BWW Interview: Breaking Down the Breakdown with Hedwig: Inch by Angry Inch Host Jonfen Parker
Hedwig: Inch by Angry Inch is a chapter by chapter podcast that breaks down John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask's 2001 sleeper hit Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Hedwig the movie is a fully produced version of the stage show, which just celebrated its 22-year anniversary on Valentine's Day. Twenty years and an army of Hed-Heads later, this show, movie, music, and character are still being celebrated, loved, and obsessed over today. What makes Hedwig so fascinating? It's a question that Jonfen Parker seeks to answer on the equally fascinating Inch by Angry Inch. Parker, my good friend and fellow Hed-Head, and host of the podcast, graciously agreed to an interview discussing Hedwig and all things podcasting. Their exclusive Q&A is below:
AP: Tell us about podcasting! How long have you been doing it? What made you decide to start a Hedwig podcast?
JP: I've been podcasting since around 2017, so in some ways I still feel very new to the whole thing... but at the same time it also kind of feels like a million years ago! I've definitely got a lot happier with my performance on the mic in a quick period of time, that's for sure. The show I started out with is Bat Minute, a podcast where we analyze and investigate the Batman movies one minute at a time. We were inspired by the podcast Star Wars Minute and it's now become a whole community!
I decided to do a Hedwig podcast because it's been one of my very favourite films for so long now, but nobody seemed to be tapping into this kind of thing at all. I fell in love with the movie back when I first saw it around 2004 or so and instantly connected to the themes and the characters - Hedwig herself became a huge idol of mine, especially as somebody who is non-binary. I decided I didn't want to do the show minute-by-minute, like my other podcast, as that wouldn't really work with the format of the film. I flirted with the idea of looking at it song-by-song, but settled on doing it Blu-Ray chapter-by-chapter, as that seemed to be the best balance between the approaches. Doing this also let me talk about a different side of myself than the Bat Minute show does, as on this I get to talk more about music, gender, drag, etc. I try to keep the show a good mix of tones - it's deep, silly, dark, light, nonsensical and smart all at once! At least I think so!
AP: Many Hedwig fans are also musical theatre fans. Has doing this podcast given you more of an interest in musical theatre or theatre in general? (Yes this is a trick question!)
JP: Oh it absolutely has! Before Hedwig, I think the only musical I had really enjoyed was Rocky Horror (obviously!) but my love of rock music made me really get into the music of this show and then branch out from there and check out so much more. Because it gets mentioned in Hedwig, I finally decided to check out Rent and fell in love with that too. I made the foolish decision to watch it on my own with a bottle of wine though, not knowing how moving and upsetting some parts of it are! I was in floods of tears! Last year at Pride, I went to see a local production of Rent, performed by a youth group, and it was absolutely fantastic. Another favourite of mine HAS to be Little Shop of Horrors! I also really liked the Tim Burton Sweeney Todd film - controversially I actually prefer it to the stage version! The less said about Cats the better...
AP: What do you think is so intriguing and universal about Hedwig? As you've said before, she's not just a gay, trans or queer figure. Everyone can and does relate to her story. Why do you think that is?
JP: I think that her story, despite being so unique and specific, has so much that anybody of any sex, gender, sexuality, etc, can relate to. It's about the journey each of us goes through to really know and discover our true selves. Or, it's the journey that we SHOULD be taking - sadly not everybody has the guts to just go for it and explore everything that's out there. Hedwig helps us be ourselves, express what's within, but also gives us the courage to accept that we're not perfect and that there'll be many bumps along the road to enlightenment. Hedwig isn't a perfect person by any means, but who is? It takes her a long time to know herself too, which is important for people to understand - we are ALWAYS growing and this journey doesn't really have an end.
AP: Do you think you'd be more of a Hedwig fan or a Tommy Gnosis fan?
JP: Oh, Hedwig for sure! Hedwig is the truth, the punk rocker. Tommy is the pretty boy face of things without much real talent. He's the Sid Vicious or something! Hedwig has the history, the knowledge, the experience... Tommy is a mannequin. It's not his fault, though - he's in way over his head.
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Poor, poor, Tommy. That's a joke. Nobody really cares about Tommy, except Hedwig... therein lies the paradox!
It speaks to the overarching power of this beautiful and broken character, that two people on opposite sides of the world can find each other and connect, bonding over our love for Hedwig. I call myself a proud member of the Hed-Head community, and it never ceases to amaze me the connections I've made because of her, as well as the positive influence she's had on my life and career.
Thank you Jonfen for your expertise and insight! The Hedwig: Inch by Angry Inch podcast is a must for any dedicated Hedwig fan. It can be found on Apple Podcasts. Also, make sure to follow them on Instagram and Twitter at HedwigPod or visit the website at hedwigpodcast.com.