Tropfest’s Bamboozled: trans people’s bodies should not be punch lines

From The Guardian UK:

Trans people are affected by the unchecked spread of stereotypes about their physical appearance and behaviour, but the award-winning film Bamboozled doesn’t care who it hurts, Monday 9 December 2013

If there’s one thing that never ceases to annoy me as both a journalist and a trans woman, it’s when people take it upon themselves to determine what should and shouldn’t be considered as being offensive to me as a person – especially when it impacts on my life, and not theirs. Between “free speech” this and “my religious rights” that, sometimes I just wish they would let me live my life in peace, just as I let them live theirs.

Take the Tropfest short film festival which took place in Sydney this week-end, where Bamboozled, a blatantly transphobic film, won the premier award. Director and co-star Matt Hardie attempted to utilise trans and gay people as a “nice punch”.

Bamboozled starts with Peter being tapped on the shoulder out of the blue by his former partner Harry, who has medically transitioned genders from female to male since they last met 11 years previously. Back then, “Harry” was “Helen”. Startled at first, Pete then proceeds to catch up with his former flame, while progressively getting drunk and eventually ending up in bed with Harry later that night. The next morning it quickly becomes apparent that Pete regrets having sex with Harry – however there’s still one twist left to come. Namely, that Harry isn’t really transgender, and that he’s been play-acting for the real Helen, who wants revenge and has contacted a reality TV show to organise the deception.

Given that trans characters have often been portrayed as murderers, sexual deviants and manipulators in similar productions – often with catastrophic repercussions for the trans community which has to fight stereotyping– I was therefore flabbergasted to find out that TropFest’s judges thought that such an abhorrent film was worthy of being showcased.

In the face of criticism, Hardie said that “If we’re always worried about who we’re offending, we’re never going to make anything decent … Everything’s going to be watered down and bland”. I therefore assume that him and his supporters do not care who Bamboozled hurts.

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