Home > Multimedia Essays > Sassy Gay Friend Saves the Day!: How Ophelia, Desdemona, and Juliet Escaped their Plays

Sassy Gay Friend Saves the Day!: How Ophelia, Desdemona, and Juliet Escaped their Plays

[The source of the image is indicated below. All videos I have used are from Second City Network. I definitely don’t own any of these attachments.]

Have you ever found yourself disappointed in the outcome of a Shakespearean play? Frustrated over a character’s actions, motivations, and destiny? Well, if you had a chance to enter and change any of the Shakespearean plays,  what play would you choose and how would you do it?

Those are the premises of Second City Network’s Youtube segments entitled “Sassy Gay Friend (SFG).” SFG, armed with his orange scarf, words of wisdom, and zealous “gayness,” intervenes with the female characters who supposedly die in Shakespeare’s tragic plays–specifically Desdemona in “Othello,” Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet,” and Ophelia in “Hamlet.” He talks them out of causing their own deaths and eventually takes the “stupid bitches” out of the scenes. It’s essentially like a comical therapy session with a gay guy, where the characters get to talk for themselves outside the text.

So SFG begins with the question “What are you doing?” With his tone and his repetition of that question, it is already evident that he disapproves of the actions of the characters. There is an assumption that whatever the character’s going to do, it is something detestable and is even irrational. He points out their problem plainly and in a “dumbed down” manner, as if everything’s a that’s-obvious-how-could-you-actually-miss-it-stupid-bitch moment. His view on their situations are really pragmatic and realistic. In Desdemona’s scene, this is exemplified when he says:
“Second of all, what?! Some guy ends up with your handkerchief so your husband gets to murder you? No. I gave a cough drop to King Lear last week. Does that mean i had sex with him? No.”
Although SFG extremely ridicules the characters, it is his actual way of “saving” them. His act to rewrite their tragic fates makes the characters realize that they are too dependent on and subservient to their male partners. And like a therapy session with a psychologist, he then gives the characters pieces of advice on how to deal with the problems and asks them to leave their respective scenes. This postmodern kind of solution is really interesting for me because it is as if to say that this kind of “liberation” does not have any room in the plays, or that their newfound “freedom” makes them more appropriate for the outside world. Either way, it says that their contexts in the texts are not applicable to the contemporary world anymore, and a reappropriation should be done to Shakespeare’s texts.

In another sense, it can also be considered that the matter-of-fact criticism of SFG is just another manifestation of the characteristics of gay language. That at least is characteristic of Filipino gay language–we are used of the “pang-o-okray” and “panlalait” of the gays, which are not always supposed to be negative but are actually meant to be humorous. The use of phrases such as “stupid bitch” and “you big slut” are even used to show affection and fondness.  And for me, it’s really that sassiness SFG possesses that makes the videos funny.

SFG similarly achieves that humor by referring to lines of the original texts, and inserting his own interpretation of it. From Juliet’s scene, he says, “‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?’ Translation? ‘Desperate, desperate, I am really desperate. Are there any stalkers on my ground?’” Additionally, he makes other kinds of references, outside and inside of the text. He refers to a part of the text when he calls the drug Juliet takes from the priest as “roofy,” and uses an outside reference when he tells her, “Save it Patty Hearst. I’m not buying any Stockholm Syndrome today.” Such kinds of references I guess achieve humorous effect because of the differences in the period between the reference and the play itself; a difference similarly seen in the seemingly formal use of language by the characters, as opposed to the slang and informal language SFG employs.

All the referencing, the “dumbing down” of language, the parodying of the texts, are common characteristics of Shakespeare in pop culture. Such kinds of new texts using different forms of media attempt to play down Shakespeare while reinforcing his importance at the same time. As for the Sassy Gay Friend, its treatment of the characters is essentially a criticism of Shakespeare’s characters and plays. But the fact that it chooses to use Shakespeare’s texts in the first place re-emphasizes The Bard’s significance in the contemporary era.

I shall then end again with questions (some are just random). Even if SFG does appear to “save” the female characters, does he really liberate them? After all, there’s still the whole context of the play they belong to to consider. What then happens to the tragedy aspect of the texts when these characters’ deaths are taken out? What are waiting for them outside the texts? Will they be as sassy as SFG?

Okay, I should stop.

Garcia, Georgina R.
BA English Studies
UP Diliman

Garcia, Georgina R.
BA English Studies
UP Diliman
Categories: Multimedia Essays
  1. jmzmj
    March 22, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    These solutions to the main character’s problems might be humorous but clearly they sound more rational to most people of today, wherein women empowerment is always voiced out. This is quite and interesting piece of advice to women today whose lives are ill-fatedly revolving around their men.

  2. March 24, 2011 at 10:18 am

    These ladies in Shakespeare’s plays are all but sad, irrational and impulsive, and what’s ridiculous about them is that they base their identities on their also sad, irrational, and impulsive boyfriends. A gay friend to the rescue could be ever so useful, but, what tragedy then would transpire?

    – Kristine de Ocampo

  3. March 25, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    hahahahahahaha never laughed so much! But wait, they hyrbridized Shakespeare! Gay+Saving Women Characters Who Will Die = New Plot! And with this new plots that people make up new circumstances about the supposedly dead girls. It would be interesting if the closes friends of these women were gay in a new film or theatre adaptation of Shakespeare, might change peoples minds or may be not. Gay have hybrid identities too, so they might act as women but ‘not quite’ for they still function inside the body of a man. I think the SFG is actually helping them escape all dilemmas they are experiencing. Like the Othello or Juliet! I guess their life after being saved became more of hell on earth than being in hell itself.

  4. fljimenez
    March 27, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Okay I LOVE Sassy Gay Friend, he’s a comedian who obviously knows his Shakespeare. (I guess it’s because he’s Second City, which has produced most of the talents on SNL as well as the role model for all smart, slightly dysfunctional, stressed out women everywhere, Tina Fey). I think these sketches take Shakespeare down a peg — because really, wasn’t Hamlet being just a little over-dramatic? Also, they establish how part of the problem of Shakespeare’s women was that they were isolated and too stuck in their own heads. These sketches show how the logic of Shakespeare’s stories just don’t “work” for contemporary readers/viewers because we have new approaches to emotional problems: I think if I knew Hamlet now, I would point him to the nearest shrink instead of wringing my hands and worrying.

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