Yentl: Barbara Streisand Does Drag


Yentl is a musical about a woman who decides to dress up like a man to be able to study. There are actually quite a lot of stories out there involving women disguised as men simply to enjoy their privileges. I read a book about Pope Joan once, who the Catholic church denies ever lived, but they still had a Pope throne for years with a hole in the bottom so that people could check all the right parts were there. And during procession, there is a spot in the Vatican where the clergy turns their backs because that is apparently where Pope Joan gave birth, thus revealing that she was a woman (You’d think someone would have caught on before then).


 Shakespeare in Love, a movie about a woman who dresses up as a man so she can act on stage, is one of my favorite movies.

And then in my Women in America class when I was a sophomore in college, I learned that a significant amount of women dressed as men to fight in the American Civil War. Very few were recognized because the uniforms were loose, and simply no one was looking for them. I read one story that said one disguised woman gave birth and fought in battle right after. Talk about tough.

And of course there is Mulan, the Disney movie about a Chinese woman who dresses up like a soldier to save her father’s life.

The point is, women disguising themselves as men is not unheard of in movies, literature, or even history.


Yentl is a musical from 1983 directed by and starring Barbara Streisand “Who woo o woo o!” based on the play of the same name. In the film, Barbara Streisand plays a young woman in Eastern Europe during the early 20th century. According to Talmudic law, women could not receive an education, but all Yentl ever wanted to do was study. After her father dies, she goes to a new town disguised as a man and begins her studies. Things get a lot more complicated when her sexy study partner Alvin (Mandy Patinkin) wants her to marry Hadass (Amy Irving) the woman he loves but cannot marry himself.


Despite how much ridicule she receives from Southpark, I’m actually a Streisand fan, because you have to admit that very few other women can belt like she can. So I did enjoy this movie. 1. Barbara Striesand. 2. Hot love interest. Yes, he may be hairy with a beard, but I have a thing for facial hair. 3. I haven’t seen a musical like this before. In most musicals, everyone sings and there’s dancing in the streets and coordinated animals and people carrying giant cakes. In this musical, Streisand is the only person singing, and she’s not dancing. The songs reflect her mind and inner conflicts and nothing more. It’s a much more realistic form of a musical. You know, relatively speaking.


I do like always have a couple of complaints. Eventually Yentl decides to tell Alvin about her secret by basically thrusting her boobs in his face. Despite this, Alvin has quite a violent reaction and yells at Yentl and pretty much calls her a demon. And then he screams “Why!” and Streisand collapses in his arms saying “Because I loved you!” Then instantly, Alvin tells Yentl that he loves her too! What the fuck? He was just calling her Satan and suddenly loves her! It doesn’t work like that! It would be more realistic if he pulled an Othello. Well, in this case, I guess it wouldn’t even be an Othello because Alvin didn’t even know Streisand was a girl. So let’s say it’s an Othello in which Othello kills Cassio instead of Desdemona. “Papa can you hear me?” No. No he can’t, because this part of the story just doesn’t make sense.


I also felt that the songs all kind of sounded the same, and there was one song that Striesand sang when she saw Hadass and grew jealous of her, and she sang it it seemed like 5 times and I was getting very tired of it.


And just for randomness, I have to share a personal anecdote. I watched this movie with my little sister who I turned into a Streisand freak after showing her Hello Dolly. After telling her I was writing a post on Yentl for my blog, she said I needed to refer to Yentl as lentil, and when I said no challenged me to a tonge twister battle by rapidly repeating the word “lentil” over and over. I totally won, by the way.


Anyway, for Streisand belting power but a break down of sense, I give this movie a 6 out of 10.



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