A new stage show based on Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers is reinterpreting the book’s tomboy character Wilhelmina as transgender or lesbian.
Director Emma Rice claimed that because Wilhelmina – known as Bill – is described as looking “exactly like a boy”, Blyton may have been unable to express the character’s ‘true’ trans or gay identity in the 1940s setting.
The play has received intense criticism from women who say that a tomboy nature is normal for many girls growing up.
‘Bill’ is described by Blyton as “somebody who, except for the school tunic, looked exactly like a boy”, with short hair and a “boyish grin”.
The director claimed: “Bill is portrayed as a tomboy in the books but, thanks to the progress we have made as a society, people like Bill are now able to express their identity in other ways.”
Rice also cast ‘non-binary’ actor Vinnie Heaven in the role.
‘Still a girl’
Journalist and mum Kitty Dimbleby, said: “Various groups have hailed this as ground-breaking. I think it’s the opposite – blatantly equating being female with (misogynist) stereotypes of gender.
“Aimed at children my daughter’s age, it promotes the idea that if you don’t conform to the ‘girl’ stereotypes you must have been born the wrong gender.”
Despite being more likely to be covered in mud than make-up or perfume, I was still a girl.
Writer Julie Bindel, said: “Bill’s story would resonate with so many girls”.
“During my childhood, I, along with many other of my friends who are now happily heterosexual, preferred riding bicycles, climbing trees, and doing the kind of activities that are traditionally associated with boys.”
She added: “Despite being more likely to be covered in mud than make-up or perfume, I was still a girl.”