Monday, May 23, 2022

She's the Man: The Most Famous Twelfth Night Derivative

She's the Man. Dir. Andy Fickman. Perf. Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, Laura Ramsey, Vinnie Jones, David Cross, Julie Hagerty, Robert Hoffman, Alexandra Breckenridge, Jonathan Sadowski, Amanda Crew, Jessica Lucas, Brandon Jay McLaren, Clifton MaCabe Murray, James Snyder, and James Kirk. 2006. DVD. Paramount, 2017.

Of Twelfth Night derivatives, we’ve covered Motocrossed (for which, q.v.) and Just One of the Guys (for which, q.v.), but we’ve never gotten around to She’s the Man, the most well-known of them all. Perhaps this oversight was simply because it's the go-to Twelfth Night derivative. Or maybe I was worried that students, knowing the film, would want to write on it—and would tailor their essays to match my own thoughts on the film. Or it could be that I don't have all that much to say about it—other than to note that the title comes from the line Viola delivers in the play when she realizes that Olivia has fallen in love with Cesario (the name she uses when dressed as a man): "I am the man" (II.ii.25).

Whatever the case, we're here now. And it's not a bad place to be! She's the Man is clearly far superior to both Motocrossed and Just One of the Guys. Instead of setting the plot in the motocrossing community or in the environs of high-school journalism, we're on the football pitch ("soccer field" to many in the U.S.). And that's a more congenial place to be. Perhaps it's niche, but it's less niche than the others. When Cornwall High School's girls' soccer team is cut for funding issues while the boys' team remains (Title IX, anyone?), our female protagonist Viola pretends to be her brother Sebastian and heads to Illyria Prep School, Cornwall's rival, to prove that she can play soccer at or above the level of the guys.

Hilarity ensures. 

The film follows Twelfth Night's plot pretty closely. Everyone falls in love with the wrong people—except the people who fall in love with the right people. Finally, all is revealed (at points, quite literally—Sebastian has to establish visually that he's a boy; Viola has to establish visually that she's a girl). 

I've put together a few clips from the film to illustrate what I find interesting.
  1. A soccer montage with some elements of what it's like to be a girl in a guy's world. The soccer in this film is often quite exciting (yes, I know they edit out the dull bits, but these people really do know how to play the beautiful game).
  2. A bonding moment between Viola (pretending to be Sebastian) and Duke, who says he finds himself tongue tied when trying to talk to the opposite sex. The interesting part to me is that we're really bringing in As You Like It rather than Twelfth Night here. It's a rough equivalent to the scene in which Rosalind (dressed as the man Ganymede) pretends to be Rosalind so that Orlando can practice wooing a lady. Also, the line "Do you like cheese?" becomes a nice running gag in the rest of the film.
  3. A direct quotation from Twelfth Night. We get a key line from the letter dropped to fool Malvolio: "Be not afraid of greatness. Some are [born] great, some [achieve] greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em" (II.v.144-46).

It's lovely to have that direct quotation brought it. But it's also interesting on another level. The coach (who, apparently, says that before every game?) is played by Vinnie Jones, who played football (sorry—soccer to any in the audience from the United States) professionally (notably, for Chelsea). You may know him as being the utterly evil Sebastian Moran in the television series Elementary. There, he notably plays a fanatical Arsenal fan—an inside joke, since Jones never played for Arsenal. Jones also holds the record for earliest booking (i.e., getting a yellow card) in a professional match.  It's three seconds. But I'm sure he's a lovely guy off the pitch. 

All in all, it's an interesting, well-presented, well-acted, well-conceived film. It's well worth watching.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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