goto Appendx main menu Three Boys and Their
Growing-Up Performances :
Benton Komins
text | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | notes
previous page 

Has Tina changed so much?  Is she now the same person as the choirboy was?  Like Father Constantino, the "changed" image of desire seizes the spectator: How could this beautiful woman be the chaste soloist of the boys' school?  In Almodovar's Tina, the physical woman is located within the boy's psyche and, reciprocally, the boy's psyche is located within the physical woman: Tina's body and yearning connect a boyhood past with a womanhood present.  Quite vividly, she underscores the possibilities inherent to the breakdown of mental dams that prevent an expression of sexual irregularities.  One need only reflect upon Freud's link between women and children in his discussion of polymorphous perversity to follow this line of reasoning: "Children behave in the same way as women in whom the same polymorphously perverse disposition persists.  Under ordinary conditions she may remain normal sexually, but if she is led on by a clever seducer she will find every sort of perversion to her taste, and will retain them as part of her own sexual activities." 17  Within the confessing walls of the rediscovered boyhood chapel, Tina is now a "deviant" woman whose present was orchestrated by the clever seductions of her father and priest, in body and in spirit.  While Father Constantino seduced Tina through the power of faith and liturgical music, Tina's biological father abducted her to Morocco in the role of sexual slave.  When this biological father threatened to leave Tina for a "real" woman, she embarked upon her surgical path of transformation. (The fathers who attempt to ensure consolidation in "Little Hans" and "Tupik" become the agents who create a "deviant" womanhood in the Tina story.)  Tina functions as a filmic embodiment of polymorphous perversity; in this character, Almodovar fuses the category of perverse child—the paragon of vice rooted in the developing sexuality of Little Hans—and the category of perverse woman into the maturation narrative of a troubled transsexual. 

Is Tina the same person "deep down"?  Rather than escaping from her past, she revels in the joy of its remembrance: she tries to integrate her choirboy past into her woman present.  Stripping away ironic nuances and kitschy details, Tina exists in a realm of gender fluidity.  When she enters the chapel, she not only defines herself through a boyhood past, she also boldly asserts her womanhood present—at the periphery of her exchange with Father Constantine lurks an idolizing daughter and an Appendx page break 39 | 40 estranged female lover. The troubles of transsexuality are not at the heart of Tina's lament; she suffers because the consolidating norms of church and society cannot accommodate her, at least "Not here, please!" 

The Lesson of an Earlier Sister  

Behind—in both place and time—this fragmented boyhood tour resides the nineteenth-century figure of Herculine Barbin, whose words have served as a preamble to this essay.  The journal of this hermaphrodite, as presented by Michel Foucault18 with a series of medico-legal and fictional annexes, highlights points of each moment in the tour.  From early childhood to the age of puberty, Herculine lived as a girl in a convent.  Her girlhood world came to an abrupt end when her Mother Superior caught her in the act of "making love" to another girl.  (Prior to this vignette of coitus interruptus, all were blind to the presence of Herculine's tiny penis.)  Only after the Mother Superior's discovery was Herculine turned over to a team of doctors and jurists, who collectively decided that she was, and would therein be, a man.  (In effect, the hermaphrodite's sexual acts determined his/her sex.)  Despite the fact that this hermaphrodite conceived of  herself as the girl Herculine (even after her official change, she uses feminine adjectives to describe herself), the medico-legal apparatus compelled her to become the man, Abel.  In Foucault's reading of the Barbin case, the discourse of sexuality—and most specifically hermaphrodism—demanded that all individuals, regardless of behavioral or anatomical dispositions, should have a single sex.  How do Little Hans, Tupik, and Tina fit into the hermaphroditic frame?  How does the nineteenth-century sister inform the narratives of her twentieth-century brothers?  As the factors that determined Herculine's man fate exist beyond her, so it is ordained that Little Hans serve as an exemplum of "less roundabout proof," that Tupik misread a disparate collection of signs and myths, and finally, that Tina be denied access to her primal scene of seduction.  Through the growing-up performances of Herculine, Little Hans, Tupik, and Tina we must begin to address the pernicious logic that compels individuals to assume roles and identities that are determined by the socially constructed reality of body parts.
the end Benton Komins 

text | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | notes
appendx inc.©1997