All in all, such thrillers are concerned with the anxiety of transgender as gender-bending danger. She kills, however, not out of a psychic disorder or for gaining pure profit, but to earn money for her planned sex reassignment surgery, and her secret life is turned upside down when she receives a letter from her dying ex-partner not only telling her that she fathered a by now year-old son, Ryan, she was unaware of, but also that it is her last wish that Mia should take care of all children left behind.
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Only minutes into the pilot episode of this six-part miniseries we witness a scene of unveiling that—like the mirror scene in Orange discussed earlier—may or may not be said to be gratuitous and in the tradition of prior thrilling transgender unveilings. After a kill, which shows Mia dressed in a gender-neutral jumpsuit outfit, Mia first puts on lipstick in the car before driving off the murder scene thus now marking her female gender and then undresses to full-frontal nudity after she gets home. We see a clearly transgender person with female breasts and a penis. The pills she takes explains the first, the way she tucks away her penis with a towel explains the disdain for the latter.
This mood of complicated emotional turmoil is underlined—as in many other instances in the series—by the soundtrack. Given the fact of what we see are disturbing images, i. In the film The Crying Game , we get a short glimpse of the female trans body and how the character tucks hir penis to appear female, but the scene was considered extremely sensational.
In Transamerica , we get to see both the pre-op penis actually a prosthesis and the post-op vagina and breasts. There is an important difference, however, in that in The Crying Game the trans character is played by the—admittedly very androgynous looking—male actor Jaye Davidson, whereas in Transamerica it is played by Felicity Huffman otherwise known for her role in Desperate Housewives. It is true, as Lawson argues, that we are used to seeing plenty of female nudity in film and television productions—many of which are gratuitous—and only recently a rare shot on a fully naked man, and that accordingly to present trans nudity makes a crucial comment on this long-standing debate.
In this scene, Mia is shown to be very glamorous and seductive, wearing a sexy red dress, which actually is a dress of her late lover she finds in the closet. In the course of the series, Mia immediately starts to flirt with Ben, who willingly accepts her advances until she decides to tell him about her trans identity. How could it ever work? The scene, serving as cliff-hanger of episode three, abounds with details that suggest a highly charged and dangerous eroticism, following the course of the trans fatale that Mia had initiated in the bar scene.
This scene is noteworthy, because here Mia has lost all her former glamour and is de-eroticized instead and thus masculinized to a certain extent.
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Ben, however, does not resort to his earlier withdrawal, but genuinely cares for her. He really falls for Mia, and while he at first acts violently phobic at her admission to being a transsexual, he starts to befriend the idea of having such a lover and more importantly shows a great tenderness and caring for Mia, which puts him at times into a structurally female position. On the one hand, this is a pitiful move on behalf of the scripting, since it all too easily complies with the heteronormative expectations of an audience that is more likely to empathize with a trans person who is victim of sexual violence than with a self-assured assassin.
In both instances, it is the family background and not the main protagonists that are linked to a racial discourse. The four children have different fathers one of which is Mia herself and two of them, judging by their looks, must have had a black father. But more importantly, by not pushing the interracial issue to the forefront, the show makes a broader all-encompassing claim for inclusion: it is about Mia becoming a member in a small, conservative, rural and predominantly white working-class community. A brand. Popular culture no longer has to disavow queerness, but, of course, it still does….
And, after all, such things underline mainstream entertainment. The mini-series ends without a resolution, we do not know—but are meant to hope for the best—what will happen to Mia and Ben.
And crucially perhaps, will she have her surgery, after all? We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future.
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It also makes a bold foray into presenting new forms of family constellations that includes trans parenting. She links such representation of transgender and other non-normative characters in the show to larger cultural and legal anxieties in the United States such as the exclusion of transgender persons from the first Employment Non-Discrimination Act ENDA proposal. In , Representative Barney Frank proposed this bill to the US Congress, and while it sought protection at workplace for gays and lesbians, it did not bar discrimination against transgendered people.
While Lisa and Ivan have short appearances, being eliminated after their crucial scenes of disqualifying for proper love objects, the case is more complex if not ultimately different with Max. At first Max is introduced as Moira, a butch lesbian, who transitions into a bisexual transman only to get pregnant in the last season by his gay partner. There are conflicting ways of reading this character development.
The first is once again a scene of nudity with Max undressing in front of a mirror. But instead of a hairy chest we see female breasts, and after he has done away with the dildo he was wearing in his underpants, we see the female pubis. Max, the transgender man, is shown to be a woman after all, making his transition implausible. His fluid gendering becomes fixed once again.
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To top this elimination of a potential for gender flexibility, Max gets impregnated against all medical knowledge. Whether such an argument is a credible assessment of a cultural turn in new trans TV or an unreasonable utopic wish will be a central question when looking at Transparent. The title plays on a variety of associations, starting with the semantically most obvious: transparent as in clear, apparent, see-through, obvious, etc.
The question here would be what kind of transparency the series wants to offer. Watching the show, it quickly turns out that it is rather about trans- parent with the stress of parent ing , since a lot of what is going on and going wrong is filtered through the lens of parents being annoyed and indeed bored by their grown-up children behaving like lunatic adolescents.
From the perspective of these grossly narcissistic children, however, the stress rather lies on the first part of trans -parent. Tales of the City is an interesting earlier example of a television series to include a lead transgender character in the role of aging parent. At the same time, it celebrates the hope and optimism of a time which now seems so long ago. Maupin himself had unsuccessfully tried to get it produced for 15 years. Tales of the City features the character of Anna Madrigal Olivia Dukakis , flamboyant and mysterious landlady of 28 Barbary Lane, a picturesque apartment-house where most of the other lead characters live.
She falls in love with Edgar, who is diagnosed with cancer. Their romance is overshadowed not only by his fatal illness, but also by some secret Anna harbors and which only is disclosed at the very end: until 44 she has lived as a man. In the sequel of the series, More Tales of the City , we also learn that prior to her sex realignment operation Anna has fathered a child, Mona, who is one of the major characters of the series.
Her affair with Edgar is also remarkable in that it shows two elderly persons in love and having sex, one of which is post-op transsexual, albeit without the spectators knowing at the time. In stark contrast to a figure like eccentric Anna Madrigal, Maura Pfefferman—even in her outrageous and untimely costumes such as her flowing muumuus—is a character that is presented as not very likeable a lot of times. Besides the family-centered bickering, I find two surprising and daring elements especially noteworthy, since they leave the immediateness of the here and now and point to decisive moments in trans history.
What we see is a mother who is fearful of her adolescent daughter Rose and her older son Gittel born Gershon, played by transgender actress Hari Nef who is shown as a transvestite, very much encouraged by Hirschfeld himself, who wrote The Transvestites in thus coining the term, and who was an outspoken and influential advocate of early homosexual and transgender rights. His institute also served as safe haven for many people challenging heteronormative standards, and it is here where Gittel can be seen to seek refuge.
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And whereas the mother and Rose being Jewish flee from the Nazis to the U. Season two ends with Maura coming out to her mother as a transsexual, and while she is unaware of the full extent of their family history, i. Maura, years back and still living a life as husband and father, had visited a cross-dressing camp, where we see Maura full of glee dressing up as a woman and enjoying the company of like-minded people.
Maura experiences a freedom and joy hitherto unknown to her, it seems. I cleared these woods and we did it with one thing in mind: that we women could have one God damn safe space in the world. And Berkeley was a great example of that.
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The background to this episode is the ending of a year tradition of the festival due to controversies over the inclusion of transwomen. In Transparent , the conflict remains unresolved: Maura angrily leaves the group of women, feeling misunderstood and unwelcome as transwoman. This is an intriguing scene, not only because of the depiction of sex between two elderly people one of which being transgender, but also because it is multiply coded as a coming out scene.
We do not know, whether Maura and Vicki will continue with their relationship, but the tenderness and eroticism they share is remarkable in a series that otherwise mostly lacks such joyful and mutual intimacy. Asking in how far transgender enters the political field, Butler suggests that is does so by questioning what is real, how our notions of reality can be put to a test, and what new modes of reality might be instituted.
It presents, head-on as it were, what utopia would feel like rather than who it would be organized. It is their shared experiences with others that engenders the possibility of sharing as spectators. Maybe we are still a long way off from realizing such a trans futurity, but at least trans television has taken positively vital steps in that direction. Aaron, Michele, ed. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, Aaron, Michele. Michele Aaron. Anderson-Minshall, Diane. Web 5 Apr Beirne, Rebecca.
Dana Heller. London and New York: I. Tauris, Kimberly Peirce, USA Brodesser-Akneraug, Taffy. Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York and London: Routledge, Undoing Gender. Capsuto, Steven. New York: Ballantine, Dolan, Jill. Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theater. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, Dyer, Richard. The Film Reader. Steven Cohan. London and New York: Routledge, Egner, Jeremy.
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Gieni, Justine. Glazer, Ilana, and Abbi Jacobson. Perhaps taking his lead from von Trier, the erstwhile Transformers star may currently be in the process of reinventing himself as some kind of real life artist-cum-provocateur, but for all the sexual explicitness on display in Nymphomaniac, the only thing he really exposes is his absence of talent. Revelling in gruesome imagery and simplistic characterisation, director Fedor Bondarchuck delivers an explosion-heavy account of the six month siege of the titular city, told from the point-of-view of five soldiers charged with defending a strategically useful apartment block from advancing German forces.
Each soldier is allowed a maximum of one character trait — and even then it takes the arrival of a damsel in distress Yanina Studilina to tease this out by supplying each with a reason for fighting. With Only Lovers Left Alive he seems intent on using the tropes of this horror subgenre to draw a battle-line for a culture war, one in which he aligns himself with his protagonists, Adam and Eve, a pair of book-devouring, music-loving, blood-sucking sophisticates who moan about the impoverished imaginations of the zombie masses and denigrate artists who crave popularity.
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