If you think Hollywood can’t resist showing a major character in a Disney film revamped as a gender fluid magician via the silver screen, think again. Deadline reported that actor Billy Porter will be playing a “genderless” Fairy Godmother in Kay Cannon’s live-action remake of Cinderella, the classic fairytale, which is set to open in theaters February 2021. But Billy Porter’s “genderless” Fairy Godmother is an affront to girls and to children’s imagination.
Porter is an outspoken LGBTQ advocate known for his award-winning performances and outlandish, gender-fluid costumes at red-carpet events. Cinderella boasts an all-star cast that includes Camila Cabello as the title character, Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver, Missy Elliott, and Idina Menzel.
In a recent CBS interview, Porter commented on landing such a huge role. “It hit me when I was on the set last week, how profound it is that I am playing the Fairy Godmother — they call it the Fab G. Magic has no gender.” Porter went on to explain why the Fairy Godmother is going to be genderless praising today’s youngest generation for being open to the concept of gender fluidity. “This is a classic, this is a classic fairytale for a new generation,” he said. “I think that the new generation is really ready. The kids are ready. It’s the grownups that are slowing stuff down.”
I have a few problems with a genderless Fairy Godmother, to say the least. First, the concept doesn’t even make sense—it’s as illogical as it is unscientific. Not only is the Fairy Godmother a woman, a remake could have cast that role as the Fairy Godfather—that would have at least been different and understandable—but the concept of a person being genderless is such a load of politically correct tripe, it’s mind-boggling. Intersex people make up a tiny portion of the population. If Porter’s red-carpet attire is any clue, his genderless Fairy Godmother isn’t even a nod to that but likely more to androgyny, the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics in one person.
Androgyny in the arts is hardly new, but as the concept of gender fluidity in today’s culture has become more popular—at least in Hollywood—it’s less of a pop culture fad or a fashion statement and more of a statement on sex and gender differences. A genderless person, however chic, is not only a direct contradiction of innate biology of sex, but an affront to the incredible, important gender differences between males and females: Differences that make men, women, relationships, and society creative, compatible, even—dare I say the word—a complementarian delight.
For Porter and Hollywood to portray a classic, whimsical, sweet character such as the Fairy Godmother as a magical being who is neither male nor female (but no doubt will be portrayed as an androgynous character) is to send an explicit message that there is something wrong with being female. A genderless character would by nature disavow many of the Godmother’s traits like her ability to nurture, multitask, create, and surprise—some of which are quite feminine. Why would Hollywood want to tell little girls there’s something wrong with being feminine, or at least, a girl?
I also have to take umbrage with Porter’s offhand comment to CBS that the “kids are ready” for a wave of gender fluid characters shoved into their faces. He couldn’t be more wrong. An array of studies show over and over that children are naturally drawn to toys that match their gender stereotypes well before society has had a chance to drill it into their brains as a construct. While gender dysphoria does occur in young children it’s hardly a widespread phenomenon. Toddlers or preschoolers may play dress up in clothing opposite their gender stereotype, but typically by school age, children embrace their gender, clothing and toy stereotypes and all.
Not only are the children not “ready,” for a genderless main character, but the concept of gender fluidity is confusing, frustrating, and an effort to erase especially women, if not both genders. It’s one thing for Hollywood to push silly, to the point of absurd, political correctness on adults, but it’s another when they reach into the imaginations and hearts of the youngest generation, hoping to destroy any semblance of traditional values, innate biological differences, and while they’re at it, magic. Magic isn’t genderless because not everything needs to be assigned a hot, controversial, fabricated buzz word. Magic can just be magic, for men and women, boys and girls, alike.