She’s the Man (and a Woman)

My weekend couldn’t get any better after I saw She’s the Man on Saturday night. Those of you who know me well know that my cultural tastes tend to fall on the side of 14-year-old girls (in terms of music/movies/tv/boys), so it probably won’t come as a surprise that I was fairly eager to watch Amanda Bynes butch it up at a private school where only the most attractive 25-year-old men matriculate for the duration of this film.

First, Amanda Bynes is one of the funniest actresses working today. She is fearless in her comedy, but it never degrades to the point of stupidity, even when she is stuffing an enormous chicken drumstick into her mouth and chomping away. There is something about her that is both charming and disarming. She also makes a cute (if alarmingly pre-pubescent) boy.

When you’re watching a film and you realize one of the main characters is named Duke and another’s pet tarantula is named Malvolio (from the Italian for “ill will”), you can be pretty sure you’re watching a hip high school update of Shakespeare or Jane Austen. In this case, it’s the former, with Viola and Olivia rounding out the cast of the familiar comedy Twelfth Night. In the vein of all good screwball comedies, Viola’s only opportunity to woo the dashing Duke Orsino is to dress as a boy. In the updated version, it’s the only way she can continue to play soccer after her school’s team is cut and her dumbass (yet beautiful) boyfriend refuses to support gender equality in sports.

Along with just being really funny, She’s the Man does raise some interesting questions about gender roles and gender identity. As Viola struggles to reconcile her desire to be a jock with her mother’s desire for her to be a debutante, she desperately tries to learn what it is that makes men “masculine.” How do men communicate when there are no women present? What fears are “masculine” and which are “feminine”? How do men and women resolve conflict among themselves and with each other? All to hilarious results.

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