In Praise of Sister Hyde

A recent post at TGComics brought up the classic Jekyll/Hyde story as it’s been used in a transgender context. The first thing I thought of were my own stories in that vein: “Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde” and of course “Sister Hyde: The Gender Matrix” (one of my personal favs). But the TGComics thread directed me to FictionMania, where a search for the keyword “Jekyll” yielded surprisingly few titles. However, it did lead me to a short story by BobH (one of the more readable authors on that website) and this story from 2017: “Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde: an alternate ending“.

The old Hammer Horror film Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde was a favorite of mine, in my younger years. And when I say favorite, read obsession. I probably caught it on late-night TV and was, of course, transfixed by its literal transformation of a man into a beautiful, sexy woman (the lovely Martine Beswick). I was particularly captivated by the mirror scene where we see the man’s hair slowly growing past his collar (yowza!), whereupon she then sees (and admires) her reflection. That scene has haunted me ever since. (This news should come as no surprise to my regular readers.)

It would appear that BobH feels more or less the same way. He makes the point, though, that the film’s ending is a real downer, and he’s right. The main character gets killed, which is morality in action because this is how he is shown to pay for his sins (murdering innocent women to produce the elixir that transforms him from scientist to literal femme fatale). It could be argued that it was the Sister Hyde persona who was doing all the killing, but Dr. Jekyll still has to pay the ultimate price just for messing around with the natural order of things (just like every other mad scientist, like ever). For those of us with a transgender bent, this is a serious flaw in the story: we’d like to see the hero ride off into the sunset as the beautiful woman he was meant to be. Wish fulfillment at its finest!

To that end, BobH wrote an alternate ending to the film which I quite liked: Doc Jekyll is gone for good, Sister Hyde takes over, and the point is made that she isn’t really a separate person but simply the female version of him—who is, moreover, if not his better half (better is arguable), certainly his stronger and truer half (more than half, really). This is all to the good.

The one issue I have is that the murderer ends up unpunished—and unrepentant as well (Sister Hyde maintains that if she has to kill again to remain female, she totally will). That does fit with the Sister’s character, which in itself is fine, but it does leave me with a nihilistic taste in my mouth. A fully satisfying ending would see the death of innocents avenged in some way, and to that end Sister Hyde has to change. For our TG sensibilities she needs to survive (as a full-time female), but she cannot be seen to benefit from her evil deeds without some cost to herself. A well-rounded character arc would see her move towards being a better version of herself, so that her victims will not have died in vain—cold comfort, I know—and the world itself is in some way embiggened (a real word, by the way, popularized in a classic Simpsons episode). That may be asking a lot, and I don’t offhand know how it might play out for the character, but I will say that BobH’s alternate ending is a big improvement on the original script.

I admit to never having seen the more recent TG version of this concept, Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, in its entirety. But from the snippets I’ve encountered, it appears the filmmakers were mostly playing the transformation for laughs. This is in stark contrast to Sister Hyde, which strove for an atmosphere of understated horror—and largely succeeded in that, although for us TG-types the fright is considerably diluted by the appeal of the transformation. This isn’t horror in the modern sense, which involves a lot more graphic detail and blood being splashed around, but a slower-paced (and classier) kind of horror (think Vincent Price). I think that’s part of what makes Sister Hyde a superior film, not just in general terms but also for our own niche interest.

If anyone ever remakes Sister Hyde, it is my sincere hope that they have more than a passing interest in TG fiction.

Amanda

2 thoughts on “In Praise of Sister Hyde

  1. I enjoyed your article. I too liked the Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde movie. My only regret is that it was made before modern special effects abilities. In answer to your opinion at the alternate ending you mentioned I have a suggestion for another view. Consider this. Dr. Jekyll in this story is a female scientist in Victorian England. She like most of her gender is not taken seriously by her male peers. So frustrated is she is that she develops the Hyde formula from a male looking woman she was treating. Experimenting with the drug on herself she becomes a brute of a man, one who can fight and if need be kill. She also learns how to create an opposite drug that makes males female. Using it she seeks to take revenge on her tormentors: turning male chauvinists into females and attacking them as her male brute. The drug’s effects are progressive on her. Her female self becomes more female and her male version becomes more thuggish and violent. The police bobbies are closing in on her so she turns one of her female patients into the brute and sends her out to be killed by the police bobbies. While there is one female to male transformation the rest of them could be male to female.

    • Interesting idea. It makes for a very different story. I’m not sure if it’s better than the one BobH and I were trending towards, but it’s certainly more complicated. That alone would make it harder to film. Whatever the plot, I too would love to see a well-written remake with modern special effects!

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