Orlando is a British movie, which was produced in 1992, as a representation of the novel Orlando by Virginia Woolf. One of the essential themes in the story is gender change. Orlando’s sex change determined how the story proceeds. When Orlando changed into a woman, he was not perturbed by the change as he did not feel the difference since he did not experience pain in the transformation (Woolf and Bowlby 133). Hence, he continued acting as if nothing had changed. Gender identity did not take center stage since Orlando had shifted to a new environment.
Orlando’s life and personhood experienced some changes during the transformation of gender. First, he changed his environment. She had to conform to her surroundings. Unlike when he was a man, Orlando had to wear women’s clothes in order to attract a man and become acceptable in the new age. When Orlando realized what it is to be a woman, she strived to maintain her new identity, even though she missed the freedom that she had as a man. Orlando’s change also activated her sexual desires, as she embarked to fight discrimination that women face in their daily lives.
Orlando was the “same” person after sex change. Change of sex did not modify Orlando’s identity; it was just a structural change. His face and memory remained the same. Her different opinions from her companions made her recognize that she had already changed her gender (Woolf 139). Woolf claimed that the realm of imagination should not be separated from the realm of fact, as “rainbow and granite” should be placed in one case (75).
Woolf and Potter have endeavored to express about gender and sexualities as they explain Orlando’s new surroundings. Potter portrayed Orlando as a feminist feature, which interrupted with traditional codes to establish new symbol of femininity and sexual identity. The pro-heritage critics offered by Potter tend to confront the modern representations of gender and sexuality, disputing that the old films expanded the gender and sexual horizon to incorporate gay subjects and ambiguous love relationships (Kao 276). Woolf argued that both genders should be free to direct their actions. Potter visually presented sexuality and gender as the future direction for self-representation.
Woolf wrote the story in the twentieth century when men still dominated the writing profession while feminism was just in its infancy stage. Woolf wanted to express how sexual inequality affected women and their independence. Orlando had to change her dressing depending on her situation. This implied that society was quite rigid on gender roles even when the physical manifestation of gender is hidden under the clothes. Thus, Woolf sought to confront male-centered discourse, which hinders women’s participation in public development. On the other hand, Potter came to release the movie Orlando (1992) when women had already taken a huge step eradicating sexual inequality. Hence, Potter opted to not only to adapt the authoritative intervention expressed by Woolf in her novel, but also proposed a challenge to its form.
Both Woolf and Potter intended to undo the gender to challenge gender differences and stereotypes. Gender stereotype brought feminism, which fights to equate women to men. According to Butler and Weed, feminism emerged out of contradiction between equality of human beings and the segregation of some, in this case, women, from political and public participation (45). When conformity became repressive to Orlando, she began resisting it: she was already matured, and was capable of becoming independent. Hence, Woolf’s intention was to introduce a new wave of discourse where both sexes have to be recognized in terms of qualities and similarities rather than differences.
Butler, Judith, and Elizabeth Weed. The Question of Gender: Joan W. Scott’s Critical Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011. Print.
Kao, Vivian. “Adapting Heritage: Reading The Writerly Text In Orlando.” Literature Film Quarterly 43.4 (2015): 276-290. Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
Woolf, Virginia, and Rachel Bowlby. Orlando: A Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.