Antonia D'orsay

The Evils Of Political Correctness

Filed By Antonia D'orsay | March 29, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: America, censorship, exploiting tragedy, feminism, freedom of speech, Language, politeness, political correctness, Rights, rudeness, safe spaces, trans, trans agenda, trans awareness, transgender, transsexual, Tribeca Film Festival

I took the last week more or less off for some personal reasons, but even when I take time off I pay attention to things going on. I also get involved in comments, as many are aware, and sometimes the comments to a story tell you more than the story itself does.

The arguments surrounding the defense by many of the film that shall remain nameless being shown at the Tribeca Film Festival are quite interesting, and they provide me with a wonderful segue into the fundamentals stuff I will be writing about.

But one thing that I hadn't planned to write about is something that I should, so I'm going to, and here it comes.

Political Correctness. We hear people bitching about it every day. On the news, in the newspaper, in magazine articles, in all the various ways that we communicate with each other.

I see a lot of it on blogs. I see people bitching about it, complaining about how it's unfair that they can't call that stupid son of a bitch a stupid son of a bitch because that's what he is (forgetting, of course, that they don't know if that's also true about his mother).

I have long said that being "politically incorrect" is just an excuse for being rude.

And I don't say that because I have a problem with people being rude. I say that because it's true.

No, really. I mean, do you know what political correctness is?

Let's take a look!

Political correctness started out as something that the far right used to say about ideas such as women's rights, multiculturalism, pluralism, oppression, and basically anything that was being called "offensive."

One of the most potent attacks on it in "the early years" was this one:  Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.

In other words:

"P.C." became a label attached to a wide range of liberal positions, including environmentalism, feminism, and, in particular, use of inclusive, inoffensive terminology related to various groups. Rooted in dissatisfaction with university policies and fear of cultural change, charges of political correctness became a popular way to attack liberal activists and their causes.

These days, political correctness is all about "language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, handicap, and age-related contexts."

Hmmm.  That's an interesting description, wouldn't you say?

So what we have is something generally used by people who oppose ideas like giving rights and respect to LGBT people being used as an excuse to defend LGBT people.

I could have sworn I just recently talked about internalized oppression.

Anyway, that's what it is when an LGBT person uses the concepts of "PC" as a pejorative.  When they attack the very things they are supposedly seeking for themselves.

Let's get into a fascinating reality here, though, that the right utterly ignored.

You see, I was a member of the right at the time that in came into vogue. And way back then (which, in terms of the daily speaking on such matters, was in the mid 80's), I first said that line about political incorrectness being an excuse for being rude.

When the now famous television show was broadcast, I actually avoided it, because the title, when I saw it, was "We're going to be rude to pretty much everyone, so get over yourselves right now."

Allow me to point out, if you don't mind too much, that getting over yourself is a luxury that groups of people do not have.  Individuals may, and some can and do, but that is not a universal thing.

So why was it that the Right decided long ago to ridicule and mock the idea of minimizing social and institutional offense?

How about because, for the most part, at the time, the Right was filled with sexist assholes who didn't want to pay women more money, racist assholes who wanted PoC to stop "stealing their jobs," and assholes in general who wanted all this change to stop.

Well, they are conservatives, after all.  Change is what they are fundamentally opposed to (that is why they are called conservatives, you know -- they conserve the status quo, they resist change). They wouldn't be conservative if they didn't oppose change.

It's really that simple.

So what else is there that involves minimizing social and instutitonal offense?

Hmmm.

It's something.  Something that can be argued as a traditional value, no less.  A critical component to people getting along, which sorta requires that we minimize social and institutional offense, like grease among gears.  Ever run an engine without any oil?  Note that eventually it seizes up and stops and is ruined, and that in the interim it gets really really hot?

oh!  I know!

It's Courtesy.

Manners.

Etiquette.

Common Decency.

Etiquette.  Funny word.  It's French, of course.  And the French have a had a long and interesting history of examining social norms and systems of behavior.  At one point in history, they were the most stratified culture in all of Europe, after all -- and intentionally so.

Hence the shock of being told to eat cake.

It means "ticket of admission," basically -- and etiquette is the ticket of admission to the social milieu.  That is, the thing you must have in order to be able to move around in society.

To be part of the world around you.

One of the nice things about the LGBT movement is that it has, to a great degree, overcome the idea of being LGBT as a barrier to that admittance over the last 50 years or so.

Etiquette is often described as "knowing which fork to use."  Which has led a lot of people to give it connotations of dinner parties and formal occasions, but etiquette also governs what one can discuss at such places, and how one discusses it.

Manners, however, are described as the adjunct to etiquette.  And they are, in the end, even more important -- manners are what you do when your neighbor doesn't know which fork to use.

Manners are what prevent people from telling asswipes that come in and complain about political correctness that they are asswipes.

It can be argued, therefore, that I am an ill mannered woman. Which is true.  I have great manners, but I know they are manners, and I know when manners have little social value.

How do we know what manners to use and present?

Well, online, at large popular blogs, we have Terms Of Service.  These are the written rules of manners, but they are seldom perfect.  If I were to get up and create a really big and serious site that had to deal in good manners, I'd use Miss Manners' book as the Terms of Service.

Yes, really.  It genuinely does cover pretty much everything.

Reminds me, I need to get a new copy of it.

Manners are what tells us that we shouldn't use the word faggot to describe a gay person when we, ourselves, are not gay.

Wait, what?

Isn't that political correctness?

Why yes, it is.

It is also manners.

When a person studies value systems -- things like morality (which is inclusive of morals for those who think there is a difference), values, ethics, and the like, one also has to study things like etiquette, manners, courtesy, honorifics, and the like.

If you don't, you miss a piece of the whole, as they are all intertwined, all part of a massive set of rules and concepts that govern how you are allowed to be in society as a whole.

In your own home you can be anything you want -- the minute you engage others, you are supposed to have manners and courtesy.

Early on in the internet, it was realized that people were, for the most part, in their homes when they were on the internet, and so they needed to be reminded that they were interacting with other people and that's why we have terms of service.

Manners are a form of responsibility. The right to freedom of speech (insert appropriately uplifting music here) does not come without responsibility.  You literally cannot say whatever you like -- that is not, in the US, freedom of speech.

In the US, freedom of speech is you can say almost whatever you want so long as you are willing to suffer to the consequences of that statement.

Among the consequences is censure (not censor, but censure) on the basis of piss poor manners you Neanderthal cave dweller.

Which is another issue I have, as people seem to conflate censure with censorship.  Let me make something clear: censorship means you cannot say it, period. Censure means you said it and now people are shitting on you for it.

Clear enough?  No?  Another example: on some forums, there is the ability to block certain words from being used. The same applies to some blogs. There is a system in place where you can type in words that are then blocked.  They are barred from ever being shown. That is censorship. Censure is when someone posts something and then later has their post removed, or edited, or are otherwise punished for what they said.

Keep those distinctions in mind.

Censure has the effect, sometimes, of creating a sense of self-censorship. Which is not the fault of the person who is doing the censuring, but he fault of the person who is self-censuring.

They are, when they do that, abdicating responsibility for their own words -- they are not living up to the full measure of their rights.

Pretty nasty stuff there, huh?

And see how it all affects the ideas around political correctness?

When someone is talking about how they are hating the whole politically correct atmosphere of something, they are saying, rather clearly, rather directly, that they are feeling the effects of censure, and they are wondering what the hell?  Why am I being punished?

Well, it's because you broke a rule of manners, etiquette, and courtesy.

Do you know why cussing isn't very popular?  Why it has the effect it has? Why things like nitwit, fuck, ass, dumb, etc. are hurtful?

It's because they are disrespectful, and they break down the simple power of courtesy, which is, in the end, there to do little more than provide the grease between two wheels that might not always get along.

They keep the social machinery moving, you see, and things like those bad words they act to stop it -- they spark.  And in a really tense situation, where anger is just lying underneath it all like a room surrounded in black powder, a spark is all that's needed to make it go boom.

That's the purpose of these things.

This is also what is meant by the notion of a "safe space" -- to have a location where all the people are treated equally by the individuals in authority, and where the rules act to remind people that it isn't really all that ok to call someone a dumbass .

Which, of course, some will be getting a kick out of because I do call be a dumbass here. But, as we know, this is not a safe space -- that's not the goal nor the purpose of this place.

And, sometimes, in a heated debate, people -- even people who like each other -- will call each other various names and get in jibes and digs at each other. And then head out and get a cup of coffee and talk about how that insult was a good one and that one was pretty poor.


Now, as noted, all of this was triggered by the debate surrounding a particular film, and it would be unfair of me to not express my particular sentiments regarding the film, so I'll tack that on here at the end in the possibly vain hope that it will cause everyone to forget the above, which they are already in the process of forgetting because it's inconvenient to them.

In general, I find the film to be highly problematic overall in terms of content, subject matter, and execution. The writing is juvenile -- I've heard better dialog written by 8th graders; the acting is wooden and unbelievable -- and successful camp needs to have some aspect of believability; the production values are sub-par -- I've seen better ones on a student film at a third rate university for far less money than was spent here; and the overall trailer is basically one giant gay male come on full of misogyny and transphobic slurs.

I think it would be safe to say that I would rather subject myself to any major hollywood disaster of the last 10 years in multiple viewing sequences than ever even think of seeing such an awful piece of cinematic trash. Hell, I'd rather be tied down and forced to watch Priscilla than than this piece of trash (and I am somewhat markedly a hater of all but two films having to do with trans folk).

And I can, indeed, say all of that based solely on the trailer, since the trailer itself does, in fact, contain all of the assorted junk and such that many trans folk are accusing the entire film of having.

Just the trailer is that problematic, and the trailer is derived from the film itself, and so there's a very reasonable expectation that if the trailer alone is that defaming (and it is, truly) then the film cannot possibly be any less so, and most likely is even more so.

So that's my general take on pretty much every single argument I've seen that has any real merit regarding the whole mess surrounding that film that shall not be named.


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In many debates, at some point, being politically correct is simply no longer an option - one of the persons in the debate is being purposely obtuse, for example.

At that point, the kid gloves are off.

While, to an outside, that undisciplined harangue directed toward another person may lead the observer to simply ignore the non-politically correct person's argument, there's a certain amount of satisfaction in the venting.

For instance, I can see, automatically, where any film entitled Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives is, obviously, a camp comedy, much in the same vein of Die, Mommy Die!, or some of the Divine/John Waters match-ups.

What some people see as a legitimate response to the tile of such a film - a literal call for banishment of the movie, the ultimate in censorship! - I see as just a bit of hysteria from certain people.

Here's something that, maybe, some people don't know: Don't like the title of a movie/play/television show/book? Then don't watch/read that movie/play/television show/book.

The title is a slur! The "kid gloves" have never been on. You're defending the use of slurs against trans people.

The movie Gay Niggers from Outer Space also has a slur in the title and is camp, but it was made by gay, black people. This new movie is not made by a transperson.

Would you really think it was ok if some straight person decided to made a comedy about anti-gay hate crimes and then mentioned Matthew Sheppard in the trailer?

I don't understand on what basis cis people could be defending this.

Eric Payne | March 29, 2010 5:33 PM

Les asks:

"Would you really think it was ok if some straight person decided to made a comedy about anti-gay hate crime?"

Sure. I wouldn't go see it, so I wouldn't be financially supporting the makers, distributors nor exhibitors of the film.

Would it be distasteful? Sure.

Would I advocate demanding an exhibitor not display the film?

Hell no.

Why would you not demand the exhibitor not show the film if it was defamatory to gay men such as yourself?

Eric Payne | March 29, 2010 6:30 PM

Because, Toni, I don't believe in censorship. Period.

A concept with which you've shown, repeatedly, in your statements, you're more than comfortable... in fact, a concept you can embrace, wholeheartedly...

... as long as you get to be the censor.

And what censorship is being done here?

Keeping in mind that above I point out how this isn't censorship, but censure.

I certainly have an appreciation of camp, but it makes a big difference to me who is being campy. If you heard of a movie titled Silly Faggots it's not unreasonable to assume that would be full of camp. But would you not become suspicious if you found out that the folks who made it were not gay? And you heard advanced reviews that it played on stereotypes in a way that was degrading and overall sense of laughing at queer folks rather than with us? Would you wish the community and our organizations stay silent even if it was receiving honors and accolades as a great gay film?

What's even worse is how often anti-trans projects receive honors within LGBT spaces. The trans community has learned how important it is to speak up when one of the most anti-trans books published this generation was nominated for a lambda literary award or when a specifically anti-trans short film was making the rounds of LGBT film festivals. It only makes sense to extend such action to speaking out when the same ignorant cis-gay circles purport to represent us on the national stage -- and do so horrifically.

PS, it's possible to take off the kid gloves without being politically incorrect. If political correctness is about "language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, handicap, and age-related contexts," then there is nothing politically incorrect about telling a stalker, Fred Phelps, or even someone just invading your personal space to "fuck off." (If you used derogatory slurs or told them they shouldn't be seeking an end to institutional oppression that would be another matter.)

Eric Payne | March 29, 2010 5:47 PM

Tobi remarks (before going into some tirade about "trans" films not receiving honors from lesbians, gays and bisexuals:

"I certainly have an appreciation of camp, but it makes a big difference to me who is being campy. If you heard of a movie titled Silly Faggots it's not unreasonable to assume that would be full of camp. But would you not become suspicious if you found out that the folks who made it were not gay? And you heard advanced reviews that it played on stereotypes in a way that was degrading and overall sense of laughing at queer folks rather than with us? Would you wish the community and our organizations stay silent even if it was receiving honors and accolades as a great gay film?"

It it makes a difference to you who is being campy, then you don't have an "appreciation of camp."

Some Like it Hot is a classic "camp" film... should it be relegated to the garbage bin because it wasn't made by real transvestites?

How about Mrs. Doubtfire? Or is that okay because Robin Williams' character had a noble purpose?

What about Victor/Victoria? Should Julie Andrews be boycotted because, again, real transvestites weren't in charge of the production.

Or is it that the producer of Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives didn't get the input of the "trans community"?

If that's the case... what would that input have done? Even in the pages of Bilerico, the "trans community" never seems to agree on anything... except, of course, when they're being mistreated.

Just as a writer, I can guarantee you: For every transsexual who is "ticked-off" about this movie, there's also a transsexual who thinks the "controversy" over this film is friggin' hilarious.

As much as a few very vocal "trans persons" scream and bitch about every perceived little slight against them... there are transsexuals who refer to themselves, and others, as "tranny."

This all started getting bent out of shape with the OJ trial and Judge Ito declaring a word to be so prejudicial in nature it could only be referred to as "the 'N word'."

Meanwhile, in the jury room, is anyone really going to attempt to say the 11 African-Americans on that jury, sequestered for almost a year, never used that word when speaking to each other? Deciding who can, and who cannot, use a word is completely ridiculous.

I'm a fag. A faggot. Queer. A sissy-boy. I'm a little light in the loafers. I'm a limp wrist. I'm a cocksucker. I'm a fudgepacker.

Whoopie fucking shit. I hear you refer to me that way, I'm not going to be inviting you over for dinner or for a Sunday BBQ... but, outside of that, since I've been known to refer to myself as fag... or queer... or just about any "name" that's out there (except fudgepacker... it's just a bit graphic for my taste), then anyone else is free to use it, to my face OR behind my back.

You make a guarantee, and so I am collecting on it.

Please demonstrate how you know that 50% of transsexuals don't have a problem with this film.

Be aware that a significant majority of transsexuals have a very strong and abiding bias against being represented as what they perceive to be drag queens and therefore that significant majority is actually going to be working against you.

From the start. I should also note that a significant number of transsexuals is in excess of 65% percent.

I'll be waiting for your evidentiary process or your retraction.

Eric Payne | March 29, 2010 6:26 PM

You know what, Toni? Blow it out your ass.

Prove to me that more than 50% of transsexuals have a problem with this film.

Show me the tens thousands of transsexuals with picket signs. Point me to the tens (to hundreds) of websites that have outraged comments by tens of thousands of transsexuals.

I do not feel like dealing with you today. I received some pretty bad news from my cardiologist today - just from an offhand remark I made during our normal three-month checkup - so I'm simply dismissing you... which is what I should have done with all your nonsense.

Poor, poor Toni. I feel so bad everyone and everything is out to hurt you.

There. You got your pity.

Now, bugger off.

I don't need to. I'm asking you to simply provide evidence of your 50%.

However, you could start off with Susan's Place, check out Genderlife, read up on the Transgender boards, ask the gals who are HBS and CTS (A large part of their basis for argument being that they are not the same as drag queens), mosey on over to Questioning Transphobia, and more.

And in just those few places you'll get your tens of thousands.

As for picket signs, for trans folk to go to NYC to picket a festival requires funding they do not have on the level of tens of thousands, Eric.

I really can't wait for the posts on stigma and privilege to post.

As for your doctor issues, well, all I can think of to say to that is, well...

bugger off.

Eric,

Feel free not to respond if you need to be focusing on yourself right now, but since you did ask...

You got me, the who is only shorthand. The true difference is in the content, however, the perspective of the producers most certainly effects the content. Cis folks can make decent films about trans people (campy or not) without being transphobic. It has happened, it will happen again. But they are markedly less likely to.

The messages within the film are important too. While I certainly can find things that I wish were different with the films you list, I must say that Victor/Victoria was done with some obvious insider perspective on the community they were portraying. In both that film and Some Like it Hot, there are excellent moments that provide a sense of compassion and support for the characters and makes one wonder what's the big deal with homophobia and transphobia.

This film, on the other hand, seems to be done incredibly callously. I'll admit I don't know all I could know about the film, but I spent part of this morning reading reviews and perspectives on it and had to stop at the point I was literally feeling sick. Perhaps it has some redeeming qualities, but it loses the benefit of my doubt with it's title. I mean, whatever your thoughts on white folks using "the n word" or "nigger," would you honestly be surprised at a negative community response to a film made by white folks who describe it as "blacksploitation" and use the term "nigger" in the title?

If you define censorship as the government silencing people, this is not about censorship here, it's about community outrage. If you define censorship as individuals telling another person not to say something -- well, you're just as guilty of that in your comments here.

PS You misinterpreted the second half of my comment. I wasn't complaining about trans films not getting enough honors with LGB folks, I was complaining about anti-trans films getting honors from LGBT organizations, which are supposedly representing trans people as well. Big difference.

Feel free not to respond if you need to be focusing on yourself right now, but since you did ask...

Thank you, Tobi.

Seems my time here needs to be re-evaluated from "possibly 2 years" to "probably 6 months to a year." What I thought was a pulled muscle in left chest and a beginning inner ear infection of right ear was me feeling v-fib (the muscle pain) and me hearing defib unit attempting to bring v-fib under control.

From what doc describes: left and right side of heart have lost electrical cohesion and are beating independently of each other. Once that starts, there's really nothing to be done but wait... and any degeneration picks up speed.

Once again, my body fails me, and instead of just seizing up and letting me have the dignity of falling face first, gone before I hit the ground, my body is going to drag out every last fucking bit of damage it can, without caring if that damage is inflicted on me, on Bill, or on the persons who love us.

Eric,

I wish you the best in dealing with everything.

Eric Payne | March 30, 2010 5:10 PM

Thank you, Tobi. I'd have contacted you to give you these thanks, privately, but I'm a firm believer of what is on a public list, stays on a public list...

Plus, I didn't have a private e-mail address for you.

I certainly have an appreciation of camp, but it makes a big difference to me who is being campy. If you heard of a movie titled Silly Faggots it's not unreasonable to assume that would be full of camp. But would you not become suspicious if you found out that the folks who made it were not gay? And you heard advanced reviews that it played on stereotypes in a way that was degrading and overall sense of laughing at queer folks rather than with us? Would you wish the community and our organizations stay silent even if it was receiving honors and accolades as a great gay film?

What's even worse is how often anti-trans projects receive honors within LGBT spaces. The trans community has learned how important it is to speak up when one of the most anti-trans books published this generation was nominated for a lambda literary award or when a specifically anti-trans short film was making the rounds of LGBT film festivals. It only makes sense to extend such action to speaking out when the same ignorant cis-gay circles purport to represent us on the national stage -- and do so horrifically.

PS, it's possible to take off the kid gloves without being politically incorrect. If political correctness is about "language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, handicap, and age-related contexts," then there is nothing politically incorrect about telling a stalker, Fred Phelps, or even someone just invading your personal space to "fuck off." (If you used derogatory slurs or told them they shouldn't be seeking an end to institutional oppression that would be another matter.)

Likewise, if your film is removed from a festival, then find another place to show it and stop complaining. I'll call it censorship when the government steps in and makes it illegal to show.

This is the point of the statements regarding censor and censure.

Asking the film to not be shown at Tribeca is not censorship, it is censure.

A few more questions for you, this time based on your first comment which I hadn't responded to previously.

I'll add it to the following questions already asked:

1. What censorship is being displayed here?

2. What evidence do you have of 50% of transsexuals (who are a minority of trans people) support this film?

and now the new ones:

3. In what way does another person being obtuse justify suddenly being rude and discourteous?

4. How does not watching a film or play or book reduce the social impact of that book on one's life?

5. How is it obvious that a film with the title you describe is a camp comedy, based just on the title?

Lastly, as a note, I do agree with you that venting can be quite satisfying. As you are well aware, I am quite comfortable on both the high horse and in the mud pit, and can vent with the best of them.

Perfectly said. Just as "politically incorrect" is the PC way of saying that "purposefully rude and proud of it", "politically correct" is the un-PC way of saying "common courtesy".

One either believes in Free Speech, or one does not. One can write volumes about why some censoring of words or opinions which they do not like or agree with should be censored, as an attempt to pretend that there is really not a censorship of ideas occurring.

Marja Erwin | March 29, 2010 2:44 PM

Criticism isn't censorship, harsh reviews aren't censorship, and boycotts aren't censorship.

Fortunately, I believe in Free speech.

Free speech? That sounds very nice. But what makes speech free?

I assume it's pretty regular use of free speech if one argues in a public forum that homosexuality is a sin. Likewise, one can exercise free speech by responding to that with arguments about how being gay is simply a normal variation of human (or, indeed, vertebrate) sexuality. When the response to that argument is a concerted barrage of anonymous posts displaying the name, home address and picture of the previous poster and their family, and calling for a lynch mob, is that also free speech? Where do you draw the line of free speech one 'either believes in, or does not', or do you draw a line at all? Why?

To be honest, I have not seen the film that started this thread, and judging by the descriptions I'm not very keen on doing so. More generally, though, while the line between free speech and hate speech is not always clear, it is clear that the two are not the same.

Specifically about the movie, I don't think many people are even defining what "support" or "oppose" really even mean in this context. Is anyone asking the government to ban the movie? No. The debate is about whether it's shown at Tribeca, and that will ultimately come down to how Tribeca wants to represent itself.

About political correctness, I can see why some people get mad at it from time to time. Yeah, there are the racists, etc., who just want to be racist without anyone telling them that they're racist (because being called racist is worse than actually being racist!). But there are also some others who think that PC prevents deeper understanding of these issues, that if someone doesn't use the word "faggot" then they're PC and not homophobic and A-OK and fine and dandy. And that's not true.

I agree with most of what you have to say - it's about manners and the only enforcement mechanism for PC is social ostracism, just as it's the only real enforcement mechanism for manners. But this:

This is also what is meant by the notion of a "safe space" -- to have a location where all the people are treated equally by the individuals in authority, and where the rules act to remind people that it isn't really all that ok to call someone a dumbass .

That's usually not how I see designated "safe spaces" get played out. Usually it's about everyone agreeing with one another, a space where difference isn't tolerated because it's seen as an attack.

I'm from the ultimate safe space - exurbia - where white people fled because they thought they weren't safe anywhere south of 96th street. Of course, their safety wasn't really at stake, but don't tell them that. They felt unsafe, and that was enough for them.

Safety's important, but it also has a time and place. Sometimes things need to get messy and dangerous.

I agree that's how it's often played out, Alex. No question there as far as I'm concerned, and I've seen it played out that way on multiple levels.

I'm even writing about the reasons for that, lol, but that's for later.

But the goal of a safe space is still that equity and equality -- that minimalization of oppression and marginalization that is very hard to over come given the way that such is ingrained in all of us based on the culture in which we grow up.

Me, as I suspect ya know, I never was much for playing it safe, lol

First, Antonia, thanks for your thoughtful and insightful post about PC. Great stuff to chew on. As always, you get to the heart of the issue.

But, as an artist and filmmaker, I have to say I'm kind of appalled that you would critique a film based on its trailer. Trailers are made to sell the film. They are made by marketing people, not artists, and they have a completely different set of demands and priorities, often at odds with artmaking. Would you review a film based on an ad? or a press release from the movie studio?

And even so, I think your assessment is shaky.

"The writing is juvenile -- I've heard better dialog written by 8th graders; the acting is wooden and unbelievable -- and successful camp needs to have some aspect of believability; the production values are sub-par -- I've seen better ones on a student film at a third rate university for far less money than was spent here..."

This could easily have been written about any John Waters film, or Russ Meyer, or even some Derek Jarman. Refined dialogue, naturalistic acting, and high production values are not necessary to make a good film; nor does their absence mean that a film is bad.

Hi Steven :D

I've actually written a harsher review than that about at least one or two Waters films, and I've said that same thing bout a few others.

As is pointed out by someone else, the issue of the trailer's creation is, from all available accounts, the product of the creator of the film -- this is Luna's show, and he's directly responsible for it, inclusive of the title and the trailer and the writing.

But let's look at what the marketing says, irrespective of the trans issue. The marketing of the film is very specifically tailored towards a gay male audience, and the film features characters which are chosen and laid out to appeal to a gay male audience. The imagery used is a common one (the Birdcage used similar structures in some campaigns), and the reasonably selected demographic for the film is going to be one that has effective presence and funding to attend the event.

The marketing's goals are set to appeal to the demographics outside of the gay male population that have, as their primary exposure to trans people, those who perform.

The performance part itself is problematic, but be aware that it's being specifically designed to appeal not to the opponents of Trans rights, but to those who would be at least soemwhat sympathetic and, like most marketing, plays tot he inherent weaknesses of the demographic by making this film seem as if it has some sort of meaningful message.

Now, if that's the case, when you factor in the trans stuff again, it's even worse.

I do agree that high production values do not make a good film -- as I noted, I've seen better films made by 8th graders, and trust me, their production values were for poop.

And the films were about the same length as the trailer.

THe trailer's purpose is to give me some idea of the film itself, so by it's very nature the trailer's purpose is to allow me to have an opportunity to critique the film.

As I think I noted (and if I didn't, then I'll note now) the trailer itself -- and just the trailer -- is already so horribly problematic and generally bad that one doesn't have to go any further. Every major criticism of the film I've seen thus far can be substantiated in just the trailer itself, and the trailer is merely part of the film.

These items are so bad that no matter what else is in the film, the whole is just, well, not possibly any better and can only be worse. They can't make up for the damage shown in just the trailer.

Most of which could have been avoided, and readily, if the creator had actually taken the time to listen to the group he was supposedly making a camp comedy about.

"They are made by marketing people, not artists,"

I'm pretty sure the artist here made the trailer as well. Double check me if you like.

That said - people keep saying that it's art & as such should be protected from from community outrage. When people address it as art...Then they say (including the Director) - it's a trans exploitation film - you can't take it seriously. I'll believe the director - it's exploitation. An attempt to make money off of offensive images of a group he doesn't belong to.

As such - it's hard to get riled up over the responses because something the business owner intended to be offensive is found offensive by those he slurs to in an attempt to rake in some cash.

It seems really strange to say - the project was designed to be an offensive depiction of our lives - and we're not allowed to respond to it. I really don't see others being held to that standard - Chuck & Larry? Cruising? Yeah - gay men felt it was just fine to complain about how others depicted them.

Since Antonia felt we shouldn't name the beast - I'd like to suggest a stand in title to ease the flow of conversation:

"My Life as a Douche Bag - The Izzy Luna Story"

I encourage others to submit their own. Considering it an artistic exercise. I'm looking forward to the first Haiku title.

Word is that Izzy's next project will be "The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin - Starring Shirley Q. Liquor". I'm sure no one could object to that - well - at least not Ru Paul.

Okay, I've got to try a haiku title. How about this:

STFU bitch!
I'll speak for "trannies" whether
they like it or not!

Or if you want to make it into a tanka poem, you could add:

What? Why are you calling me
an appropriative douche?!

Lovely, Megan. You've inspired me.

Short, slow, prostitute
Slurs trans martyrs for money
His mother, so proud


Hmm. As a prostitute myself, I really wish people wouldn't shame him for that. There's plenty wrong with him, but I don't think that his involvement in the sex industry is one of those things.

megan,

Thanks for mentioning that, it was bothering me a bit too.

I wouldn't say that I don't want you to use the title, although I can see how ya might not think so.

I just won't use it because it's already been used to death.

Antonia,

Nosy Ned here -- what are the two films having to do with trans folk that you like, or ... er ... do not hate?

Jake
Phoenix

Different for Girls and The Crying Game.

All the rest I see as having many problematic aspects that ultimately do not provide for strong understandings of the particulars of oppression.

The Crying Game is an interesting case. The marketing was extremely transphobic, but the film itself was wonderful.

I stand by my statement that your problem is with the trailer, not the film. Even if it was the filmmaker who made the trailer for Trannies with Knives, a trailer is not "part of the film" but a different beast altogether, calculated purely to generate interest in seeing the film. Yes, it's made from clips from the film, but anyone who's done a little film editing knows that you can take the same footage and tell any number of very different stories.

This film might be hateful trash. I don't know, I haven't seen it. Neither has anyone in this comment thread, as far as I can tell. That's what pisses me off.

Probably the best commentary on this I've read right there, Steven :D

You are quite correct, my problem could be with just the trailer. Given the nature of the production and available information, I'm not really willing to see it that way, but then I culd be functioning on bad information regarding the film as a whole.

The trailer itself is still, however, extremely problematic, but not because of the story or structure of the clips for me. I'm disinclined believe that the particular aspects of remembrance are going to be in the film itself, and I've taken a look at just the cut scenes within the trailer as individual pieces.

Those individual pieces are what I have great issue with -- so great that it's extremely unlikely to me that there's much merit in the film as a whole.

This film is closer in tone to "Too Wong Foo" in terms of portrayals and overall stereotyping. Too Wong Foo is, itself, a camp film, and a comedy, and it features elements of revenge.

This film doesn't even begin to compare in terms of even remotely sensitive portrayals in just the trailers.

back to point: Some folks *have* seen the film. GLAAD, for example, has seen the film and was even consulted regarding it before the marketing was begun in earnest. And GLAAD -- which has had a hard time getting the hang of trans issues to begin with -- is basically saying it's pretty damned dangerous and the production opted to specifically not use their suggestions.

All of the complaints about the film, thus far, are quite valid -- even if just based on the trailer alone.

THe question,ultimately, that you are raising is will the film as a whole be as damaging as the trailer is. Based on folks who have seen the film, the answer is yes, even if you exclude the one who specifically states that she has nothing in common with crossdressers.

I'd love to discuss the merits of several trans themed films in some detail -- and may actually do so come to think of it.

But I want to stay on track and so will stick to this one for now.

Free speech:
Inevitably, people are going to have trouble with at least one of these: http://huff.to/ck0PsE or http://bit.ly/9oaNGt

The vast majority of people crying for free speech only want it if that free speech is theirs.

If you're one of the few, good on you for being consistent, but don't be surprised if that kind of purism doesn't sell.
_______________________

Anyway, this isn't so much about free speech as political correctness and the intention behind it, the latter of which to me sums up better in one word and all the nuances that go with it:

Respect.

I don't think that's inevitable. I posted on the same side of both issues here on Bilerico. The only problem I have with the latter is the fact that it does take a lot of money to access the American legal system, and that needs to be (but will never be) reformed.

I think those examples are fairly easy cases, tho: one's about fundamentalists using threats to shut down a gay play in Texas, the other is a group that was sued for not being sufficiently respectful to the troops. They're both forms of speech with actual messages ( and not "Buy this!" messages), whether people agree with them or not.

But I don't see why PC is being set up as the opposite of free speech. Free speech isn't saying any stupid thing that pops into your head - it's being legally able to express yourself as you choose. And everyone "self-censors," it's the only way we can be understood.

Well, fundamentally, PC cannot be censorship -- it does not say that one cannot say what one wants to say, it simply *suggests* that one say it in a manner that isn't strictly offensive.

Telling the WBC, for example, they cannot hold their pickets and wave their signs around is one thing -- a flat out prohibition that would require censorship.

I don't see the case cited, for example, as being censorship of the WBC -- I see it as being held to the responsibilities that come with freedom of speech.

I see what is being done as censure, in other words. A censure they likely wouldn't have faced were they to use the less offensive language employed by Focus on the Family, which says the same things and carries the same essential message, but does it in a far more courteous manner.

This is why I brought up the concept of censure and censorship in what is primarily a discussion on what amounts to basic decency and common courtesy. Courtesy does not require that one respects another person. You can be extremely courteous and call someone some of the most foul things imaginable.

But when discussing rights -- *any right* -- one absolutely must include the aspects of responsibility that come with it. Rights without responsibility lack social awareness -- which is the ever present reality that we are all part of the culture we live in.

As members of a society, we have an inherent responsibility to others around us -- we are, after all, in the same space.

Why does there even need to be the discourse about this film and it being chosen for the festival? When the name is simply offensive.. demeaning an goes against every guideline GLAAD has.. I mean it ok for GLAAD to come to the aid and defense of GLB folks .. but not for the T? I do not understand the double standard being given to it by the GLB's of world..

I would go into what if's this name that name etc.. but it usless if you in the GLB intend on not changing and being so rigid in your bias against those who live every day, an dont take off a mask of illusion of opposite gender. It seems as if every derogatory thought process listed in GLAAD's Guidelines are being assaulted by this film, An you all remain Clueless to the hurt it does..

Exploitation means to take something from someone for your own personal gain.. and that is Theft....

I don't think in terms of political correctness. It's true I'm socially inept. I'm not well-mannered. But I know what will get my post deleted, or my account banned.

This Knives move can go straight bargain DVD. That's what it's worth. I love B movies, and certain types exploitation movies (I have limits). To say it's either all acceptable or none of it is is just laziness. I judge each piece one at a time. But I wouldn't defend their place at film festivals. No one has a constitutional right to get their film screened at a film festival.

The original trailer is awful. And I don't say that out of political correctness. I didn't think it was awful because trans people thought it was awful. I just felt disgusted when I watched it, because I'm a human being and I experience emotions without being prompted to. And It thought about why I felt that way, and it makes sense. But, I don't want to get too off topic.

The problem with political correctness is that political correctness cannot replace a conscience or empathy. You can give people rules without getting them to understand why they should follow them.

Well, I'm not one to readily be accused of political correctness as a flaw myself, lol.

Courtesy cannot replace a conscience or empathy because those things are to some degree a part of being courteous.

You can't be courteous with out having some degree of understanding, some degree of compassion or empathy.

So perhaps people have simple ceased to have such, or lack an understanding of what it means to be such.

One thing is fairly certain, though: Luna demonstrated a lack of any of it, and had both suggestion and opportunity.

And as a result, is being defended for those things.

Some people are courteous because they want to be liked and accepted. They don't actually care about other people's feelings. It's a lot easier to follow the rules you're given without thinking more deeply why it's that way.

I guess political correctness seems to rely on social pressure to get people to speak in a certain way instead of the longer route of explaining what those words mean to other people.

As for the movie, I'm not sure if people are upset about the same thing now. I'm specifically bothered by the use of real victims names in the trailer. I don't think the teachable moment here is the value of political correctness or courtesy. It's much bigger, dehumanizing real victims of hate crimes.

I watch B movies, horror movies and certain types of exploitation films for one reason...they are fantasy. And they should never be confused for anything else. I don't like realistic violence because I don't like real violence. I like fake violence that I can watch knowing no one is actually getting hurt. It's escapism.

But when the trailer put the names of real people up, the line between reality and fantasy is broken. The names and stories of real victims of hate crimes brings up emotions that should not be mixed up with exploitation/camp type movies. To do so dehumanizes the real people. I do not at all think of the characters in exploitation films as real people--that's the point of them. They're not supposed to be realistic representations of real people.

It seems clear from interviews that Luna wanted to make a Revenge exploitation film. So he knows what it is, but maybe he doesn't fully understand the genre. He tried to sell it as something more than what it is and showed a heaping lack of empathy in the process. And he pretty much ruined how his movie would be received because of the trailer. He pulled a psychological trigger by using the names and stories of real victims and he can't un-pull it. Everyone for whom these names are a trigger cannot watch the movie as it was intended to be watched. Revenge exploitation is about getting off on the revenge aspect, not the event that sparks the desire for revenge.

So, I don't think the title is the crux of the issue. It's the trailer, and maybe associating the title with Angie Zapata and Jorge Mercado. That was disrespectful and disgusting.

It'd be like if Tarantino put the names of real Holocaust victims and how they died in the trailer for Inglourious Basterds. Only worse because Zapata and Mercado are victims from our lifetime and their deaths are recent events.

It's possible though that some people would not be able to watch the movie regardless of the trailer because it will still trigger stuff. And I totally understand that and don't at all blame them.

dumbledork | March 30, 2010 8:14 AM

Political correctness is a cancer that is killing our national discourse. And I hope "Ticked-off Trannies with Knives" is better than "Killer Drag Queens on Dope" was.

How interesting.

"Common decency and courtesy is killing our national discourse."

Personally, I'd have thought it was rudeness and indecency.

dumbledork | March 30, 2010 8:34 AM

That's a laughable definition of political correctness you've got there.

In what way is it laughable?

How would you define it differently, and on what basis would you define it as such?

Why would you define it that way?

dumbledork | March 30, 2010 9:01 AM

It's a form of thought control. It divides people into little groups, it's ok for one group to say one thing but not the other. Bullshit, it's ok for anybody to say anything, and we all just have to deal with it. That's freedom.

How is political correctness a form of thought control?

How does political correctness divide people into little groups?

How does political correctness make it ok for one group to say one thing but not the other?

Note that the questions I'm asking you are the same one's I asked myself in arriving at the above.

"Bullshit, it's ok for anybody to say anything, and we all just have to deal with it. That's freedom.

dumbledork | March 30, 2010 9:01 AM"

Sure - except you're not including the idiots having to deal with the speech of those who disagree with what they say. You're saying some people should shut up in the name of free speech.

Cool. I love the smell of cognitive disonnance in the morning.

I would ask the definition of "ok"

"Ok" meaning anyone can say anything without getting criticized? I would say that's bullshit. If people say crap to you, you have a right to say crap right back. Freedom does not mean we just have to take people's crap.

I would say thought control is telling marginalized people it is within the majority's right to marginalize them, and they should just deal with it.

The groups we trying to divide people into are children and adults.

If you can't figure out when it's okay to say something and when it's not, you belong in the children's group. This is why we don't say curse words around kids and keep the words out of kids movies. Because once they learn them they'll same them anywhere.

If you have learned empathy and perspective-taking then you have the ability to predict how other people will take what you say, and you belong in the adult's group.

First they came for a movie,
and I did not care because I was not a filmmaker

Then they came for the blogs,
and I did not care because I was not a writer

Then they came for my voice,
and there was no one left to speak for me

First they made a movie,
and I did not say anything.

Then they wrote some blogs,
and I did not say anything.

Then someone got a gun,
and it was too late to say anything.

How very silly to equate totalitarianism with dissent.

Patricia Harlow Patricia Harlow | March 30, 2010 12:01 PM

I have no issues with this movie and I am transsexual.

I think the title is pretty much in the league of 'Caged Bitches in Heat'. Are both titles insensitive when broken down, sure. Do B-movie/Grindhouse flicks usually have silly insensitive titles, I think so. I'd go so far as to even say that the title campiness is in the formula for a movie of this accord. Surely, the difference between this movie and 'To Wong Foo' are slight except in capital expenditure. It sounds like a title I can hear being spoken by that deep voiced movie trailer guy (who is now dead).

Tranny - another term I do not mind, nor do I mind if my loved one or friends use in reference to me. The word is not the problem, connotation is the key. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." Surely you've heard that before. I understand some of my peers feel completely opposite and that's fine. Just, pick your battles.

I haven't even seen the trailer yet, I've heard enough from everywhere else and it seems to me that the real big stink, for a vocal some, is the title. The plot elements, namely the high-profile murders, and the writers sexuality, all sound like red herrings, thrown in to only inflate the argument.

It's a campy B-movie. We all know how great quality B-movies are. Is it any surprise this film is just as silly? Seriously, duh.

What I do question about this whole debacle is the festival's motives for running what reads to be a silly attempt at slasher-comedy. How is this film festival worthy? What are the great merits that places this movie above other submissions? I don't watch the Oscars alot, nor do I attend many film festivals other than SXSW, but it seems odd that this film is even being screened. I'm guessing this is just more of the trans saturation we are beginning tro see in the media. America is hungry to know more on the whole trans issue and apparently now we have 'Ticked Off Trannies with Knives' to help satiate the public.

What is the real issue, I believe, is the complete distraction of attention this MOVIE is pulling from the trans community. Seriously, there are some really big items on the plate RIGHT NOW and a better part of the vocal community is bitching about the title in...a movie. As a friendly reminder ENDA is right around the corner, after Easter in fact, so if you could please stop your bickering and redirect your attention to things that matter and not works of fiction that would be great.

Chitown Kev | March 30, 2010 3:34 PM

Between GrrrlRomeo's critique of undercutting the fantasy by using real life events and your criticism of the political implications is about where I have fallen with this from the get-go.

Patricia Harlow Patricia Harlow | March 30, 2010 12:01 PM

I have no issues with this movie and I am transsexual.

I think the title is pretty much in the league of 'Caged Bitches in Heat'. Are both titles insensitive when broken down, sure. Do B-movie/Grindhouse flicks usually have silly insensitive titles, I think so. I'd go so far as to even say that the title campiness is in the formula for a movie of this accord. Surely, the difference between this movie and 'To Wong Foo' are slight except in capital expenditure. It sounds like a title I can hear being spoken by that deep voiced movie trailer guy (who is now dead).

Tranny - another term I do not mind, nor do I mind if my loved one or friends use in reference to me. The word is not the problem, connotation is the key. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." Surely you've heard that before. I understand some of my peers feel completely opposite and that's fine. Just, pick your battles.

I haven't even seen the trailer yet, I've heard enough from everywhere else and it seems to me that the real big stink, for a vocal some, is the title. The plot elements, namely the high-profile murders, and the writers sexuality, all sound like red herrings, thrown in to only inflate the argument.

It's a campy B-movie. We all know how great quality B-movies are. Is it any surprise this film is just as silly? Seriously, duh.

What I do question about this whole debacle is the festival's motives for running what reads to be a silly attempt at slasher-comedy. How is this film festival worthy? What are the great merits that places this movie above other submissions? I don't watch the Oscars alot, nor do I attend many film festivals other than SXSW, but it seems odd that this film is even being screened. I'm guessing this is just more of the trans saturation we are beginning tro see in the media. America is hungry to know more on the whole trans issue and apparently now we have 'Ticked Off Trannies with Knives' to help satiate the public.

What is the real issue, I believe, is the complete distraction of attention this MOVIE is pulling from the trans community. Seriously, there are some really big items on the plate RIGHT NOW and a better part of the vocal community is bitching about the title in...a movie. As a friendly reminder ENDA is right around the corner, after Easter in fact, so if you could please stop your bickering and redirect your attention to things that matter and not works of fiction that would be great.

Patricia Harlow Patricia Harlow | March 30, 2010 12:05 PM

Sorry for duplicate post. I think clicking the back button to get back to the article caused a second submission to occur.

:)

CassandraToday | April 4, 2010 11:42 PM

Is free speech really that hard to understand?

If I don't like what you said, I can say, "Shut up!" But I can't hurt you or kill you or have you arrested to try to make you shut up; nor can I (or the government) threaten you with those things.

Similarly, I can tell other people not to listen to you, but again I can't hurt/kill/arrest them to make them stop listening.

Free speech means you can say what you want; I can say what I want; and other people can listen to either, both, or neither of us as they want. It's all OK as long as it's just speech. It can be rude, obnoxious, mean, disgusting, offensive, or whatever kind of speech.

What I'm seeing here is Izzy's and Tribeca's right to say whatever they want about trans folk, and trans folks' right to say, "Shut up!" in whatever way they (we) want. Everyone else can decide whom, if either, they want to listen to.

Is there some subtle complication here that's escaping me?

Good point. I enjoy reading your article. Looking forward for more topics here. Thanks.