What Fools These Cross-Dressers Be

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These are the disorganized, random, poorly written thoughts I had while covering the Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City last week.

1. What was up with the fools and jesters? Monarchs in the old days apparently had someone whose sole job — and I get the impression it was a 24/7 kind of thing — was to entertain the king and his court. Like you could just be sitting there, bored, and say, “Hey, Fool, come over here and say something funny,” and he’d HAVE to do it. Maybe the fool was having a bad day, or just wasn’t in the mood for jokes? TOO BAD, FOOL. You shouldn’t have gotten into a life of foolery.

But what made me think of it is that the fools portrayed in Shakespeare plays like “King Lear” and “As You Like It” are always the least-funny characters in the play (not that “King Lear” is crawling with funny characters anyway). They say things that are meant to be amusing, and the other characters always respond like, “Oh, Fool, you crazy guy, you,” but they’re NOT FUNNY. Usually it’s just dumb wordplay.

Oh, and the other thing is: They never shut up. No matter what you say, they’ve got a smart-aleck (and not-funny) answer for it.

My point is, I’m glad we don’t have fools anymore, because if I had one, I would kill him by the end of his first day.

2. What’s up with people who think cross-dressing is the solution to everything? In Shakespeare plays, any time a woman has to do something secretive, her first thought is always, “I know! I’ll dress up like a man.” And her friends are all, “Um, Cynthia? We’re just going to the market….” And Cynthia’s like, “I know! And I need to dress up like a man!” And her friends just humor her and secretly plan an intervention.

But in a way, you can’t blame them for all the cross-dressing, because it ALWAYS WORKS. Cut your hair and put on some pants, and poof, you’re a man. In “As You Like It,” Rosalind is dressed as a boy and spends hours upon hours with her boyfriend Orlando, and he NEVER REALIZES this “guy” he’s hanging out with is really his true love Rosalind. I don’t care who you are, I can spot a transvestite a mile away. And even if I couldn’t, I think spending some time with you — I don’t know, maybe HEARING YOUR VOICE — would give it away.

It reminds me of a terrible movie I just saw, called “Juwanna Mann,” which is so bad it makes juwanna kill yourself. In it, a professional basketball player gets booted out of the league, so he poses as a woman and plays for a women’s league, I guess because he has no other marketable skills and because he kind of plays like a girl anyway.

(Actually, the most implausible thing about this movie is that the arenas at the women’s basketball games are always full. I don’t buy that for a minute, unless the film takes place in an alternate universe where women’s basketball is popular. No, actually, even then I wouldn’t buy it.)

The thing is, I can’t imagine any situation in which I would feel I HAD to dress up as a woman, much less where I thought I could get away with it. Yet people in movies and Shakespeare plays seem to exhaust every other choice and arrive at that option with startling rapidness. They’re always vigorously heterosexual characters, too, insisting the LAST thing they want to do is dress like the opposite sex — but I am skeptical, because I think if you REALLY didn’t want to cross-dress, you’d find another solution.

3. What do young people who live in Cedar City do? The town has a college, yet it has virtually nothing in the way of entertainment or shopping. The nearest good-sized city is St. George, but that’s an hour away, and it’s only St. George, the world’s hottest, oldest city. (I mean “old” in the sense of everyone who lives there being at least 100, which is also the average temperature.)

I asked my waitress at Denny’s what the young people do, and she said they go to “the bar” — yes, THE bar — and then come hang out at Denny’s. It must be boring in Cedar City. Maybe we ought to send a squadron of fools down there to liven things up.

The part about "Juwanna Mann" is more or less lifted from my review of that movie, but as I've always said, if you can't plagiarize yourself, whom can you plagiarize?

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