Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch is an offensive, abrasive, sexually-charged androgynous punk-rock anger anthem for the cheated, abused, misused wig-wearing makeup consumer/prostitute who feels particularly down that day.

Oh yeah, and it’s for the rest of us, too.


Hedwig (2001) begins with a punk-rock band playing Bilgewaters, a tacky buffet restaurant. Not long after this, we find Hedwig is in limbo trying to define herself and has anchored herself in music. In a flashback to Cold War Berlin, we have Hansel, a young boy with an American G.I. father (there are hints that he molests young Hansel) and a German mother. In a rather amusing scene, Hansel has to listen to American radio with his head in the oven so his mother doesn’t have to hear it, meaning he grows up in a box of sound. When Hansel grows older, he happens to meet Luther, an American soldier, who falls far Hansel’s nude body. Pledging to marry Hansel, Luther and Hansel’s mother convince him to escape communist Berlin by becoming Hedwig and having sex-change surgery. However, as told in the song “Angry Inch,” something goes horribly wrong in the surgery, giving him… well… an inch.

From there, we follow Hedwig to Junction City, Kansas, where Luther leaves Hedwig (we assume for another man). Right afterward, Hedwig watches the Berlin Wall fall on TV. Having been swept out of his gray life in Germany, Hedwig finds herself afloat – between genders, between homes, between lives.

With the song “Wig in a Box,” Hedwig finds herself adopting a new identity and using what she knows – music – as her respite and career. Along the way, she picks up Yitzhak, whom we find out is Hedwig’s secondary love interest, and the rest of the Angry Inch. The story’s main conflict is between the ultra conservative Tommy Gnosis, Hedwig’s prodigy, whom she believes is her soulmate, and the betrayal of him leaving her when he finds out her true sex, stealing her songs, and becoming famous without even a credit to Hedwig. This sparks her following him across the nation, trying to confront him to get her life, love, and identity back. The movie is wild and fun, but also melancholy and abstract, giving an impression of a metaphysical Wizard of Oz with internal unification being the goal. It truly is a spectacular movie, with glam, excess, and sex to spare.