Exploitation Without a Balancing Representation

I do not like censorship.  This leaves me with ambivalent feelings regarding the latest brouhaha over what is probably a campy low budget exploitation movie, “Ticked Off Trannies With Knives”.

There are an awful lot of really stupid waste of time and money films out there.  Most seem filmed on another planet I call, “The World Without Women”.  Much of movie land is Guyville where the stupid and the violent reigns supreme.

Because I haven’t seen the film being discussed I have no real way of knowing if it falls in the campy queer cinema of say John Waters and Andy Warhol or in the dumb and violent arena of Guyville.

On a positive note I have heard the film defended as having actual sisters in the roles of the “Ticked off Trannies” .  This would generally cause me to rank it several steps higher than the most well intentioned  trans themed films that use a cis-sexual/gender actor or actress in drag face to play the role of the transsexual or transgender person.

I loved the film “The Crying Game” precisely because they cast Jaye Davidson as female lead.  I gave TransAmerica a lower mark because for all its sensitivity and its including sisters in the supporting cast it had a cis-sexual/gender actress as the lead.  One who played us in mildly offensive stereotypes.

So often it seems that the only places where transsexual and transgender people actually appear as real people in the world of film and video are in documentaries where we get to simply be ourselves.

Candis Cayne has been in several films and regularly appears on television.  Yet I rarely hear her work spoken of.  Then there are the queens like Hedda Lettuce who have appeared in shows on Logo.  While I know that the respectable transgender communities often seem composed of  straight CDs who sometimess look down upon the drag queens.  Drag queens are nonetheless one of the transcommunities and as such they should also be represented fairly.

There has been an effort on the part of some to compare “Ticked off Trannies….” with the Blacksploitation films of the 1970s yet those films were balanced with serious works with major Black actors such as Sidney Poitier.  Where is the equivalency with serious non documentary films with transsexual/transgender roles filled by actors and actresses who are actually transsexual or transgender?

Time and context become important.  If this film were simply a stupid and violent film that was balanced out it would be one thing…  But it isn’t.

However I am of the opinion that rather than going for censorship that we use it as an opportunity to educate.

When “Different For Girls” showed at the LA Gay and Lesbian Film Festival a number of years ago I went’ and stayed for the question and answer session with the director.  I asked the important question of, “Why did you have a straight male actor in drag face playing the part of a transsexual woman?  Don’t you see that doing this is as offensive to us as having a white actor play in blackface or having a white actor in yellowface playing the role of an Asian?

Film festivals are filled with film people as well as those who write about film.  It might be better to attend the film than protest from outside.  Then stick around and ask hard questions.

Posted in Film. 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “Exploitation Without a Balancing Representation”

  1. tinagrrl Says:

    I personally know that the writer, director of “Transamerica made every possible attempt to avoid being “mildly offensive”, or offensive in any way.

    He consulted with an awful lot of us before, during, and after finishing the script.

    One problem for some might be the fact the film dealt with a late transitioner. Someone who lived a very limited life prior to coming out.

    I suspect any aspects that could be seen as “false notes” were done for dramatic impact.

    I know the writer, director. He is a very sweet, caring man, one who took pains to be accurate. If their were false notes, perhaps they are due to some of his “independent experts”.

  2. Becca Says:

    While I agree that most movies about trans women are offensive in that it’s usually a male actor in drag playing the lead, there are some great movies with actual trans women in the roles out there, you usually just have to look real hard to find these. :/

    Two of my favourites.


  3. Willow Arune Says:


    I don’t think a movie is enough to get me out of home to demonstrate. From the description of the plot, it may be a pseudo-rape revenge type of thing – like “I Spit on Your Grave”. These types are not noted for their good titles…

  4. dianakat Says:

    We are the last minority that may be ridiculed in the media with impunity. Every mainstream media outlet will lapse into playing on the same atrocious stereotypes that keep us from obtaining our full rights, provide defenses to our murderers, and offer legal justifications to our firers.

    Just a week and a half ago, I saw an episode of Law and Order — normally a reasonably socially conscious show — in which EVERY character used the term transsexual as a synonym for sex worker . Speeches about our “bizarre sexual orientation” and perversions were offered without counterpoint. (I wanted to shut it off , but I held my nose, took notes, and reported it to GLAAD.)

    Of course, this film will make that episode appear as if a tribute.

    Yes, they have a right to make this film, just as D.W. Griffith had a right to make a film in 1915 that offered decades of justification for Klan lynchings. And we have a right to make clear — LOUDLY — that the producers and Tribeca are in the same moral category as Griffith and the forces he supported.

    • Suzan Says:

      I think we are starting to take control over how we are presented.

      I look at sisters like Namoli Brennet and Julia Serano (for example) getting out there and stepping beyond the biographies that so often end at SRS.

      I’ve heard of one film made by a sister who is a documentary film maker, Prodigal Son.

      We have to struggle not only against the main stream but other sisters who put us down for trying to tell our stories.

      In truth this film would just be another piece of exploitation/slasher crap if it were balanced out by lots of other films.

      I also recall how the feminist outrage over “Snuff” in the 1970s, gays over “Cruising” circa 1980 and Christians over “The Last Temptation of Christ” brought these films far more publicity than they would have other wise received.

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