Ma Vie En Rose, directed by Alain Berliner, is a Belgium film produced in France. While this film is obviously in French, the surrounding set design embodies an “American” look and feel for most of the film. The characters also appear to be atypically “American” in their extreme negative reactions to Ludovic’s realization that he is not a boy but a girl, in effect a transgendered female. While this would appear to be a stereotypical suburb in the United States as well as a reaction to a family member’s transgendered dilemma that could be considered stereotypical, the obverse is also stereotypically true of French culture as it is considered to be more open, sexually. This is not necessarily the social landscape everywhere in each country, I just note that this is what immediately stood out against Ludovic’s innocent dilemma and realization of being in the wrong body.
Much of the film’s characters spend their time reacting violently, at least emotionally, to Ludovic’s matter of fact realization that he is not a boy but a girl. Ludovic spends most of the film acting out his life as if it was perfectly natural to be a girl. When his family, the school authorities, and the neighbors interfere in his attempts to prove his femininity, he is naturally hurt. Though rather quiet to most people, he expresses his innermost desires to his older sister and Jerome, though neither seems to really understand that he is a girl in a boy’s body.
While Ma Vie En Rose is not an in depth exploration of transgendered sexuality, it touches a very valid point of categorization: placing individuals in boxes of gender and sexual preference when there really is no connection between the two whatsoever. According to Butler, gender is “only truly existing through continuous processes of acting, speaking, and doing. . . .the bottom line of Butler’s argument would seem . . . to be that the feminine has little to do with the female and femininity little to do with women.” (Kimmel et al 2004: 61).
The Americanisms in this film are valid points when one considers the controversy surrounding the MPAA R rating (similar to the reaction of the children’s parents in the film) of such a lighthearted film exploring the realizations of a little girl who realizes that she is in the wrong body. This film was rated R and its rating was the subject of much discussion and outrage, rightfully so, with such a treatment of a film where the main character, “has absolutely no understanding of adult sexuality, and no adult sexuality is presented in the film.” (ThirdTablet.com, Why Is Ma Vie En Rose Rated R: 4).
Contrast that with the other levelheaded, and decidedly French characters in the film: the grandmother, who is decidedly C’est la vie and his schoolteacher, who does her best to teach tolerance to her young students, and Luduvic him/herself. The grandmother remains unfazed by Ludovic’s family and unfazed and accepting of Ludovic, telling him to “ … imagine the world as you would like it.” Unfortunately, the children remain unfazed by the good intentions of their schoolteacher and are decidedly influenced by the propaganda of their American-like parents who are convinced that Ludovic is contagious.
The schoolteacher even ventures to state that, “Some of your classmates may be different from you. You’re all different. You must accept people the way they are and respect each other. At your age, you’re still all finding yourselves.” The schoolteacher is right. In fact, the sexualities of men and women are not fixed; they are never simple biological facts (Kimmel et. Al 2004: 180), though some religious and media leaders will declare otherwise because they fear change and fear the different, the source of all prejudice.
The character of Ludovic is almost sexless. He is certainly artless and naive to the ways of the world and the customs and rituals of adults, so he does what he thinks is right, telling Jerome that “we’re going to marry when I’m not a boy”. Unfamiliar with the nuances of adult language and euphemisms, he even ventures into Jerome’s sister’s room and staging a mock wedding between him/herself and Jerome after being told that she “went away,” not realizing that she has died. The negative influence of Jerome’s parents cause Jerome to demand that he be remove from the seat next to Jerome, stating he will “go to Hell” if he remains.
To cope with the prejudice and misunderstanding around him/her, Ludovic exists as a female primarily within a rich fantasy dream state with the help of a guardian female, the Barbie-like human doll, Pam, star of Pam & Ben, the TV show. Here Ludovic brings Mother, Jerome, and other assorted characters to help them understand how he feels as a female. He brings Pam to the real world to lasso his/her mother and Jerome’s mother so that he/she can escape, flying over the rooftops with Jerome. His/her mother even catches Ludovic in this fantasy and falls in, trying to bring Ludovic back from this fantasy world that she deems unnatural, possibly unhealthy, and definitely detrimental to the family’s social and economic life.
They even take Ludovic to a therapist to have Ludovic “fixed”. They are, in fact, expecting this. When the therapist does not do this, they become furious, not understanding that what Ludovic is is what he is, and external forces can do nothing to change Ludovic until Ludovic undergoes changes that he/she initiates or that are initiated by his/her personality, and thus we are left with a family that has to accept Ludovic for who he/she is. This brings to mind the family in Canada that has recently decided to raise their newborn as genderless. While the public has been either supportive or appalled, the family remains unfazed, letting the child decide when the child is ready. (Sohn 2011: 1)
Kimmel, M. S., Hearn, J., & Connell, R. (Eds.). (2004). Queering The Pitch. In Handbook of Studies on Men and Masculinities (pp. 51-68). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Weinstein, P. (11 October 2012). Why is Ma Vie En Rose Rated R? – Phil Weinstein. Third Tablet. Retrieved from http://www.thirdtablet.com/WhyIsMaVieEnRoseRatedR/
Kimmel, M. S., Hearn, J., & Connell, R. (Eds.). (2004). Male Sexualities In Handbook of Studies on Men and Masculinities (pp. 178-195). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Sohn, E. (13 October 2012). Raising a Genderless Child: Possible? – Emily Sohn. DiscoveryNews. Retrieved from http://news.discovery.com/human/gender-child-baby-society-boy-girl-110531.html