On Media, pt. 5: First YouTube Essay (Ozzy & Drix Revisited)

If you’ve ever gone back and read some of my old stuff, you know that I had a weird relationship with a particular episode of Ozzy & Drix. Back when I wrote that post, I knew that I had a ton more that I wanted to say, but I felt like I wasn’t ready to say any of it yet. A year later, I find I have much more wherewithal to do just that. In fact, I decided to take it a good step further and actually make a video essay out of it, which in hindsight, was pretty ambitious. I was not prepared for the steep learning curve of recording myself reading an essay aloud, or for throwing together a simple collection of clips through Adobe Premier Rush. I even had to contest WB’s copyright claim–and I won. For almost a week, I woke up, worked, and went to sleep, only to repeat it the next day. I honestly sort of freaked myself out I was so laser-focused, but it felt really good to be so creatively motivated again. I hope that it’s a motivation that continues, because I have a lot more topics I’d like to cover using this format.

That said, I’m too lazy to write a whole blog post about it when the video itself says enough. Instead, I’m just going to put my script below!

 


 

Not to toot my own horn, but few people are as naturally adept at repression and dissociation as transgender people, especially those of us who grew up in an environment hostile to the so-called “gay agenda.”  Such mechanisms often become baked into our very core from an early age, as our survival hinges on our ability to not show any signs of nonconformity. Of course, growing up in a healthy household or environment that is accepting of LGBTQ people likely helps more fortunate baby trans from developing such unhealthy traits, and so I wonder if this phenomena will still be so common as we slowly head toward a future which is, on the whole, more informed and accepting of trans issues than those older generations that came before.

The weird thing about repression as a reflex is that you really aren’t aware that it is happening. Therefore, one of the stranger realizations you come to should you ever begin questioning your gender in the age of the internet is that many of those secret repressed memories you have from childhood (which you thought were wholly your own) are not unique to you. In fact, there is a bizarre collective subconsciousness that unites much of the trans community, especially those who share an approximate age. Some of the more commonly-cited examples among people like me (a transfemme born in 1990) are the Timantha episode of Fairly Oddparents, Ranma ½, Greta from Gremlins 2, The Hot Chick, and the Timantha episode of Fairly Oddparents. Though I can’t speak as much to their experiences, transmasc folks are not without their own examples, including She’s the Man, an episode of Wakfu where two of the female characters drink magic potions and become boys in order to compete in a sports tournament, and of course, Mulan. Then again, there are two characters in particular that do bridge the gap and unite us all: Jessie and James from the Pokémon anime.

I could write pages on each of these, and in fact, I hope to one day. But for now, there is a bit more of an obscure one that I don’t hear people talk about as much. In fact, I’d warrant most people who grew up back then have forgotten the existence of the show, or perhaps even the movie that spawned it. What I want to talk about, as you have already seen in the title, is the two-part first episode of the second season of Ozzy & Drix, the low-rent serialization of the box office flop that was Osmosis Jones.

Osmosis Jones is a 2001 animated buddy cop film starring Chris Rock as “Osmosis Jones,” a white blood cell who is tasked with protecting the body of Bill Murray. This is exactly the type of movie derided by Lindsey Ellis in her video “How Aladdin Changed Animation (by Screwing Over Robin Williams),” in which she examines the explosion of animated theatrical releases riding entirely off the names of their voice actors—a phenomenon which she argues began with Aladdin, but came to a fever pitch with the release of Shrek, another (though, significantly more successful) 2001 film. The success of Aladdin and eventually Shrek is what led to the glut of such (generally middling) films into our current age, and in the context of such mediocrity, Osmosis Jones is part of the wallpaper.

I don’t think I saw Osmosis Jones when it was in theaters, but I do remember watching it a time or two back in the day, and my opinion of it back then pretty much echoed what the critics had to say. I wasn’t a huge fan, though that might be due to the prejudice I had towards most any animated film that didn’t begin with a star shooting over Cindarella’s Castle (ironic, considering my opinions of that corporation today, but that is a story for another time). To be fair, there are some genuinely clever elements of Osmosis Jones. Whatever your opinion of buddy cop movies as a genre, the use of white blood cells as police in an anthropomorphism of the internal systems of the human body is pretty clever. Plus, this movie has the absolute best representation of what I assume Ben Shapiro, TERFs, and other transphobes do upon discovering that someone they find particularly attractive is, in fact, cis.

But this video isn’t about the movie, it’s about the spinoff that time forgot, and the multiple viewings of it I subjected myself to in order to write this essay. I mean, seriously…I knew mainstream Western animation was bad through most of the 2000s, but watching Ozzy & Drix again reminded me of just how far we’ve come since then.

Thank you so much, Steven Universe. Your contribution to humanity does not go overlooked.

Considering the fact that Osmosis Jones was such a critical commercial failure, it seems super weird that it was followed-up with an entire TV series. I even remember thinking this back then, but apparently one of the ways Warner Bros. offset the major deficit in earnings vs. cost was through pushing the VHS and television home release of the film. This makes sense in the context of my own memory of it, and I suppose it also makes sense why a very, very low-budget television series also spawned from it. When I say low budget, I mean: no more Chris Rock or Bill Murray (or any of the original actors), no more live-action sequences, and an animation quality that, well, looked much more at home on Kids’ WB than on the silver screen.

Anyway, enough ragging on the…quality of Ozzy & Drix. The story follows the two main characters, the aforementioned Osmosis Jones (Ozzy) and his partner, Drixenol Koldreliff (Drix), a generic over-the-counter cold pill that Bill Murray took in the film. This last bit is important, because a major plot point in the movie is that Drix refuses to only provide temporary relief, and in the very first episode of the show, he and Ozzy are transmitted from the disgusting and presumably soon-to-die animated equivalent (though also pale imitation) of Bill Murray to a young boy named Hector. I’m an English teacher, and so I don’t really know a ton about biology or, you know, Benadryl, but that just seems like not how it works. I guess that’s neither here nor there, but it’s just a detail that really bothered me, and I just really couldn’t let it go.

 

Okay, so the episode I want to talk about is titled “Out of Body Experience,” which is a two-parter that makes up episodes 1 and 2 of season 2. Were it not for this episode, I would have long since forgotten the existence of Ozzy & Drix. Would that I had been so fortunate, but alas. The basic premise of the episode is this: Hector (Ozzy & Drix’s aforementioned host body) nearly drowns after a clumsy fall from the high dive, and is only saved when Christine (his love interest) gives him CPR. Unfortunately (or as I thought at the time, fortunately) Ozzy then becomes separated from both Drix and Hector, as he is accidentally transferred to Christine’s body. I guess being forcibly ejected from your home would be pretty upsetting on its own merit, but to be fair by this point it should be getting routine for Jones. Regardless, he makes it clear that it’s not an ideal situation for him, especially once the forced gender-bending starts to affect him.

Oh, yeah, that’s why I remember this show. Because, apparently, a white blood cell’s gender can change according to the gender of its host body. Oh, forced gender-bending, you are the shared secret favorite trope of eggs and baby trans everywhere. We all thought we were so alone in yearning for the super-contrived circumstances that led to your characters experiencing the euphoria we craved, and yet…

The thing is, when I first went back to watch these episodes, I thought what I wanted to talk about was specifically this gender-bending element. However, it had been over a decade since I had last seen it, so I didn’t remember much of it especially well, except for this line, which echoed in the corners of my brain throughout the rest of my adolescence and well into my 20s. And when I did last see it, I was a literal child, so it’s not like I exactly caught everything that was going on, anyway. I mean, I definitely didn’t know the cultural nuance that makes this scene so…yikes. And we’ll get into that, but to limit all the problems in this episode to its transphobia would be to ignore all of the latent sexism, misogyny, and homophobia which make up more-or-less its entire plot. Hence the eventual theme of this video: internalized femmephobia.

 

I know it’s bad form to define your thesis on the third page, but here we are. What is internalized femmephobia? Well, it’s probably easiest to first define the umbrella under which it resides: internalized oppression. In short, internalized oppression is when an oppressed group recognizes all the reasons for which they are “othered” and oppressed, and therefore seeks to cast aside those othering traits in order to improve their social station. It is an unspoken system which causes socially-disadvantaged minorities to adopt the symbols of their oppressors in order to be perceived as more (and I am using heavy air quotes here) “normal.”

Internalized oppression takes many forms. Internalized racism in the US is probably the one most people are familiar with, and can be seen when traits attributed to people of color (such as certain hairstyles and textures, manner of dress or speech, etc.) are seen as less-than, whereas equivalent traits attributed to white people are seen as greater-than. Other types include internalized sexism, internalized homophobia, and internalized transphobia. It is under the slightly smaller umbrella of internalized femmephobia that each of these are included, at least in the context of this forgotten but very problematic episode of Ozzy & Drix.

Femmephobia is a term that has been bandied about in feminist and queer studies circles for a while now, including in Julia Kaye’s oft-lauded work Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. In short, femmephobia is a societal hatred of all things which might be perceived as “feminine.” It’s a catch-all term which is used as an explanation for our collective encouragement of tomboys but our distaste of sissies, for the difference in prejudice faced by more effeminate gay men relative to their more gender-normative counterparts, for why transmen as a concept are more often ignored while the idea of transwomen is more often accompanied by revulsion, for toxic masculinity, and so on. Internalized femmephobia simply takes this a step further by specifically talking about the reasons for which those oppressed by these systems seek to overcome them by better integrating within societal preferences.

For me personally, internalized femmephobia describes the systems I had to work past in order to accept myself as trans and transition. It might sound odd for someone who always described themselves as a feminist, but internalized oppression works on a subconscious level, so even knowing and experiencing what I did, it was initially very difficult for me to openly do anything which might be perceived as feminine, as (again, subconsciously) “feminine” equated to bad, weak, and so on.

 

So how does “Out of Body Experience” play into this negative social construct?

The moment Jones unwillingly begins the process of “gender morphation” by sometimes turning pink and behaving as an over-the-top caricature of a gay male, it becomes extremely clear that this is a thing which is “not good.” As Jones himself says— This…pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the episode. There’s never once a positive pink Ozzy—rather, each time, it looks a little more like this. Not that there is anything wrong with a man having a more feminine gender expression. The issue lies in the fact that this is never once presented as a positive when Ozzy does it. Each time it is met with eyerolls, and it is always framed as him becoming useless in a situation that needs the “swift, decisive” action of a “man.” It’s the major plot point of the episode—every time Officer Cilia Tyson needs Ozzy to “man up” and get them out of trouble, he instead either can’t pull himself away from his hand mirror, or he simply melts into a puddle of tears.

Oh, and every time Jones becomes his pink alter ego, he immediately curls his hair. What’s up with that? I mean, I have curly hair, and I deeply wanted Jones to turn permanently into a girl, so maybe there’s something to it.

Also, remember how I briefly mentioned toxic masculinity earlier? Well, every time Jones unintentionally transforms, this is a thing that happens.

And the thing is, each time Jones transforms, it is not met with any sort of positivity by the women around him. Officer Tyson can’t help but groan or make a snide comment. Drixine, the gender-swapped equivalent of Drix who resides within Christine, is likewise unamused (8:25). In Christine, the only time femininity is acceptable is when it is performed by women. Well, at least until the very end, when Cilia says that she will miss “both of you,” which is frankly a case of too little, too late.

It is also worth noting that the primary antagonist of this episode, Chief Maximus, is a coded gay villain that could give Scar, Jafar, and Hades each a run for their money. The single male resident of Christine, Maximus wears a long ponytail, speaks almost identically to the aforementioned usurper of Pride Rock, and has eyebrows so fleeky that they are matched only by his razor-sharp eyeliner. But hey! Remember when I said that transmen are often ignored? Maximus did give us this little nugget, so at least you guys shouldn’t feel left out this time.

 

Overall, while the film did flirt very lightly with the idea of being transferred to a female body (Jones was briefly stuck on Bill Murray’s daughter’s falsie), this plot device is pretty unique to the show. There was also one notable misogynist scene in the movie, but again, it was brief. Watching Osmosis Jones again after all these years, yeah, it isn’t necessarily a masterpiece, and it is intentionally gross in places, but it is not at all problematic in the same sense as “Out of Body Experience.” I have to believe that had the movie followed the same plot and structure as this episode of the show, it would have been even more widely panned in the box office. However, since a random episode of a low-budget Kids’ WB series was much less likely to garner any sort of attention, it was able to fly under most people’s radars.

Sadly, this was not the case for cable-glued millennial youth like me who basically just voraciously consumed any sort of cartoon that was available. What I remembered most about this episode of “Ozzy & Drix” are these scenes, where Ozzy goes undercover as “Osmina” in a seedy nightclub. Ugh, even going back and watching the episode again, I remember how seeing that made me feel. But what I did not at all remember, but rather subconsciously internalized, was all the overt sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia which permeates the entire thing. This is a phenomenon which masculine-presenting people or those not on the rainbow spectrum likely have little awareness of, but for those of us who are femme or identify as any variety of queer, the psychological ramifications of such internalization can take a very long time to overcome.

My generation—the millennials—are often derided or praised (depending on one’s perspective) for being so #woke, but other than the hashtag, we often overlook what it is we are “woke” from. Many of us spent our whole lives being subjected to a sort of cash-grabbing, low-quality media that is the natural result of a cynical, capitalist system. Furthermore, much of that media ended up propagandizing to us the same sort of negative societal expectations and stereotypes perpetuated since long before our time.

Femininity is good. Masculinity is good. The goodness of one is not predicated on the badness of the other. The best I can say coming out of my viewing of “Out of Body Experience” is that it does feel so very antiquated now.

Seriously, thank God for Steven Universe.

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