Legion: (Spoilers)

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So, I know a lot of us heard about the body swap element in the new FX show, Legion.  In fact, it served as a central element in one of the promos for the show. I haven’t been so excited for a show’s premiere in a long, long time and even raced home from a social engagement to make sure I got to watch it live.

The TG element of the first was promising, but not awesome.  I love the girl that he gets placed inside, and the whole thing was set up nicely because he is in love with her, and they have a relationship, and then he suddenly becomes her, and he is just kind of freaked out and wanders off into the city.

We get to see him check himself out in a mirror, touch his new boobs, but not much else. There is a trippy scene where he has all these flashbacks to being a boy, and his mom calling him her little boy, and it contrasts nicely with him now this pretty blonde woman, and sugggests ways in which the switch may be impacting his sense of self. However, before really having to deal with his new body and gender at all, her just suddenly pops back into his own body and goes on with his life.

As for the series, the body swapping character, Syd Barret, remains in the show, and the two of them continue to have a relationship.  It seems very likely there could be further explorations between the two, and that as she learns to control her power she may do swaps with other people.  As it is, she projects into his mind and influences his thoughts and memory, and we get a nice role-reversal where she comes and rescues him after he has been captured.

In addition, Aubrey Plaza plays a very butch character named Lenny who seems like she may have some gender issues of her own.

So, I think this show is going to have lots more to say about gender fluidity, and will have additional body swaps as well.  Best of all, it is a really interesting show in its own right, and is great to watch, so it isn’t like one of these TV shows or movies where you have to suffer between the TG moments.

It should be interesting, and I can’t wait for the fanfic to get going!

 

 

 

 

The Swap Versus The Swap (Spoilers)

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In this corner, Meghan Shull’s young adult novel, The Swap.  In that corner, Disney Channel’s movie length adaptation.  Which will emerge as the true champion?  Ring the bell and let the battle begin.

Both the book and the film are PG, and both of them artfully dodge anything that a family or young person might find creepy or weird.  For example, in the book Jack, in Ellie’s body, refuses to undress for his physical because he knows it would be wrong for a boy to see a girl naked.  In the movie, when Ellie’s mother induces him to take a bubble bath, he wears a bathing suit.

The story focuses mainly on the characters and their relationships.  Jack has a strict, military father and three rough-housing older brothers.  The father is cold and distant, and he pushed his sons to extreme physical fitness and competitiveness.   When Ellie finds herself suddenly in his body and life, she has to adjust to being yelled at, wrestled with by half-naked boys (all of whom she finds very attractive, something she must hide since she is in the body of a boy and a younger brother.)  She also has to experience other embarrassing moments, like waking up with morning wood.  We learn that one reason for this testosterone driven dude life is that his mother died a year ago.

Jack, on the other hand, finds himself living a life of luxury and ease as a girl.  He has a big, fluffy, comfortable bed, a loving mom who is full of hugs, encouragement and understanding, and even makes pancakes for him just about ever morning.  Jack, though, shies away from this mother’s attempts to be close, and his further horrified when both his mother and his doctor want to talk to him about his impending menstrual cycles and graduation into womanhood.  In addition, he now finds himself mystified by the female politics of the all-girl world he finds himself in, and as a shy boy who never could talk to girls, it is an extra terrible struggle as he finds himself a girl in a girl’s world.  In the book, remember, Jack is now a 12-year old girl, so the all girl social  makes sense.  It is a little harder to believe in the Disney movie, where they are both sophomores in high-school, but this is a Disney Movie, where even adults never do more than offer each other innocent little pecks.

The movie did a better job creating suspense. In the book, the characters believe they just have to make it through the weekend, so that can find the nurse that switched their bodies and get turned back.  The movie made a better choice; the characters have a limited amount of time to earn the right to return to their own bodies, or they will be trapped forever in their new lives.  And how can they earn the right to get their own bodies back?  Well, Jack has to perform rhythmic gymnastics, wearing full make-up, body glitter and tiny little outfit, gracefully dancing around while twirling a ribbon.  Ellie has to dominate other boys in hockey, though she finds a way to use some of her gymnastics skills along the way.

In the end, and stop now to avoid the ultimate spoilers, the book just stops.  The characters do what they need to do, and then they just pop back into their bodies.  The whole thing about the nurse and getting through the weekend vanishes.  In the movie, we get the traditional false ending.  The characters fulfill their quests, and then… they don’t change back.  They think they have failed, and they both seem resigned to their new lives.  Ellie turns to Jack as he stands there in his gymnastics costume, and says, “I am sorry Ellie.”  He looks at her in her hockey gear and says, “I am sorry, too, Jack.”   I would have liked for more of this section of the film, where the two characters are facing their futures and boy and girl, but it turns out they really needed to deal with their unresolved parental issues.   Jack opens up to “his” mom, and they have an emotional moment together, while Ellie stands up to “her” father– and then they are restored.

In the end– sorry– do both.  Read the book.  See the movie.  Both argue for a more genderfluid sense of identity as Jack in some ways makes a better girl than Ellie, and Ellie makes a better guy. Meanwhile, both of them learn that they can indulge in activities that defy norms and actually not only enjoy them but get stronger as Jack learns to enjoy bubble baths, for example, and Ellie starts to thrive in bro-culture.

One regret for me comes from the casting of the movie.  Peyton List is taller and actually looks more muscular and athletic than the scrawny actor who plays Jack.  List looks like she lifts weights, and has a bigger bicep bulge when she challenges another girl to a fight than we see from Jack, who in the book is very muscular — it would have been interesting for me to see Jack react to the realization that as a girl he actually has more of some of the things guys want–  height, muscle– but  maybe I will just have to write that book myself!

 

 

 

The Winchester Sisters!

So, fans all over the Internet are creating videos that feature the Winchester Brothers from Supernatural being transformed into women.  These videos have caught on, and there is even some Winchester sisters cosplay.  Here is a video I especially like because of the voice melding and the showing of the transformation:

 

The above video, like the others, is fascinating to me as much as anything else because simply by implying that the footage of the two gorgeous women features characters who used to be men, the creators are able to create a TG effect that makes all the action fascinating in a specific way.

Here is another one:

This is actually a full episode shot with two actresses playing the gender swapped brothers. It is really fun in that we seem them subtly embracing their womanhood as the show progresses, dressing more and more feminine, doing their hair, and being very much okay with it.

There is also a podcast, where they have redone entire episodes with the brothers genderswapped into sisters:

http://foolsgoldtheatre.podbean.com/p/supernatural-genderswap/

There are even a bunch of tutorials on how to do FemDean makeup and costume, as gender swapped Winchester cosplay is a thing:

It’s all great and fun, especially because I feel like a lot of folks who aren’t part of the TG fiction world are doing TG fiction in a very open, mainstream way.  However, I am curious myself as to why this particular show, and why these characters?

My guess is that the relationship between the brothers reads as or reminds many viewers of more a sisterly relationship, at least as portrayed in the media.  In addition, the viewership of the show tends to skew female, so they are identifying with these male characters, imagining themselves in the roles, and in turn enjoying the idea of the Winchester boys being turned into very sexy girls.  One of the most common, to the point of being almost universal, is the swap of Dean into Amber Heard, and many of the images tend to be very sexy and feminine while at the same time aggressive:

Image result for amber heard as deanna winchester

So, the boys are usually imagine as being dressed in cute outfits, pretty but also strong and aggressive and probably all the things the viewers want to see in themselves, but of course it is fun for them to imagine these two guys in tight, low cut tops and short shorts, but still sporting guns.

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Of course, it is great for people to explore ideas of gender, and what it would mean for a couple of guys to turn into a couple of girls.  One of the great things about these videos is that in a very modern way, none of them in any way sees the characters as diminished or weakened by their sex change.  In all the videos, they are just as tough and capable as always, just doing what they always did a women instead of men.

I like that!

Kitty Pride and Professor (really) X (Spoilers!)

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So, do you remember the time Professor X tried to do it with the teen-age Kitty Pride, but it wasn’t Kitty Pride but actually Baron Karza, the supreme enemy of the Micronauts?

The subplot, featured in the 4 issue x-Men and the Micronauts mini-series, flirted with Sub/Dom TG.    Baron Karza, trapped in the body of a female and dressed like a slave girl, on his back in such a vulnerable position, his arch-enemy, dominant, ready to make his move.  In the book, realizing his enemy intends to have sex with him, Karza tries desperately to distract his enemy, to keep him busy, because Karza feels physically helpess and unable to defend himself.

To understand the dynamic Chris Claremont was playing with, understand that Baron Karza was the Darth Vader of the micro-verse, the ultimate bad guy.  Like Vader, he always wore armor and a helemt, a cold, distant figure, inscrutable.  He ruled over others, had an near-omnipotence in his realm, and could even take on the form of a centaur, cementing his status as an emblem of masculinity and virility..

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So, for him to find himself trapped in the body of a girl, helpless and in the clutches of a predatory male was as close to a total reversal as could be imagined.

The added level of kind of strange pervyness was that the villain is actually Professor Xavier, and, of course, Kitty Pride was one of his students.  The story line didn’t really delve too much into this, and there were never any ramifications beyond the mini-series, but it was a very interesting, human and flawed Xavier that emerged.

A third little bonus for me was the fact that I had owned many micronauts as a kid and loved them, so now one of my favorite toys had merged with TG fiction, and I was in heaven.

In any case, these kinds of role-changes are very interesting to me.  Karza very quickly chose to play the helpless maiden, seeking to flatter and cajole and manipulate the man who wanted to have sex with him, all his usual shouting and bravado gone.  Yet, he was still Karza, and he was just waiting for the chance to try and kill his enemy.

How much of femininity is simply practicality?  Would any intelligent man, placed in Karza’s situation, resort to passive, feminine strategies?  Would many women, if they were bigger and stronger than the men in their lives, take on the dominant role because they could?

These are the questions I feel we can explore in genderfluid fiction, readily and overtly.  Of course, Chris Clarement, author of the series, didn’t have the freedom to pursue the story line very far or very deep.  The most he could do was play at the surfaces.   But that doesn’t mean, and I am sure others, haven’t written fan fiction in which Baron Karza remains a teen-age girl, and where he comes to find the pleasure in surrender.

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Wild Cards, a princess and a pregnancy (Spoilers)

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How would a man react to being turned into a pregnant woman?

The Wild Cards series of books, edited by George R.R. Martin was set in a version of our world in which a strange virus mutated some of the population, giving super powers to a few and making others into grotesque outcasts.  In Book 9, Jokertown Shuffle, things got TG to the extreme when the very male Dr. Tachyon is switched into the body of a teen-age girl by his own sociopathic son.

The story line delved into some ugly realities faced by women–  Tachyon is raped and abused by his son– in way I had never seen up to that point, and it juxtaposed that story line brilliantly with a fairy-tale princess vision of reality, with Tachyon finding himself a damsel in distress, having dreams where he is in a Alice in Wonderland fairy world, passively hoping to be rescued by a mysterious figure known as The Outcast.

The combination of these various very feminine/female fears and fantasies being imposed on a man fascinated me, delving into those questions of behavior and the line between biology and free-will.  Tachyon, initially horrified to have something growing inside him, quickly becomes overwhelmed by his body’s maternal instincts, and helpless and desperate, he just as quickly embraces his role as a pretty young princess, dependent on a man to rescue and protect him.

At the time, I felt the book very clearly fell on the side of biology.  It seemed to say–  put a baby in a man’s belly, and he will become a mother, put a man in a woman’s body, and he will start to have female fantasies.   I feel now, re-reading the book, that I may have misjudged.  Tachyon does not just find himself in a young woman’s body– he is subjected to brutality and abuse, rape, physically and mentally tortured and imprisoned.   Could many of the behaviors that I thought were biological actually be the result of the experiences he suffered?

Clearly, these things all would have an impact, so that whatever the biology and brain chemistry he found himself swimming in as a man in a pregnant woman’s body, the abuse and imprisonment also shaped his reactions and feelings.  Abortion wasn’t an option.  He had to carry the baby, and so he chose to dedicate himself to being the best mother he could be to his unborn child.

I remain fascinated by the fairy tale elements of Tachyon’s journey into motherhood and the impact being turned into a damsel in distress had on him and might have on other types of men. It’s something I have explored and continue to explore in my own writing.  Many of my stories use fairy tale tropes and Jungian archetypes, and I continue to like to write about the interaction between biology, environment and culture when it comes to gender identity.  I think there are some men out there who would become good mothers, but my feeling is that most of them would not primarily due to fear and ego.  Maybe I’ll write about that sometime soon.

Check it Out on Amazon!

Turnabout Intruder: Thoughts and Speculations

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“She could have had as rich a life as any woman.  If only… If only….”

The last lines of the last episode of the original Star Trek television series, and the first body swap story I remember ever seeing.  I was young– pre-teens, and I loved Star Trek, which was in constant re-runs on the UHF stations that broadcast out of Detroit back in the 1970s.

Growing up without a father, I had chosen Captain James T. Kirk as a hero and role model, so it was a strange and fascinating thing to see this episode in which he found himself trapped in the body of a woman.  My hero?  my role model?  A girl?  Yet, early in the episode, the characters who put Kirk in that body still refer to him as a he, despite the female form.

Aha!  That excited and interested me.  He was still a he, even though he was a girl?

The episode raised a lot of questions that I had never really consider, particularly in the court martial scenes. “You claim to be Captain Kirk?”  Lester asks, smirking and laughing at the red-haired woman wearing some kind of weird mod pantsuit.

“No,”  Kirk answers.  “I claim that whatever makes James Kirk a unique entity is being held in this body.”    What I heard him saying, though I didn’t have the words, was, “I am not my body.  The thing that makes me who I am is not this woman’s shape.”

The essence of a person, their gender, their THEM, was independent of their form.  Being, to borrow philosophical terms later in life, was independent of essence.

The iconic nature of the role reversal that lit up my young mind.  Kirk, in the woman’s body, being carried around effortlessly by the man, like the women on the covers of my mother’s romance novels.  Kirk on his knees after being physically over-powered by his former male body.  Kirk, reaching for and grabbing Spock’s hand.  Placed in a woman’s body, Kirk was forced into a woman’s traditional role, pleading with the men in his life to rescue him.  In the end, of course, he saves himself through action, as men are supposed to do, but it is not as a man that James Kirk saved himself; it was as a woman, and that to me seemed to suggest that biology was not, as some would suggest, destiny.

Though I believe it may have been an attempt at a feminist statement, the episode has since been condemned for being sexist, retrograde.  The woman in Kirk’s body is prone to fits of hysteria, loves to file her nails and proves incapable of commanding a star ship.  At one point when she complains about the lack of opportunity for women,Kirk agrees with her that life is unfair for women, but with the kind of dismissive “Whaddya gonna do?”  attitude that is still far too prevalent.   The last lines of the episode are specific.   She could have lived a life as rich as any woman.  Not, clearly, as rich as any man, which was the real issue.

Still, I feel it holds up well both as an exploration of the cost of gender bias as well as a exploration of a body swapping gender reversal.  In the end, Lester’s ultimate defeat and punishment is to be trapped in a traditional gender role– to be dependent on a man for her care and protection.  What could be a more powerful statement against the notion of domestic bliss as the be all and end all for women than the image of a woman, broken and weeping with despair at the thought of being stuck marrying a doctor who wants her to just stop striving and be his wife?  And that was back when television shows portrayed that every woman on Earth creamed her jeans at the thought of marrying a doctor.

If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it lately, check it out on Amazon or Netflix,  Sandra Smith is great as Captain Kirk:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0708485/