For Film and Society class, I wrote another a film analysis on a great film, Some Like It Hot. My writing for this paper was really simplistic and I did not receive a grade, but nonetheless I enjoyed exploring a theme on Some Like It Hot. The prompt was to explore how the film did not really cross any gender liberation. Fair enough because it really was a comedy than anything else. And I must say that I laughed so hard at the end. Classic!
Some Like It Hot: Men Will Always Be Men
By Chris Huqueriza
November 25, 2008
The image of masculinity has thrived with the perception percieved as unemotional strong leaders. And with the invention of cinema, men are predominately shown with an aura of suaveness and power with notable examples like John Wayne, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, and James Stewart. The films from the 1950s even carried on the tradition with brooding, masculine men like Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and James Dean. Billy Wilder’s 1959 film, Some Like It Hot, seems to travel the opposite as the film creates a radical rebellion against the ‘50s definition of masculinity as the men liberated themselves as cross-dressers. But to look deeper at the film, these men portrayed themselves as a joke. The audience can laugh at them because they are perceived as non-threats to society. By the end of the movie, the audience always knew they would return to their male forms. Some Like It Hot always reverted to the traditional definition of masculinity by perceiving cross dressing as a harmless joke and to return the lead characters as men.
The men in Some Like It Hot may seem radical and beyond their times, but their actions as women is seen as humorous and not a threat to the audience. The radical escape is that the men run from the mob and hide as women living lives as transvestites. Supposedly, the movie opens new sexual ground, but the movie is structured as a comedy so it’s not groundbreaking. For example, Joe (played by Tony Curtis) wears feminine garments like a bra and stockings, but looks silly as he is muscularly built. His transition into a female is not seamless and is perceived as preposterous. Jerry (played by Jack Lemmon) starts to enjoy living a life as girl and the prospects of a male suitor, but makes a joke that he physically can’t marry him because it’s impossible. The audience laughs as Jerry contemplates death because his predicament is torn. And throughout the entire movie, the men complain about their situation as absurd cross-dressers. The men are not really liberated in the radical sense. They are a harmless joke. If they were a threat, they would fully enjoy the transition. Moviegoers from the 1950s would ultimately condemn them as it’s too taboo and obscene. For the men, they offer laughs as the “homosexual joke” because sexual liberation is a comedy.
Throughout the entire film, the men are cavorting as women, but they will return as men because society wants them to be. The ending is a perfect example as it works as a classical ending that restores everything to normalcy without any loose ends. For example, Joe retreats from being a women to live happily with Sugar Cane (played by Marilyn Monroe) while Jerry is still paired with his suitor after revealing his true masculine form. More as a joke, Oswald says, “Well, Nobody’s perfect.” The identity of both men are clearly stated as dominant males by the end of the film. Throughout the film, they still think like men. Their thinking is 100 percent male and the cross dressing is only an act. The audience never believes that they are women because of their muscular physique and their gender thinking and mannerisms.
Director Billy Wilder always presents the traditional definition of masculinity in Some Like It Hot by perceiving the sexual liberation of transvestism as a harmless joke and by reminding the audience that the lead characters are always men. The movie does not presents a radical gender liberation. Their activities are harmless. The movie’s ending concludes with normal social norms as the men revert to their masculine forms and live happily with women (or at least resolves the same-sex relationship dilemma). The director always intended to show the traditional definition of masculinity through the men’s comedic shenanigans. As Wilder may present a radical liberation, he is only making a comedic film where men will always be men.