If you follow me on Twitter, you might have heard me mention one or two or seven hundred times that Christina and I recently watched and loved a kdrama called Coffee Prince. (In fact, we'll be doing even more kdrama watch-alongs, if you're interested and you should be.) Coffee Prince is set in Seoul and is about a tomboyish girl who's often mistaken for a boy. She's the only breadwinner in her family, singlehandedly supporting her mother and younger sister, and they're in dire financial straights. Through SHENANIGANS, she becomes acquainted with a young, hot coffee heir... but he thinks she's a boy. And when he hires her at the all-male coffee shop he just opened, she makes the choice to go along with the charade. BUT THEN FEELINGS. FEELINGS FEELINGS. She falls in love with her hothothot boss... and by that point in the drama, if you are not shrieking and flailing and swooning, you may be broken.
The romantical TENSION, you guys. I CANNOT.
|LOOK AT HIS CHEST HEAVING HE IS OVERCOME BY FEELS|
The reason I loved Coffee Prince so dang much is because it has one of my favorite tropes of all time: gender-bending. Blame Alanna and Tamora Pierce, blame Mulan, blame whoever you want to, if I see that a plot involves a girl disguised as a boy (or a boy disguised as a girl, that would be fun too!), I AM THERE WITH JAZZ HANDS. Heck, blame Shakespeare, if you want to! That guy loved nothing better than to stick a girl in some breeches and flip a few plots upside down (Twelfth Night, As You Like It). (It gets even more interesting when you remember that in Shakespeare's time, the actors were all men, so in reality they'd be men playing women playing men. Or like in the end of Shakespeare in Love, where it's a woman playing a man playing a woman! GENDER, WHO EVEN NEEDS IT?)
It often leads to men and women seeing each other as equals, as people, and as friends, which is always nice. In the case of The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce, Alanna earns a title and friendships she never would have been able to get if people hadn't mistaken her for a boy. It is really sad that so many fictional girls realize that in the unfair system they're forced into, male parts are required to gain respect.
But I love all the lessons that come from a girl bending (and literally binding) herself into the patriarchy like this. All the men whose respect she's earned realize that this girl is their equal regardless of gender and that girls can be just as awesome as boys. And the girl often realizes that being honest with who you are is the way to go and to be proud of whichever gender you truly identify as, and that you can be strong because of your gender. Or, more accurately, that gender has nothing to do with strength.
Also, it leads to very hilarious and interesting romantic situations, which, you know, kind of works for me. Take, for instance, Hana-Kimi, full name Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, an amazing manga that I'm buddy reading with Christina, Debby from Snuggly Oranges, and Steph from Cuddelbuggery. In it, a teenage girl pretends to be a guy to attend an all boy's boarding school, and oh, the HILARITY THAT ENSUES. How many times does this silly girl take showers and forget to lock the door? Or what about the time she passes out because her breast bindings are too tight? Or mistakenly crawls into her roommate's bed in the middle of the night? Or what about when poor Mulan goes to take a bath in the middle of the night and the whole regiment shows up? Awkward. Hilarious. Perfect.
Gender-bending often leads to another of my favorite tropes: hate to love. I mean, the two leads can't exactly insta-love all over the place when one of them doesn't even know the other's true gender. Then one or both can develop FEELINGS and it's CONFUSING and they BANTER and oh, my heart.
Gender-bending: it is the best. If I see it in a book, I will pick up that book. It's mostly present in high-fantasy, but there's an endless supply of it in Asian culture, in manga and kdrama and so many others. Heck, there's even a volume in Hana Kimi where the boys all dress up like girls! It's a thing! Why? Who knows! It's just fun! But I love it.
|"I'm a man!" "Well, nobody's perfect."|
Some examples of gender bending:
In film and television:
She's the Man
Shakespeare in Love
Shakespeare in Love
Just One of the Guys
Some Like it Hot
In literature and manga:
The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce
The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
Hana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo
As You Like It
Eon by Alison Goodman
Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
What about you? Do you love gender-bending? What are some of your favorite examples of it?