LEXIE CANNES STATE OF TRANS — Okay, I admit I’ve “flip-flopped” or “hopped on the bandwagon” or “measured the political winds” and have since joined the call to condemn Ben Stiller’s upcoming film “Zoolander 2.” A recent trailer of the film shows actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Owen Wilson mocking trans people, including a supposed “joke” that asks “a hot dog or a bun?”
If the Wall Street Journal has come to the defense to trans people on the matter contained in the trailer, then the outrage in the trans community must be bigger than I’d predicted. Yes, the entertainment industry has capitalized on the mocking of trans people for revenue for decades, and yes, continued speaking out against this practice is absolutely necessary.
The boycotting of individual films however, is problematic for me. For one thing, as a filmmaker myself, the awareness that censorship can also be used against transgender film directors is acute. Secondly, these things tend to bring more attention to the film being boycotted in the way of more revenue — not exactly the outcome intended. If left alone, most transphobic films will die a quick death after a few weeks in the sunshine. And thirdly, “boycotts” are time consuming. IMO it is far better to put the effort into permanent lasting changes (for instance, legislative, legal and judicial matters) than to stop a legal privately-funded project.
Indeed, when the news of “Zoolander 2” first surfaced, I was occupied with the numerous reports of impending “bathroom bills” to be introduced in various state legislatures next year. Surely the matter of peeing must outweigh a throwaway movie’s trailer. Apparently not — my social media feed shows no such uproar just yet.
In 2010, there was a film called “Ticked Off Trannies With Knives.” The trans community got together and conducted a massive effort to condemn this film. While it’s true that the film died a relatively quick death — this happens to most films anyway — I’ve a hunch the producers made more than a few extra bucks from the attention the trans community brought to the film. Following that film, a few more transphobic films flew under our radar because the trans community was too spent to do follow-up protests. The moral here is to go after the industry, not individual films.
As for “Zoolander 2,” trailer, I admit it caught me by surprise, the “viralness” if it. So, I’ll hop aboard. I won’t urge a boycott, instead, I will make an appeal to the director to edit his film before release:
Mr. Stiller, what the heck is this, man? I’ve been a fan since The Ben Stiller Show, and I urge you to re-edit your film so it doesn’t mock one of the most marginalized classes of people. Set a stellar example for your fellow filmmakers and actors.
t/h Michelle Gould
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Read Lexie Cannes in The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/courtney-odonnell/