Tag: movies

Calpernia Addams on Acting, Trans, and Representation

Posted by – March 5, 2014

Calpernia Addams – the “Callie Adams” Jared Leto thanked from the stage at the Oscars – wrote a piece about trans people, representation, and Hollywood that I think is worth reading.

Jared Leto was kind enough to mention me in his 2014 Independent Spirit Awards acceptance speech (as part of a typically “Jared” list of people involved in the film alongside random notable people) and next he really surprised me by thanking me in his Oscar acceptance speech.

As I’ve said before, my job was to sit down with him and answer lots of questions about what it’s like to be trans, and to make a recording of me reading his lines from the script. From there, Jared did Jared’s thing: a brilliant, eccentric artist created his own performance of a movie character. A movie character who happens to be some form of trans, in this case. Some of his follow up speeches left something to be desired when it came to speaking well on the issues facing his movie character, especially against the backdrops of current politics and social movements. I suppose it’s doubly rare to be a gifted artist AND a great political speaker. But personally, I thought Rayon seemed like a nice person and a real human being. I’ve known people like Rayon.

Anyone who’s followed my 11 years in Hollywood knows that I’ve always advocated for trans people to play trans roles. But I also refuse to shoot down powerful people who take steps to bring human trans portrayals to the screen, even if they are played by a non-trans female (Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry) or a non-trans male (Lee Pace in Soldier’s Girl, Jared in Dallas Buyers Club). To all indications, Georges du Fresne was not a trans child when he played “Ludovic” in Ma Vie En Rose, but that incredible film continues to resonate with trans people and families of trans children. Good and important portrayals can come from non-trans actors. That may be an inconvenient truth, but there you have it.

Sure, I’d love to get these roles as an actress with a history of transition, or see them go to other trans actors. Heck, I’d love to play non-trans roles! But I’m not so short-sighted that I’ll destroy allies and advocates. Even less than perfect allies, if I think the overall contribution is beneficial. This is a view that comes from long actual experience and familiarity with the business. Some small but vocal groups will disagree; that’s just the nature of contentious issues. You can do your thing and I’ll do mine. There are many ways to contribute.

But beware: the same logic that leaves zero room for a non-trans actor to try a trans role will then be used to mandate that trans actors should not be able to play non-trans roles. And that would piss me off.

Leto’s “Rayon” is not the rock upon which I’d make my last stand concerning this issue. His performance is just an inspiration for this discussion. I advocate for positive portrayals and opportunities for trans people in the media. Some people are displeased that this particular portrayal, “Rayon”, is another trans sex worker role. Another trans addict role. Another trans “mystical advisor/comic relief” role. Another “trans person punished in the end” role. Those are indeed over represented portrayals, and I do want more balance… Soon! But I have known people like Rayon. She is not a made-up grab bag of random hateful attributes. She’s a portrayal of an uncomfortable segment of the trans experience that a few TLGB folks would rather be erased and not discussed. I think many of the haters hate Rayon because she isn’t beautiful, she isn’t passable, she isn’t gender binary, she isn’t 2014-political. And when I see that elitist hypocrisy, I’m inclined to push back and write essays like this.

It’s hard being trans, more so in the era and circumstances of Dallas Buyers Club. I’ve known plenty of trans sex workers, self-medicators, wise teachers, hilarious weirdos and people taken before their time due to violence and lack of healthcare. I’ve known trans people very much like Rayon, and maybe if some people got up from their remote-activism-devices (computer screens and smartphones) and left their ivory towers and privilege-bubbles, they’d meet a few people like Rayon face-to-face, too.

Then they could see that a human portrayal of this real segment of the trans community is a good thing. Even if it’s by a non-trans person.

Please do hire trans actors for ANY role, especially trans roles. But please don’t shoot trans people in the foot by attacking allies willing to open the door for us as we approach equality.

Sevigny’s Killer Role

Posted by – March 5, 2012

So there’s a new series with a trans woman as killer heroine.

Expected criticisms?

  • they should have found a trans woman to play her
  • ugh, trans as killer is way overdone and so 80s

amongst others.

That said, to me it looks like she’s portrayed sympathetically, not demonized, which would be a vast improvement. Second, she looks like she could be a really interesting character.

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The Bechdel Test

Posted by – October 9, 2011

This article on women characters in movies – skip to the end – is very funny. I think her Ethereal Weirdo is my favorite, although I will admit to having women like her. They’re usually stoners. I’ve always thought of her as the Cortazar Hopscotch fantasy woman, because I dated a guy who actually admitted, out loud, that he fell in love with the woman in that novel when he read it.

This girl can’t be pinned down and may or may not show up when you make concrete plans with her. She wears gauzy blouses and braids. She likes to dance in the rain and she weeps uncontrollably if she sees a sign for a missing dog or cat. She might spin a globe, place her finger on a random spot, and decide to move there. The Ethereal Weirdo appears a lot in movies, but nowhere else. If she were from real life, people would think she was a homeless woman and would cross the street to avoid her. But she is essential to the male fantasy that even if a guy is boring he deserves a woman who will find him fascinating and perk up his dreary life by forcing him to go skinny-dipping in a stranger’s pool.

But no post about women in film is complete without Bechdel’s Test for Women in Movies:

Some days it’s hard to come up with any that do pass the test. Help me out, readers?

Incipito Inception

Posted by – July 19, 2010

Inception is a cool, cool movie – meaty enough for someone who prefers novels – there are moments you actually feel lost in its world(s) – and yet has all sorts of chase scenes, gun battles, & explosions.

Six Degrees of Buster Keaton: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a fan, and there are moments that’s very apparent.

Fans of Twilight Zone, or District 9, or the now-mostly-forgotten Zentropa will like it, if not love it. & Honestly, it’s the only movie I’ve seen where everyone is attractive or talented or both.

& Six Degrees of Trans: Cillian Murphy played Kitten Braden in Breakfast on Pluto.

Whip It Good?

Posted by – October 19, 2009

Has anyone seen this movie?

I found it on the Madison Roller Derby Team’s page. How cool is that?

Aeneas Keaton

Posted by – July 3, 2009

He’s got a Buster Keaton thing going on, doesn’t he? I think so, but then I’m a big fan of Buster and of Aeneas. He is not so slothful that all he does is rest himself on the slope – he does, also, sharpen his claws on it.

Korean FTM Documentary

Posted by – June 24, 2009

It’s the 1st Korean film about the FTM experience, & it’s called 3xFTM. Here for more details.

(h/t to Matty)

Not Atypical Father

Posted by – June 23, 2009

My friend Willow directed me to this narrative written by a woman on Father’s Day. I’ve heard too many similar stories for one lifetime.

It made me think of that line uttered by Dmitri Karamazov: “There are fathers and there are beasts who only sire you.” That’s probably a paraphrase from the novel, but it’s a direct quote from the film version (in which Dmitri is played by Yul Brynner. Really.)

Ashley Altadonna

Posted by – May 9, 2009

When we were in Milwaukee, we were interviewed for a documentary called Making the Cut. I’m told Julia Serano was, too, when she was there recently as well. The film is being made by a young woman who is trying various ways to raise funds for her own genital surgery, and is in the process raising awareness about the financial issues behind changing genders legally.

Worthy project, no? On top of that, she’s made some other cool films. To help her out, you can make a donation via PayPal via her website, or you can buy another cool short film of hers, or you can pass this message on via Facebook or other social networking sites.

Trans Couples Talk

Posted by – May 2, 2009

This is the text of the talk I gave at the Liberty Conference on May 2nd, 2009:

How We Love You: Let Us Count the Ways

There are partners who are male, female, and trans; there are partners who met their trans person before the trans person knew what was going on; there are partners who married crossdressers who had sworn off crossdressing who purged and then dressed and then purged and then dressed again; there are partners who met their husbands crossdressed; there are partners who met their trans person during transition; there are partners who met their trans person long after transition; there are partners who didn’t know their trans person was trans when they met.

You, the individuals who are in love, were in love, who are seeking companionship and partnership and occasionally a good spanking, are said to be like snowflakes. Flawless Mother Sabrina told me that one night at the now defunct Ina’s Silver Swan, and she was right. Each of your stories is unique, even when there are similarities; each of you realizes your transness, as I like to call it, in a different way: some crossdress, others do drag, others transition. Some do all three, and others – none of these, but you express your genders in some other way. But you have your stories, your characters in movies, even if and when they are comically or tragically or unfairly drawn, but those you love have – well, we’ve got a machete and a spot on the edge of the wood we mean to get through.

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Help Vicki Marlane

Posted by – April 26, 2009

via Susan Stryker:

Michelle Lawler is producing a documentary film about Vicki Marlane, a 74-year-old transsexual woman who is an amazing drag performer, and who still puts on two shows a week at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Drag performance, particularly the traditional “record pantomime” style that Vicki does, is a joyous, subversive, heart-warming art form. Vicki has been doing professional theatrical drag for 50 years. She is a total inspiration to me, and an honored elder of my community.

Michelle and her editor Monica Nolan have completed a final cut of the film, titled “Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight,” (so-called after a line in Vicki’s signature number, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”). We expect the film to premiere at Frameline’s San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival in June 2009–look for the official press release on May 19!

We’re still trying to raise the last few thousand dollars we need to pay for music rights and the final audio mix to finish the film. I’m writing to ask you to make a donation that will help us complete this important film.

You can watch a short clip from the film at our page on the BAVC web site (our fiscal sponsor). Check out Vicki’s performance, too, while you’re at it.

You can make a tax-deductible contribution online from that page or you can make a non-tax deductible donation by sending a check made out to the film’s Executive Producer, Kim Klausner, at 1541 Alabama Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.

All donations — $5, $25, $100, $500 or whatever — will help. Feel free to forward this email to people who might be interested in supporting this project.

Filmed Attack on Peruvian Trans Prostitute

Posted by – March 13, 2009

A Peruvian television station was invited to a planned attack on a local prostitute who is a “travesti” – a MTF trans prostitute. It aired on television, and was later aired with a longer segment.

Blabbeando covered it, as did Queers United.

Note: prostitution is not illegal in Peru.

Holly Would (Play with Gender)

Posted by – March 1, 2009

Just got this cool press release which makes me wish I was anywhere near West Hollywood:

Grrrl, boi, lezbo, butch, femme, lipstick, drag king, trans, dyke, bulldagger, tomboy, genderqueer, one-way, kiki, power femme …

Each generation of lesbians uses new and different terms to describe how we present ourselves and what attracts us. GenderPlay in Lesbian Culture is the first ever Los Angeles exhibit to talk about labels and explore gender and its boundaries.

The OPENING EVENT, at the One Museum on Saturday March 14, will feature singer Phranc, emcee Marie Cartier and performance art from Latina trio, Butchlalis de Panochtitlan. More

Brazil

Posted by – January 16, 2009

I’ve had the remarkable good fortune to teach Freshman Studies at Lawrence this term, which is a class Freshmen take, a kind of critical thinking course. We’ve already talked about Milgram and his obedience studies, and next up is Gilliam’s Brazil.

In watching it for the umpteenth time, that I’m still amazed at how remarkable this movie is.

I’m also really shocked at how much more like the movie the world has become since the last time I saw it – just the metal detector scene in the beginning, where Sam runs into Jack (Palin) while they’re both waiting for security clearance, & then again when Sam dines with his mother – right before the bomb goes off in the restaurant.

It’s wholly depressing, but that seemed entirely unlikely at the time it came out – and just as dystopian as so many other of the film’s details – and yet, here we are, going through security in so many places these days, and with the same bland obedience as they do in this film.

To the Femmes

Posted by – December 24, 2008

As a little Christmas present to my lovely wife, and to all of you lovely femmes out there, I thought I’d post this lovely piece I found about a month ago & have been meaning to link to.

= and =

Does anyone else find it odd that Valkyrie comes out tomorrow? I mean, a movie about Hitler on the same day that all the Jewish folks go to the movies? Okay, it’s about killing Hitler, but still.

= and =

Merry Christmas Eve!

Tomboys

Posted by – December 17, 2008

How exciting is this? A book called Tomboys: A Literary and Cultural History.

Random page quotes:

“The link between childhood tomboyism and adult homosexuality might seem to have eradicated this code of conduct from American literature and culture, but the late 1950s and the decade of the 1960s actually witness the release of a considerable number of tomboy-themed novels and films.”

I suppose this is what makes me a freak, but I’m going to devour this one. Yay! Tomboys!

Blogger Initiative

Posted by – December 9, 2008

As many of you know, I was at the LGBT Bloggers’ Initiative this past weekend, feeling simultaneously like the new kid on the block and the old whore. Many of my fellow bloggers – I realized during a presentation on media access by Cathy Renna – are bloggers, only. It never occurred to me that being a blogger who was a published book author first was weird, but there I was.

Nevermind that for now. I met a smattering of lovely people who are active in the LGBT blogosphere, some of whom I knew before and some who I didn’t: Dana of Mombian, a whole bunch of the folks at Bilerico, including Bil, Serena, Irene, and Alex; some of the Pam’s House Blend crew, including Pam herself and Autumn Sandeen. Among other I ran into were Allyson Robinson at the HRC cocktail party on Friday night, Mara Keisling of NCTE on Saturday afternoon (at the infamous Mayflower Hotel), as well as Tahlib Disney-Britton of Freedom to Marry, James from gayagenda.com,  and Tobias Packer of Equality Florida.

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Movie Review: Milk

Posted by – November 25, 2008

Here’s a review of Milk, about the life of Harvey Milk, by my friend Doug McKeown. (I haven’t seen it yet but will because of his review.)

Let’s get two questions out of the way. Is Milk entertaining? Without qualification. Is it important? Resoundingly. Also funny, tragic, endearing, and rousing. There is not one false note from any of the actors, nor from director Gus Van Sant, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (I will be seeing this one again just for the screenplay), or photographer Harris Savides. A very complicated story unfolds with absolute clarity, a story as much about the city of San Francisco as about Harvey Milk. I’d say more than that — it’s about the actualization of democracy, about community organizing as the great force for social justice. Take that, Sarah Palin!

I was especially pleased that no attempt is made to be “delicate” about Milk’s personality, either his sex life or his out-sized ego, a forthrightness that makes him all the more heroic, I think. After a stunning opening sequence tossing us in medias res, and a conventional framing device (and foreshadowing), we quickly get to know Harvey Milk through the persona of Sean Penn, a smooth and easy task if there ever was one. He hooks up with a younger guy, Scott Smith, who has the movie star good looks of a — well, a James Franco. It is completely credible that Franco’s Scott goes for the self-deprecating charm of this man with a face so open it hides nothing, who is so comfortably flamboyant, and finally, irresistible. The camera captures not so much sex between them as lovemaking — which is to say, as much warmth as heat. There is even what I would call nuzzling, in close-up. What’s not to like? But there are inevitable strains. While we are ostensibly caught up in the difficulties of their relationship, the larger drama emerges as Scott withdraws into the background. An extraordinary moment in time elevates the Mayor of Castro Street to local hero.

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Review: She’s a Boy I Knew

Posted by – November 22, 2008

A friend of a friend in Lincoln, Nebraska got to see the documentary She’s a Boy I Knew which I’d heard good things about, so I asked her to write a review.

by Dr. Pat. Tetreault

She’s A Boy I Knew is a remarkably well-made film. It is honest, funny, poignant and real. Canadian Gwen Haworth narrates and directs the documentary about her life, her coming out process regarding her gender and sexuality, and how her transition to become the woman she is meant to be impacts her life as well as the lives of those she loves and who love her. Through the use of home videos and interviews with family members and friends, including her ex-wife, Gwen reveals the depth and range of emotion and the process involved in coming out and in transitioning. Brief animated segments are also included to lighten the film while providing background information. More

Danish Girl’s Wife

Posted by – November 12, 2008

It turns out that Nicole Kidman will be playing Lili Elbe in the upcoming movie The Danish Girl. Her wife will be played by Charlize Theron.

Thoughts:

  • The movie is based on the book The Danish Girl.
  • With Theron & Kidman playing them, this just seems like another excuse for “hot lesbian innuendo.”
  • I’m also a little perturbed by the “play a transsexual / get an oscar” trend.
  • Still, i’ve always expected the wife of a trans woman to be played by someone like Kathy Bates, & at her worst, too, so Charlize Theron isn’t so bad. Except that the book seems to imply her husband’s transsexuality was her own fault, and in the reviews of the book, it seems she comes off as a cheerleadery sort.