Drag, rock, authenticity and in-betweenness: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

Symonds, Dominic (2017) Drag, rock, authenticity and in-betweenness: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001). In: Twenty-first century musicals: from stage to screen. Routledge. ISBN 9781138648890, 9781138648906

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Throughout the film "Hedwig and the Angry Inch", we follow the exploits of Hedwig and her band on tour while hearing in flashback the account of her life. The story of the tour itself is somewhat sidelined in favour of her personal story; but even more sidelined is the figure of Tommy Knossos, her former lover who now tours the country with his own band, playing giant stadia and enjoying the life of a rock n roll star. Hedwig's own itinerary plays out in his shadow, as the band plays roadside bars and no-hope venues, living and sleeping in a delapidated tour bus that occasionally doubles as a playing stage itself.

Yet although Hedwig and her band are marginalised from mainstream rock success, the film gives her full coverage as the star of this pseudo rockumentary. It's a neat inversion of the status quo, and a clever analogue to the way in which her life story itself inverts the heteronormative focus of most musical comedies.

This might appear to be the beginning and end of "Hedwig"'s appeal, were it not for two aspects. First, the much discussed exploration the film undertakes of issues of migration and national identity; secondly, the fact that, unexpectedly, mainstream cinema has often turned to musical expression to explore themes of marginalisation, especially in respect of gender (think of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", and "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert"). In these examples, the identity of the films, just like the identity of their protagonists and even the identity of their music, blurs with the identity of the film's theatrical counterpart--the stage version of "Rocky Horror", the more recent incarnation of "Priscilla" in the West End, and the stage version of "Hedwig", a more or less one (wo)man show whose focus on the central (marginalised) individual is even more pronounced.

These dynamics are particularly interesting for an art form (musical film) that, at the beginning of this collection's timeline was itself an almost obsolete but certainly marginalised movie genre.

This chapter will explore how dynamics of marginalisation--so central to "Hedwig"'s story--are instructive metaphors through which to understand the 21st century re-emergence of the film musical as a genre.

Keywords:Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Musical film, Broadway, Marginalisation, Identity, John Cameron Mitchell
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
W Creative Arts and Design > W330 History of Music
W Creative Arts and Design > W400 Drama
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
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ID Code:19961
Deposited On:09 Jan 2016 19:32

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