Androgyny and acting

Maria Bello from FacebookMaria Bello on playing with gender roles

Maria Bello found her role in “A History of Violence” was “really sort of the supportive husband. She’s the man. She’s the A personality: aggressive, masculine – even the way she dresses.

“And I really felt she was in control and driving this family, and he was more gentle and feminine. I love to play with gender roles; I find that really fascinating.”

[From Backstage article: History Class – Maria Bello offers a new turn on the supportive spouse in ‘A History of Violence.’ by Jenelle Riley]

Barbara Stanwyck

So do many talented actors. Barbara Stanwyck‘s “tremendous popularity was, in large part, the result of an androgynous star persona and a history of film roles which explored the limitations of gender,” writer Torey King says.

“Her androgynous image was enhanced by her angular face and slim, athletic build, which contrasted with the voluptuous ideal of the female body during the studio era.”

[From article: Barbara Stanwyck: Warrior Woman in Hollywood’s Gender Wars – by Torey L. King]

Mira Sorvino on the difficulty of being a man

Mira SorvinoMira Sorvino said that after playing an Italian princess who cross-dresses as a man in “The Triumph Of Love” she has a “newfound respect for how difficult it is to be masculine.

“Because, as the masculine character, the only way it worked was if I seemed sure of myself at all times. If I showed a moment’s hesitation, or even quiet introspection, then I seemed feminine.

“So I had to be bold with my behaviour and my stance and my expressions because, if I gave away that, behind it all, I was unsure of what my next move was, then I seemed like a girl.

“Only when I was assertive and seemed very sure of myself was I masculine. Women are allowed to be softer and more vulnerable and indecisive at times. It’s very difficult for the male characters.”  [Toronto Sun, April 23, 2002]

Androgyny and giftedness

Mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux, who played a male character in the baroque opera Ariodante, said in the 1700s “there was a lot more of an androgynous sense between the masculine and the feminine. There was more acceptance of females having a masculine side (the female warrior), and the male having a more feminine side, which you find a lot more even today in Italy.” [ 23 Oct 2002]

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Being androgynous in “real life” relates to exceptional ability, according to some researchers, with gifted girls being less stereotypically “feminine” than nongifted females and gifted males are less stereotypically “masculine.”

For actors – whether you are technically a gifted person or not – being more in touch with gender qualities can be valuable. As Maria Bello notes, “Actors are responsible to bring all of ourselves to a part.”

Related article: On androgyny and identity and creativity.

Related pages: Androgyny/gender // Identity


Article publié pour la première fois le 26/06/2015