Ruby different ideas of masculinity, heteronormativity, encouraging people

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Ruby Rose, an Australian actress and model, uses movement
through her music video, “Break Free,” to show how she, bravely, shifted across
the spectrum of gender and sexuality. The video portrays different themes in
regards to being transgender. Transgender is an umbrella term that defines
those who have a gender identity or expression that differs from what they were
assigned. Gender stereotypes are highlighted through movement to bring
attention to heteronormative beliefs in our society. Heteronormativity is set
through biology, assuming that we each have a set gender and roles associated. With
the portrayal of both feminine and masculine identities, Ruby Rose encourages a
spectrum of behavior, suggesting that it is okay to defy societal norms of
gender.  “It’s out of control, my hands…
it pulls me under. I won’t stay here, suspended forever”, are lyrics written by
Ruby Rose in her song, “Break Free.” Rose’s transformation rides along a
spectrum that suggests different ideas of masculinity, heteronormativity, encouraging
people to become more active rather than passive in regards to sexuality. Her
experimentation in this video demonstrates the fluidity associated with
different ideas of gender. Rose’s transformation from a hyper-feminine woman to
a more masculine version of herself allows viewers to analyze how gender is
performed, lived, and how it may be changed.

When babies are born, the first statement most hear is a
definitive. “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” Drawn from square one, these three
words are supposed to define a person, and the decisions that they make. Ruby
Rose, along with others, didn’t feel as if this label was an accurate representation
of who she really is. So, to break free from the gender expectations set at
birth, she turned the platform of media and film to make a change. Rose begins
the music video by stripping herself of a mask. The long-haired blonde taking
scissors to her hair, cuts the entirety of it’s length, until all that is left
resembles that of a typical man- or genderless person. This transformation,
done entirely in front of a mirror, allows her to have direct awareness of the
change. The transformation continues as she takes to strip herself of the rest
of her feminine traits. She starts removing all of her makeup, and concealer
masking a somewhat “masculine” looking tattoo sleeve. Next, she takes a bandage
and begins to wrap her breasts until they are flat, and unrecognizable. This is
something commonly seen in women who don’t feel like they identify with their
set gender, and then try to hide it. To even further prove the idea that Ruby
Rose can take on a masculine identity, she puts on a strap-on. Men in our society
are often defined by their genitalia, and the size of it. Rose switches the
objectification from feminine traits, to masculine. The “display of the female
body,” as described in Lindner’s “Spectacular (Dis-) Embodiments: The Female
Dancer on Film,” holds “ambiguous and at times contradictory significance, that
centers on the subject-object tensions ’embodied’ by the female dancer” (Lindner,
1). Rather than include two people in the film, a man and a woman, Rose chooses
to go for a more realistic narrative context, one that is explained and
rationalized to fit modern societal changes. Acting through separate gender
identities contradicts the significance centered on long established gender
norms, and the objectification associated.

Aside from physical changes in the video, Rose changed her
character as well, to fit a new gender/sexuality. She begins to take on a tough
persona, flipping off the camera- something most men wouldn’t be afraid to do,
but is discouraged for women. She puts on a suit, and walks into the mirror,
objectively staring at herself again. She takes to smoking cigarettes in the
bathroom, cursing at the screen, asking, “What the f*** are you looking at?!” making
it seem as if she is a completely different person. Post transformation, her
actions have a more aggressive nature, to show how simple it is for one to move
across the spectrum. By expressing herself freely, Ruby Rose pushes the
boundaries to become more active in her own sexuality. Through her lyrics, Rose
seems very vulnerable. With the word choice of “helpless” and being “pulled
under,” we see that she is desperate for a change. Desmond’s, “Dance Narratives
and Fantasies of Achievement” touch on the idea that women can be active rather
than passive. Typical dance and movement theories show “not just the importance
of dance in the broader sphere of the arts but also the extent to which the
boundaries are used to demarcate aesthetic forms” (Desmond, 208). This suggests
that there are set boundaries, and standards surrounding movement and
performance. Separating from a more distinguished form, dancers become very
similar, which then increases competition. But, for women who become active,
they push the limits to stand out. Ruby Rose is active, rather than passive,
because seen though her performance, she is not afraid to push boundaries and
be different from the norm.

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Stereotypical hegemonic beliefs have had an interconnection with
media and film since the original production and reception of dance. Busby
Berkley’s parade of faces, one of the first examples of movement in film, focuses
on specific body parts rather than the woman as a whole, objectifying the
female body. The male gaze is present in this film, even though the
stereotypical “man” is not present. As Laura Mulvey explains in her paper,
“Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” gaze theory is the relations between
watching and being watched. When men stare at women, they tend to objectify and
act based on assumptions that have been assimilated through society over time. As
Rose looks at herself in the mirror, she becomes more objectively self-aware,
leading to a chain of events that include stripping herself of all feminine
traits. Most often, people play on the “socially established interpretation of
sexual difference which controls images, erotic ways of looking, and spectacle”
(Mulvey, 14) which exoticizes and otherizes those who stand out from the norm. Sue
Thornham, from the University of Sussex, prepared a piece in regard to Mulvey’s
Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. She references Mary Ann Doane, a woman
hugely “indebted to Mulvey’s work,” who feels compelled to research the contradictory
ideas that have been developed in regard to the original theorization of the
male spectator. Thornham explains that Doane believes that “feminists still
feel compelled to situate themselves in relation to Mulvey’s essay,” coining
it the origin of feminist writing on film. But in doing so, she explains that
they must also become aware that the possibility of its “inauguration” was
“constituted by an absence.” This very absence is what allowed Mulvey to form
her gaze theory, and although the issue was acknowledged, it is still so
prominent that Ruby Rose has begun to address the issue herself.

According to Delamater’s “Dance in the Hollywood Musical”
article, there are many different ways in which numbers may advance the plot. In
Ruby Rose’s case, she focused on issues in the transgender community, allowing
her performance to “draw on a great variety of styles and dancing, which are
combined and changed about with fluidity and inventiveness” (Delamater, 100). Fluidity
is interesting because it allows identity to range on the spectrum from
hyper-masculine to feminine and everything in between. For some people, it is
not as easily defined. In the LGBTQ+ community, progressive gender expression
is constantly growing, and it offers a safe environment for members to freely
express themselves. This fluidity is essential to Rose’s performance as she addresses
the issues and discrimination that community as she tries to mask one identity
and mold to another. According to the “Six Types of Integrated Musicals,” there
can be numbers that enrich the plot, but don’t advance them, numbers
contributing to the plot, numbers whose existence is relevant to the plot,
etc., all having to do with integrating dance into the Hollywood musical.  Ruby Rose’s video is powerful enough to make a
difference. Her film is truly integrated, meaning it advances the plot through
its content. If the music video was missing any moment of her transformation,
it would leave a gap in the story. From birth, people look for ways to be
socialized into the gender of their preference. Because this film is a short
five minutes, it is unrealistic to think that Rose’s transformation was this
brief. But aside from the unrealistic expectations, it provides viewers a
chance to see gender across a spectrum, encouraging bravery to become active
rather than passive in their sexuality. Policing masculinity is often done,
making it more difficult for transgender individuals to become more widely
accepted. A large part of this bias is formed through the use of social media
and different electronic platforms. The phenomenon of dance in reality
television is something of a staged nature. Broomfield, in his article,
“Policing Masculinity and Reality Television,” addresses issues around the
legitimate accessibility to true forms of dance. Because so much is censored,
it makes the viewer appreciate reality when they see it. According to the
reading, “policing masculinity exposes a deep-seated unease about the
expressiveness of the male dancing body” (Broomfield, 125). This “deep-seated
unease” has come about through the norms etched in society, defining men and
women very simply.

            Self-realization is often seen by
breaking societal norms. Being different from the norm, the film shows how
males and females are stereotypically portrayed, and by playing both roles, Ruby
Rose suggests that it is okay for others to broaden their limitations.
Encouraging different gender representations has allowed “Break Free” to spread
widely across the media, with the original music video having nearly 32 million
views in itself. The movement of the film allows viewers to follow transitions
based on the composition of the music, and the way that the camera follows its
subject. This draws attention to the specific events occurring, rather than being
hidden, as it most widely is by society. Ruby Rose’s advocacy for the LGBT
community, by highlighting how to change heteronormative ideals, provides her
as an inspiration to many, teaching them to push the limitations of biological
expectations, since 2014.















Categories: Dance


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