Many of the male characters in his films are often rooted in the melodramatic clichésof men. They are ‘normal’, stable… ‘vanilla’. They are bullfighters, detectives, priests, husbands, prisoners and sons, dominated by the women in their lives. Thesestraight ‘men as men’ characters in his films are often presented in a negative light asthey are traditional and boring in comparison to the ‘queer’ men, that feature heavilyin his movies, with their hybrid and unusual sexualities.
Queers & Queens
These characters are far from vanilla (more Neapolitan as ice-cream flavours go!)They are extravagant and interesting but as such face many challenges in society anddifficulties in their lives. Almodovar’s films highlight the fact that many still consider homosexuals and trans-gendered individuals to be strange or flawed. This is shown to be a narrow-minded view of gender and it is overtly challenged. These characters of varying, unusual sexual identities are not depicted as unnatural monsters (like other characters often view them), but rather the most sympathetic and endearing personalities. Not only does he push the boundaries within the characters themselves, he further questions gender roles and the flexibility of the idea of gender identity in his castingtechniques. For example, in
, the role of transsexual, Tina, is played byfemale actress Carmen Maura, whilst the role of a female character, Ada, is played byBibi Andersson, a well known Spanish transsexual. The fact that this transfer of gender roles often goes unnoticed highlights Almodovar’s view that it should gounnoticed. What he is saying is that the need for distinction between sex and gender,as traditionally applied, is no longer needed within the diversity of contemporarysociety.
The Fabulous Female
Almodovar has often been termed a women’s director as the female characters aregenerally at the heart of his brilliance; they appear to transcend the gender boundariesof society and identity within his stories. Penelope Cruz has four times played hisstrong female lead and talks about her experiences of working with ‘Pedro’ inaninterview with Collider.com.
“He really knows women, to the smallest detail. He can really do an x-ray of us. And, especially if he really knows you,like he knows me, he even knows what I’m thinking.../Every time he has givenme a script, I’ve been really blown awayby having that in my hands, and having that opportunity. The four charactersthat I have played with Pedro could not be more different from each other, and from what I am as a woman…/In the first one (Live Flesh), I was a prostitute