There seems to be a trend going on of making sequels 20 years after the fact, no matter that it’s more than a little late getting back to the party. While a “Mrs. Doubtfire” sequel with an older Robin Williams admittedly sounds intriguing, it gives credence to the idea of how some male actors are getting a career high out of playing women in film. The difference here, of course, is that some of those actors are only playing characters dressing in drag for a particular purpose rather than actually playing literal women. But is that creating too many stereotypes, particularly when those men play women considerably past middle age?
Then there’s another dilemma that may be emerging in the age of all those “Madea” films from Tyler Perry: Will more actors start to play real women, and not necessarily from a comedic perspective?
Because there was already some blurred lines in Robin Williams’ Daniel Hillard character and the Mrs. Doubtfire character he inhabited, you have to wonder if the sequel will somehow merge their lives into one. There’s such a thing as playing a character so often that you literally become that character. Considering the end of “Mrs. Doubtfire” showed Hillard having a popular TV show playing the character, you can imagine Mrs. Doubtfire becoming literally real after doing the show for 20 years.
While this is only wild speculation, it wouldn’t be the first time Williams wanted to play a real woman on film. For a time, he was even interested in playing Susan Boyle for the big-screen, despite some people thinking it would have been disrespectful.
Just how far will this go in film, including actresses perhaps playing more (real) men?
Gender Flip-Flops in Film
It’s been much more of a challenge for male actors to play women without considerable prosthetic makeup. And the ones who look overly masculine usually have to end up looking a little grotesque and ultimately playing older women with outrageous attitudes. While Tyler Perry’s “Madea” series is perpetually popular, you can’t say it’s done any favors in the image of the older black woman. The same applies to other depiction of older black women from Martin Lawrence to Eddie Murphy.
Only Jared Leto seemed to give a more respectful and physically convincing portrayal of a woman in “Dallas Buyers Club”, even if his character was actually a man dressed in drag. In that regard, can an actor play a real woman without it needing to be outrageous or a male character in disguise?
Since the days of “Tootsie”, the movie idea of the man having to go undercover to play a woman has been endlessly copied. In the meantime, several notable actresses have played men on screen. Outside of most of those roles being a woman becoming men out of necessity (or choice), consider Cate Blanchett playing Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There” to be the first door opened in an actress playing a real man. It’s a new challenge not yet matched, though you suspect it’ll happen again.
An A-list actress will likely someday make it compelling and bring more insight than a real man would have brought to the role. It only leaves male actors to step up and do the same thing with a real respectable role of playing a real woman.
The days of the outrageous portrayal of a woman for ironical laughs is probably becoming passé. While we can’t expect it with the comedy of “Mrs. Doubtfire 2”, a man playing a real woman dramatically can only help bring real cinematic understanding between the genders that’s sympathetic rather than a wink of the eye.