Whatever Happened to the Gender Benders? Channel 4

by | Oct 10, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

A rather sweet look back at the early 1980s when effeminate men slapped on layers of make-up and became media darlings

What to say if you disliked it

Get that muck off your face and get yourself a proper job!

What was good about it?

• Lots of great footage of the New Romantics taking themselves awfully seriously, even if many of them looked like clowns or drag acts plucked from working men’s clubs

• Footage of people smoking on the Underground. Oh those were the days.

• The bitchiness and jealousy, especially between Boy George and Marilyn

• The rather tender and intelligent observations by Martin Kemp and Marc Almond on the drug problems experienced by Steve Strange and Boy George

• Steve Strange has still retained much of his beauty (although he needs to go a bit easier on the bronze slap) and seems to be in a much better mental state these days – the ravages of that £1500-a-week heroin habit seem to have receded now he’s moved back to Wales.

• The beehivish hairstyle worn by Steve Strange’s mother

• Robert Elms providing a level-headed analysis of the impact of “250 kids who changed the way we lived and looked and played and partied for ever.”

• Philip Salon, the grand dame of the New Romantics, who would be a brilliant talk show host

• When Boy George was a cloakroom attendant at the Blitz club and he spotted someone wearing the same outfit two weeks running, he’d spit: “Oh, doing that one to death, aren’t you darling?”

• Laughing at Marilyn who now looks like a 1970s wrestler crossed with Lizzie Bardsley.

What was bad about it?

• Crying at Marilyn who is now beset by mental health problems including agoraphobia

• The presentation of overblown statements about changing the world as fact

• The hair of pop pundit Rick Sky, so bouffant he’s close to becoming a gender bender himself

• The rather sad we-know-what’ll-happen next moment when Steve Strange journeyed to record a German TV show with Visage 2. “If there isn’t any fans outside, Ill be quite surprised,” he told the camera. There were none. It was also sad that Steve Strange, who pioneered the New Romantic movement, had profited least.

• Boy George looking dreadful – and this was recorded before those NYPD cops came a knocking.

• It was basically just a history of the New Romantic movement rather than gender Benders. There was no real exploration of why the protagonists wanted to look and behave like women.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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