Something I’ve noticed quite a bit when it comes to changing established characters is that people get quite a bit upset when you make a change that is different from what they remembered.  Being a musical theater fan, I’ve seen this a little such as when the Fox production of RENT had Mark played by Jordan Fisher, an African-Ameican actor.

 

 

This is something I feared would be the case with Speilberg’s new take on West Side Story as they made a major change to one of the characters in the story but for the most part, this change has received positive reception. In the original production and the 1961 movie, Anybodys was a tomboy that so badly wanted to be a Jet.

 

If you don’t remember this character, that’s okay as there are quite a few characters to keep track of on both sides of the turf war but the new reimaging of the classic musical expands upon the character in a brilliant way.  Anybodys has gone from being a tomboy to being a trans man.  This is such a neat change that makes so much sense when one stops to think about the character.  It works so well for his character and the film’s writer, Tony Kushner said when looking at West Side Story,  he saw a trans character in plain sight.

 

. As Kushner describes it, “You have these four gay men writing about the Jets, this vat of toxic masculinity, and their idea of what presumably heterosexual street toughs sounded like. And it was the ’50s, when gender had this explosive charge attached to it. I mean, there was this terrible anxiety about homosexuality, about gender, about maleness, about dominating mothers and fathers who wear aprons.

 

 

It also helps that Anybodys’ actor Iris Menas is transmasculine nonbinary  and was able to bring an authenticity to the role that wouldn’t be there if a cis actor had played the role.  While Anybodys uses he/him, they/them pronouns, Menas uses zie/hir.  However Menas has stated they believe Anybodys would explore different pronouns  beyond what we see see in the movie.  Now,  there are times when we the audience sees Anybodys having to deal with transphobia.  One key moment comes when the Jets keep taunting him and calling him a girl to which Anybodys replies.

 

I ain’t no goddamn girl!

 

This is such a powerful moment and speaks to how Anybodys has felt like an outsider because he has been disowned by his family and the Jets don’t accept him as a man.  Something I haven’t seen discussed is how one of the lyics in “Gee, Officer Krupke”  now comes across as another form of transphobia as well.

 

 

My brother wears a dress.

 

This lyric in many ways speaks to the backwards thinking of the Jets but also  how common this treatment was during this period, Kushner and co actually looked into how trans people were treated in the fifties, the period that the movie is set during.  As this article which doesn’t exactly align with the time period puts it.

 

Fifty years ago, the word transgender didn’t exist. But I didn’t ever think of myself as a boy. I really struggled with the sense, like many people in that era, that I was going through this on my own—that I was unique

 

This is very much how Anybodys views himself, he knows that he’s a boy yet society treats him as a girl just because he was born in the wrong body.  Going back to this line for a moment, this is perhaps the clearest moment in the movie.

 

I ain’t no goddamn girl!

 

This moment takes place in a prison where the Jets and Anybodys are waiting to locked up, the Jets are all sitting on one side whereas Anybodys is sitting across from them on another bench with a woman.  This moment is so effective in showing no matter how many times Anybodys asserts himself, society is still going to tell him he’s a girl.  Even though, he knows that’s not true and he is going to have to fight back against these claims.  However, if we take this further, another classic line is given so much more weight now.  Perhaps the most remembered line involving Anybodys

 

You done good, buddy boy

 

In both the original stage production and 1961 movie, that is just the Jets accepting Anybodys as part of the gang.

 

 

It’s nice moment to show how Anybodys has been accepted into this family but now that it is being said to a trans man holds so much more weight.  Not only is Anybodys being accepted by the Jets and becoming a member of the Jets as they desired, it shows the Jets respecting him and acknowledging that he is a man as he has said time and again throughout the movie.

 

This is such a powerful moment because in real life,  it is still hard for trans people to be respected for who they truly are.  It is so important as a society to treat them as they ask to be treated. 

 

When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, or dysphoric

 

This in many ways ties into the silver rule and something I wish people would understand quite a bit more than they do. As this article highlights:

 

A while back, I told a friend that I try to follow the old adage “Treat people how you wanted to be treated.” He responded that he tries to treat people how they want to be treated. This really got me thinking.

 

Sadly, this something that not a lot of people understand and also looking at the character of Anybodys and how he has to make the declaration that he is not a girl reminds me of how so often when trans celebrity comes out such as Elliott Page,  you get people asking “Why does it matter?”

 

Simply put, it matters because trans people are still fighting to be acknowledged as their true selves to this very day.  I’ve seen too many of my trans friends who I love dearly on Twitter be told by a couple of chuds they don’t exist.  It breaks my heart that they have to deal with this crap constantly.  It also matters because repersantion is important and there’s far too few trans characters out there.  Society needs more characters like Anybodys to show the trans community they aren’t wrong for existing.  It’ll sadly be uphill battle with people questioning the inclusion of trans characters in works of fiction or saying them being trans doesn’t matter, when that couldn’t be the furthest thing from the truth.

By Moviefan12

Disney Geek, Oncer, Brony, and Expressionist

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