Friday, March 26, 2010

More clueless exploitation of trans lives

I spent a good portion of the day, yesterday, reading and commenting in various locations around the internet about the movie, "Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives," that has been scheduled to run during the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival. The film, initially because of its offensive title and cruelly insensitive trailer and now because of its insensitive content, has generated a huge storm of protest from the trans community. The usual backlash against the trans community's outrage, from many gay men as well as others, has been as vile as it has been clueless.

The main criticisms of this film, its exploitation of a very vulnerable and still all too marginalized group, its inaccurate and demeaning caricature of trans women and their lives and the use of the word "tr***y"that many of us (myself included) find as offensive as the racial epithet thrown at Rep Carl Lewis last week, are described and well criticized by other, more knowledgeable, writers than I. One thing I've noticed though, is that the question of why the film is so badly written in the first place that it creates such a negative storm of criticism hasn't really been answered. I think I know why.

One of the first things I've learned about writing is that you had better write about things you really know if you want it to be any good. Writing about things you aren't well versed in produces bad art, causes all sorts of problems with inaccuracies and poor characterizations and generally produces mediocre, if not completely trashed, work. Israel Luna, the writer, producer and director of this film is gay. He's a cissexual, cisgender man. Yet this movie is about transsexuals, drag queens, women. Obviously he's so clueless about these groups of people, their reality is so foreign to him, that his work sinks to imagined caricatures. His insensitivity, transphobia and misogyny are thus plainly illustrated because he simply did not know any better and are exacerbated by his low budget, slapdash method, filming it in only 18 days.

A hint that he didn't, and still doesn't, know better comes from his reaction to the controversy.

"Luna wasn’t expecting this kind of backlash.

'I didn’t think that it would be such a topical thing or an issue, but we’ve been getting stuff about the name, the title, and using the word ‘tranny.’ And then there are people who are like, is it right to do an eye-for-an-eye kind of thing?” he says of the film’s critics. “When I was first writing the script, I just wanted to do an old-fashioned revenge movie. This group of people gets bashed. They come back for revenge. Done.'

Luna is puzzled somewhat by the controversy because the main theme of the film is empowerment, not victimhood — and certainly not mocking the trans characters."

Puzzled!?! His Male privilege, his Cissexual privilege and his Gay privilege all combine to shield him from the truth of trans people's lives. These privileges keeps him from knowing the truth of women's lives as well. Of course he's puzzled when trans women are furious over his caricaturization of the real pain and challenges from trans misogyny and transphobia they have to face every day. He obviously has no idea!

His marketing of the film was designed to produce the same morbid fascination, fear and loathing that the anti-trans political groups use against the entire TLBG community in their propaganda. Morbid fascination, fear and loathing that has its roots in transphobia and misogyny. Autumn Sandeen noted in her diary at Pam's House Blend that there are too many similarities between an image of this movie to the kinds of images used by hate groups such as MassResistance and the Traditional Values Coalition in their hateful propaganda against full political equality for the whole BGTL community. The most egregious example of Luna's perfidy, however, was his use of the names of two very real trans women who were brutally murdered last year, with no thought given to the triggering this tactic might engage in the trans community and the victims' families and friends.

A facebook page promoting a boycott and a petition drive has been launched to demand the film be removed from the Tribeca Film Festival schedule. The festival organizers have so far refused to consider doing so. Protests will undoubtedly be organized. I wish I could be there but the finances won;t allow it. I signed the petition, I urge everyone who reads this to do so as well.

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