If I could drop dead right now, I'd be the happiest man alive. ~ Samuel Goldwyn
The Origin of Love
A musical. I saw the movie a good three years ago and have listened to the soundtrack a good thousand times. And I oft quote the lyrics here.
He was a young man by the name of Hansel. He lived in communist East Germany and had a childhood that could be called nothing short of “very troubled.” He was seduced by an American G.I., who persuaded him to have a sex change operation in order to become his wife and go to America with him. Hansel wanted so badly to escape to the other side of “that wall.” His mother convinced him that this was a very good idea and that in order to be free, one must give up a little part of oneself. (Little?) She gave him her passport and her name, Hedwig. Unfortunately, his sex change operation got botched, his guardian angel fell asleep on the watch! Now all he’s got is a Barbie doll crotch! He was left with a one inch mound of flesh. (Six inches forward, five inches back!) In short, he was left to function as neither a man or a woman. Yeah, this would piss anyone off. Made his inch kinda angry!
So he said bye bye to mommy and East Germany. Went to live in a trailer park with the lovely man he married, who lost no time in finding another playmate and left. Hedwig is left to sit and watch the tv, where the news is showing the Berlin wall coming down.
He looks back at his life and at the future he has before him. He ponders the woman he’s become and how the strangest things seem suddenly routine. He decides to delve fully into becoming the caricature version of a woman. Fine! You made me a woman, and I'll be a woman, God damn it! (Note: I choose to call Hedwig a “he” throughout the story, because I am under the impression that he never really felt he was a woman. I don’t believe he would have pursued a sex change operation. He would likely have been very happy as a gay man, but I don’t think he felt he was a woman, except in the sense that he was an amazing person who engendered both sexes beautifully. But I have to choose one! Our dear and purrty friend Jami, on the other hand, I refer to as a woman, since she is one. And likely, as Hedwig, an amazing person by any measure. She was interviewed and clarifies the transgender issue better than anyone I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a lot! I read her interview to my family when I was in Utah and they loved it.)
ANYWAY, embittered as he was, Hedwig moved on in the world of musical passion, maintaining a deep, albeit hidden, sensitivity. A truly gifted songwriter and performer, he obtained a cult following. As with many a slave who has become a tyrant themselves, Hedwig married a Russian woman who was desperate for help with her own citizenship, and used this to control her. He forced her to dress as a man, giving her the same bondage he found himself in. Victim begets victim.
Hedwig sings the song “Origin of Love” to express his belief that there is some half of him in the world that he has yet to find. It is an unbelievably moving song and is full of the philosophies/ideologies/theologies of several paths of thought. But the jumble makes sense. It’s based, for the most part, on the Platonic philosophy that we were once made of two. And God, or the gods, split us apart. This is the explanation for that desperate attempt we make in finding our other half.
Hedwig finds his other half in an agonizing young man who admires him and wants to absorb all he has to offer. This other half then takes the good stuff and runs. He takes the musical talent that Hedwig offered and makes a name for himself. A big name. And not only that, but a name that Hedwig, in his brilliance, gave him. Tommy Gnosis. Gnosis being the Greek word for knowledge.
In the climactic end of the movie, Hedwig must come to grips with the fact that he has become what he hates. He has twisted the beauty that lived in him into wretched bitterness. He realizes that it is important to be whole all alone. He lets the woman he has wrapped in masculinity free. He lets Tommy go. And then he is free.
Why do I love this movie? Is it not obvious? I am ever preaching freedom. I think that those who have been in chains have the greatest appreciation for freedom. I have come to appreciate the place where I am today. The freedom I have is not able to be taken away from me. You could tie me up, put me in a box wrapped in chains and send me to the bottom of the ocean, and I’d still be free.
And again, I refer you to Jami, from whom we have much to learn.
Sidenote: I adore John Cameron Mitchell, whose purrfection created Hedwig. I have mentioned him before, but I’m sure no one knew who he was, or even noticed. He’s a beautiful man, and makes a beautiful woman, too! (Sort of like Patrick Swayze, who is also a beautiful woman! Hee hee.) If you have not seen “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” I would suggest you do. And see "To Wong Foo" while you're at it! :)
Here is my JCM singing a casual version of "The Origin of Love." He's just so darling! I wanna kiss him! AND, thanks to Purrty Jami, here he is in all his Hedwigian glory singing the DVD movie version.