This article suggests that reading John Cameron Mitchell’s musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch
as a religious classic undermines the logic of complementarity within Catholic theological anthropology, particularly the Theology of the Body of John Paul II. A religious classic, a term coined by theologian David Tracy, describes a work with an “excess of meaning” that offers hope and resistance against a normative social structure. Hedwig
resists the hegemonic structure of sexual dimorphism, as represented by the logic of complementarity operative within the Theology of the Body. This theological anthropology proposes a normative framework for human beings as gendered and sexual agents who “complete” each other through heterosexual and monogamous marital acts, reinforcing heterosexist and transphobic bodily norms. The work of Judith Butler helps illuminate the embodied performance of gender that the musical so brilliantly subverts. Hedwig
, while toying with gender norms, also undermines the idea of the logic of complementarity—namely, that each person has another “half” that will cause completion, bringing human flourishing. In the title character not finding a version of “completeness” by the end of the show, the musical, thus, offers hope for those who cannot fit into gendered bodily norms.
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