Gender Newswatch! “Matilda’s” Monstrous Gender

April 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

As reported on NPR’s All Things Considered, Thursday, April 11, 2013 – the representation of “Matilda’s arch-nemesis, Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress of Crunchem Hall” in “Matilda the Musical” rates a Gender Newswatch red flag warning.  Judging from  director Matthew Warchus’ explanation for casting Bertie Carvel (a man) to play Miss Trunchbull on stage, the monstrous darkness of the character is represented by discord between sex and stereotypical gender expectations.  Although Warchus began by casting women in the role, he created the monster he wanted on stage by turning to a man for the part.

According to Warchus, “it became clear to me that the sort of monster that Roald Dahl had drawn — and one who is an Olympic-class hammer thrower, as well —[this] hugely strong, intimidating, nasty, repellent, monstrous person, isn’t particularly female or male.”  Warchus relies on the prejudiced response to what Judith Halberstam calls “female masculinity.”  Gender stereotypes are used to turn this woman’s athleticism, physical strength, and strength of personality into something considered inhuman or monstrous.  The message – and a message aimed at children – becomes one of gender conformity rather than a message against unethical and violent behavior – such as picking up a child and swinging her by the hair.

Become a part of Gender Newswatch and leave a comment either on this post or alerting us to other news stories like this which quietly reinforce gender stereotypes and discrimination or to stories directly related to gender disparity.



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