Chess as a symbol in falsettos
Chess is talked about A LOT in falsettos, so it’s clear it’s an important symbol. I saw a few posts about what it could mean and I want to give my input. To me chess has always been the equivalent of masculinity.
Especially in The Chess Game, winning at chess equals being more masculine. Marvin beats Whizzer over and over again until Marvin let’s Whizzer win, and when he does, he instantly regrets it. Marvin storms off but Whizzer stays and says “Whizzer’s supposed to make the dinner, be a patsy, lose at chess”. Lose at chess is really restating be a patsy, or make the dinner, both feminine things Whizzer has to do since he got together with Marvin. Marvin breaks up with Whizzer not directly for beating him at chess, but because Whizzer has rebelled against the housewife role Marvin gave to him. Marvin’s internalized homophobia hates that Whizzer chooses to do the masculine thing, and they break up.
Later in Days Like This, Jason brings a chess board to Whizzer’s hospital room and says “I’ll let you win Whizzer”. Whizzer responds “Don’t let me win”. In a way, Jason is trying to make Whizzer feel stronger in a health sense, which can be translated to masculinity. However, Whizzer acknowledges the fact that if a child has to let him win, it’s just as bad as losing.
None of the female characters are shown playing chess, or wanting to play
In act one, Jason likes playing chess alone, where he can’t lose. He feels demasculinized because he doesn’t know if he will be queer via genetics yet so he wants to prove he is masculine.
At the very end of the revival, Jason places a king chess piece on Whizzer’s grave. This could simply be Jason calling Whizzer a king or him saying that Whizzer, in a way, won life itself, showing Jason’s infinite respect and love for his friend.
tl;dr let’s start a discussion of what chess means in falsettos