The New Statesman Transgender Character 1987 Norman/Norma

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Ice Maiden
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The New Statesman Transgender Character 1987 Norman/Norma

Postby Ice Maiden » Fri Apr 25, 2014 5:21 pm

I have been doing some housework of late in the archives and came across this. I felt it was worthy of an entry here.

New Statesman 1987–92


Norman/Norma Bormann

The New Statesman was a political satire sitcom of the 80s and early 90s starring Rik Myall as an obnoxious Tory MP - wonder where they got that idea from?

Written By Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran who also wrote 'Birds of a Feather', and my favourite sitcom of all time 'Goodnight Sweetheart'.

I have a short list of trans 'faux pas' from those, but apart from two minor comments in 'Goodnight Sweetheart' we escaped practically unscathed! And Probably why I like it so much.

However, in the 'New Statesman' Alan B'stard (played by Rik Mayal) had, what turned out to be, a transgender personal assistant, and that personal assistant transitioned to female during the first series.

I feel they added this character as, well, a stooge I guess? After all, these were the 80s and required something new, fresh and controversial to go along with Alan's B'stards greedy child-of-Thatcher yuppie facade.

The difficulty for the then 'alternative comics' (like Rik) was they were unable through pressure or simply good conscience to use racism, sexism and homophobia for laughs unlike itv's 'The Comedians' 10 years earlier who were openly applauded for this.

So this meant they needed to find their scapegoat elsewhere.

Rowena Cooper as Norman/Norma Bormann (Series 1; she was credited as "R. R. Cooper" in all but episode six, in order to keep her gender uncertain)

So again, like today, the writers turned to the 'minority of choice(!)' and the good old kicking 'boy' of comedy. Transgender people!

Sporting a moustache throughout, 'Noman Bormann' transitions to Norma. Norman is a shady financial adviser and stooge.

By ripping-off people (and Alan). Norma manages to fund the surgery she needs. And disappears for the rest of the series.

I always got the impression this surgery was to create a 'new identity' due for some fraud charges pending.

Norma/Norman was Alan's 'Baldrick' (Blackadder) by any other name . She was later replaced by bumbling 'Piers' a similar stooge-like dope and today remincient of a black haired Boris Johnson almost! The Irony!

Norma was not played by a transperson obviously! The role was played by Scottish Cis actress Rowena Cooper.

And I feel the writers may have been greatly influenced by Julia Grant - not by choice but by the fact she was so well known and people had watched her on the BBC in a 'Change of Sex'.

However, the running gag was Alan kept noticing she had breasts, or her 'curves' and she would hold his hand and he would say, "gerrowf!!!"

In one particular episode shown here they are moving nuclear waste and plan to fly tip (as you do) and she says. "I cannot have any part of this as there are children in a school nearby(!)",

However, his threat was, "If you don't help me I am not going to pay for your sex change!" She retorts, with all this nuclear waste in the truck I probably won't need it!" Meaning she will change anyway..."

In another episode, she gloats that the authorities will never find her once she has her surgery!


Of its time.

Interesting trivia but this character is often forgotten about in British Television and why as I spotted it in the archives I felt it was worth a mention.

There are a lot of episodes on Youtube of this series - but only watch series one for Norma!
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