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.
“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.”
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.
BA English Studies
BA English Studies