Remove "Mrs. Doubtfire" from 5th Avenue Theatre's 2019-2020 Season

Remove "Mrs. Doubtfire" from 5th Avenue Theatre's 2019-2020 Season

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E. Blodgett started this petition to Executive Artistic Director - The 5th Avenue Theatre Bill Berry and

On June 6th, The 5th Avenue Theatre announced that it would be replacing a previously announced season pick with Mrs. Doubtfire: A New Musical. Based on the 1993 film, this show is set to be helmed by a star-studded line-up (director Jerry Zaks, choreographer Lorin Latarro, and music supervisor Ethan Popp) and is being advertised as #BroadwayBound.

But does this film really need to be brought to the stage?

The tired, transphobic tropes in Mrs. Doubtfire should be left in the past.

The central device of the plot, crossdressing as an elaborate ruse, strengthens the assumptions and misjudgments that continue to harm trans women in implicit, pervasive ways. As trans theatre-maker and critic Brin Solomon writes, “The core premise of the man-in-a-dress joke is that it’s ridiculous and unnatural for a man to wear a dress. Because mainstream society, by and large, thinks of trans women as “men in dresses” instead of women, the man-in-a-dress joke perpetuates the idea that trans women are “unnatural” and fit for ridicule and scorn”.

On top of the constantly underlying crossdressing gag,  there are many examples of blatant transphobia in the 1993 film. In one scene, Daniel (played by Robin Williams), pretends to be a few different characters in an attempt to get the job of his ex-wife’s nanny. During one of the phone interviews, his ex-wife informs the character that she has two daughters and a son. The character replies “oh, a boy. I don’t work with the males, ‘cause I used to be one.” His ex-wife immediately hangs up.

Though it is being advertised as a “new” musical, this show is far from alone in its misguided attempts at a progressive update. The adaptation of the 1982 film Tootsie opened on Broadway in April 2019 and revolves around a similar plot, in which a cisgender man hits a rough patch and decides to reinvent himself as a woman. While there are no actual trans people in either film, their entire plots are one, long, transmisogynistic joke (strung together by the thin veneer of the desperate man attempting to win back his life).

There is nothing innocuous or isolated about these deceptions of gender nonconformity. The media we are surrounded by informs our society’s point of view. Violence against trans people, especially trans women of color, is on the rise, and this is due in part to our culture’s assumptions that trans people are sneaky, lying, or perverted. We can’t change the ideas that were propagated by our industry in the past, but we can keep them from existing in the future. Mrs. Doubtfire can’t be retrofit into anything close to a progressive narrative. As a theatre artists, we should be focused on the production of new creative works, not recycling stories and relying on nostalgia to fill seats.

We can do better.

- Eli Blodgett (they/he)

Example of transphobic scene, Mrs.Doubtfire (1993): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMKPnnLzoAg

Jerry Zaks To Direct Pre-Broadway MRS. DOUBTFIRE at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre This Fall (Alan Henry): https://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Jerry-Zaks-To-Direct-Pre-Broadway-MRS-DOUBTFIRE-at-Seattles-5th-Avenue-Theatre-This-Fall-20190606


The Tonys Nominate: Transmisogyny (Brin Solomon): http://www.brinsolomon.com/blog/2019/5/3/the-tonys-nominate-transmisogyny


The Gender Problem ‘Tootsie’ Can’t Dress Up (Christian Lewis): https://www.americantheatre.org/2019/05/07/the-gender-problem-tootsie-cant-dress-up/

 

 

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