Trans community responds to 'transphobic' Tropfest film
The trans and intersex community have expressed their outrage at Tropfest filmmaker Matt Hardie for his film, Bamboozled, which features a transgender character and took out the top gong at Tropfest 22 last night.
Hardie’s rom-com with a twist, has been accused of being homophobic, transphobic and perpetrating myths regarding gender identity and sexuality.
The film took out the top honour at the 22nd Tropfest film festival last night in front of a record breaking crowd of 95,000 people.
The film’s controversial depiction of a transgender male character has earned the ire of many within the LGBTI community. Tropfest’s Facebook page has been inundated with comments.
Jez Pez, Editor of trans-men-themed Dude magazine told SX whatever Hardie’s intentions, the film was exploitative of a sensitive subject and lacked any knowledge of the transition experience.
“Regardless of the filmmaker's intentions, the portrayal of the experience and existence of a transgender person was reduced to a poor attempt at comedy, based on humiliation and trickery," Pez said.
“It was inaccurate with the educational message of what gender identity is and it exploited a very real and sensitive topic for many people who face endless stigma and discrimination on a daily basis."
Pez said the tone of the film ridiculed trans and gay people and it was particularly disturbing that mainstream audiences were fed the myth that transgender people aim to deceive people.
“The tone of the film was to make a mockery of trans people, as well as gay people and to perpetuate the harmful myth that our existence is merely there to trick and deceive people. In the lead up to Buck Angel arriving in Australia to premiere his new documentary Mr. Angel, it's sets a stark context where larger mainstream audiences are watching the wrong films to learn about who we really are.”
Former president of OII Australia, Gina Wilson, posed the question in a Facebook comment, 'Who saw the Tropfest winner and squirmed?'
Wilson described the film as lacking humour and tantamount to trans and gay black face.
“I have to say that in the end the joke... The reason that the man was completely humiliated didn't sit all that well with me,” Wilson commented.
“First his ex, the sex change and so on, seemed to be plugging untruths and stereotypes. I mean when his real ex shows up at the end she is significantly different in appearance and height... Kind of someone trying to be kind in making the film but still pushing the same old same old vaudeville image?"
Wilson found the film's punchline even more offensive. "That the main character was drunk and got caught out sleeping with a man ...hardy har har... Just seemed homophobic to my delicate sensibilities.
"I know how hard it is for non LGBTI to get it. And how much they struggle with these concepts. And I truly do feel sorry for them and try to help them wherever I can... but when they show their insight and love for us like this... Well I despair for them."
Wilson concludes: "But what do you reckon how homophobic is the "gottcha" moment ? Trans and Gay blackface???
Sally Goldner of Transgender Victoria commented, “There are many perspectives to this debate; I add mine as a person who, among many other facets, is transgender and an occasional stand-up/spoken word performer."
Goldner said she runs with the old adage that if you’re a part of a community you can make fun of it.
“As someone who is a person (emphasis) with many facets including transgender and performer, I can - and do - take the Michelle out of myself on those facets. I also used to sit and watch people who didn’t identify that way and who thought they had incredibly funny material about trans that I knew wasn’t funny at all. The good thing was - virtually no one else laughed at their material either.”
What was particularly alarming for Goldner was Hardie’s use of the myth of trans people as deceivers in regards to sexual intimacy. Goldner asked people to consider the many brutal murders of trans people who had been labels deceivers and killed for their ‘crime’.
“I ask people to note that recently, 20th November marked Transgender Day of Remembrance and 239 known transphobic murders around the world in the last 12 months. A visit to the official website notes many such brutal murders over the years are because the other person is enraged by the idea of alleged “deception” by the trans person (think Boys Don’t Cry). General violence rates in Australia against trans people can be up to 25% – 12 times that of the overall population."
Goldner says in this light, she questions the comedic merit of a film such as Bamboozled.
“I would think it is surely possible to critique reality TV in a way that involves humour without stereotyping groups or possibly putting groups at any greater risk than they already face,” said Goldner.
In conclusion Goldner offered: “If we are asking organisations such as the AFL to take social responsibility in areas such as transgender, I think we are entitled to ask Tropfest and filmmakers to do the same. Certainly, freedom of opinion and artistic expression are important in society. I think human life and human dignity matter even more – maybe most of all.”
Sara Stanly Deputy Chair of the Management Committee for A Gender Agenda said for the Trans* community, the time for jokes regarding transitioning was still some way off.
"A Gender Agenda feels that this film is a reflection of the way many Trans* and gender diverse people still get treated and are represented in our society today: with derision, shame and ignorance," said Stanley.
Stanley believes perpetuating negative stereotypes can lead to real life consequences for members of the trans* community.
"Unfortunately when trans* issues and homosexuality are used and viewed as negative stereotypes for comedic purposes it only serves to normalise real life prejudices and by extension, violent behaviour towards them."
"As Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) said when called out on a homophobic joke, "When a group of people are still fighting so hard for understanding, acceptance, dignity and essential rights - the time for some kind of laughs has not yet come."
"Bamboozled" is just such a laugh."
Have you seen Matt Hardie's film? Watch Bamboozled below and tell us what you think?