of undercut any attempt for sure at satire where
I don't know, I mean, I think in a modern context,
like it's basically impossible to make this attempted joke work,

(01:02:07):
especially from completely in a movie that is otherwise completely
white and with one character that's Hanka's area and brown
face not for the first time.

Speaker 4 (01:02:17):
But the fact that we do see this character.

Speaker 3 (01:02:19):
And she is presented in a bronze stereotypical way to boot. Like,
it's just like if there was any doubt that this
movie was not equipped to even attempt that satire, I
feel like that really kind of sealed it for me
on this viewing.

Speaker 5 (01:02:39):
For sure.

Speaker 7 (01:02:40):
Yeah.

Speaker 6 (01:02:40):
Absolutely, I like to think it was like it almost
narratively made more sense for it to have been a
gay affair, Yeah, right, like it would have set up
it would have been so much cleaner and neaterer and
sort of but then maybe that in itself would have
been a little bit too much or too obvious because
it is about the hypocrisy. But yeah, the choice of
target and that hypocrisy feels weighted in a way that

(01:03:03):
the film kind of like never really deals with for sure.

Speaker 3 (01:03:06):
Yeah, and the way that like you see how prejudiced
Senator Keeley is.

Speaker 4 (01:03:12):
The people that he's prejudiced against.

Speaker 1 (01:03:14):
At least narratively, who we know, we have a deeper.

Speaker 3 (01:03:17):
Knowledge of, we have a lot of empathy for, we
know them, and that is the one character that you
don't get that treatment for. It's like you're just presented
with a broad stereotypical reaction and a broad stereotypical character
that I think like unintentionally almost reinforces what the movie's
trying to criticize.

Speaker 1 (01:03:37):
I don't know, is like that was just.

Speaker 4 (01:03:39):
And also like minimal Narratively, it does.

Speaker 3 (01:03:42):
Make way more sense for sure, because then it's like, oh,
not only is Senator Keeley afraid of any scandal, He's
specifically afraid of this type of scandal.

Speaker 5 (01:03:54):
Yeah, that it would have been a far more logical
choice to make in the movie rather than what they
do well nineteen ninety six. Meanwhile, I wanted to ask
your thoughts, and I know this might be opening kind
of a can of worms, and this is a much discussed,

(01:04:17):
complicated question, but I was just curious on your thoughts
of the straight actors playing gay characters in Robin Williams
and Hanka's area. I know it's a different scenario for
Nathan Lane. Obviously he was out to his friends and
family at the time of this movie. He came out
publicly a couple years later, I think in ninety nine.

(01:04:38):
But yeah, curious of your thoughts on that it is.

Speaker 6 (01:04:43):
A can of worms, and it is. You know, it's
a conversation that I've had a lot over the past
few years. I feel like if you were a queer
critic writing, you just constantly run into this. What I
always say is that I don't have a moral or
an esthetic about straight actors playing gays, so long as
they're doing it with care, with curiosity. To me, this

(01:05:07):
has always been a labor issue more so than an
aesthetic one. Like I don't it's not my place to
say that an actor can or can't play X or
Y or Z, because I think then it becomes very murky.
But it is a labor issue when if Hollywood studios
and casting executives and directors are only offering these parts
to straight actors, I think we should interrogate why. And

(01:05:27):
I think we should interrogate that why at a larger
sort of systemic level, in terms of who is getting paid,
who is getting promoted, who is getting distributed, who is
getting project screenlt why that rarely happens for out queer actors.
And so that's always how I want to frame it,
that this is a labor concern more so than an
aesthetic one.

Speaker 7 (01:05:48):
Because I do think.

Speaker 6 (01:05:49):
I mean, I look at Robin Williams and what he's
doing with armand doesn't feel a caricature, doesn't feel mockery,
it doesn't feel like it's coming from a place of
hre or of condescension. It's actually coming from a place
of love. And I think, you know, you see that
also in his really tiny bit part in Tuwong Fu.
You really buy it, and you're really buy it for

(01:06:10):
the chemistry that he has with with Nathan Lane writer,
Like I watch Brooke Bag Mountain and I'm like, I
love Heath and Jake. I think they get at something
very real, and I think this is sort of the
point of the actor. This is exactly what they're supposed
to be doing, tying into the humanity of the other.
I don't want any kind of actor, including queer actors,

(01:06:31):
to solely be cast according to their very limited identity.
Like I want queer actors to be able to play
straight roles. I want transactors to be able to play
siss roles. Like I don't because I think as soon
as we do it from one side, it has to
come to the other side. But you know, in a
perfect world, we wouldn't be needing to have this conversation
because queer actors would be queer, and transactors would be

(01:06:52):
given the kinds of opportunities that are solely given right
now or mostly given right now to SIS straight actors,
and I think that's for the conversation needs to be happening,
which is it's a harder one to have than to
just say, oh yeah, straight actors are not a lot
because they don't get us and they don't understand us
or but so that's that's that's always my like tiny
little soap box.

Speaker 5 (01:07:12):
Yeah, no, no, no, We've had similar conversations on the
podcast before when this comes up, and it does boil
down to this happens because the pool of out queer actors.
It's not that they don't exist, it's just they aren't
given the same opportunities as their straight CIS counterparts. It's

(01:07:34):
that they don't have the same kind of often rise
to fame as they're SIS straight counterparts. So yeah, a
labor issue, it's a cultural issue far more than anything else.
So great, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Of course,
So the movie does pass the Bechdel test. I think

(01:07:56):
I mean.

Speaker 7 (01:07:57):
Very loosely right. I was trying to track that.

Speaker 6 (01:08:01):
I was like, there are like loosely about sort of men,
but not a man.

Speaker 7 (01:08:05):
I don't know.

Speaker 3 (01:08:06):
It's one of those, Yeah, between Barbara and luwise, and
I'm like, it's passing it best. But again, I feel
like I have PTSD about how poor, like how the
Bechdel test is like weaponized when there's movies that center
queer characters in a way that Alison Bechdel almost certainly
and like I think in fact has confirmed.

Speaker 4 (01:08:27):
It's like, yeah, that's not how you're supposed to use it.

Speaker 3 (01:08:30):
I wrote as a joke because I remember that, like
when during Fire when yeah, when Fire Island came out,
they're like, well, this movie isn't everything you think because
but and you're just like fuck you, like you know,
it's like this is I don't. I think this is like,
at best a soft pass, but it's also like doing
so many things that most movies are that it's like,
would it be great if it passed?

Speaker 1 (01:08:50):
Yes?

Speaker 3 (01:08:51):
Am I going to think this movie is inherently hostile
to women in marginalized communities because it doesn't fuck you?

Speaker 5 (01:08:59):
You know not. The more relevant test here is the
Veto Russo test, which we bring up now and then,
which examines the representation of queer characters in media and
asks if they have any kind of interiority, asks if
you removed those characters from the story, would it affect
the plot, and in this case, obviously very very much so.

(01:09:20):
The entire story centers these characters, So a high pass
to the Veto Russo test. Bechdel test not super relevant here,
but the nipple scale, the Bechdel cast nipple scale the
most relevant test of them all, where we examine the
movie on a scale of zero to five nipples. Looking

(01:09:40):
at it through an intersectional feminist lens, I would say,
because of its legacy and the kind of aftermath paving
the way for more queer representation, I want to give
it like three and a half nipples. I'm taking some
off for the Hanka's area of it all, for the

(01:10:04):
framing of the scandal with the black sex worker, different
things like that that make the movie not hold up
as well as it could. But as we've discussed, there
is so much the movie is doing right. It's a
critique on traditional ideals of masculinity. It's a celebration of

(01:10:28):
characters living their authentic selves. Because of that, I want
to give it three and a half nipples, maybe even four,
I don't know. I'm somewhere around there. Also worth mentioning
the movie is rated R and it still was as
much of a box office success as it was, because

(01:10:48):
it's kind of rare for our rated movies to do
quite so well at the box office. But why is
it rated R? We ask? Sure, they say fuck a
few times, but other than that, there's nothing that Warren
it's an R rating about this movie. I'm speculating that
it's because it does center a gay couple. Yeah, that
they're like, yuckie, oh, this is gonna.

Speaker 3 (01:11:10):
Corrupt adults, contain adult.

Speaker 1 (01:11:16):
Themes like just fucking ridiculous.

Speaker 5 (01:11:19):
Yes, So all that to say, I'll land like on
a three point seventy five and I'll give my nipples
to Christine Baranski and Nathan Lane.

Speaker 3 (01:11:32):
Yes, I'm going to go four. I think that this
movie is has its flaws. I'm glad that we discussed them.
I feel like they're not often discussed the context of
this movie. And for all of its wonderful parts, it
is still a movie that's ultimately written by white people
in a Hollywood that did and does cater to white people.

(01:11:55):
And so there's two glaring racist plot points that take
place with in this movie, But its legacy is undeniable.
The performances are undeniable, Like Nathan Lane is I forget.
I didn't have I couldn't find the quote that I
found in my research.

Speaker 1 (01:12:13):
But there was. I believe it was like either Gene.

Speaker 3 (01:12:17):
Hackman or Robin Williams that was like this movie was
about just like getting out of Nathan Lane's way and
just like giving him room to do it because it's
like a career defining performance and he's had so many
sinse like he's just unbelievable and then randomly he's series. Yes,

(01:12:37):
we just cited the same thing. Yes, we're big Dick's
the musical heads on this show. But also I just
think about like like he's just his range is incredible,
He's awesome, and this is just like a perfect Nathan
Lane role.

Speaker 1 (01:12:52):
And yeah, the legacy is wonderful.

Speaker 3 (01:12:54):
And speaking to what you were talking about earlier, Manuel,
like we to this day don't regularly get movies that
center queer couples, queer parents.

Speaker 4 (01:13:06):
And the rating thing is very, very glaring.

Speaker 1 (01:13:09):
I'm glad you brought it up.

Speaker 4 (01:13:10):
But even in.

Speaker 3 (01:13:11):
Spite of the rating, I mean, I have to imagine
if this movie was rated PG thirteen, it would.

Speaker 1 (01:13:16):
Have done even better.

Speaker 3 (01:13:17):
And absolutely the fact that it became such a widely
beloved movie, and especially in today's climate, like this was
a movie that heavily featured drag, that everyone watched, and
so people have only gotten more mentally sick as time
goes on.

Speaker 1 (01:13:31):
And I love that for the world, and that's awesome. Yay.

Speaker 3 (01:13:36):
So I'm going four nipples and I'm giving four nipples
to Nathan Lane.

Speaker 4 (01:13:42):
If I had more, i'd give one to a Lane May,
but I don't.

Speaker 1 (01:13:44):
Have any more. So that's just kind of.

Speaker 5 (01:13:46):
The situation that's understandable. Menuel, how about you?

Speaker 6 (01:13:50):
I think, yeah, I fall sort of on the three
seven five for I think it's as we've discussed, it
does so many things simultaneously that feel radical and traditional,
but keeping them always so funny. I think the fact
that it does that with humor, without punching down, without
going for the low hanging fruit agador and you know, black.

Speaker 7 (01:14:12):
Sex work or aside.

Speaker 6 (01:14:14):
I think it's so it's so smart and it feels
I watched it in twenty twenty four, and it still
surprises me that this cup made in ninety six, that
this was a hit in ninety six, that it had
had the character actors that it had ninety six, that
you know Nichols and May who you know. Nichols had
been you know, making amazing movies for decades at this point,
and you know he was able to sort of do this.
And I also love the Nathan Lenham at all. But

(01:14:36):
also because this was an out gay actor at the
heart of it, right, I think I think that's also
it's a great showcase for a queer performer who has
only proven with time that he deserves every and all
flowers we throw at him.

Speaker 7 (01:14:50):
So yeah, I would. I would also give my nipples
to him.

Speaker 5 (01:14:54):
Oh beautiful, Thank you so much for joining us. This
has been such a treat. Comeback anytime time.

Speaker 7 (01:15:00):
Absolutely, this is a joy.

Speaker 5 (01:15:02):
Oh my gosh, thank you. Where can people follow you
on social media? Check out your writing? Also, we forgot
to mention that you penned an amazing piece on Rotten Tomatoes.
I ever heard of it on this movie, so we'll link
that in the description of this episode. But yeah, where
can people check out that and your other writing?

Speaker 6 (01:15:24):
Yeah, you can find me on both Instagram and x
formerly honest Twitter and it's at b Manuel so B
M A n U E L.

Speaker 7 (01:15:36):
You'll find my writing there.

Speaker 6 (01:15:37):
Also my recent book The Mail gazed on Hank's Hearthrops
and what pop culture taught me about desiring men just
came out in paperbacks. If you're looking for a nice
pool side or beachside read, I highly recommend it. It's
all about men and desiring men and asking myself whether
I want him, where do I want to be him?
Which is a queer essentral queer concern of my also

(01:16:00):
have a lot of queer folks.

Speaker 7 (01:16:02):
But yeah, that's that's where you can find.

Speaker 5 (01:16:04):
Me amazing and you can find us on Instagram at
Bechdel Cast. You can follow our Patreon aka Matreon at
patreon dot com slash Bechdel Cast, where we release two
bonus episodes every month on a hilarious, amazing, brilliant genius
theme that always makes so much sense, and that's five

(01:16:24):
dollars a month. You can check out our merch at
tea Public dot com slash the Bechdel Cast and grab
lots of T shirts and pillows and buttons, all designed
by Jamie. And with that, should we dress in drag
and run out a nightclub.

Speaker 7 (01:16:46):
To the tuner your family?

Speaker 5 (01:16:47):
Yes, exactly, yes, okay, see you there by bye. The
Bechdel Cast is a production of iHeartMedia, hosted by Kaitlin
Derante and Jamie Loftis, produced by Sophie Lichterman, edited by
Moe laboord our theme song was composed by Mike Kaplan
with vocals by Katherine Voskresenski. Our logo and merch is

(01:17:11):
designed by Jamie Loftis and a special thanks to Aristotle Assevedo.
For more information about the podcast, please visit Linktree Slash
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