BBC Radio 4 has started airing a series of 5 15-minute episodes of poet Glyn Maxwell’s take on the classic friendzone drama, Cyrano de Bergerac. It stars my Musketeer bae Tom Burke and his lovely voice (so you don’t have to look at his currently questionable facial hair).
And before I begin my rant, I will say that the adaptation itself is very good, and the format is a big part of that; A radio adaptation works better than something on film, because it seems like casting directors are too timid to actually cast a dude with a massive honker, and so instead attach a putty dildo onto the face of an otherwise respectable thespian. Or else expect us to accept that — in a gender-swapped version — Janeane Garofalo is so objectively hideous (compared with Uma Thurman) that she doesn’t need an oversized facial feature to prove it.
More than that, radio also works better for an audience that’s predisposed to wanting to root for Cyrano when they aren’t faced with his overbearing “limitation” themselves, making it easier to side-eye all of his detractors who can’t “overcome” it the way that you can (but aren’t being asked to).
But the rant surrounds the fact that apart from one cute gender reversal in the mid-90s, we’re otherwise expected to buy the tragical story of a dude who is frustrated and heartbroken over the fact that the most beautiful woman in Paris won’t overlook his unattractiveness to learn to love his inner self. So he cynically wraps his personality up in a more attractive package that she is willing to accept — and then the joke’s on her!!! After all, we’re not meant to be bothered by the fact that he tricks her into thinking her mimbo is a poet and philosopher despite being a dumb sack of bricks, because fuck her I guess.
And the funny thing is that the basic story of Cyrano is still a huge staple in storytelling — particularly in kids’ and teen’s programming where I assume the lesson is meant to be, “Don’t be superficial,” or “What’s inside should count for more than a pretty face.” To that end, what annoys me most about this prevailing and problematic fictional myth is twofold:
One, Cyrano effectively makes Roxanne out to be superficial, even though she otherwise seems nice and smart, but he is ultimately drawn to her because she’s beautiful. So Roxanne should have to overlook appearance, but Cyrano absolutely “deserves” to bag a 10.
Two, that there has been SUCH a long tradition of women having “questionable crushes” on unconventionally handsome dudes — particularly if they are funny, talented, smart... in other words, all of the things Cyrano appears to be — but very little of that from straight men toward women. There isn’t really a straight male equivalent to Chris O’Dowd, or Seth Rogen, or Louis CK. Maybe the closest we came was when dudes confused themselves by finding Helen Mirren attractive in her 60s, even though she’d been a conventionally-attractive bombshell since forever.
Ultimately, the real problem I have is that the story of Cyrano just strikes me as self-pitying bullshit. Maybe you’re just an asshole, bro, or maybe Roxanne is allowed to like some dumb hot dude and not you.
So why is it still so prominent in the ficitonal landscape, and where do guys really get away with all of their Reddit-esque whining about women having any kind of sexual or physical preference? Is it more about the demonizing of female sexuality and attraction, is it about the fact that men feel that they just “ought” to have the women they want, and get petulant and resentful if the women don’t just roll over and accept it? Am I way off-base and have missed the true meaning of Christmas?
Yell at me below.