Orlando, now a woman, is confronted with the poets she admires. They describe women as "beautiful and romantic animals" that should be decorated with furs, and jewels, as well as contradictory and lacking character. This description of women is as familiar to Woolf, as it was to Potter (still nowadays). Orlando reacts to their opinion of what women are, but,warns us that she has to intervene. Breaking the 4th wall might be Potter's way of telling us to speak up again any kind of discrimination.
Potter's use of a castrato, followed by Crisp as a woman, accentuates the fragility of identity and gender, which the book addresses. Gender and identity are portrayed in both texts as fluid and varied. It is not just a matter of two strict genders, but everything else that naturally enriches the complexity of human beings.
Genre defined by clothes. Do clothes make the person? What will someone who did not know Tilda Swinton think? What questions on gender does this still arise? I think it was a good choice of actress by Potter due to Swinton's androgynous look. The book does not have to rely on a visual cue to convey gender.
The preparatory notes by Potter, express the concerns that she had on giving a gender to Orlando's dialogue. In the book, the internal dialogue of Orlando seems to possess no specific gender. Potter decides to give Orlando a conscious female voice all the way throughout, when adapting, and portrays Orlando as introspective, as a man, even though he is allowed to express himself freely. On the other hand, Orlando as a woman, seems to want to express herself at all times but she is socio-culturally repressed.
Potter's notes on the need of strengthen the image of Orlando as a woman. She claims that Woolfs' descriptions of Orlando as a female and as a male are stereotypical. They are probably consistent with those views as they were during the 1920s. It is only natural that Potter will find it necessary to update those views by strengthening Orlando when a female. Even though, she has claimed that Orlando is not about feminism stating "I have come to the conclusion that I can't use that term in my work. Not because of a disavowal of the underlying principles that gave birth to that word – the commitment to liberation, dignity, equality. But it has become a trigger word that stops people's thinking. You literally see people's eyes glaze over with exhaustion when the word flashes into the conversation.” By balancing both sides, the story shows that life is hard for both men and woman.
The opening of this scene Elizabeth I (Crisp), washing her hands to the upwards camera tilt, which finishes with a close up of her face, gives no indication that a man is portraying a queen. There is something humourous about a iconic "queen" playing another iconic queen. Since, it is not obvious that a man is playing a woman's role, we might rely on external cues, clothes, hair, make up, mannerisms, to attribute gender, thus it can be seen as a social construction.
Crisp's presence in the film highlights the complexity of gender and identity. Potter's choice of the iconic Crisp to play a powerful woman in history, whose gender has also been question at times, accentuates the fluidity of identity and gender. Crisp's intertextuality and his iconic status brings a vast amount of information on the challenging of identity and gender perceptions to the film.