Guys, Dresses and White Male Privilege

Sam and Al

Sam and Al-who looks sillier?

Guys. Dresses. Why Not Share the Experience?

Netflix is a magic window into the past, the present, and maybe, the future. My most recent binge was Quantum Leap, a show from the 90s with Scott Bakula (as Dr. Sam Becket, a boy scout) and Dean Stockwell (as Al, the womanizing been-there-done-that guy).

In case you are too young to remember, or if you never watched it (I hadn’t), the premise is that Bakula “leaps” into the lives of various people who need to have their lives changed, mostly people in the 1950s and early 60s. He shows us a nostalgic America, with some of the grit left in, and in the last season, played some real people, from Elvis, to Lee Harvey Oswald, to Dr. Ruth (They were running out of ideas and needed better ratings…it didn’t work).

Such a pretty face

Such a pretty face–not happy though…where’s the smile?

The Premise

Each show deals with some social issue: college hazing, racism, the Cuban Missile Crisis, mainstreaming adults with Down syndrome, rape, sexual harassment, single parents, chain gangs, mental health, children’s TV, rock-n-roll, even experiments on chimps. About one of nine leaps, the character is a woman. Bakula never plays the character as being in drag, just as a female character. To be fair, Al (Stockwell) wears much sillier clothing, glam-metrosexual-on-steroids, while spouting  the most sexist and male chauvinist pig drivel that a five-time married character could imagine. Think Elmer Fudd when Bugs Bunny is in drag. Al is a foil to Becket’s caring gentleman, as well as supplying advice from experience and the AI named Ziggy. But that is where male privilege shows up, although in a light-hearted, and totally-sensitive-guy way.


Beefcake manliness…

At first it was odd and mildly amusing that a man was in a dress, wearing 60s makeup, struggling with stockings and heels–the usual comedy stuff, though played more for drama. Bacula wore dresses tailored to fit him, and he wasn’t bra-stuffed or padded. As you can see, he has the pecks to need a bit of darting in the bodice–B cup easy. By the end of the first female leap, I started to wonder why men didn’t wear makeup and dresses. He looked attractive and adorable, if a bit sad. What do women want?

Thinks that make you go hmmmm

Thinks that make you go hmmmm

Historical Precedence
for Guys in Dresses

There’s no logic to women’s clothing vs. men’s clothing except we just don’t do it that way right now.

Men have worn sheets, robes, kilts, loincloths, tights and heels, brocade, plaid, buckskin, wigs, makeup, long hair, short hair, beards, clean-shaven, ties, overalls…. Prince and Johnny Depp showed us how adorable a bit of eye shadow is, not taking their masculinity away, but adding that same mystique as smoky-eyed women have. Kohl, anyone? So it’s not the dress…but what makes the male outlook?

Emperor Wu of Jìn, by Yan Li-pen (600–673)

Emperor Wu of Jìn, by Yan Li-pen (600–673)

Louis XIV of France By Hyacinthe Rigaud

Louis XIV of France By Hyacinthe Rigaud

Former 3rd Duke of Fife wearing a traditional Scottish kilt. (1984) By Allan Warren

Former 3rd Duke of Fife  (1984) By Allan Warren


In the first woman episode, Dr. Becket  actually solved the sexual harassment problem by telling the harrasser that he was, in fact, a man, which grossed out the bad guy. America is still very homophobic, at least to a lot of men, an interesting take on the subject,  I thought.

What Price Gloria?

What Price Gloria?

In another episode, as a 15-year-old black girl, he kicked a local tough across the sidewalk, saving not only himself but the girls with him. He shooed them down the street like a mother hen, keeping them literally under his wings. He was in deep trouble when he went into labor as a pregnant teen. Lucky for him, he leapt out just as he was in the stirrups. He could not lie and deliver.

As the show went along, I saw more and more that he didn’t get what it was like to be smaller, weaker, less educated, marginalized by clothing, expectations, and opportunities. He was always so relieved to get out of the shoes and the bra. Aren’t we all?

gratuitous Boob shot

Gratuituous boob shot

But the show’s premise also included the idea that the actual person was in the future, in a waiting room. While Sam Becket appears to be the person, he is physically present in his (yummy) male body, with his height, his martial arts training, some of his knowledge from his MD and several PhDs. He also acts like an alpha male, protecting the weak, defending himself, and generally acting like an alpha male in his own culture.

Comfortable in his skin, he is aware of the rights and privileges of citizenship, which he often forgets that the person into whom he has leapt does not enjoy…hence, the changing of history in a better direction.

Pink Sequins

Pink sequins make everything better

The Thrill is Gone…

The binge is over, and I am still in that post-binge phase of looking for the next show, and missing the characters just as if I had known them. I’m sure there’s some kind of “opathy” or syndrome associated with Netflix binge-watching, so maybe I’ll withdraw for a few days. Or I could go back and watch Enterprise again.

I am still thinking about how blind, insensitive, and unconsciously offensive I must be to minorities. Whitesplaining. I hope that I am becoming more conscious and aware, and that I am using my white female privilege for good….like Sam Becket. And maybe Scott Bakula, too. He is just so darn cute…when will NCIS:NOLA be on Netflix?

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