Saturday, September 1, 2007

Ma Vie En Rose - The Wellspring of Identity

Society as a Determinant of Gender - Nominated and recipient of numerous awards including Best Foreign Film, Ma Vie en Rose mainly points out the irrevocable powers of society in affecting personal preferences such as gender. The dichotomy between gender and sexuality has been largely interchanged in the film. The distinction between them is crucial to social and political theory. The term gender is used to refer to social and cultural distinctions between males and females, while sexuality is used to highlight biological, and therefore ineradicable, differences between men and women. Gender is therefore a social construct, usually based on stereotypes of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ behavior. And that’s where the complication in the film arises. For example, at a very young age, Ludovic has no concept of beautiful for females and handsome for males. For him, when he wanted to look good, he applied cosmetics and put on earrings and dress. The social construct which separates the idea of beauty for females different from males makes Ludovic unaware of such distinction, which resulted to different reactions and offensive treatment he obtained from society.

Sexuality’s biological base is always experienced culturally, through a translation, and is inevitably expressed socially. But how society specifically shapes sexuality and/or gender still remains abstract. The most popular perspective on the social shaping of gender focuses on individuals in the family context. This is most powerfully exemplified by psychoanalytic theory, which attempts to bridge the seeming gap between the social and biological worlds by describing human personality as a product of the experiences of love, hate, power, and conflict in families. As manifested in the film, the several conflicts between Ludovic’s parents have affected him in one way or another although those conflicts were a by-product of his personal choice and actions. Due to these consequences, Ludovic was caught between his personal preference versus the repercussions of his actions, resulting to his own personal struggle which seemed to be suicidal in a sense. The analysis of psychosexual development is a complement to the study of society, not its historical replacement. Gender and sexuality both generates wide social relations and is refracted through the prism of society. Gender can be visualized in the image of an onion, as we peel off each layer (economies, politics, families etc.), we may think that we are approaching the kernel, but we eventually discover that the whole is the only “essence” there is, it cannot be abstracted from its social layers.

Ludovic’s family was his primary outlet in his struggle for acceptance. His family, especially his mother, was the main actor that was present all through out his battles in the film. Recent feminist revisions of psychoanalytic theory have focused on the social construction of motherhood under conditions of male dominance. They reveal the centrality of female parenting in the psychic structuring of gender identity. Ludovic’s bond with his mother was not just ‘innate’ but rather ‘developed’ to the point where he declares himself as a girl patterned after his mother. Another outlet that contributed in molding Ludovic’s gender identity is his peers. Peer groups are found in many cultures and they serve a variety of functions. They organize intergenerational relationships outside the family itself. Peer groups are often age based, and as was evident in the film, Ludovic’s peers were of his age, they go to the same school, they live in the same community and most notably his fantasy relationship with Jerome emphasized his conviction that he is indeed a girl trapped in a boy’s body. Upon moving to a new neighborhood, Ludovic found a sense of parallelism in his new-found friend Christine. He also felt a sense of belongingness to the new neighborhood and to his new-found peers. It only goes to show that determining gender can be found at a very young age. It knows no inhibitions, no malice, and no controversies. And the role of society in gender-formation was demoralizing and tormenting as far as Ludovic and his family are concerned. Other social factors such as the media in the form of the TV show Le Monde de Pam also contributed to his socialization in determining his gender identity.

The film as a whole is full of symbolism and is the most innocent film as far as the roster of films in Political Science 167 is concerned. The role of society in gender identity was at play. The cutting of Ludovic’s hair is a sign of losing his identity. His hair is what separates him from the others and cutting it would leave him with no distinction from the rest. The struggle of his gender identity is marked by certain instances of resistance fro his part; when he attempted to kiss a girl but he was turned down, and his refusal to swap clothes with Christine. These were due to trapping situation where he caught himself in between. But these instances only focus on a certain period in the life of Ludovic. That’s why it’s very difficult to determine the success of gender identity despite its origins at a very young age.


Heywood, A. Economies and Society. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2005.
Allansk, R. Sex and Society. New York Publishing. 1995.

- J. Repato

“ I wanted the child's innocence and his amazing certainty make his questions touch our hearts and allow us to understand them “ (Alain Berliner).

I start my paper with the statement made by Alain Berliner, the director of the film Ma Vie En Rose, for from it and through it that we can examine what the director wants to portray in the movie, and what message it wants to convey to its viewers. This paper tries to read between the scenes the ‘questions’ that the director and the film want their viewers hearts to be touched.

The film begins with scenes showing women wearing dresses and high-heeled shoes and men on trousers. From this, the viewers are already introduced to a set-up that emphasizes masculinity and femininity and the difference between the two. Ma Vie En Rose allotted a few scenes showing different couples preparing for a party. However, the differentiation among the couples still is restricted to heterogeneous ones, which only further highlights the exclusivity of masculinity to men, and femininity to women. This is perhaps the reason why the picture of Ludovik, a seven year-old boy walking into the party wearing his sister’s princess dress and later declaring his desire to marry Jerome shatters the completely perfect picture of the normal-loving neighborhood.

The film shows the interactions between culture, nature and society focusing on the issue of gender and how the main character and his family faces complex social constructs in contrasts to their own values. It focused on the interplay between social meanings, personal values and the synthesis of these highlights the process that Ludovik and his family underwent in their socialization. People are born to a world which already has meanings attached to a given sex showing how society limits a person’s individuality. Culture dictates a person’s gender role. A culture and nature dictate an individuals gender identity and at the same time people constantly shapes and reshapes culture giving new meanings to gender roles. This dialectical relationship creates a society that either accepts or stigmatizes deviance to gender roles and this reflects the process of socialization.

Sex is solely concerned with the biological aspect of an individual. It is based on a person’s external genitalia. Ludovik, having been born with external genitalia of a male and an x and y-chromosomes is biologically a male. Culture attaches meanings to a given sex. A given culture has its own meanings of gender roles. Gender roles are the activities and actions that a society dictates to be acceptable and proper given a person’s external genitalia. In this Belgian community gender role includes men liking women. Thus his parents expects him to like girls and wear clothes that other ‘normal’ boys his age wear. However as Ludovik and this film prove, gender identity does not end there.

“ I’m a boy now, but one day I’ll be a girl” asserts Ludovik.

Ludovik is certain he is a girl. Though Ludovik does not conform to meanings of norms in his society, it does not however imply that he does not play a certain gender role himself. In here we see how meanings attached to a gender role is change. Society and to some extent an individual is able to reshape its culture giving new meanings to gender roles. Difficulty arises when the current social meanings contradicts and creates tensions in the process of changing meanings. In the movie as the family of Jerome faces threats of isolation, we see the process of socialization of the family and Ludovik himself.

The context by which Ludovik and his family is important in the development of the film and the characters. It is thus important that the film spent a great deal of effort on the sub-urban neighborhood where the family leaves for it serves as an influential agent by which how the family and Ludovik himself faces his issue of gender identity. This neighborhood is the primary agent of socialization of Ludovik’s family. The constant physical interaction hones the relationship between Ludovik’s family and their neighbors, and entrenches their ability to influence the family’s opinion. In Ludovik’s part it is his family together with their family friends that affected his opinions most. Though, the television shows of Pam serves as his secondary agent of socialization, the physical constraints of Pam as a fictional character and her incapability to console and communicate with Ludovik also restrain the television show’s influence.

Focusing on their primary agents of socialization, their primary groups are also revealed. Primary groups are formations, groups that individuals are consciously member of and they constantly integrate with. It is important to identify the primary groups that Ludovik and his family are members of in order to fully understand their opinions, feelings and more importantly later their decisions. In discussing the primary groups of Ludovik and his family, we will be able to see how their decisions reflect that of the opinions of the society they are in. Primary groups exert a certain degree of pressure among its members for uniformity.

There are three reasons why individuals conform to uniformity. One is that their membership into a specific group restricts the information that they get, limiting their opinions to opinions of the other members of that group. The neighbors of Ludovik’s family see the issue of gender identity negatively. This pose as a symbolic threat to the other members not to contradict these norms. These are the feedbacks that the family receives hence they base their opinions on the opinions of their neighbors. Ludovik on the other hand, being a member of the neighborhood and his family only experiences repression from them. He draws into a conclusion that indeed it could be the reason for god to send him to hell. Another reason is that people value their membership to that group. The family being financially dependent to one of their neighbors highly value their approval. The approval of the neighbors forces the parents of Ludovik especially his father to seek a professional help. This approval also pushed his brothers not defend him when their friends started to beat Ludovik. Ludovik loves his family and do not want to indirectly cause any harm to its members. He values his membership to his family. Lastly, people generally want to be considered as normal. However normality is also a social construct. Society dictates what are considered normal and abnormal, what is acceptable and what is not. Unfortunately for Ludovik and his family, the ‘normal’-loving neighborhood considers being ‘bent’ an abnormal and unacceptable condition. These reasons push Ludovik and his family to conclusions that abhor Ludovik’s assertion of his gender identity.

However, Ludovik’s family finally accepts him towards the end of the film and this reflects the limitations of the influence of the primary groups. It should be noted that the capability of a primary group to influence its members is still primarily based on the importance of the group to its members. As the family grows more financially independent on the neighborhood, the latter’s importance also diminishes.

The film, having used vivid colors to mirror the emotions in the movie, being highly entertaining to watch, having a clear focus on childhood, and having a relatively new point of view on an issue is an effective medium for the socialization of it’s viewers.

It leaves viewers hanging as questions of an innocent child pokes their hearts forcing them to re-examine and reconsider their orientations for that possibility of acceptance into the social norms. It leaves the viewers to rethink that perhaps one day we would realize that Ludovik is right and that it is all but a scientific error. After all it makes perfect sense that way.

- J. Agpalo

Ludovic Fabre, the central character of the 1997 Belgian film “Ma Vie En Rose”, is probably one of the most resolute personas ever brought to life, remarkably despite his young age. However, it is unfortunate that the world around him has been very certain as well, only to make sure that Ludo does not belong.

This essay aims to mainly assert that social control has indeed heavily affected Ludovic’s childhood, or the childhood of any kid, for that matter. The discussion of this writer’s main thesis is taken from the perspective of the framework of panopticism, which was postulated by philosophers Michel Foucault, Jeremy Bentham and John Berger. The corresponding conceptual model depicts the child (Ludovic) as its center. The child is operating within certain a social environment. Consequently, he or she is constantly interacting with his peers, his “significant adults” (coined by this writer for lack of a better term denoting adults whom children are dependent upon), and the society as a whole. Specifically in Ludovic’s case, the social environment focused on is the neighborhood they first moved into, as opposed to Clermont-Ferrand, the next neighborhood they were later compelled to transfer to; the latter will not be discussed here because only the former will be used to establish society’s controlling character. In this analysis of “Ma Vie En Rose”, the nature and relationships of the elements within this conceptual model are to be discussed within the panopticon framework.

The panopticon, a term which in Greek denotes “all” (pan) “seeing” (opticon), is a “design for an ideal reformatory” (Wood, 2003) According to Foucault (who studied at the University of Clermont-Ferrand, ironically), “it is a segmented, immobile … space. Each individual is fixed in his place. And, if he moves, he does so at the risk of his life, contagion or punishment. Inspection functions ceaselessly. The gaze is alert everywhere: …the slightest movements are supervised, … recorded, … [and] power is exercised [within] a compact model of the disciplinary mechanism. Generally speaking, all the authorities exercising individual control function according to … binary division and branding; and … coercive assignment of differential distribution...” to alter the abnormal. (Cartome) Foucault’s work, “Displine and Punish” explains “the micro-power structures that developed in Western societies since the eighteenth century.” ( Bentham later asserted “the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power,” and that “the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable.” To clarify, power as unverifiable means that the surveyed must never know when they are being watched, but must be sure that they may always be so. (Cartome) According to Berger, panopticism is a feeling that one is always being watched, and this creates a pressure on him or her to conform by the guidelines and rules set by society. ( In other words, this is the fear that in all moments they are being judged in their actions and if they fail to go along with societal “norms”, which are oftentimes unnatural and irrational, then they will not be socially accepted.

At the first level of interaction, Ludovic’s peers are his siblings, their neighbors, and classmates. Their interaction was initially characterized by acceptance and friendship. This is evident with Jerome, when he tried to return Ludo’s earring during recess at school. It was then when they became instant friends, and also when Ludo resolved to marry Jerome. It is also evident when Ludo and Jerome held their ‘wedding’ at Jerome’s dead sister’s room. This depicts a positive interaction because, firstly, they were in a place where they were not allowed to be in, and secondly, they were acting out a ceremony which is known to only wed heterosexual couples; however, despite these, Jerome still played along in what must have seemed to him as a game. Ludo’s eldest sister Zoe also manifested accpetance, which is expected from her more, as she is family. Evidently, she hugged Ludo at the football net in school when he was crying, and also when she defended him at the dinner table when their father reprimanded him for the wedding debacle. However, the more Ludo expressed his strong belief in being a girl, these interactions changed. Even at the beginning, there was always some petty bullying by Ludo’s classmates, evidently when he brought his Pam and Ben dolls to Show and Tell, indicating the established view that it is inappropriate for boys to play with dolls. But after further adult control, this led to Ludo being physical assaulted by his teammates in soccer, while his brother Tom chose to conform to peer pressure when he prevented their brother Jean from defending Ludo. Sophie pushed Ludo away when he tried to kiss her, saying she does not kiss girls, a remark reflecting her father’s control that Ludo was a “bent boy”. Finally, Jerome’s remark on “going to hell” if he sat beside Ludo in class also reflected his parent’s control, perhaps to stay away from the ‘sinful’.

His peers, being children, are still heavily influenced by their significant adults, namely their parents, through power relations within the home. They are also influenced by their fellow peers, by means of direct social control, but their parents still have greater overall influence since their fellow peers are also subjected to the same politics at home. The children’s parents, in turn, are heavily influenced by the society as a whole, which dictates hetero-normative restrictions. As a result, they impart to their children these rules, leading them to act correspondingly among their peers. Therefore, the inter-peer relationships of the children were impinged by the inter-peer adult relationships, and more so by the societal norms. Specifically, the peer-controlled change is evident in Tom, while the adult-controlled change is evident with Ludo’s peers who are not family, namely, his neighbors and classmates. Nonetheless, society, at this level, is seen to react to Ludo’s actions through the adults, hence only indirectly. Therefore, at this level, the scope of the panopticon is still quite distant, because the intensity of adult social control, which is said to be more stringent and ironically intolerant, is still quite indirect.

The second level of interaction concerns Ludo’s significant adults, who remain the same for both social environments, are his parents Pierre and Hanna, and his grandmother Elizabeth (whom he called Granny). With Granny, Ludo initially saw acceptance, though not necessarily approval, as is evident when she fetched him at school and Ludo declared that he would marry their neighbor Jerome “once [he’s] not a boy”. In fact, she tried to talk him out of his strong belief in being a girl, as evident when she corrected Ludo that he was “not pretty, but handsome”. A parallel can even be drawn from Granny’s character, as she evidently challenged norms by acting too youthfully despite her age; nonetheless, she still indirectly advised Ludo that “we all have to face reality.” However, as the story progressed, she eventually understood the intensity of Ludo’s convictions and even supported him in his wearing a skirt, while at the same time hoping very deeply that such an indulgence would eventually banalize such strong belief, all for Ludo’s sake, because she also wanted him to be accepted in society. Therefore, Granny is not a panoptic character in Ludo’s life; in fact, she even approves of his attitude, though not necessarily in being a girl per se, but more in being admirably steadfast in his beliefs, and she never faltered, taking him in especially when he was most shunned by everyone else.

Ludo’s relationship with his parents is the third level of social interaction. At the beginning, Pierre and Hanna took Ludo’s actions lightly, maybe even to the point of trivializing them, justifying that he “meant no harm” and that “we search for our identity until we are seven”. This is evident when Pierre almost nonchalantly said that Ludo acted like a girl “every so often”. In other words, Ludo’s expression of being female was never an issue in the Fabre household. In fact, this writer believes that the scene where Ludo was embraced by his mother and grandmother while they were dancing at the housewarming party symbolizes that they provided him with tolerance and protection from the real, harsh and panoptic world outside. Therefore, since there was initially little or no panoptic atmosphere in the Fabre household, Ludo felt free, maybe even encouraged, to express his believed gender more widely, out to the society level.

However, as the story progressed, the more society condemned Ludo and his family, specifically his parents, for his actions. In fact, the changes in the Fabre household were catalyzed by his parents’ interaction with society as a whole, inevitably entailing the discussion of the fourth level of social interaction. Society is stipulated in this essay as being comprised of individual members who are living and operating within each of the social environments. It is at this level where Ludo was being most tormented. This is gradually evident in increasing stages in the story. Initially, during the housewarming, Ludo received incredulous gasps and an uncomfortable silence when he came out in girlish hair, outfit and make-up. Also, at Show and Tell at school, his teacher worriedly, though tactfully, tried to confirm with Ludo that he wanted “to be like Ben”, perhaps trying to get an assurance from him. Society’s panoptic character worsened to a more cruel stage. It is evident in the school play where Ludo only playfully grabbed the role of Snow White, and when he was found out, cold condemning stares followed the Fabres out the gates of the school. In fact, in the technical terms of this film, such disapproval was shown in the colors that washed over the scene, specifically hues of grays and blues. Finally, it reached a most oppressive stage when Ludo was expelled from school because “his tastes are too eccentric”, posing difficulties for the Fabres. Therefore, since it is society directly interacting with Ludo, the former’s panoptic character quite firm and distressing.

Consequently, it is at this level when the Fabres, especially the parents, were most ostracized. This is evident in three scenes. The first is the barbecue with Jerome’s and Sophie’s parents, when Sophie’s mother, Monique, commented that Ludo was a “real little housewife” (connoting the wedding fiasco), and when Jerome’s mother, Lisette, remarked that Albert thought “if society were not sick there would not be any loony bins” (connoting Ludo was sick and loony). Hanna defiantly said that Ludo was “not a loony”, and tried to steer the conversation away for Ludo’s sake. The second was when Albert told Pierre that Ludo was that way because he let Hanna control the kids; Pierre defensively replied that they raised their kids well. In these two scenes, all the other parents offer solutions, evoking doubt in the hearts of Ludovic’s parents regarding their family life, parenting skills, and even their marriage. And the last, most oppressive draw for them was the driveway vandalism, “Bent boys out”. At this stage, society’s panoptic quality is at its height, explicitly ordering them to ‘straighten up’ Ludo, or else they are driven out.

As a result of society’s reaction to his parents, their reaction to him worsened, with the wedding fiasco as the turning point; this was the first time when Ludo’s actions were seriously maligned by the panoptic society, effectively leading the parents to suddenly try to conform him to it. They were alarmed for the first time: Hanna vehemently shook Ludo; Pierre impatiently explained the consequences to his job if it happened again. However, alarm escalated to distress for Pierre when Ludo asked what “bent” meant: Pierre violently insisted to refer to a flyswatter, when it was really meant as the French slang for a homosexual. But when Pierre was fired at work, it was Hanna’s turn to cave in: she blamed Ludo for Pierre’s unemployment; and she also made him shut up at the bus stop on the way to his new, less exclusive school, because Ludo’s educational concerns added to their problems due to the breach of the family’s economic well-being. At this level, they now conformed to the panoptic character of society, disciplining Ludo.

In turn, their transformation affected Ludo’s relationship with himself. Initially, he confidently expressed her femaleness to all, wanting to “look pretty”, watching “Pam’s World”, wearing his pants backwards, etc. The wedding fiasco was also another effort for expression but, as it brought society’s first sign of serious disapproval, it perplexed him as to why they disapproved of a simple identity expression. Threatened by society, he flew to Pam’s world, where there are no other citizens, perhaps symbolizing a world without social control. But when his parents themselves rejected him, that was when he resolved to please them by being sent to a psychiatrist, and when he asked them to confirm if he really was a boy, it was when he first saw the relief in his parents. Disappointed that his parents felt that way, but wanting to be loved by them and guilty to go on with his belief, he chose to try hard to live like a boy and obey his parents by putting away his dolls and joining the football team. Now more timid and withdrawn, consequently, he himself has transformed into his own panopticon.

Therefore, as the main thesis is now established, “Ma Vie En Rose” is an effective agent of political socialization, by using a portrayal of a controlling and bigoted society for three reasons. Firstly, it depicts an issue of fantasy versus reality, of youth versus adulthood, as the latter’s power is depicted through the politics of the home, effectively making harsh reality prevail, limiting society’s possibilities, and controlling the former. Secondly, it poses an issue of normalcy, as the basis of social inclusion and stability, effectively compelling society’s members to conform, and implying societal repression and eventual stagnation. And finally, “Ma Vie En Rose” conveys a message of tolerance, rather than judgment, and belongingness, rather than ostracism, of a seven-year-old girlboy who only wanted to be recognized and appreciated just the way he believes himself to be, because, at least in his book, being oneself has never been a crime.


Wikipedia. “Michel Foucault”. Date published: 11 August 2007. Date retrieved: 22 August 2007. From:

Wood, David. “Foucault and Panopticism Revisited.” Editorial, Surveillance and Society. Year published: 2003. Date retrieved: 22 August 2007. From:

- A. Felicia


Ron S.R. said...

Ma Vie En Rose (My Life in Pink)

For a movie of its kind (the portrayal of homosexual lives), Ma Vie En Rose takes an approach that is, to my view, an appropriate one—looking at the formation of a homosexual from the early stages of that individuals life so as to give the viewer a better understanding of how and why homosexuals are such and provide possible insights into the reactions of the individuals society as per homosexuality formation is concerned.

For this article on Ma Vie En Rose, we shall be focusing on the social constructs within the characters society and how these constructs eventually affect the identity of the individual; putting it simply—the society’s role (in/direct) in shaping the individual identity. But we tackle this not in the usual manner (in a sense, not the usual girl/boy identity), but in the context of an individual’s eventual choice of becoming what he not ought to be—i.e. a boy (Ludo) choosing to become or choosing to live as a girl (homosexual) despite the opposition posed by society especially by his family.

As we saw from the start of the film, there was much vagueness as to what Ludovic really experienced before reaching the age of seven, but nonetheless, we can establish from that scene where he came out to the party in a dress with matching shoes and garments that he was hell bent on becoming a girl. We also saw the aftermath of such acts—which was a sermon from his mom about the inappropriateness of doing such silly things especially considering that he was already seven which according to his mom’s research, was the age you grow out of that “choosing” stage and establish ones identity—gender in particular. So on went his mother about lecturing Ludo and the people around that he (Ludo) should be acting like a boy at this point. From this scene, we can gather that the immediate social environment of Ludo was far from being tolerant towards homosexuality.

This intolerance also extends to the people of their new neighborhood. When Albert’s wife found out about Ludo and their son Jerome mocking a wedding, after that, Albert made it clear to Pierre to take care of it—that meant Pierre had to address Ludo’s gender preference issues. Such intolerance went further when Ludo found out that Jerome was lead to think that he’d go to hell if he were to be with Jerome. Then at the barbeque, the neighbors were always talking about how to treat Ludo as if he had a disease. Ludo was made to have regular sessions with a shrink, just so he’d be treated. When Ludo took the part of Snow White in the play, it finally made him the problem of the entire community to the point that the school was forced to kick Ludo out based on the petition of the parents of Ludo’s classmates. This also leads to Pierre being fired by Albert and their family’s alienation from the entire neighborhood. This prompts Ludo’s family to finally rid Ludo of his girly fantasies with various methods.

Throughout the film, we see the family’s efforts at “straightening” Ludo, first with the shrink, then through sports, also by making Ludo live out his fantasies; all these to no avail, in fact, these measures did the opposite. By this I mean that the social constructs or society’s norms that have placed themselves against Ludo in hopes of turning him to what he is supposed to be has instead indirectly contributed to strengthening Ludo’s fantasies of becoming a girl. This is what we have stated earlier as the roles of society in shaping the individual, but with a twist; that the society, through its norms, instead of shaping the individual according to this norms, it instead did the opposite.

Take Ludo for example, as the new neighborhood found out that Ludo’s preferences isn’t really “right”, this prompted his parents to treat him with a psychologist, but instead of bringing Ludo into thinking that he really was a boy, he was now exposed to the ideas presented by the shrink that could possibly explain why he was such. This gave him his own versions of explaining why he is a girl and why he should continue being a girl.

As he was exposed to sports and other “manly” activities, he was able to gauge how much he wanted to be a girl, he was presented with a comparison of what he actually liked better, instead of bringing Ludo into wanting to be a boy based on what he was doing and “enjoying”, Ludo was instead opened to the idea that he really was not meant to be a boy. He tried being a boy, but he still felt that he preferred being a girl since, from doing the boyish activities; he found no “enjoyment” in them leading him to think he was therefore a girl.

After the aforementioned measures at straightening Ludo failed, his mother decided to give granny’s suggestion a try, thus they allowed Ludo to wear a skirt to a party, which gave Ludo, in a way, a chance to be a girl without the complaints or stigma presented by the neighbors. This gave him a chance to realize that this is what he really wanted; he enjoyed being a girl and thus made him think that he really is a girl and he was meant to be a girl.

We now go back to our proposition—that society has a role in shaping the individual, and in our case here, indeed it has, but not in the usual sense. This film showed that societal norms exist and it usually pressures individuals to act according to these norms, but there is also the possibility of these norms, in their pressures at making you abide by them, it instead gives the individual the clarity of deciding for himself and deciding what one wants even if it is against the social norms. Ludo wanted to be a girl, but society thought he should be a boy since he really was (biologically), so society pressured him—forced him to “go with the flow”, and he did; he opened his mind to the notion that he was really a boy, and even tried being a boy because it was what society wanted him to be, but he realized that he could not be a boy because he simply did not want to be one based on what he experienced as he tried to be one, thus he decided to continue being a girl which what he wanted in the first place.

Thus, we see that society exerted pressure to make Ludo abide by its norms, but through that, Ludo realized that he did not want to abide by these norms because as he was living them, he could not force himself to be comfortable living in a life that society wanted him to live. In the end, society shaped Ludo’s life and his decision, but not according to societies’ norms but based on these norms that Ludo decided what he wanted.

abeleda said...

The best I can say about “Ma Vie En Rose” is that it’s serviceable. The movie wasn’t in the caliber of say, Zhang Yimou’s seminal film “Raise the Red Lantern”, which, unfortunately for this movie, one couldn’t help but compare with, because it was shown immediately after. Yep, no amount of screaming candy-colored tints can mask the movie’s pedestrian and spurious appeal.

“Ma Vie En Rose” is not “My Life in Pink” at all, but “My Life in Plastic”.

The thematic point is artificial. Somebody in the class wondered what the point of the exchange between the psychologist and Ludovic’s parents was regarding the couple’s wish to conceive a girl before Ludo was born. Well, the answer I believe is that the filmmakers are hinting at the supposedly biological basis of homosexuality. How else could Ludo get all those ideas in his head, when nobody in the immediate or outside family is a homosexual? He definitely did not get the idea from watching some lame TV show hosted by a Pamela Anderson look-alike. This also explains the whole exchange about the X and Y chromosomes---when Ludo talked about being a “girlboy” he is essentially saying that it started when he was born. Well, so far so good. But the filmmakers obfuscated their own viewpoint by also strongly suggesting that Ludo’s homosexuality could have been derived from the environment: the mother and grandmother encouraging Ludo to dress and play with dolls, the strong mother figure in the family and the weak and usually absent father figure. Thus, the film diluted what could have been a potent viewpoint by relying on the age-old debate on Nature vs. Nurture (on which has the greater influence in a child’s development). So what could have been a forceful film about the nature of homosexuality was watered down deliberately to become just a film about a child confused about his sexuality. A good political film is usually consistent and deliberate in its thematic statement. Here, the statement the film is trying to make on homosexuality is as confusing as Ludo’s predicament on his emerging sexuality.

The acting is phony. Only Ludo’s (that is, when he is not daydreaming) and the grandma’s acting is remarkable but the rest needs a lot of work. And I mean a lot of work. As I trudge through the movie, I keep thinking that the role of the stiffly-acted Hanna Fabre (Ludo’s mom) would have been in better thespic hands of say Gina Alajar or Jacklyn Jose. The father, on the other hand, looks like he could only manage several variations on one pained facial expression throughout the film. The rest of the kids, including Ludo's love interest, Jerome, does not fare any better. This may be a foreign film but I believe that does not necessarily make it superior to our own. Given the right budget and casting, I believe Filipino directors such as Joyce Bernal, Mario O’Hara or Jeffrey Jeturian could come up with a much better movie or at least elicited a more felt performance from the actors.

And what about the fake characterizations? Again, only Ludo and the Grandma has the most developed character. The rest are either plastic or cardboard. Take the mother for instance, at first she was shown to be the supportive and caring mom, then on the second half of the film, she metamorphosed into the bitch from hell with nary an explanatory aside, effectively throwing the built-upon characterization out the window. The father is intermittently supportive and disdainful of Ludo’s antics. He was generally shown to be the masculine figure who wants to “straighten up” his “bent” boy but there was also a lengthy shot of him traipsing like a fairy to the beat of Ludo’s favorite music. The rest of Ludo’s family, as well as his “leading man” are mere plot devices. The sister only serves to explain the existence of chromosomes and the monthly period, and his brothers to play ‘cowboys and indians’. Jerome, whom Ludo swears to marry when he grows up, was shown only to be a little more than a placeholder---a statue could replace him and we wouldn't notice the difference. Thus, the viewers couldn’t really empathize with the plight of Ludo’s family because only Ludo was the well rounded-off character.

Even the shots of some scenes are woefully staged, thus coming off as fake. (Or are ineptly edited,to be charitable about it). When the father invited Ludo and his grandma for a toast in their new house, I could already guess it was because he got a new job, light-years before he blurted it out. Except for the daydream in Barbie-land scenes, the rest of the scenes are utterly predictable. And when the grandma hurriedly left when the Fabres were moving out, the father says something cheesy like “all that just to avoid crying” then the whole family gathers round for a Kodak-perfect family picture as they hug each other under the afternoon sun while ostensibly looking at the departing car of the grandmother.(The picture is shown in the main entry.) How cheesy can it get? The viewers are already aware of the grandmother’s attempt to stifle her grief and we didn’t have to be hit in the head with that observation. The reiteration is thus superfluous and serves to undermine the dramatic impact of the scene. And the Kodak camera moment staged afterwards? Pathetically staged.

My classmates are considering the film as “magic realist” because of the daydreams of Ludo set in “The World of Pam”. I beg to disagree. Magic realism is when the fantastic elements meld with the mundane world. In Ma Vie en Rose, Ludo fantasizes only about the floating Pamela-Anderson look-alike (who floats by means of who-knows-what) to escape the problems of the “real world”. Ergo, the two worlds do not really intersect in the narrative, because one happens only in the mind of the protagonist to serve only as a counterpoint to reality.

Had this film been set in the US Midwest, in Indochina or Arabia, I would have been more charitable because the societal discrimination would have been considerably more palpable. But in “sexually-permissive” France? It overtaxes the imagination. In comparison, Maximo’s world (in the Filipino film “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros”(The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros)) would have been heaven to Ludo’s family. And we all know that that is far from the truth. But I suppose this is why the French movie dealt with the underlying problem superficially also: the solution being as simple as transferring residence.

I heard a UP professor say that Maximo Oliveros is a macho fantasy because the life of the young gay man revolves around men thus, the gay Maxie is actually a woman in drag and the film, ultimately does not seek to empower gays or homosexuals. In the same vein, Ma Vie could also be considered as a middle class heterosexual fantasy because the central character projects his intent on marrying another man by fantasizing himself to be Pam, a woman, and by dressing the part. It does not seek to empower gays because of its limited view that gays are just women born as men; that God only mistook his X’s for Y’s.

Yes, the film may be as colorful as a cotton candy, sure, but it's still only sugar. In other words, junk.

alejandro said...

“'Ma vie en rose' (English translation: My Life in Pink) is a 1997 Belgian film directed by Alain Berliner. It tells the story of a boy named Ludovic, who believes that he should have been born a girl. The film shows the struggle over gender identity he and his family go through.” (Wikipedia 2007)

Based on this film, high exposure to media – by the concept “media,” I refer to television and radio – could have a high influence on viewers, particularly on children who are in their developing years. Moreover, high exposure to media could lead to a high probability of children imitating whatever information presented to them. In the case of Ludovic, at the first few scenes of the film, he told his mother that he wanted to be pretty. For him, as what was shown in the film, his basis for the concept of beauty was Pam, from the television show Le Monde de Pam, which he often watched. Why Ludovic wanted to be pretty and not handsome is not what i want to focus on. The film showed how media could a be very effective agent in reinforcing or challenging (in this film, I think that media was more of “reinforcing”) the beliefs of viewers, especially the children.

Not only was the television show highly influential in a visual sense. Its music was influential as well. In the film, Ludovic was seen dancing and singing to the music of the television show. In fact, he imitated every move of Pam whenever that music was played in the show or in the radio. The music was so influential that it also appealed to the adults in Ludovic's family, specifically his Granny, his mother and his father. They danced and sang to the music at least at one point in the film.

Moreover, high exposure to media could lead to the child wanting to live in that fantasy, and make that fantasy his reality. For many times in the film, Ludovic was enjoying the life he had dreamed of with Pam. He even imagined himself flying with her – a representation that he could do whatever made him feel happy in Pam's world without constraints from his family, from the neighborhood or from school. In fact, he could do and make the seemingly impossible possible in Pam's world. Furthermore, whenever he imagined himself being in Pam's world, the only person who was there with him was Pam. He did not include other people in his fantasy world who could probably “spoil” his happiness with Pam in her – or their – world.

Even in Ludovic's attempt to make his family love him by acting the way a boy is expected to act, he also imitated a character in the television show Le Monde de Pam. Only this time, he did not imitate Pam; he imitated Ben. He thought that one thing that boys do is to kiss a girl. This idea of his was based – or at least reinforced – on Ben's actions in the show. In that show, Ben was shown as kissing Pam. Therefore, with an attempt to act the way boys are expected to act, he attempted to kiss his female classmate who lived just in their neighborhood. Unfortunately, Ludovic was rejected by the girl and told him, “I don't kiss girls.” So, if attempting to kiss a girl was not enough to make Ludovic a boy in the view of others, what then would he have to do: play soccer, have his hair cut short like other boys, and the like?

To emphasize my thesis statement, I would to reiterate that media could act as a significant agent in influencing its viewers, especially children who are in their developing years. Therefore, due to the emphasis on the influence of media in “Ma Vie en Rose,” I think that the film is an effective medium for political socialization. Children acquire values and beliefs that they could carry on after their developing years, and they could use those beliefs to influence others as well.

Wikipedia. 2007. Ma vie en rose.

odessawoods said...

Ma Vie en Rose, Alain Berliner, France/Belgium/UK, 1997

Ludovic Fabre is a girlboy: there was a scientific error so he got XY instead of XX, but God will give him his X so he can be real girl...
Ma Vie en Rose is an easy film to watch. It tells the story of Ludovic who strongly believes that he is a girl—he wears make-up and skirts and sports a long hair—only, his anatomy and the people around him tell otherwise. This now becomes the main issue in the movie: personal choice is not so personal after all; you are affected by your family, the neighborhood, mass media, the persons you are dealing with everyday. It is not as easy as saying that you have your own preference or you make your own decision, people will judge you in one way or another and there will be consequences.
What the movie says is that society dictates the rules or norms which the individual must follow. On the gender issue for example, skirts and dolls are for girls while soccer is for boys and boys marry girls, never boy to boy or girl to girl, or s/he'd be called 'bent'. As early as seven years old, Ludo was made to grasp these; because of his preference, norms were challenged and this caused disruption to the 'reality' of the 'normal' people. The consequences of wanting to be a girl despite his sex were expulsion from his school, conflict with his parents and mockery from his neighbors. Even Ludo's friend stayed away from him out of fear and his (Jerome's) parents' threat. It is interesting to note how religion was used in the film—in Jerome's case, his parents told him that he would go to hell if continued his friendship with Ludo (Religion as dictated by parents); for Ludo, he believed that God will send him his lost X chromosome (own belief/faith). Even in religion, there was a struggle for what is 'right', what should be followed.
This film is effective in portraying the role of society and mass media (Pam and Ben) in molding one's identity. I used the term 'molding' instead of 'creating' because I do believe that for the environment to shape something, there must be that something to begin with. Ludo had a choice, but society went on to modify this preference to fit into what was considered normal, therefor right. Ludo saw the problems his actions caused and so he wanted to change and fit in and nit further the damage: he visited the psychiatrist, played with toy cars, tried to kiss a girl, cut his hair. He wanted to please his parents. He looked so small and powerless against his parents, and his parents against their neighbors. Ludo's mother wanted to change him to escape the fierce judgment of the environment.
This is how socialization really works—it will empower you or it totally takes power away from you. Socialization either provide you with information and let you choose to build or redeem yourself, or it totally control you by making you blend with what is there. But then again, you cannot please everyone or gain acceptance all the time; with one choice you make, you compromise the other. Someone for whatever reason will judge you and dictate you what to do—the key here is to be yourself, which is actually the point of Ma Vie.

mvga said...

A healthy personality actively masters the environment, shows certain unity of personality and is able to perceive the world and self correctly according to Erik Erikson (Erikson, 1968, p.2). Erikson is famous for giving a variation to Freud’s theory of personality development in that he first focused on the development of the healthy personality instead of focusing on the cure for neurotic behaviors like Freud. Childhood, in Erikson’s perspective, is defined by the characteristics’ initial absence and by their gradual development in complex steps of increasing differentiation (p. 98) Growing up is a process of achieving ego identity and people who have attained ego identity have a clear picture and an acceptance of both their inner essence and the group culture in which they live(p.104).
The film ma Vie en rose could be identified as a gender film but I think that this film also talks about how children acquire identity. Erikson identified “eight ages of man” which is somewhat similar to Freud’s psychosexual stages. And using Erikson’s psychosocial crises one can assume that Ludovic, the main character of the film whose age is seven is in industry versus inferiority stage. In this stage, Erikson pointed out, that children during the elementary school years need and enjoy make-believe games and play. And this was in fact shown in the film. Ludovic was shown to have a lot of ‘day dreams’ and one of that was about him and Jerome ( Ludovic’s playmate) getting married. In this stage, children also want to earn recognition by producing something, to gain the satisfaction of completing work by perseverance. At least this is how Erikson viewed the what the attitudes of children of children should be. These eight stages of man, or the psychosocial crises, are plausible and insightful descriptions of how personality develops but at present they are descriptions only.
And there are a lot of elements in the film that made me think that there are a lot of factors that contribute in the development of a child. One is the relative closeness of one parent compared to the other parent to a child. We cannot deny the fact that our first model in life is our parents. Ludovic is closer to his mother more than his father. This is because his father was always at work and his father treats his situation (‘identity crisis’) negatively. The film also showed that Ludovic is more attached to the female members of his family. So,it is just fair to say that Ludovic’s ‘girly’ behavior could be attributed to the models of his life which are his mother, sister and grandmother.
The acceptance and understanding of Ludovic’s situation, on the part of the person special to Ludovic, also play an important role in solving his crisis. At first, Ludovic’s mother, Hanna, although she does not tolerate the idea of Ludovic that he is a girlboy, understood what Ludovic is going through. She even talked to him about this while she was cutting Ludovic’s hair. She also defended him a lot of times from the judgments of other people. But after the principal talked to her and his husband and after his husband lost his job Hanna blamed Ludovic for everything that has happened to them. And this is a turning point for Ludovic because his mother is his most trusted parent and for her to get angry at himis devastating for him. That is why when the family moved to another place, Ludovic refused to play with Christine which he previously thought was a boy and why he refused to wear the gown that Christine wore during her birthday party.
There are also symbolisms conveyed in the movie. The music box, which Ludovic’s grandmother owns, was given to her by a man who was supposed to be, according to her, Ludovic’s grandfather. To me, the music box symbolizes things that are dreamed of or aspired for but did not come true. When Ludovic’s family was preparing to move, granny gave the music box to Ludovic. And in my opinion, this represents the Ludovic’s grandmother’s view that Ludovic must face the reality that he is a boy and not a girl that he dreams of. The song used in Pam’s World, the television show that Ludo patronizes, was very prominent throughout the film. During one scene, Ludo’s father was shown to be dancing along with this song and this was when he already accepted Ludo’s situation. Those adult who were seen to be dancing along with this song were the ones who understand Ludovic’s situation.
It might be safe to turn to theories to understand and learn how a person develops a healthy personality but there are also some nuances that we should consider. And one cannot accurately ascribe how an age group should develop because there are some cases where a person develops faster or develops late.
Erikson, Erik (1963). Childhood and Society, 2nd Ed. New York: Norton

me_delas_alas said...

Witty, heartwarming and emotionally filled, Ma Vie en Rose is a wonderful story of a boy’s journey towards himself and how he eventually finds out that his identity is with him all the while. Ludovic’s certainty on how he feels is for him to believe, however, this is not without any challenges, which start from within his family. It is within this context that we see how the family, first and foremost, affects the growth and development of a child’s perception of the world. The family, then, is a primary agent of an individual’s socialization process.

Family is regarded as the basic unit of the society, from which every person belongs, no matter how united or divided it is. Being the vital component that instills our first knowledge of the world, it is without a doubt that the impact of their teachings and the values they impart on us will affect our whole life. Needless to say, the family is a crucial element within which it can serve as the standard of what we are suppose to learn and think. Evidently, we see that Ludovic’s first challenge toward trying to establish his identity was his family. It became the microcosmic model of what the society expects of a man. During the first time Ludo came out of the open during a party, his family tries to tell him that it is not right for a man to dress and look that way, probably fearing that the community in which they belong will not mingle or interact with them any more. But these did not affect him at first, for he was so certain of himself, of what he feels, for he knew himself, more than any other.

On the other side of the fence, his grandmother has been very open with Ludo and his actions, and through her Ludo’s identity has been reinforced, for there is someone who still thinks that there is nothing wrong with him, more so with what he believes. But as the film progressed, we see that his family ultimately affected his views. He came up with stories to justify his preference, like the mistakes God made when he delivered his chromosomes down the chimney but to no avail. His family still thinks that it is abnormal, but what is normal anyway? It came to the point that even her mother despised him, and felt that his family was nothing different from anyone else. Symbolically, when her mother cut down his hair, it reflects how his mother also slashed out his identity from his true self, for her long hair symbolized not only the choices that Ludo made, but also his strength to stand by and defend the options that he wants for himself. The family became a limiting factor for his growth at this time, trying to put a narrow and straight hedge for him to follow, no turns, no curves, no swerving, no overtaking. For someone most certain of his feelings, the inability of the family to back up his choices was a crucial aspect of the formation of his identity. This led him to doubt the love and support of his family, to the point that he froze himself nearly to death by locking himself inside the fridge, or articulating his desire to live with her grandmother.

Eventually, the certainty of Ludo about himself transformed into the uncertainty of his family’s place in the neighborhood, costing his father’s job and his mother’s understanding. But as they move out, the family eventually realized, especially his parents, that there are certain things in life bound to be what they ought to be. After all, they are his family, and being the foundation of society, we will always go back to them and them to us. Ludo soon realized the value of family, and in return, the family realized that although they should not tolerate any act offensive of human culture, Ludo’s choices are very much not like that, as what society always tries to insinuate.
I believe that the power of the family to shape and to impart in us certain ideologies are crucial in the formation of who we are. Their role in the development of a child will be for the child to carry from the crib to the grave. This dynamics is very evident in cultures with strong family orientation, as with many Asian societies. Many of us learned the very essence of life through the teachings of our parents, through the games with our siblings and through the constant and inspiring words of our grandparents. The cycle goes on, for we too will become parents and grow old. I believe that no matter how post modernist someone is, he cannot deny the fact that family matters. No matter how conventional or new wave it is. For as long as someone is born, a new family is also born. Ma Vie En Rose exemplifies how the family plays a very important role, which we ought to realize: we start within ourselves, but we begin with our family. As the saying goes, the world may always leave you, but the family will always be there, through whatever things life may bring.

buagñin said...

We often heard the saying “Just be yourself and everything will be fine.” But what if being yourself does not make any good to you nor the people around you? What if being yourself means being taboo? This is the problem of Ludovic, a seven-year old at that who has been undergoing the process of identity formation. At that age, he already knows what he wants to be when he grows up, that is to be a girl and marry his next door neighbor named Jerome. He is so certain of it that he actually dresses as a girl and wears makeup.

I wonder whether what gives him the idea to become a girl. He grows up in a heterosexual family where all his brothers and sister also grow up. His siblings seem to be normal in a sense that they behave as a normal boy or girl should be. The only influence I see that could trigger Ludovic’s fantasy to be a girl is the TV show “The World of Pam and Ben”. What makes me confused is the idea that at such a young age Ludovic already knows what he is and what he should be. I myself do not think of those things at that age. Or perhaps I do but the only thing I can remember is that I prefer to play with toy guns and toy cars than dolls. But I cannot remember myself saying that I should be a boy because of I prefer those boy-like-toys. My parents did not even mind if I let them buy those toys. In contrast with Ludovic, I did not do anything beyond playing with those toys. I did not suffer any discrimination because of that preference. Thus, I grow up perceiving myself as a girl because I qualify as such based on scientific evidences.

However, in the case of Ludovic, he has been criticized by the community and even by his family. It is as if he has committed a crime that ruins his family’s image and well-being. The film tries to show its audience how homosexuals are being discriminated in the society. At a young age, Ludovic suffers a lot of criticisms which makes him think to change his identity. In this, the film shows how the society shapes the young minds into something that is perceived to be normal. For me, this film is more than a homosexuals’ concern. It also shows how the new generation has nothing to do but to follow the already set up norms of the society. Of course, there will be consequences when one starts to disobey these set of norms. And that is what happened to Ludovic’s life.

First, Ludovic suffers traumatic criticisms from his parents especially his from father at the beginning of the conflict. However, it is his mother which is actually much affected by Ludovic’s abnormality at the end. This may perhaps cause by his high expectations and jealousy from her neighbors. She cannot accept the fact that Ludovic’s abnormality can alter her family’s affluent life in the suburbs.

Second, the disagreement of their neighbors also affects Ludovic’s perception about being a girl. The community actually considers gays as taboo in society; thus they strongly disagree with Ludovic’s portrayal of a girl. In fact, the parents actually filed a petition to not let Ludovic enter the community’s school. Perhaps, they do not want to let Ludovic influence their children. In this situation, the film tries to show how cruel society can be to a person who is not obeying their standards. The film lets you think that being a gay is an abnormality that the people cannot tolerate.

Another consequence is the disapproval from his peers or other children. Jerome, the son of the next door neighbor and his soon-to-be groom (based on Ludovic) despises Ludovic. Jerome is perhaps persuaded by his parents that he should not engage with Ludovic because the latter suffers from abnormality. Moreover, Ludovic suffers bullying from his other classmates in which he is actually beaten inside the boys’ washroom. What annoys me is that his brothers who are also inside the washroom have not done anything to save Ludovic.

Among the characters in the film, it is his grandmother – Elizabeth who actually understands him and his situation. It is with her that Ludovic can express himself as a girl. It is with her that he has not felt discriminated. However, when his family needs to move to a father place, he decided to go with them instead of staying with his grandma. Perhaps, Ludovic decided to accept the reality that he is born as a boy and not as a girl. He is ready to start a new life in a new community where no one discriminates him as being abnormal. In fact, he finds himself a place in the new community because the people readily accept his situation. He realizes that he is not the only one who is not normal because he met Christine, a girl who acts and dresses as a boy.

With the change of community, the family, especially his parents has accepted Ludovic’s situation. They realize that even though he suffers from abnormality, Ludovic is still their child no matter what. In this case, the film shows how the change of environment affects the family’s relationship and affection towards one another. This means that the family has been only affected much of what other people have to say towards them thus this makes them act unreasonable towards Ludovic. However, in their new home, the people’s attitude towards homosexuality is more tolerating than their previous neighborhood. This gives the whole family and Ludovic a place to breathe, not minding what the others say. Thus, in this new community, Ludovic feels that being himself does not always mean harm towards him, his family and his neighbors.

Uy said...

There may be no ‘girlboy’ in the dictionary; but there is Ludovic who defined it.

Dolls, dresses, make-ups, lipstick, long hair and gentleness in actions are ‘stereotypically’ associated with women or female. This concept of ‘feminism/girl’ is constructed by the social environment which frames the psychological structure and social roles of the individual. Moreover, the social environment offers rewarding outcomes to the individuals who conform and ‘meet with the requirements’ of their social roles. Rewarding the individuals involves respect, understanding, care, acceptance and admiration. However, in the film, Ludovic, who was expected to act and be a ‘boy’ – never play with dolls, never wear dresses, never put on make-up and lipstick, never a long hair and never like boys, behaved and perceived himself to be a ‘girl’.

Tears would soon fall out of Ludovic’s eyes as his perceived role (being a girl) was not favorable and welcome to his social environment. At this point, Ludovic experiences prejudice causing pain and detrimental to his search for his personal character.

Prejudice often arises at the intersection between beliefs in the form of the attributes ascribed to the members of the society and social roles in the form of their perceived requirements (Eagly & Reuben, 2004). Thus, the key eliciting condition for prejudice is the incongruity between a group’s stereotype and the requirements of social roles. In the film, we have seen the potential prejudice that exists when social perceivers (institutions – such as Ludovic’s family, education, religion, neighbors, and friends) hold a stereotype about Ludovic’s gender role that was inconsistent with the attitudes that is required for him to act and behave – a man role. As a result, the society expressed unfavorable and prejudicial attitudes and actions towards Ludovic that changes his direction in life and belief in handling it.

This ‘negative’ behavior and treatment towards Ludovic did not turn out to be an effective tool in order to limit him in his feministic actions and it did not also encourage/drive him in developing the ‘requirements’ of his social role. As a consequence, prejudice created a personal dilemma for Ludovic; and also, this has caused a social conflict in the society.

But does prejudice stop there…
No, it does not.

In the film Ma Vie en Rose, it showed that prejudice could be minimized through reconciling two different worlds – that was exactly shown in the movie (however, difficult to do). Prejudicial perceivers must then be exposed to different cultures, customs, value systems and worldviews in order to open their views and perception. In the film, when Ludovic’s family transferred to a near community, it marked their shift of paradigm in directing and new line of beliefs and behavior towards what used to be “unacceptable” girlboy identity.

Likewise, political conflicts among groups could be reduced through reconciliation and the willingness of the parties to engage in reconciliation process. Political restructuring is one key requirement in reconciliation as we may have seen in the movie Ma Vie en Rose. Ludovic’s family has changed their behavior, outlook and their internal family relations (like acceptance and exposing to other worldviews). So according to Rouhana (2004), restructuring takes the past wrongs and their inequitable consequences into consideration when establishing stronger and new political and institutions. Furthermore, she added that “it is the political behavior, the institutionalizing and the restructuring that become the focus of a future relationship between the parties based on equality and human dignity.” (Eagly & Reuben, 2004)

Ludovic’s Girlboy…
It is being certain and accepting that you are a ‘girl in’; but also considering that you need to balance and know that you are a ‘boy out’.


Eagly, A & Reuben B. (2004). The Social Psychology of Group Identity and Social Conflict. American Psychological Association: Washington DC.

mimah said...

It’s always been taught in class that there are only two sexes, male and female. And I’ve always believed in the story of God’s creation, that He made a man and a woman named Adam and Eve. There were no Madame and Steve. Now, I belong to a university, a mini-society that employs maximum toleration and gives freedom to students. I have friends who claim to be the sons and daughters of Madame and Steve, the bloodline of the third sex. Also, I belong to a society who somehow is open to the idea of third sex. This is what I know as I underwent socialization through my family, school and friends. What I am trying to say is that what govern the society are the norms and values, varying from one culture to the other, that dictate how an individual should behave so as to maintain social order. Now, I have just met another person like them in the form of Ludovic.

Ludovic is a child, who at 7 is very sure of his identity. He understands that at present, he is a boy but strongly believes he’s going to be a girl so as to marry Jerome. There is no such thing as prescribe gender roles in his vocabulary. He even concluded he is a girlboy to justify his behavior. He lived with a family who at first was taking his unusual behavior as a joke, but in the end, loses patience and was just tired of his “uniqueness”. They lived in a supposedly happy and hospitable neighborhood not until Ludovic’s being ‘bent’ disturbed the neighbors terribly.

In the film, we could treat the neighborhood as a mini-society who has already a culture that comprises norms and values, where people are expected to follow them unquestioningly and things that are not good for their mini-society is taboo. For the mini-society, they have an established notion of gender roles for a boy and a girl. Gender roles “are expected behaviors, attitudes, obligations and privileges that society assign to each sex.” (Lecture notes in Sociology 101) Role is interpersonal, meaning it is oriented to the conduct and expectations of others. Not only do others expect something from us, we, too have our own expectations as to how others should behave. In the case of Ludovic, as a boy, he is expected to play with the boys, to wear shirt and pants and to like a girl. But he behaves the other way around. There the conflict arises. His behavior is perceived as deviant. Deviance is defined as “a behavior or act that is a recognized violation of social norms.” (Lecture notes in Sociology 101) One becomes deviant depending on cultural norms or if one is defined as such. Ludovic is branded as ‘bent’ thus, making him deviant, seems like a different being from them. After repeated instances of Ludovic’s unusual behavior like playing the role of Snow White and of the bride, the adults or parents first advised Mr. and Mrs. Fabre to bring him to a psychologist, then signed a petition to expel him from the school and laying off Mr. Fabre from his job. In the end, Ludovic’s family finally decided to move out. The reactions of the adults are forms of Social Control, “the means by which the society encourages conformity and discourages deviance. It is through this that we distinguish our roles in society…” (Lecture notes in Sociology 101) The abovementioned reactions of the adults are examples of an informal external control. External in the sense that pressures or sanctions are applied to society members by others. Informal meaning, it involves those people one deals with regularly like friends, co-workers, and parents.

Ludovic, sensing that he is already causing trouble to his family and disrupting the order of their mini-society, he tried to act like a boy. He engaged himself in sports with the support of his dad, facing the mirror and shouted “bang!” and even kissing a girl. What were the factors that led for Ludovic’s certainty of being a girl at age 7, we are not sure. We could see in the film, that they have a normal family. He even has two brothers whom he could pattern his supposedly boyish behavior. He tried conforming to the norms and values of the town he belongs to but failed miserably. Here comes the crucial role of media. Realizing that even his family is having hard time accepting what he really is, he finds comfort and belongingness to his fantasy world with Pam, his role model. He wished to go to a society where he would be accepted. This happens every time he daydreams of wearing dresses, flying and blowing with Pam.

Socialization is a lifelong process where an individual learn the skills, knowledge, values, motives and roles that help him/her survive in a society. Our biological traits and characteristics definitely influence who we are but we cannot ignore the environment that also influences us. First, we have to realize that there is such thing as self-concept. We become aware of our own actions, how we do them and the effects of our actions towards others. Then we begin to consider what others think of us and of what we do. We, then adjust our behaviors based on the reactions of the people around us. Gender socialization helps us in learning the social roles we have to play. Gender entails respective rights, expectations, obligations and privileges. We learn these through our family from the way they treat us, the media, from the way they portray a particular sex and schools and the people from society, from how we interact with them. In conclusion, I can say that Ma Vie en Rose is an effective film to portray the different concepts above.

Richard Henrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
asama said...

Ludovic could have freely continued his “I’m a girl” illusions. But he belongs to a family, his family belongs to a community, and his community belongs to the larger society. This society stereotypes, and we usually follow stereotypes because we need to belong. We need to belong to the family, the family needs the community, and the community simply needs to belong to the larger society. It may be a matter of leverage of one body over another, making a decision patterned on the demands of the society.

“Sex” is natural. If you were born with a female genitalia, you’re biologically female, and if you’re born with a male genital, you’re biologically male. And then the term “gender” was coined because it has been recognized that the roles of each sex are actually social constructs. They were just defined by the society. Ludovic is biologically male. But he strongly feels that he is a girl. The society thinks that the male gender should not be acting like how Ludovic does. It is not usual to see men watching Barbie-like shows (like Le Monde de Pam), dress like women, and dream of marrying other men. That’s what the society thinks. At Ludovic’s early age, he really believed he was female, and he was so sure about it. If he believes he is female, then he believes that he is not violating any social norm since what he loves doing are the things that a usual female would do. But then the society will just tell him “You are a boy Ludovic, a boy! So act like one!”

In effect, there are endless oppositions to his girlboy identity in the film… from his parents, to his school, and to his neighborhood. All these oppositions patterned their opinion from nothing else but the society’s. And all these structures, they had to oppose because they need to conform to the larger structure. They need to belong. Or else.

His family could have let him explore on his identity on his own, and make his own decisions in terms of the sexual orientation he was in. The problem was a lot was at stake just with the kind of identity their child would show. His parents would tell him to stop being a girl because their neighborhood did not like that. Others would react when meddled “So what? I don’t care what other people say. They don’t feed me anyway”. But in some cases, to a certain point, yes they do feed you. In Ludovic’s case, his dad’s boss is just in the neighborhood, and his parents had to convince Ludovic to stop his illusions to please the boss. When they failed to change Ludovic, his dad was eventually fired.

Another angle we can look at it from is from the idea that “we are social beings”. If we are disliked by the neighborhood because the community does not like the way we act, then we’d have few or no friends at all. We don’t get invited to parties, and be deprived from other privileges that a normal social being would find desirable. Even if it’s not a matter of money, it’s also a matter of belonging and company.

The community poses a threat to Ludovic’s family. And Ludovic’s family poses a threat to Ludovic as well. For one, Ludovic is dependent on his family. At his young age, he would get his daily needs from nobody else but his family. And so the family has leverage over him, something that they would use to force/persuade Ludovic to conform, since there is also something at stake for the entire family if he doesn’t. In Ludovic’s part, there is more than food, shelter, and clothing that is at stake. He did not want to ruin everything. Maybe he did not want to lose his school and be away from his dream husband. He did not want his family getting into (financial, emotional, etc.) trouble just because of his actions. He did not want his parents’ marriage getting into trouble as well.

The film reminds of me of a line from the Orange and Lemons song “Pinoy Ako”:

“…Wala ring mangyayari kung laging nakikibagay… Ipakilala ang iyong sarili… Ano man ang sa’yo’y mangyayari… Ang lagi mong iisipin kayang-kaya gawin…”

Well the song talks of national identity, but why not, I find it analogous to individual identity(in any sense). The song is really inspiring. It encourages people to be real. But I see the reality of life, and that is… sometimes to be real is to need to belong… to survive… because that is rational. At his early age, Ludovic was just trying to form an identity for himself. And the society where he was in I think successfully stopped him from being someone that the society did not want him to be.

The film “Ma Vie En Rose” is indeed an effective tool for political socialization. But aside from that, I find it an excellent source of entertainment, making me sit back and relax while watching it, be amazed with the wonderful colors, rather than be struck by the issues that the film presents. However, I find it really effective in molding the audience. I find Ludovic very brave to fight for what he believes is right even though the people around him are telling otherwise. But there were the strong pressures that the society can exert to individuals in making their decisions, and usually, these are decisions for conformity. It is somehow discouraging, and it makes me think that I’m nothing more than a prisoner of this society. But at the end of the day, I adhere not to structuralism alone. I believe that we are also partly responsible for what we make of ourselves.

Richard Henrick said...

Challenging norms is never an easy process. Doing so means going against the principles set within the society throughout the ages. It also means going against the things that majority of the people does follow and think as what is right. As a consequence, the challenger often suffers condemnation. He is always being poked to go back and turn against the principles he wants to believe into. In making him do that, the society makes it hard for him by taking away from him the things that he wants to enjoy. More than that, people that are close to him/her are also being affected for they will also be facing the consequences of public condemnation. At that point when the people close to the challenger begins to suffer the consequences of his actions, it becomes harder for the challenger to continue his quest of challenging the norms because of the added pressure that the “significant people” around him might impose to him. Given that they may not want the consequences they bear out of the challenger’s diversion from the norm, they will act as if they are also the society that condemns the practice. At this point, when the people closest to the challenger should be the ones that will stand for him/her, they in fact became the ones to leave him out of the fight.

In the movie Ma Vie en Rose, we’ve seen Ludovic as the norm-challenger. Like any other homosexuals, he challenges the conventions that dresses are only meant for girls, that a man could only marry a woman, and that a boy should only play trucks and not Barbie dolls. He even goes hard line when he even reached the extent of challenging biology and form his own theory that he mistakenly got XY instead of XX but God will still give him his X so he can be real girl and get a period just like what his sister experiences. However, this abnormality on his personality leads him to be unaccepted on the society where he lives, which was bound by non-liberal and traditional values. He was forced to leave his school because 20 parents petitioned him to be kicked out after the public scandal he committed of acting as Snow White just to be kissed by Jerome, was bullied by his schoolmates in a shower room, and was constantly being ridiculed. The situation made it harder for him after his family suffered the consequences of his actions. He was sent to a psychologist for a treatment and after his father loss his job, he was always being yelled at and being blamed by his parents for the misfortunes that had happened on their life.

Norm-challengers are usually being condemned by the society because they provide an opposing view to what was deemed as right. As they stand by their viewpoints, their existence becomes a threat to the society because they could influence other people about it. When they were able to do that, the societal convention becomes more shaky because there will be more people opposing to it. Having more people opposing the established norms means a magnification also of the imperfections that it possesses. The people who are close to the challenger are being condemned also because they are viewed as “accessories to the crime”; that they may have affected the worldview of the challenger that’s why he is doing those certain actions or that they have not exerted so much control over the challenger so as for him to be able to learn what are the norms that he should not ought to challenge. Hence, condemnation is society’s way of preserving its own social norms for doing that not only makes the one who possesses the viewpoint revert back to original norm but it also prevents others from following it by showing that going against what has already been established won’t be easy.

However, how effective is condemnation in reshaping one’s own identity? Personally, I think it could only do so much. It could stop you from doing something that is against the norm because you are afraid of suffering the consequences but at the end of the day, it could not really change the fact that there is there is a desire within you that wants to challenge that norm. That desire is already part of your identity as a person but given that you could not freely express it puts you on a crisis. We’ve seen this on points in the movie when Ludovic acts as a boy even if he doesn’t want to: when he played the truck instead of the doll, when he kissed Sophie, and when he played soccer along with other boys. We could see on his expression how unhappy he is that he had to pretend and can’t express his own identity that this even led him to be suicidal.

What I admired about Ludovic is that he possesses the conviction regarding the norms he wants to follow. At the end, this conviction that he possesses made him succeed in making people see why there is nothing wrong with what it is that he wants. After all, he only wants to express his identity and meant no harm to others. When his mother told Ludovic at the end of the movie that he will always be her child, we knew that Ludovic has succeeded in his quest of norm-challenging because it was him who was able to turn other people away from the norms that they follow. What he only asks for from the start of the movie is a recognition and acceptance that he is a girl boy because he thinks he is. Therefore, receiving that from someone who doesn’t give to him that before is really an achievement. At the end of the day, Ludovic teaches us that conviction and standing for the norms we defend is necessary in winning the battle against public condemnation.

Tephanie said...

Pretty in pink. These three words are themselves already full with meanings, meanings dictated by society. Pretty as always limited strictly to females, as it is feminine of course, but pink has also been limited to females, that if males ever use it, it would really sound unnatural, awkward, and abnormal.

An individual is situated in a complex web of social factors, factors which are socializing factors among themselves. It is really hard to escape from any of them.

Ma Vie En Rose showcases how a little boy struggles against the various socializing agents surrounding him and fights for what he feels and believes in – he’s a girl. The film tackles gender in a light and refreshing way as it attempts to show how homosexuality of an individual is discovered, at a young age to note, by the people around an individual and how they try at their best to stop the orientation of this individual. It is not your typical gender film which portrays those hardships of an adult homosexual, which is actually in a sense an accepted individual in a society. This film on the contrary thus tackles someone young, someone who is perceived by his immediate socializing agents as that which still possesses some possibility to be changed, to be molded into something normal.

There is always a mold behind a mold. Ludovic is someone who at an early age, have experienced the rage of the various agents of socialization. His parents were the primary ones as should be. However, it can’t denied that his parents’, especially his dad’s actions and reactions at the beginning of the film were very much affected or “molded” by the perceived perception of his boss. His boss’ behavior is then, and on the basic level molded by the village, the community, or the larger society he belongs to. Ludovic’s classmates or peers were also one major factor in his socialization. But what more are they than a reflection of their parents’ and the society’s dictates.

Everything must really be socially constructed. Everything has its reference to society and everyone behaves in accordance to society that even the most innocent child could be forced to face the lines drawn by this strong socializing agent. Society may after all be the primary agent of socialization, at least in Ludovic’s case, wherein the molds that he’s supposed to be leaning on are limited, molded by the larger one, the society. Society certainly dictates what ought to be, what is normal.

The mold has also certainly been molded in another mold. Life in pink sure is not easy to have, especially for a boy laying in society's palms.


venus said...

I do not mean to sound too personal in commenting on Ma Vie En Rose, but one cannot help noticing the substantial emphasis of the film on the concept of the parent-child relationship as reflected by the narrative of Ludovic and his family facing moments of misunderstanding and disappointments, of being ostracized in the neighborhood, of generally incremental and aggravating circumstances as they move around the society. I am sure it isn’t just me. The film utilized a distinct type of cinematography and color technique of pastel shades and hues, with which the best description would be “bittersweet”; the contrast between times in wonderland (of pinks and turquoises) and lowest points (blue and ash) plays with the emotions of the viewers and focuses us into the drama of the film more than on its humors and fantasy. And much further than the overt aspect that is the emotional, the film could have significant social and political implications as well. Supporting the abovementioned, central to the film in my point of view is childhood social development, and the parents, more than societal and cultural influences, as the most proximate socializing agent to an individual.

What is the extent of the effect of parents in the development of a child according to the film? In few instances, there were moments in the film where Hanna and Pierre, Ludovic’s parents, could not help asking themselves where they have gone wrong with Ludovic. Was there any biological factor? I think there was none. The fact that they once wished to have a girl as a fourth child was the only point of reference and a lame evidence at that. Consider also the fact that Pierre was the epitome of the typical, masculine father. Furthermore, his two brothers were normal boys who did not have to go through Ludovic’s state of unusual certainty of identity.

Although the popular theory is that parents have a high magnitude of contribution to the growth of a child in terms of beliefs, personality, and behavior, still there exists the other side to it and the debate over this has not yet ceased among social scientists, more specifically the psychologists and sociologists. In her book The Nurture Assumption, Judith Rich Harris cited many indicators that prove that increasingly, this popular theory cannot support emerging social phenomena, which are piling up to get explained. A recent study showed that children who spent most of their first three years in day-care centers do not differ in behavior or adjustment from children who spent that time at home (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 1998)… Boys and girls behave differently today as they did a generation ago, even though today’s parents try hard to treat their sons and daughters alike (Serbin, Powlishta, & Gulko, 1993). Children who speak Korean or Polish at home but English with their peers end up as English speakers… and they speak it without an accent (Atkinson & Hilgard, 2003).

Nevertheless, the film can be considered as a proponent of the dominant theory that the mentioned perspective thinks as an adult-o-centric one – that parents have lasting, even lifetime effects on more precisely the cognitive and moral judgment development of their children. The acceptant and nurturant nature of a parent as a need of any child is the culmination and resolution to the film. Ludovic had egocentric tendencies (and quite eccentric egocentric tendencies, for that matter) but more than anything else he realized he still wanted to identify with his parents, proof of this was the falling action of the film where Ludovic gets too rejected by his own mother that he decides to act like a boy again even while he has not fully de-bunked his notion of his chromosomal accident.

Every individual is unique in the sense that they have their own ways of thinking, own paces, own levels of intellect, and the personal will to decide independently on what they would believe in and how they would act upon it. However, powerful influences around us such as our parents could be reinforcement or an obstruction to each of our personal decisions. The film shows that we, like Ludovic, have gone through this exact same process as a child and the process called political socialization goes further as we grow up into the society. Even at the age of seven (as Ludovic’s last age in the film was) an individual starts formulating his/her own convictions, which are tested and applied in perpetuity. The ideals we choose to maintain or modify then shape us, and ultimately socialize us.

dominic_barnachea said...

Ma Vie en Rose is basically a fun watch. But it still packs a punch. Or make that punches. With the easy viewing and the very creative use of color in the images come the attacks on the issues of gender formation and discrimination, and of general adult-child relations, with parenthood in particular.

On Gender

Obviously the film primarily attacks modern society and its gender standards. The plot may be a bit exaggerated (hey, that’s every mainstream film anyway), but we all know what happened to Ludovic is very much real, and more. Even though society at large is now taking a bit more liberal view on the Third Sex, the fact still remains: Gays and Lesbians are still very much stigmatized, if not persecuted by the general society. Even I don’t still feel comfortable having them around. And so I ask why. Why?
Because their existence is not normal. And who told you? It is a fact that Ancient Greek soldiers do you-know-what to each other when they are on camp. It’s not as if male-to-male intimate relationships are a monopoly of the present time, an ‘irregularity’ in the modern society. or maybe because since there are only two biological divisions of man and woman, which is presently unquestionable, it is but an imperative to build around each division a unique set of behaviors and attitudes which each biological division are supposed to internalize upon and act out. But we all know that this polar division is very much unrealistic. Socialization of the male cannot be isolated from socialization of the female, hence a cross between the two is very much possible, and is actually occurring. Besides, there is now considerable scientific literature on their existence (mostly crediting it to the development of the brain), which has now created a relatively firmer support to their existence. So at the end of the day, my question still goes unanswered. Why the stigma? Why the discrimination? Who do I feel uneasy with the thought of them? As for now, I really do not know.

On Parenthood

The film did not actually tackle parenthood since it basically is a gender film. In fact, this more intimate type of adult-child relations is provided as one of the ‘given’ which complicates the plot. A ‘supportive’ grandmother, a ‘tolerant’ mother, an ‘intolerant’ father, and a conservative society very much complicate Ludovic’s existence. Yet, adult-child relations is ought to be given considerable attention since a child’s identity is primarily founded on the socialization of his/ her parents and the society they live in. How come? Well, answer this. Had his parents or even the psychologist refuted his ‘scientific’ explanation on the X’s and Y’s, and opted to tell the real ‘truth’, would Ludovic still be continuing on with his fantasy? Had the parents opted to have a good talk with him instead of the contrasting support and violent reactions he experiences to his mother and father, will he not be able to understand? I’m quite sure he will. But why didn’t they? Because they thought a seven-year old child is not mature enough to understand the complexities of life. Expectations, plain and simple. Parents have their approaches to child-raising based on their own experience, on the standards of society, and their own expectations on how a child will behave that they get to blinded by these and they fail to see that Ludovic, as with every other child, is very vulnerable to everything hence they ought to be armed with the truth. “I can’t tell you the real explanations since you won’t be able to understand anyway, saka na kapag matanda ka na (only when you are old).” Sounds familiar?

Steph said...

When director Alain Berliner provided the statement regarding his film Ma Vie En Rose, he did not necessarily have to refer to the child’s innocence and questioning of gender discrimination. The child, Ludovic, could be a broad allegory of anyone who questions norms of society in general; the intensity is simply further magnified since the protagonist was chosen to be portrayed at the tender age of seven years old. Furthermore, Berliner succeeds in making the child’s innocent questions touch the viewers’ hearts and even understand why these are being asked; yet it is important to ponder whether acceptance is also part of the overall equation. That statement should not be understood as whether homosexuality—which many consider as the film’s main theme—is or should be accepted; rather, let us sift through the ideas that question society’s norms and whether these questions should somewhat automatically be accepted as ‘rightful questioning’ so much so that we adapt and accept their views because it is innocent and simply from the heart. This commentary is set on perhaps a somewhat sarcastic tone and exists to primarily situate extreme considerations that the film has tinkered my mind with.

Let us examine the notion that Ludovic’s “amazing certainty” is based on a “child’s innocence”—must we therefore accept his stubbornness more willingly than that of an older man, who we tend to presume already has perverted (bluntly put: sexual) reasons for desiring to be considered as his unnatural gender? This seems to only provide an excuse to go against society’s norms. There seems to be no difference with the child’s innocence as compared to an older man’s experience of honestly convinced that he has not found any one from the opposite sex with whom he wants to live happily ever after with yet has found another man who he ‘innocently’ loves and does not even care about sex. As to make the point clearer, let us take a step back and examine the bigger picture: challenging social norms.

In the main commentaries, Agpalo aptly states the fact that “people are born to a world which already has meanings attached”. This is an unfortunate yet truthful matter of dark reality. It is disagreeable, however, that just because there are meanings attached to a given sex (gender), this “limits a person’s individuality.” Although admittedly, it does limit a person’s individuality, the context in which this statement is placed is dangerous if it is not explored. There is a reason why there are certain limits set by society; otherwise, chaos would occur. Taken to the (extremely) extreme, even freedom has certain limitations—I cannot go around killing people just because I honestly, innocently, with amazing certainty believe that this is who I am and what I want to do.

Ludovic definitely did not go around killing people. He did, however, know that his actions were hurting (humiliating, torturing, causing financial and emotional distress) his family yet he chose to continue doing so. The family did not have to be physically killed—yet let us examine their situation in the context of the film: their neighborhood was normal and happy—Ludovic tortured both his parents who suffered the numerous deaths of their sanity. By accepting that Ludovic “wanted to be recognized and appreciated just the way he believes himself to be, because… being oneself has never been a crime” can be contested.

In a recent event endeared with the title ‘Virginia Tech massacre’, 23 year-old Seung Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded many more in a shooting rampage ( In society’s norms, such action is condemned, yet are we to accept this because this is what Cho wanted to do? In his suicide note, he declared that people around him caused him to do the criminal act; psychologists point to the possibility of mental illness. Like Ludovic, perhaps the prior acceptance of his mother with regards to his femininity caused him to continuing pursuing his conviction that he is afterall a girlboy. Yet how come a majority does not accept Cho’s mental illness as an excuse to his actions, while a majority yearns to accept the mental illness of Ludovic’s certainty that his Y-chromosome was simply misplaced?

As with the main commentary of Felicia, it is stated that “the child is operating within a certain social environment.” Actually, we all are and it is up to us to accept and face the reality that we need to live with such truths. It is quite funny how humans have now tried to “bend” (as what was used in the film) reality to fit it into our perceived or desired “reality”. This was even shown in the several times that Ludovic daydreamed about his preferred reality. Guess what? He was slapped back into reality every time. In our world, we accept certain truths: the world is an oblate spheroid and is not flat; what goes up, must come down (within our atmosphere). Yet there are certain gray areas which we humans fight against because we refuse to accept the truth because the truth can hurt/make us uneasy. For example, when in despair, so many people start praying and believing in God; yet faced with the question if he/she is willing to accept Jesus Christ as his/her Lord and personal Savior who died for all of our sins and to repent for all of his/her sins, people refuse challenging that they will not go to hell if God is such a loving God—in this argument, in order to believe in God, you have to face the dark reality that that also entails believing in the unattractive reality of hell.

Ludovic did seem to acknowledge the concept that pretty is for females and handsome is for males (as opposed to main commentary Repato’s statement). When he wore a dress to their housewelcoming party, his excuse was because he wanted to look “pretty”—note, he did not say “good” or “gorgeous” or any other gender-neutral verb. Furthermore, when his grandma reminded him that he was to look “handsome”, his face made a disagreeable look. He also had an idea that what he felt was abnormal because he asked his older sister if he was a girl or boy, with the gaze on his face as if he was looking for assurance that his delusion would be accepted by others. He even tried to act like other ‘normal’ boys yet his being just did not allow for this to naturally happen. Children who are born as compulsive liars—why does society try to solve and reverse this supposedly-natural occurrence? Society has certain natural truths and we must reflect whether we are trying to bend the truth in order to simply make our lives easier—some truths hurt, yet they remain to be the truth no matter how you perceive it to be.

-Stephanie L. Tan

eva marie said...

For me, “Ma Vie en Rose” is much about families. Moreover, it tells how the Fabre household dealt with the circumstances brought about primarily by external pressures. With this, I would like to encapsulate my discussion using the eco-cultural theory of families. “Ecocultural theory takes account of the influence of the cultural environment in which families exist and raise children, as well as other features of the environment” (Owen et al., 2002). In the film, Fabres as newcomers tried to adapt to the neighborhood environment and the value system it upholds. They held a housewarming party to introduce their family to the neighborhood and to establish networks. They also participated in other activities which strengthen interaction among the members of the community and to get a feel of the norms and group routines in the area. Ando so Hanna socialized with the other women; the Fabre children were made to join the soccer games including Ludovic who is expected to join as a boy though Ludovic himself would rather not. Hanna and Pierre also admonished Ludovic regarding his gender orientation so as to accommodate the values and expectations of the other parents and most especially Pierre’s boss, Albert. In a sense, they were trying to be ‘normal’ in their new environment. This is also in accordance to the ecocultural theory which holds that “all parents construct an everyday routine to accommodate values and goals, resources and constraints of their environment” (Owen et al., 2002).

The theory also assumes that “families take initiatives; they are not merely passive recipients of the circumstances in which they find themselves” (Owen et al., 2002). They share their own views to the neighborhood. Hanna gave tips to Lisette; during Sophie’s party, they allowed Ludovic to wear skirt and explained to the other parents that it was part of his therapy. Moreover, they also created a ‘family ecology’. Within the Fabre household, house rules are revolve around the values, goals and resources of the family. For instance, Hanna and Pierre have distinct parenting strategies as that of Albert and his wife towards Jerome.

The ecocultural theory predicts that “there will be some similarities in ccommodation activity across families, but also that families have differing goals, values and beliefs, and regard environmental factors differently, either as resources or constraints” (Owen et al., 2002). In the neighborhood, all families strive for acceptance and parents accommodate according to what is expected of their family. Some environmental factors are resources e.g. the convenience of workplace and school; some others are constraints, most notably, the outright rejection of Ludovics’s behavior that extends to the whole family. When accommodation becomes too taxing, the Fabres moved to another neighborhood. As the ecocultural theory suggests, adaptations “in the face of constraints and opportunities families experience in the world around them” is also made “sustainable, meaningful, and congruent with the needs of all family members”. Hence, while situations seems to go back to normal when Ludovic moved with Elisabeth, they still decided to change residence in consideration of Ludovic’s needs and have the whole family in one roof again.

In view of our political socialization discourse, “Ma Vie En Rose” effectively illustrated how the primary agent of socialization, the family, responds to other agents like school, peers, and neighborhood. It suggests how at the end of the day, family issues matters most.


Owen, Lloyd, Meg Gordon, Margarita Frederico and Brian Cooper. (2002). ‘Listen to Us’-Supporting Families with Children with Disabilities: Identifying service responses that impact on the risk of family breakdown. (Undertaken on behalf of the National Disability Administrators by the School of Social Work and Social Policy at La Trobe University, Victoria). Melbourne: Victorian Government Department of Human Services.$file/frpch2theoreticalframeworks.pdf.
Accessed 3 September 2007.

kat suyat said...

In life, there are always rules to follow; there are norms to live by. You have two choices to take- either to follow and live by it or defy it, and still, live by it. Now, the question would be, who actually dictates these norms and rules? When can one say that he is following? The same way that when can one say that he is not following and actually defying? Lastly, how does these rules affect how we live our lives?

These are the three main questions that came to my mind after I have watched the film Ma Vie En Rose. Undoubtedly, the film is about gender identity- about a child named Ludovic who regards himself as a girlboy, or as he defines it, a girl trapped in a boy’s body. Ma Vie en Rose revolves around the life of this little child and his struggle for the acceptance of his family and his society to his gender identity, that is, him being a girlboy. Ludovic is so sure of his identity even at a very young age of seven that living his life as a boy (which he actually is and should be) comes very hard and unnatural o himself. His family, having problems with this set- up, actually hires a psychologist for him to cure what they treat as an abnormality to Ludovic’s personality.

Who dictates the rules and norms

Clearly, in the film Ma Vie en Rose, we see who dictates the rules and norms that a person, or in this matter, Ludovic, had to live by. Although there are many influential characters in the little boy’s life (his family, his grandmother, and his favorite television characters, Pam and Ben), there is only one agent that actually is the most influential and in a way, sets the standard for Ludovic and who he ought and should be- that being the society he grew and live upon. In this film, when we talk about the word society, we refer to his peers, classmates and neighbors whom he dealt with in his everyday life. Throughout the film, we saw how these people dictated to him the rules and the norms that the society view as vital and normal. We saw how his friend Jerome rejected Ludovic, when he tried to tell him that when they grow up they would get married. We also saw how Ludovic’s classmates teased him and isolated him when they found out that he was queer. We have seen how he was condemned and hurt by the football team at the locker room after the game just because they though the child was not “man” enough. We even saw how the adults (who are expected to better understand children) condemned Ludovic and his family and eventually rejected them to their circle after they saw the play where Ludovic showed his real intention and self that he is a girl and not a boy.

When does one follow and defy

Society plays an inevitable part in any individual. The society shapes, influences, and sometimes, even pushes a person to do things (even if he actually would not want to). In Ludovic’s case, his society dictates to him that he should act as a boy and regard himself as a boy because that is who he is- that is what is normal. If Ludovic would choose not to follow, then people would view him to be abnormal and actually treat him as one. Expectations have to be met and things have to be done. As a boy in his outer appearance, he is expected to act as one. He has to play masculine type of games. He should and is not allowed to wear skirts. He could not play the role of Snow White in the school play. He should kiss a girl and not a boy. And the list goes on. When he have actually done all these would be the time that he is said to have followed the standars set by the society. If he, otherwise, chooses not to, he is defying and in effect, would have to suffer the consequences of these actions.

How these rules affect our lives

There are two ways on how these rules affect our lives- either in a good way or in a bad way. It may look like it’s easy but it is actually not. These rules affect us and it affects us greatly. For some people, it actually defines who they are. In the film Ma vie en Rose, we saw how the rules that was dictated by society affected Ludovic’s life as well as his family’s. Because of the dictates and expectations of society, his family who at first accepted him no matter who he was, started to look at him in a different light. They started to consider him queer and abnormal even though before, for a very long time that he had been like that, they treated him as not. His mother, whom Ludovic had his fondest attention, started to treat him badly, as if blaming Ludovic for all the criticisms and bad things happening to their family. Even Ludovic was affected by actions of the society. There was a point in the films that I felt that he was already considering of being a boy, and not a girlboy. On the other hand, the same rules that affected Ludovic in a bad way also affected him in a good way. Eventually, at the end of the film, we saw how these same rules led to his family’s realization that they should accept Ludovic for who he is- may he even be girl, boy, or girlboy. These rules also led them to move out of their old neighborhood and transfer into a new place, where I felt that Ludovic would be quite at home with.

Society may dictate to us what should be done and what is right. But at the end of the day, it is still up to us whom to follow and whom to believe. We all still have our own choice. It is always ours to make. Lucky for Ludovic, he made the right choice. He chose to be a girlboy and he stood by it. Now, his life is a life in pink.

mAc said...

Ma vie en Rose tells the story of a strange child named Ludovic who is lost in the sea of normalcy. He believes that he is predestined to be a girl. He never lets his hair to be cut, he loves wearing girl-dresses, and wears lipsticks on certain occasions. After being told by her older sister about X and Y chromosomes, he fantasizes an amusing sequence of events where toy block letters fall from the sky and the other X chromosome that would have made him a woman accidentally ended up in a trash can. Moving into their new house in a neighbourhood in Paris, a barbecue is planned by the residents to welcome them, and it is at this party that Ludovic makes his dramatic entrance, dressed in pink, which I consider to be one of the instances that highlights the essence of the film. Many visitors are quite surprised with the behaviour manifested by the boy. However, in rebuttal, his mother claims that at a tender age of 7, it was quite normal, as what Marie-Claire suggests. His imposition to become a girl causes an ensuing number of unfavourable circumstances that is catered to his family’s demise. As tempers flare throughout the neighborhood, his family is ostracized by their friends, he is expelled from school, and his father is fired. Forced to flee their home, the family hopes that his new surroundings may change his odd behavior. And it seemingly does until he meets Chris or “Christine”, another child who can not rationalize her sexuality.

Put simply, the film emphasizes the pre-eminence of ‘informal rules’ dictated by society that prescribe acceptable ways of human behaviour and proscribe unacceptable ways of human behaviour. They are negotiated by individuals and entail the mutual acceptance of norms which are standards of behaviour defined in terms of what individuals should do and not what should they do. They are seen to be situated at the point of equilibrium, parallel to equilibrium of the demand-supply schedule; with which the ‘line’ of the different priorities of the majority of people and/or of powerful, in economic and political terms, individuals within the system intersects. This arrangement highlights key differences among cultures within the global social setting; with other cultures having their own set of priorities that determines their ‘equilibrium’. Accordingly, such rules, in the form of norms that is rooted from constant human interactions (socialization), define the roles of each and everyone within the societal system. For example, if an individual is identified as a biological male, it follows that he should perform the male gender-role tasked to him by society. It is not as much as an intentional determination of oneself, per se, but rather society’s determination of oneself. When Ludovic decided to become a girl and started wearing dresses, growing his hair, etc., it is in this manner that he expressed his intentional values, priorities and desires to bear more significance relative to the dictation of the society. His non conformity to the rules set by the society, on the other hand, proved to be detrimental to him and his family’s social standing. He was perceived of by many as a cheater who deviated away from the pre-determined set of institutional norms set by the society. As consequences, his family is ostracized by their friends, he is expelled from school, and his father is fired from his job. This tells us the social reality that in the course of political socialization, macro-structural processes, as against our intentional motivations, defines our identities.

Consequently, the discussion places us on the never-ending debate on predestination versus free will, situated within the context of political socialization. On the one hand, the terms and conditions in a game called life are determined by many players. Rules within the game are social constructs. Furthermore, such terms and conditions are seen to be intrinsically good; asserting the doctrine of what is good for me is the same for you. The embededness of rewards for conformity and punishments for non-compliance to such rules supports its institutionalization within the society. Moreover, they see of individualism as highly disorganized and chaotic wherein one’s actions based on his/her individualistic motivations can threaten others. Accordingly, the presence of these institutional norms determines the pathway of our lives, thus termed predestination. On the other hand, individualism is based on the doctrine that human beings are born with innate free will. Any dictations given to them by society are seen as an incursion to their wilful right. It perceives society as evil because it mechanizes human life tearing apart one of the many essences of a human being: emotions. For many people subscribing to such principle, society handcuffs and shackles their lives, negating the significance of their existence.

Within the debate, I place myself with the doctrine of predestination not because it had dictated me so but the logical and to some extent, analytical evidences to support it are highly significant. It is not solely social reality that determines the course of our lives, nature too can directly and/or indirectly affect the pattern of our lives. Directly, environmental conditions shape the way in which we behave and act within our situational context as what the theory of environmental determinism authored by Friedrich Ratzel tells us. Indirectly, nature can influence our priorities in life, our priorities affect our attitude and behaviour, thus directing our lives. Moreover, free will is a concept that is socially constructed. Is liberty intrinsically a right that should be enjoyed by many? Finally, in reference to the film, we find Ludovic’s decision to deviate away from the established norms as representative of individualism. However, I argue that for human life’s survivability, man-love (at least, what logic tells me will happen in his future) is rather seen as deviating away from the child-production function of man and woman.


alberto said...

We have seen so many movies on how societu affects labels on people’s identity. Europa Europa’s Solek pretended to be “German” because Jews were being persecuted everywhere. The Finzi-Continis in The Garden of the Finzi-Continis were labeled as non-Jews because they don’t act like one and their fellow Jews never saw the family as one of them.

For me, this is another example of how society shapes identity. Ludovic has always been sure of who he is, a girl trapped in a boy’s body. But a new neighborhood changes all that. His home has always been the only place where he is accepted, his family the only people who’ve embraced his identity and supported him in every way. But their society pollutes their mind, Ludovic’s actions were seen as wrong, and Ludovic soon became seen as a mistake.

He tried to change his identity, so that society can learn to accept him. But that part of him that society wants to repress always has a way of coming out when he least expects it.

It wasn’t just Ludovic’s “gayness” that was frowned upon by their neighbors. His family was also shunned for being associated with him. They became the neighborhood pariahs, their “friends” soon avoided them, and they were run out of the neighborhood.

The film talks about the concept of masculinity and femininity. But who decides on these labels? Who says what action falls into a particular type of category? How does society shape gender? Ludovic tried to change, to be become more masculine because society tells him to do so. And the family which he has always seen as his sanctuary was pushing him to change as well. It was the influence of society that was bringing about the change in his identity, not some internal struggle. He has always been sure of who he is. If he tried to change, it was because society was telling him to do so.

Another thing about the film is that it talks about the idea of “gender confusion” among children, something that I have never seen in a film before. I have always thought that gender is shaped both by the environment and biological factors. Once you have a grasp of who you are, nothing can change that. Ludovic, at such a young age, has achieved what people twice, or even thrice his age haven’t achieved, a clear definition or understanding of their own identity. To try and change something as concrete as one’s idea of their own identity is just plain cruel.

It wasn’t just the concept of gender that was tackled in the film but the fluidity of the idea of norms. Who draws the line between masculinity and femininity? The truth is that there is nothing absolute in the world. To go against the norms doesn’t make you abnormal. It just makes you different.