Friday, 30 November 2012

Jaye Davidson

Jaye Davidson is another person I have found fascinating. In this blog post, we will be considering what he has to do with the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Spoilers alert

This blog contains spoilers about the film The Crying Game, which is well worth your time, whether you are a crossdresser or not. Trust me, you will enjoy the film a lot more if you don't read what follows. If you haven't seen it, put this blog off now and go and watch it. Then come back and post a comment.

But if you have seen it, or you have figured out that there is a transgendered theme to the film, then do read on.

Before we consider Jaye, let's look at the Royal Wedding. I watched it all the way through, as I had done many years earlier for the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales. It occurred to me that William had spent some considerable time as Britain's most eligible bachelor. During that time, he almost certainly availed himself of the endless tide of upper class totty who made a play for his affections; he would have been insane not to!

As William and Kate walked up the aisle of Westminster Abbey, I found myself thinking about that handful of women who were watching the same thing, hiding behind a tear-stained cushion, knowing that, had the dice fallen a little differently, it might have been them standing beside William instead of Kate. But more interestingly, I found myself thinking about the ones who had dallied with William, before realising that life as his wife, though undoubtedly rewarding, would come at too high a price. In other words, having dipped a toe into that water, how many of them are glad they didn't plunge in over their head? I wonder if Chelsy Davy feels like that? Media reports suggest she does.

Jaye Davidson as Dil
So back to Jaye Davidson. Born in 1968 in the USA, he grew up in the UK, the son of a Ghanian father and an English mother. He became famous more or less overnight playing Dil, the love interest in the 1992 film The Crying Game. Like Andrej Pejic, Davidson is androgynously beautiful, and looks beautiful whether we see him as either a man or a woman. In many images, it isn't immediately apparent whether we are looking at a man or a woman.
I don't have a brilliant body at all. I've got very broad shoulders. I've got very big feet. I've also got a very muscular neck. But I know people take me for a woman. It happens all the time.
Though his father was Ghanian, I am surprised at how many articles (including the Wikipedia one here) describe him as Black British. Wikipedia points out he is the first Black British person to receive an Oscar Nomination (for Best Supporting Actor for The Crying Game; he did not win). In any case, I would not describe him as black. However, The Crying Game was Davidson's first acting role: it says much for his talent as an actor that on his very first attempt he made it to the Oscars!
It's not because I'm good, it's because it was an interesting role. It was the role that was nominated, not me. I really think that most of this is a fluke.
The film itself is a powerful story. It currently has a 100% Fresh rating on RottenTomatoes. Roger Ebert gave it four stars (out of four) and said it "involves us deeply in the story, and then it reveals that the story is really about something else altogether." I can't help watching it with my transvestite glasses on, and it's very hard for me to see anything other than the relationship between Fergus and Dil. The turning point of the story is the "reveal", where Dil, whom we have never considered to be anything other than a woman, reveals in no uncertain terms (after intimacy with Fergus) that she is genetically male. Fergus's reaction is of revulsion, but he later develops romantic feelings for Dil. The ending of the film is complex: neither a happy-ever-after ending (which would have infuriated us after the intelligence and subtletly of what has gone before) nor a definitive separation of the two.

It's entertaining to see Miranda Richardson play the villian with real menace, having previously seen her squawking around as Queenie in Blackadder II.
Oooo... those scary eyes. Davidson in Stargate.

As a result of the film, Davidson became really hot property internationally. His next film was much better known. He played a young shepherd boy whose body was occupied by the spirit of Ra, the alien villain of Stargate, (1994) opposite Kurt Russell. I managed to watch this film with two sets of glasses on: my geeky, sci-fi nutcase glasses (where it was a pretty reasonable film) and my transvestite-spotting glasses, where I appreciated Davidson's appearance and noticed again his androgynous beauty. The Stargate movie spawned a whole franchise of TV shows, none of which I have troubled myself to watch.

In any case, it seems clear that Davidson's star was in the ascension. He must have found himself inundated with offers of all kinds: to appear in photoshoots, to appear in other movies, to become a darling of Hollywood... and he decided not to bother.
The Oscars were madness; I spent half the time being blinded by flashbulbs because I didn't have the sense to take a pair of sunglasses with me.

Somewhat like the women that might have married Prince William, Davidson, having dipped his toe in the water, and tasted Hollywood adulation, decided not to take things any further, but return to a career in fashion, which (as far as I know, based on what's on the web) he is still doing.
My dream come true would be to be an architectural historian and work with the royal palaces and all the fabulous art collections. But I'm not committed enough. I'm too trashy. I like to go out and get drunk. 
I've sold a very small part of myself, but certain people think they're entitled to the rest of me. Of course, I am an incredibly strange person for the norm, so strange that I'm more normal than they'll ever be
Eww... will you put that away?
In case you are wondering, Jaye is gay. He isn't, however, a regular crossdresser. In his interviews, he states he doesn't own feminine clothing or go out dressed, although he does admit that he is sometimes taken for a woman. He doesn't have a fem name, although his stage name (Jaye) is more androgynous than his birth name, Alfred.
I knew that I was gay from the age of seven. It's one of my earliest memories. It was never a problem for me and it was never a problem for my family. I was always allowed to do what I wanted to do.
It's been twenty years since The Crying Game was released. During that time, I wonder what's happened to Jaye Davidson. He is now 44, fairly similar to my own age. In the interviews I've read, he was absolutely certain he didn't want to pursue fame; I hope the last two decades have confirmed that was the right decision for him. He probably isn't too old that he couldn't return to acting if the inclination overtook him. He must know the upsides and the downsides pretty well.
A beacon of reserve, Jaye’s been retired from acting for over 10 years. He’s probably getting by, having left the public eye at exactly the right moment to be remembered indefinitely.
I agree with the above commentator. By appearing in one, amazing, tantalising film, then another completely different, Davidson has given us precisely enough to whet our appetites for him for ever. I hope he is happy and making a fortune.

I haven't come across much on TV or in the movies where a man is deliberately cast to play the part of a woman. Other offerings I am familiar with include comedy, such as the BBC series Terri McIntyre- Classy Bitch, where the main protagonist was a woman played by a man (Simon Carlyle), and Lily Live! where the protagonist Lily Savage (played by Paul O'Grady) was depicted as a woman, rather than a drag queen. Comedy is all well and good. As I have posted elsewhere, I think crossdressing as a vehicle for comedy just isn't that funny. In addition, I find it quite uncomfortable when (say) a person whom the audience well knows is a man in drag is addressed as "Mum" by another character.

Some of my other posts are dedicated to my crossdressing heroes. Jaye Davidson doesn't quite make it as a hero of mine; his situation is very far removed from my own. On the other hand, as someone who has decided what is right for him (rather than chasing fame, that fickle mistress), I admire him enormously for taking that choice. He has passed up a lot of money and fame, in favour of (what I hope is) a more normal and manageable (and happy) life. I hope it has been worth it, and I wish him nothing but the best.

Some of the interview quotes were taken from this beautiful fan site, which seems to be designed by Jules Scott. Thanks Jules. I love your style. If you feel like giving this site your magic touch, please contact me!

4 comments:

  1. Jaye, as a feminine appearing (I have no idea about behavior) gay man, he was the perfect choice to play Dil, which I consider one of the best movie portrayals of an MTF HSTS transkid. He was far better than Steven Mackintosh was in "Different for Girls", another attempt to portray an HSTS.

    So, Jaye makes it as a hero of mine!

    As an aside, two other movies that I feel do a good job of portraying MTF transkids:

    "I want what I want" in which Anne Heywood does a sensitive and understated portrayal of an upper-middle-class British transkid with a very transphobic father. However, Wendy is in many respects a cartoon character, one dimensional, whose only interest in life (at least portrayed) is wearing pretty clothes and mooning over a local jock. That jock attempts to rape Wendy, and discovers that she is trans... to very bad effect on Wendy's self-esteem. That part felt all too real.

    In "The Woman Inside", Gloria Manon does a rather bold portrayal of a strong willed HTST transkid pulling her life together in her early '20s in Los Angeles. For me, the movie rings especially true, since I was living in L.A. during the time of the filming (1981), and was about the same age as our heroine. Although details are different, Holly's spirit and spunk reflect my memories of my myself at that age. In a word, Holly is me! So, this movie is my top pick for realism... even down to the scene in which real-life late-transitioning transwomen are at a support group that Holly is required to attend... and recoils from, begging her doc not to make her go back. Totally, dead on! Holly falls in love with a rather roguishly attractive alcoholic musician, only to be dumped when he discovers she is trans... painfully realistic, again reflective of my own life. Further, in the end, we learn that she has every intention to live as stealthily as she can, very accurately reflective of transkid ambitions.

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    1. Thanks for posting, Cloudy! I hadn't heard of those other films, but will put them on my watch list for the future and let you know my thoughts about them.

      Vivienne.

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  2. A completely minor side point in your article caught my attention -- Davidson's comments about being mistaken for a woman despite having broad shoulders, large hands, etc.

    That got me to thinking about numerous discussions I've had with crossdressers on the subject of whether or not they can pass. Some will express confidence that they pass and they'll be lauded with praise from other crossdressers that they are so beautiful and I'm thinking, "Dude, you look about as female as I do and I don't even shave my beard!" As often as not I'll say so, because I worry about the safety for people who go out thinking that their physical safety depends on how well they pass. And I'm not usually a whole lot more tactful than the way I phrased it above, because I want to make sure that the message is clear: No, you don't pass. You're very pretty, but pretty as a man.

    On the flip side are the (usually younger) CDs who have naturally delicate features and fret over some trivial detail -- an obvious Adam's apple, or large hands, or whatever. Sometimes I would never have known they were male if they had not said so! Oh, to be young and lithe again.

    Anyhow, what I learned ages ago was there is no "pass/not pass" factor (well, possibly except for my 2-inch-long beard) but a spectrum. Say you start with a goal of 100% female and then start taking off points for any trait that is most frequently associated with masculinity -- deep voice, large hands, *any* visible facial hair, broad shoulders, lantern jaw, a more "aggressive" stance and walk, etc. etc. etc. You can name genuine females who have one or two of any of those traits (Bea Arthur had a deeper voice than mine, and I sing bass!), so having one or two of those traits doesn't knock you out of the race entirely. But the more of those traits you have, the lower your score is. Is 70% passing good enough? 60%?

    Some issues you can change, some you can conceal, and some are beyond your control. So you change what you can, conceal what you can, and hope that the changes and concealment (and any naturally feminine features) are convincing enough to make up for the elements you can't do anything about.

    Of course for me it's just an academic exercise, a thought experiment if you will. When I read about all the effort you "serious" crossdressers put into your appearance, I'm glad I opted out of a game I could never possibly win!

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  3. Hi Ralph,

    Many thanks for posting. Charlie Jane Anders makes a point in one of her books that you don't need to look like a woman to look good in women's clothing. I cling to that maxim from time to time, and I suspect others do too.

    I have pointed out before that I think there are two things which are essential for passing: confidence and camouflage. Confidence, because if you walk around looking like you own the place (wherever that is), people are much more likely to treat you as if you do. Conversely if you lurk around, people's suspicions are immediately aroused.

    Secondly, people rely on patterns to identify anything. By breaking up the outline, it makes it harder to spot the pattern. If you are standing next to a tank, it's obviously a tank, even if it's covered with leaves. On the other hand, in the dark, or in poor weather, or in the distance, it can be much harder to be sure. For me, successful passing would involve getting by without small children running screaming, or passersby notifying the authorities. Any reasonable human being giving me anything more than a second glance would instantly read me. On the other hand, in most circumstances, a brief glance is all I give most people.

    That's why I think that most trannies I see in public look awful: there is an observer bias. The ones that pass, I don't notice, and therefore I don't count. Only the dreadful ones which stand out are detected, making me think that's them all.

    FWIW, I value your honesty in these matters.

    Vivienne.

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