Sunday, March 5, 2017

"The Danish Girl" Gets the Last Laugh

Book:  The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
The movie:  The Danish Girl, starring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander, directed by Tom Hooper

Both depict the lives of a husband and wife, a pair of artists in Denmark and what happens to their lives when the husband recognizes his dream of becoming a woman and what happened during the process to make him one.

"Mixed" couples are no longer as unusual as they were in the late '20s and early '30s, the time this book covers.  Today, switching gears, if you will,  is apparently as easy as having a hot appendix removed.  If not as frequently.

Einer (husband) and Gerda (wife) (This is set in Denmark; they aren't going to be Bob and Judy)  are doing well until the fateful day she asks him to pose in the clothing of the opera star she is painting who was unable to keep her appointment with Gerda.  The portrait is done except for the feet, legs and drape of the gown.  So Gerda asks Einer and he "reluctantly" complies.

Wearing the dress, his first pair of hose, a camisole, flips him out and over the statue of the Little Mermaid and he's never the same again.  Literally.

As the story progressed, I became intrigued by something.  Not the sex change stuff; many a CEO is wearing a thong under his bespoke business suit or so I have been led to believe.  What amazed me is this:  Einer's alter-ego, a "woman" named Lili is clearly seen by both husband and wife as a real person.  "Do you think Lili would like to go to the artists ball tonight?" she asks him.  "I'll ask her," he replies.

The wife is supportive; she taught him how to use make-up, lets him borrow clothing items and buys "her" more ... but nonetheless, Einer/Lili is now determined to have a physical sex change.  Previously he saw doctors who tried to x-ray "deviancy" out of him; others who analyzed him, dusted their hands and said, "Split personality."

Hearing of a doctor who would ease "her" of her burden (carried below the waist if you get my drift) Lili will finally emerge as the person she always thought she was.   The first surgery is reasonably successful, but only after a very long recuperation in an unwed mothers' home, if you please.

Her doctor advised him that the second surgery, to build the interior plumbing is much more complicated and perhaps least said, soonest mended would be prudent in his case.  He refuses.
The surgery takes place. Exploring the man's interior, the surgeon finds a pair of small, aged ovaries.   Lili was actually a female from birth. 

Sidebar:  Richie and I were driving down Catalina, admiring the ocean when I decided to tell him exactly what happens in a sex-change surgery.  He flinched visibly - if it had been a noise, he would have screamed - and barely missed clipping a bicyclist, two fat ladies with fatter dogs in the crosswalk and a herd of gulls on the roadway.  Proceed with caution if you decide you want a look-see.   But it is interesting.  Who knew you could that with that? 

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