Why ‘The Venture Bros.’ Villain Dr. Mrs. The Monarch Is an Unintentional Trans Inspiration
Dr. Mrs: My wife and I have a long and growing list of Halloween costumes we want to make as a couple. The Monarch and a genderfucked Henchman 21 from The Venture Bros. are at the top of that list. Were it not for the epidemic, this would have been the year we put that strategy into effect.
Aside from obviously being fans enough of the show to make the commitment to create costumes that are intricate, I am naturally a baritone and often imitate the Missus’s voice randomly to make my own Missus laugh.
Furthermore, getting more usage out of the large, fake titties I purchased for our Elvira/Svengoolie costume combo last year would make me feel much better about spending so much money on them. We adore multifunctional piece of clothing.
At the time of writing, my wife and I had just finished rewatching The Venture Bros in its entirety, which I proposed because neither of us had seen the series from start to finish in a long time. It had also been nearly two years since the previous season, so we were due for season 8 news. Unfortunately, the cancellation of the series was announced last month.
As good as it is to know that Adult Swim agreed to collaborate with the showrunners to bring the series to a close, it is still painful because I have been watching this programme for the most of my life at this point. The Venture Brothers have evolved and developed alongside me. It grew up with me, which is even more clear after watching older seasons of the programme in the last several months.
One of the most visible manifestations of this evolution is the persistent suspicion about Dr. Mrs. The Monarch’s “actual” gender. Despite practically universal desire from the men in the show, there is still a lingering doubt from most of them because, to paraphrase the sentiment of these characters and some viewers, “she might actually be a dude”. This assumption is purely based on her raspy and incredibly deep voice, which is commonly attributed to many years of smoking.
Dr. Mrs. The Monarch Started As a Parody of Jackie Kennedy
Dr. Mrs. The Monarch began as a spoof of Jackie Kennedy, complete with her trademark deep, raspy voice, which Doc Hammer then amplified (or, in this case, physically reduced) for the character. I’ve seen a lot of comedy in which trans women or crossdressing cis guys are the punchline.
Subjecting myself to such things is part of my brand. As a result, I can identify the comedic rhythms that lead to a punchline or “surprise” reveal of trans characters. The first three or so seasons of The Venture Bros feel like they’re continually building up to a similar punchline, but it never comes.
I recently saw a discussion about a similar problem in relation to Adam Sandler’s Hubie Halloween. (Look! Except for the introduction, this piece is seasonally suitable!) We hear the sultry-spoken DJ Aurora throughout the film, and it is presumed that the radio host is someone like Lynne Thigpen in The Warriors or Adrienne Barbeau in The Fog.
But when Hubie arrives at the station, it turns out that this woman is actually Shaq. Like Shaquille O’Neal, who appears normal but has a sexy and “womanly” voice when he DJs. To add to the joke about not assuming you know what someone looks like based on their voice, we then meet DJ Aurora’s wife Bunny, who is a cis woman (Betsy Sodano) with a gay husband.
A Joke at Trans Women’s Expense
This is certainly not a “joke at the expense of trans women,” as some have claimed. Occam’s razor meets comedy. The joke is as easy as these characters not sounding like you’d expect them to, and shame on Hubie (and the viewer) for assuming the worst. A trans-read of a work of fiction is not the same as trans representation, and it is most emphatically not the same as transphobia.
Venture Bros Character
Dr. Mrs. The Monarch is my favorite Venture Bros character, as well as one of my favorite women in fiction, and she is not trans, despite popular belief. She will never be a trans character unless Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick reverse their attitude, which they have been adamant about for over a decade, and I don’t need to develop my own head cannon to co-opt her. In general, I think it’s impolite for someone to do that just so their community can win.
Accomplishments and Abilities
This is analogous to how real-life cis women have been treated, such as the late professional wrestler Chyna, tennis champion Serena Williams, and former first lady Michelle Obama. The latter two are significant examples of how society views and treats Black women in order to diminish their successes and skills.
The Monarch is an example of someone who has risen above and succeeded despite being judged, both in the Venture Bros universe and in the evolution of how this program and comedy, in general, are written. I love it, trans or not. As the show progressed, the recurring gag about her gender faded away, and this “male” trait was simply accepted as fact.
Announcement of The Show
With the show’s early cancellation announced, I can’t help but feel like I’m mourning a loss. There is no show whose discontinuation has had a deeper emotional impact. Dr. Mrs. There is a lot that can be written about gender that does not adhere to the strict requirements of trans experiences because expectations come in many shapes and sizes.
In The End
Dr. Mrs. The Monarch’s complex and nuanced portrayal has made her an unintentional trans inspiration. In a medium where the representation of trans people is often lacking, Dr. Mrs. resonates with trans people through her struggles with gender identity and expression. The show’s creators didn’t intend to create a trans character but inadvertently created someone who has become a powerful symbol of trans identity. Representing marginalized identities matters, and even unintentional depictions of them can profoundly affect those who see themselves in them.