If you could be someone in history of the opposite sex, who would that person be?
If I could be a woman I would be Carol Burnett. “Huh!?”… You say. Well, I love her comedy and she is a true comedic pioneer. She was the Dave Chappelle of her era in my opinion. I remember as a kid watching The Carol Burnett show and dreaming of one day doing what she did on stage. Her show was unique because at the end she would talk to the audience, making you feel like she was talking to you. Making you feel the laughs were for you. The more I got to know the woman behind the comedy talent the more I respected what Carol accomplished in her life. Her gift to her audience is a tremendous one. Making people laugh is a powerful contribution.
ALFREDO: When trail blazing female architect Julia Morgan first applied to the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts architecture school in Paris in 1895 and was denied because of her gender, did she give up?
When she applied a second time and was given a “failing” grade, did she give up?
When she applied a third time, and was finally admitted, did she place 13th out of 376?
After graduation, did she sit on her degree and do nothing in a male dominated field?
She became the first female architect licensed in California and went on to complete over 700 buildings, including Hearst Castle. Famous newspaper magnate and all around tyrant William Randolph Hearst could’ve hired anybody he wanted, but he chose the petite woman who never let “no” stop her.
QUENTIN: If I could be a woman in history of the opposite sex, I wouldn’t mind being Gertrude Stein. I was particularly fascinated by her writing which is incredibly avant garde and dense. She seemed to have led a very colorful life as an early lesbian icon. I also particular envy the European life that she had and I wonder how it would have felt to be a female literary icon at that age, standing side by side with one of the most “masculine” writers Ernest Hemingway.
ANDERSON: Hmm, for this cross gender edition, I would like to be one of the Trung Sisters. Who are the Trung Sisters (Hai Ba Trung, who lived between 12 – 43 AD)? Well, they are just the most legendary heroes in Vietnam’s history, two warrior queens who were able to oust Chinese oppression and they reigned in peace and prosperity, albeit only for a short 3 years, when the Chinese returned and successfully invaded again.
I would probably be the older of the two, whose name was Trac. They are so ingrained in Vietnam’s history that it is hard to separate fact and fiction, but they also represent the soul of the Vietnamese, a matriarchal spirit and time in Vietnam’s history when women were considered of wielding great power.
It has been a dream of mine to make a film set in Vietnam about these two kick-ass sisters, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets Elizabeth. That would be awesome. Well, at least for me.
PHILIP: I haven’t given this much thought but whoever it’d be would have to be someone so unattractive and repulsive, otherwise, you run the risk of spending all your time touching yourself and nothing else would get done.
DHH: This is a really interesting question. As a man, thinking about what woman I’d want to be makes me acutely aware how much more difficult life has been (and continues to be) for the opposite sex. As Offenders, we’re Asian Americans who chose to enter the arts and entertainment field, and therefore not afraid of uphill battles. Still, being a woman adds yet one more degree of difficulty. All that said, I guess it might’ve been cool to have been Coco Chanel. She forever influenced the world of design, rose from terrible poverty to great wealth, was an influential patroness of the arts, had many love affairs, and never married. On the unforgivable side, she was kind of a Nazi sympathizer.
ELAINE: I’d go back as Henri Cartier Bresson. He was the father of modern photojournalism and had a rich, intense life filled with art, politics, sex, and war. In his travels throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa he captured what became iconic images of everything from Parisian school children to glimpses of Imperial China before the Communist revolution. In 1947, Bresson along with Robert Capa and a team of their contemporaries, established Magnum Photos – a democratically run co-op for photojournalists that yielded some of the most notable photographers and images. Not only that, but Magnum’s photos were widely published and became the lifeblood of magazines as Life, Time, and National Geographic. These photos were revolutionary – they gave the public a window into the world and raised social consciousness by documenting war and poverty on a human scale. Amazingly after all these years, Magnum is still active and remains true to its original mission as a visionary co-op run by photographers.
Henri Cartier Bresson’s genius was all about what he described as “the decisive moment” – that split second when you click the camera to capture that magical, poetic image. His photos feel truly alive – beautifully composed to the edge of perfection. I say “edge” as his work stops short of being fussed over or contrived – it feels connected to the subject, deeply human, and spontaneous. Says the man himself, “Photography is not like painting…there is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative,” he said. “Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”
JEROME: I feel like there’s only room for one crass remark each time we do this and now that Phil’s filled that quota, I really have nothing to say.
Except “Olivia Wilde.”
I admire lots of historical figures, but since you asked who we actually want to BE, I’m making my selection based on additional criteria (disposition, level of leisure and stress in their lives, etc). I love other people being risky, commanding and bombass, but I personally would prefer to chill and sit around in the woods eating grapes or potato chips. Basically, I opt for an anonymous but totally loaded life, which of course includes an amazing wardrobe.
I’m going with one of my favorite illustrators, Gomi Taro. From his work, I assume he must be a kind and cheerful guy. His drawings are well-designed, beautifully painted, joyful and fun. I just looked through my book collection to find an image to post, but I think that seeing only a few images doesn’t do his work justice . . . you have to leaf through several of his books to get a sense of it. He’s a master of simplicity and expressiveness.
IRIS: I think I would have liked to have been the author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Not only was he a successful writer, but he was supposed to have been a very handsome man and a true romantic. Most of all, he and his wife seemed very much in love. I visited the “Old Manse” in Concord, Massachusetts where they lived for three years shortly after they were married and saw that they had etched notes to each other in one of the windows with her wedding ring. (How romantic is that!) Nathaniel once wrote of his wife that she “is, in the strictest sense, my sole companion; and I need no other–there is no vacancy in my mind, any more than in heart…Thank God that I suffice for her boundless heart!” She was equally smitten with him and was “dazzled and bewildered with the richness” of his work and wrote that she was “always looking forward to a second reading where I can ponder and muse and fully take in the miraculous wealth of thoughts”. Is this not every writer’s dream?