My Fair Lady Trapped in the Birdcage

     We often see characters in movies or books that take on transformations. These changes are usually personal, soul- enhancing transformations or physical transformations. In George Cukor's 1964 My Fair Lady, based on the 1956 musical, by Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe, and the 1913 play, Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw Eliza goes through a personal transformation when Higgins attempts to make a woman out of her. But as I watched The Birdcage this weekend, I thought the face of Albert seemed to blend with the face of Eliza. Though these two characters were involved in much different circumstances, their transformations are very similar.

     In My Fair Lady, Eliza is a woman in need of perfecting her social skills, like having manners and using proper English. She lacks the skills that socially acceptable women were supposed to exhibit, and that is the reason Higgins took her under his wing. Eliza had the beauty that every woman desired, but she was missing the elegance, the style, and the cultivated brains that would make her into "the perfect woman."

     While Eliza was learning to achieve the characteristics that would show her feminine side, Albert (Nathan Lane), in The Birdcage, was learning to grasp his manhood. Albert was a flaming homosexual, extremely in touch with his feminine side. However, before meeting the parent's of his lover's son's fiancée, he had to be transformed into the man society, especially her conservative parents, would expect him to be. There is one very amusing scene where Robin Williams is showing Albert how to act like a man, right down to the way he should "smash" the butter on his toast. He helps Albert to get rid of his girlish walk and replace it with a John Wayne, cross-legged stride.

     Both Eliza and Albert changed as though they were two different people. Though Eliza takes her change and becomes the new woman she was taught to be, and Albert still remains his flamboyant self, they each go through a transformation that leads them to higher grounds in regards to who they are. The real importance of their transformations is finding out who they are, and who they want to be.

Barbara Kern

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