Veena M. Desai
Georgia State University
Viola Hastings goes to soccer practice with her friends at Cornwall High School, but the girls’ soccer team was cut. Viola asks the boys soccer coach to let her play for them, but she is quickly shot down by the sexist coach. Viola goes home and speaks to her brother. Viola’s twin brother, Sebastian, was supposed to enter Illyria as new a student; however, he decided that he wanted to go to London to make it big in the music world. Sebastian told his divorced parents that he is staying with the other and asked Viola to cover for him if anything happens. Viola, with the help of her friend Paul, dresses up like Sebastian and attends Illyria so she can join the boys’ soccer team. Duke Orsino, who is the captain of the boys’ soccer team, is Viola’s roommate. She tried out for the soccer team and placed as second string on the team. Duke agrees to help Viola with her soccer skills if she helps him get a date with Olivia. They train every day until she makes first string on the soccer team. Things get messy when Olivia, who Duke likes, falls for Sebastian. Everything falls apart when Sebastian gets home early from London and goes to Illyria. The next day, the big game between Illyria and Cornwall begins and the real Sebastian is playing on the soccer field with no clue what’s happening. Viola pulls him aside after half time and explains everything, and they switch places. The game is stopped abruptly in the middle and Viola is questioned in front of the whole school about her deception. Viola shows everyone that she is a girl by showing off her breasts in front of the whole audience. The coach agrees to let Viola keep playing and tells the Cornwall coach that Illyria does not discriminate based on gender. At the end of the film, Duke and Viola are on the same soccer team at Illyria. She’s the Man shows many different concepts we have spoken about in class. Gender roles, male behavior, and images of women are specific themes that are displayed through this movie.
Gender Roles The presence of gender roles, specifically masculinity and femininity is extremely present and well presented in this movie. Masculinity refers to the behavior of a boy or man in society and femininity is the way girls or women behave in society. As a girl, Viola is not supposed to play soccer as well as boys. Viola enters Illyria as a boy; she had to change everything about her. She takes on a new physical appearance, talks like a boy, shaves, talks about girls, learns to act like a boy; that is how gender roles for boys are performed. England, Descrates, & Collier-Meek (2011) did a study on Disney princess characters and their gender roles that are portrayed in the movies. The authors concluded that movies such as Sleeping Beauty portrayed masculine traits such as assertiveness, strength, athleticism and brave whereas women were portrayed as affectionate, troublesome, sensitive, and needs help. In the movie; however, the Cornwall’s soccer coach shuts her down. He says that girls are not as fast, strong, or athletic as boys. Hively and El-Alayli (2014) state that stereotype threats lead to a decrease in performance. After, all the boys on the soccer team, including Viola’s boyfriend, join the conversation. The coach explains that the girls want to join the boys’ team, and all the boys just start laughing, including Viola’s boyfriend. According to Hively et al., women who had to perform a task, performed worse than men because the authors told the women that their gender would affect their performance. Once Viola got to Illyria and tried out for the soccer team, she made second string which made her upset. The thought of her not being able play soccer made her perform worse. Another example of doing one's gender in the movie was when Viola’s mother, who is a member of the Debutante society, wanted her to act more lady-like instead of a tomboy. Viola’s