In today’s edition of “All My Faves Are Problematic…” I was re-watching Life of Brian for the umpteenth time, when I suddenly felt uncomfortable. You can probably recite this scene from memory:
REG: What’s the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can’t have babies?!
FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.
REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality.
It feels a bit… Well… Grim. In 2020 it kinda reeks of transphobia. Lots of people on the Internet agree it’s mean spirited and – if you’re daft enough to read the comments under the video – lots of people agree with Reg’s assessment that Stan cannot be Loretta.
Except… That’s not what happens. I hate to ruin things by, y’know, actually watching the film – but to say Reg is a bigot simply isn’t true. It ignores the fact that Python didn’t often go for a single joke at the expense of a marginalised person.
Witness what happens a few scenes later, when the PFJ think that Brian has died.
REG: I now propose that all seven of these ex-brothers be now entered in the minutes as probationary martyrs to the cause.
LORETTA: I second that, Reg.
REG: Thank you, Loretta. On the nod. Siblings!
How about that! Reg has fully accepted Loretta, doesn’t deadname her, and has moved to a more gender-neutral term for his comrades.
Reg may be a pompous arse, but he’s an inclusive pompous arse!
By the end of the film – just before the big song
and dance – we see how Reg has evolved.
REG: Hello, sibling Brian.
BRIAN: Thank God you’ve come, Reg.
REG: ‘We, the People’s Front of Judea, brackets, officials, end brackets, do hereby convey our sincere fraternal and sisterly greetings to you, Brian, on this, the occasion of your martyrdom.
REG: Your death will stand as a landmark in the continuing struggle to liberate the parent land from the hands of the Roman Imperialist aggressors, excluding those concerned with drainage, medicine, roads, housing, education, viniculture, and any other Romans contributing to the welfare of Jews of both sexes and hermaphrodites.
Is Reg perfect? No. He makes a series of cruel and insensitive remarks to his friend when she confides in him. Yes, it’s played for laughs and – if you’re not paying attention – the joke’s on Loretta. But look closer.
If Reg can do it, so can you.