in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Thursday, May 31, 2007

For those about to go on a gender-bender? (we salute you) [The Tripitaka Moment]

We’ve all been there. You think you know all there is to know about the crying game, but nothing can prepare you for the feeling when it hits. I’m talking about the Tripitaka moment. Oh yeah, that’s right girlyboys and manladies, remember Masako Natsume? She was the actress who played Tripitaka in Monkey Magic – and she is wholly responsible for scrambling the minds of a whole generation of Australian youths who were exposed to her ambiguous charms.

The character of Tripitaka effected a three-way headfuck: the story said she was a prince; she was dressed in tights and robes; and the woman who over-dubbed her voice had a sexy gravel in it that was suspended dangerously between either of the assigned genders. It wasn’t just that Masako Natsume was an attractive woman playing a prince, or that she had a shaved head – it was that she was also convincingly Tripitaka, the young prince, who was… hot. Go to Tonga and see the Fafafinas; watch the filmclip for Von Südenfed’s ‘Fledermaus can’t get it’; hire out Priscilla and see Terrence Stamp’s cock in a frock on a rock – none of them can pull enough wool over their frog’s eyes to hide the shadow of the man, and they don’t really try to. Tripitaka’s character wasn’t drag, no siree, it was something far more disquieting, the figure of a person who was attractively male and female simultaneously – not either/or, not androgynous, but somehow both male and female. You ‘knew’ she was she, but somehow, you also felt that she was he. It was thoroughly and disagreeably uncanny. And it was good.

But it was also something that (for me as a boy) was a permissible perversion that never forced me to beg any deeper questions about the angle of my dangle, and this is where you can catch your own brain fooling you. You know how it is, it happens at the gym, on the dancefloor, in a dark room – you catch sight of a neck, a leg, the curve of a buttock – straight or gay, your brain matches and fits the visual information against a catalog of ‘hot’ or ‘not’, ‘permissable’ or ‘impossible’. I sprung myself the other day, riding through traffic behind a cyclist in lycra. We stopped at the lights, I realised she was a woman, and then I gave myself persmission to find her ass attractive.

The flipside of this is something like your own personal equivalent of the Aphex Twin’s ‘Windowlicker’ filmclip. You’re at the beach, you see a girl in a bikini and think, ‘she’s hot’… but she turns around and it’s your mum, your sister, or Richard D. James. I can’t imagine what life must be like for the vision impaired – how much longer would they have to squint and doubt before the awful truth turkey slaps into focus? In all these fanny-packing, bush-whacking instances, the common factor is not attraction, but what you let yourself be attracted to – not that admitting this makes the ‘moment’ itself any less disturbing. The only thing I can suggest when the moment hits? Enjoy your symptom! Tripitaka’s character was trying to seek enlightenment – but the ‘Tripitaka moment’ can likewise teach us all something about ourselves.

© Peter Chambers 2007


Jimmy said...

Fortunately(?) It was not long after I finished watching monkey that I started watching Cartoon Connection with Sophie Lee. Then I saw the film clip to Warrant's Cherry Pie. All lingering doubts as to the direction my burgeoning sexuality was taking where thus...ummm...mopped up.

Cameron said...

Tripitaka messed with my head *for years*. In a good way. I was totally bummed out when I discovered that she'd died in 1985 ...

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