Gender in Orlando

The character of Orlando stands in front of a mirror and we see her obviously female form reflected back.But the film Orlando, named after its main character, is more than half over, and up till now Orlando has not just portrayed a man, but has been a man.And as she, for Orlando is undoubtedly she, looks at her own reflection in the glass, she quips, "Same person – no difference at all.Just a different sex." This fantastical film is based on the book of the same name written in 1928 by Virginia Woolf, and it follows Orlando over four centuries.Never aging a day, Orlando is a man for the 17th and most of the 18th century.After almost two hundred years, in the mid 18th century, an aversion to war and violence, and a mans duty to partake of the two, lead Orlando to make a choice to change genders, and she continues as female into the present day.Throughout this amazing life and miraculous transformation the film shows us that there are unwritten rules for what makes a man, or woman, and that these rules generally lie only on the surface.When she claims that she is the same person, regardless of sex, Orlando "highlights [the] instability of gender" and the "signifiers of fashion for gender . . . are exposed and subverted" (Ferriss & Waites 110). The film Orlando illustrates the idea that gender identity is dictated by cultural conditioning, and that there is a kind of freedom in androgyny.
Throughout the film Orlando Sally Potter, the director, focuses on gender and the search for identity through gender.Every major character within the film evokes a strong response to either their masculine or feminine traits, however, these judgements are based solely on societal clues.For example, the beginning of the film depicts Queen Elizabeth I in all her glory and finery.We know she is female because of our knowledge of her historical presence, because of the distinctly female atti…


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