Theatre Thursdays: Gender, Masculinity, and “The Creation of Man”

The+Scarlet+Pimpernel+Encore+The_Scarlet_PimpernelThe_ScarlI am a sucker for both creative works set during the French Revolution and for Frank Wildhorn-penned musicals, so it stands to reason that The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of my all-time favorite shows.

If you’re not familiar with the show or the novel, the story in a nutshell is this: a group of English noblemen, disgusted by the brutality and wholesale slaughter taking place during the French Revolution, undertake many daring excursions across the Channel to rescue French nobility from the guillotine. As they become more and more famous for their exploits in England, they are forced to hide their true personalities under a pretend love of fashion, as no one expects a foppish lord to also be a national hero.

This ‘disguise’ is most clearly seen in the scene where Lord Percy Blakeney, the titular Scarlet Pimpernel (a pimpernel is a flower, by the way, and it’s his signet, hence the code name) and mastermind of the whole operation, is taken aside by the Prince of Wales. The Prince wants to ask him about something serious, but Percy keeps up his fashion-forward¬†front, singing this song that states the true purpose of the male gender is to be flashy and fashionable.

The song in and of itself is a hilarious subversion of gender expectations, since in every species they mention besides humans, the male gender is the one who’s supposed to put on a show and look pretty to attract a mate. It’s a clever, funny song by itself, but I’m of two minds about foppishness as plot device.¬† Continue reading