The female magic assistant may be the last career in America that’s stuck in the same place it’s always been. And that place is long before even the feminist era began where the female is obedient to the magician, makes efforts to look beautiful on stage, but seldom gets the recognition she deserves. That’s why real magic assistants should consider it gratifying seeing actress Olivia Wilde finally explore the ignored role of the female assistant in the new comedy “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”
What makes this assistant so different is that she’s planning to move up the ladder to the lead role of magician. Even that’s something the magic world still hasn’t seen enough of in America. Here, Wilde’s Jane character understands the boxed in roles the magic assistant has in order to survive, yet craftily works around them for career progression.
Yes, it sounds a lot like “Mad Men” in the 2010s. The only difference is that this assistant presumably doesn’t have to sleep with her boss in order to get somewhere. In that regard, “Burt Wonderstone” may divert from the complete truth.
But the above is still hearsay in many professional circumstances. What we don’t see in “Wonderstone” is the husband and wife magic team where the wife still takes on the role of assistant in more than one way. In those circumstances, it can become considerably more complicated when living on the road.
I’ve seen some personal examples myself from a beloved family member. For a time, my mother worked part-time as a magic assistant to my father who toured locally with a popular magic show. She was the one who frequently organized everything and perpetually brought a sense of classy stage presence and showmanship that could have gone to higher places.
The movies have simply ignored the concept of the magic assistant for so long when so many stories are there to tell in both drama and comedy form. It was inevitable a satire would come first, especially in the Las Vegas realm of things. Arguably, the worst stereotypes of the female magic assistant still exist in the Vegas universe.
Although it’s not hard to see why so many actresses were clamoring to get the role of Jane in “Wonderstone.” Olivia Wilde reportedly beat out Judy Greer and Sarah Silverman for the role, which could be a paved path toward a more A-list actress playing a magic assistant someday. The only example we’ve ever had in dramatic form is seeing assistant and wife Bess to Harry Houdini in several biopics on the latter famous magician.
There shouldn’t be any trouble, though, in inventing a fictional female magic assistant and depicting the real drama behind the scenes. The husband and wife team is where the real drama could take place, particularly when we see how those roles mean the assistant possibly being stifled toward any personal progression. We’d finally have an in-depth look into why some women still choose to commit to such careers when many other women frown upon it.
In the meantime, if we see more magic assistant movies, they may have to be comedies. Real magic shows still give the impression of the magic assistant being committed to the craft. That can still be conveyed within the guffaws of seeing the assistant choosing her glitzy Vegas costumes and practicing her poses.