‘In order to belong we must know who we are and where we come from. ’ An individual therefore must have a true sense of their identity or set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which make them definable and recognisable in order for them to build a sense of rapport with those who surround them, even if they must undergo certain struggles to do so. An entity’s identity can be categorized under many aspects, whether they are based upon their physical, social, cultural or personal identity.
Identity can therefore be defined by an individual’s personality traits or by their outward appearance. Duncan Tucker’s film Transamerica alongside Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy of As You Like It explore the concept of identity through not only the physical changes in order to belong, but also the deep emotional identity of an individual who may face many difficulties in their attempts to fit in. In the 21st Century, looks are perceived as the main identifier of a person’s identity, they are the means by which a person is judged and recognized. Appearances are everything.
Many aspects of a person’s physical being are therefore being altered to instill a sense of rapport within a social situation, a cause of struggle comes from the individuals outward appearance. The film Transamerica explores this concept of physical identity change or ‘gender dysphoria’ in an attempt to belong through the journey of Bree Osborne, a transsexual who has undergone multiple surprejudicegeries and treatments in order to completely manipulate her body into that of a woman. Tucker uses a voice over at the commencement of the film to explore the multiple surgeries and treatments which have been undertaken to make this change.
These changes are all undergone to help “to blend in, keep a low profile. I believe the slang terminology is living stealth,” not letting anyone know the truth of her true physical identity. After all of these physical changes, Bree still does not want people to know her identity, an identity which not even she truly understands. Whilst some members of society may go ‘above and beyond’ in order to fit in with their surroundings, others will go out of their way not to belong, to be ostracized. This is true of Jaques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
His characterization ensures that the audience is made aware of the fact that his identity is one of an individual who alienates themselves, Jaques is a loner besotted with his utterly melancholy disposition. Jaques stands idly by and watches all of the events of the play unfold before him, choosing not to participate in the action. This is mainly made evident towards the end of the play where Jaques refuses to follow Duke Senior and the other courtiers back to court, and instead resolves to assume a solitary and contemplative life in a monastery.
Jaques alienates himself as he sees “no pastime I what you would have,” he sees no future for himself in following the Duke back to court, his identity is one of solitude and melancholy, he must remain in the forest, hidden from society. The Jungian theory of individuation is the opposition by an individual of all imposed upon them by outward sources and making the decisions of what they believe true and valuable to their own life and context. Individuation is an important process in an individual breaking apart from the family unit, becoming their own person.
This theory can be seen in Tucker’s Transamerica through the juxtaposition of the lives of Bree and Sidney, siblings who have become highly different due to Bree breaking apart from the family unit and Sidney remaining under her parents ‘control. ’ Tucker effectively uses juxtaposition here in order to convey to the audience the consequences of an individual deciding to become autonomous and break apart from their family unit. Whilst Bree has broken apart from her parents, Sidney is still held under their power, living with her every move under the close scrutiny of her mother.
Yet Bree, after undergoing individuation and separation from her family unit, she still feels a need to belong to them, wishing that “they’d just look at me and see me. Just me. ” She wants to be socially and morally accepted by a family who have lost respect for what she has become, the identity transformation she has undergone. The Jungian theory is further demonstrated in an individual transforming their identity breaking apart from the family unit in the text, As You Like It.
It is in Celia’s self-exile from court that she portrays to the audience individuation in its rawest form. Shakespeare uses the technique of symbolism in order to show the beginning of the transformation and growth of Celia as an autonomous individual, no longer oppressed and under the constant command of her unruly father. Celia’s self exile from the power base of her society, which is characterized by conflict and tension, is symbolic of her personal growth and transformation.
Many individuals in society over time have had difficulties in understanding or finding their own true identity and turn to outside sources in order to do so. My visual representation is one way person which can be turned to in the search for ones identity and as a result, their sense of belonging with society, a psychiatrist. Psychiatry is the branch of medicine and healthcare which deals with the subjective diagnoses, treatment, and study of mental illness and behavioral conditions.
A psychiatrist can therefore be seen as playing a significant role in helping individuals who have a challenge in finding their true identity a hand in doing so. The psychiatrist seen in my related text of Transamerica is shown not only as a supportive councilor who Bree is able to discuss feelings with, but an integral part of Bree’s journey to her new found womanhood and identity. A psychiatrist allows for any individual who they work with to gain a deeper understanding into their true identity.
It is from this understanding that a sense of belonging is able to emerge from the individual. An individual’s identity is what makes them unique, something which allows for them to be differentiable from the society or group which surrounds them. Having this identity too unique however tears upon the bondage and inextricable link between their identity and their ability or sense of rapport. Therefore a struggle in order to find this balance between individuality and belonging must be had, as evidenced in Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Duncan Tucker’s Transamerica.