Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer

Ticked Off Powers-That-Be With Spurious Opinions About Art

Filed By Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer | March 30, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

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Interesting headshot.jpgthat the story about GLAAD's snit over Ticked Off Trannies with Knives is circulating the blogosphere at the same time as the story about the canceled student production of Terrence McNally's play, Corpus Christi, at Tarleton State University in Texas.

Though probably most of us have taken one side in one battle and the opposite side in the other, the parallels between the two are striking.

view.pngBoth stories involve a knee-jerk response to a work of art based not on a critique of the work's aesthetic merits but on an evaluation of how the work measures up to community standards of decency. Both the play and the film have been deemed blasphemous by a small group that perceives itself to have been given some authority by their communities, and so a more complex analysis is considered moot.

Not that the political and aesthetic value of a work of art are neatly separable. In fact, it's important to note that both Ticked off Trannies with Knives and Corpus Christi are works of deliberate provocation made by queer artists. But for that reason, you'd think we might give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they contain ideas worth discussing. Instead, we're not allowed to have that discussion because it's completely shouted down by the outcry, the condemnation, the calls for boycott and censorship.

The artist is always suspect.


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Marja Erwin | March 30, 2010 4:19 PM

Boycotts are not censorship. Calls for boycotts are not censorship. Death threats are censorship.

You are equating free choice (to not support something) and free speech (to point out why something hurts particular people, and encourage others not to support it) with violent censorship (death threats). That is just plain dishonest.

In each case, the people in question have every right to condemn the works in question, to boycotts the works, and to ask others to also boycott the works. In neither case do people have the right to threaten violence. Now there can be misguided boycotts (e.g. the boycott of Olivia Records to pressure them to fire Sandy Stone) but the boycott remains an important way to non-violently struggle against injustice.

The juxtaposition of this and Waymon Hudson's article is pretty hilarious, that one being all but a rebuttal of this one. Free speech is a two-way street; if someone is going to portray trans people as ridiculous parodies of real people being beaten to death, I'm going to speak out about it. It's not censorship, as the above poster pointed out. It's me exercising my right to free speech to combat the (misuse of the) "artist's" free speech.

Renee Thomas | March 30, 2010 4:50 PM

Art for the sake of provocation is all well and good, but the artist should be prepared for that which their provocation inevitably elicits. This includes the legitimate reactions on the part of potential audience members that the title of the work alone casts it as exploitive rubbish and motivates them to look no further. The fact that the piece also exploits the real pain of real people while going for camp further reinforces that it’s likely to be an epic fail as variously camp, biting social commentary or art.

No censorship here

{she yawns} I simply choose not to bother

One can easily extropolate that TTWK goes beyond the license of art. Since the producers themselves call it 'transploitation' it is simply profit at the expense of the Trans Community.

Robyn,

"Transploitation" refers to a genre of film, not an act, much like "blaxploitation" films. Both are in fact directed at specific audiences comprised of the very people represented in the films - towards trans communities and towards (mostly urban) Black communities.


This film doesn't appear to be directed towards the transsexual community it purports to represent. It seems much more geared to a gay male audience. That's a very different dynamic.

That's one of the subtexts that's present, and why the marketing issue is important.

Alex alludes to this later on in his post, without really getting into it, but there is a strong and durable tradition of using Drag Culture to sell an idea to a Gay Audience which is highly problematic.

One of the things in play here is a sense that the attacks by trans people are on an accepted aspects of Gay culture -- and to a great extent it's true.

As someone noted on my blog, there are a couple discussions floating around here that people aren't really ready to have yet.

But if we don't start at least talking around them, we won't ever really get to them.

Let's stop the quibbling about the meaning of the word censorship, shall we? It's disingenuous and it's distracting.

Merriam-Webster defines censorship this way: "to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable ; also : to suppress or delete as objectionable "

GLAAD and its supporters have found Ticked Off Trannies with Knives to be objectionable and are calling for its world premiere screening in the Tribeca Film Festival to be canceled. Independent films depend on festival screenings to reach audiences. GLAAD is trying to prevent this film from reaching an audience, plain and simple.

Marja Erwin | March 30, 2010 5:16 PM

Your whole argument erases the distinction between discourse and censorship. Pointing that out is not exactly quibbling.

Well, as an artist myself, who's art relies on the use of words and language; and as a social scientist whose work deals heavily in the use of words and language, I do feel a need to say this:

That definition is without context. It creates an absolutist situation where the parallel is neither practical nor realistic.

It is a definition that sidesteps the entirety of social responsibility.

Freedom of speech is not universal: yelling fire in a crowded movie theater as a form of artistic expression is not part of that freedom of speech, because it *does* include the responsibility that your definition does not deal with.

And without the responsibility factor -- which is essentially awareness and concern for others -- the definition is pretty damaging to your points to the same degree as the other side.

After all, you are suppressing the objection efforts of a bunch of trans folk to do the same.

That said, I do agree that he absolutely has the right to make the film.

That's not even in dispute to my knowledge.

Steven,

I'm so glad you pointed out the strange parallels between these works and the controversies they have generated. The queer community would do well to wonder why one is deserving of protection while the other is yanked from a festival.

As for GLAAD, I didn't think my disdain for that irrelevant organisation could possibly grow much further. And then this and Queerty's exposure of their sheer hypocrisy in the situation. Apparently, GLAAD approved of Kicked Off Trannies *before* they disapproved of it. "The filmmakers provided a copy of this film to GLAAD in February, and for weeks the organization had been supportive to the filmmakers. In fact, GLAAD representatives advised the film's producer, director and cast on how to describe the film to its core constituency."

http://tinyurl.com/yd3t2cb

And then there's this delightful bit from the org's press release:

"However, while some of the actors in the film identify as transgender, the characters are written as drag queens, “performing” femininity in a way that is completely artificial. The very names of these over-the-top female caricatures (Emma Grashun, Rachel Slurr, et al.) drive this point home."

One is prompted to respond: Really, GLAAD, really? You really think a film has no right to portray drag queens as trans characters? That there really is something like "essential" masculinity and femininity? You're now the trans-representation police? And have you seen any queer films in, oh, the twentieth century?

As for those who, without even having seen the film, already have and will keep showing up to insist that forcing a film festival to yank a film from its lineup is *not* tantamount to censorship, I can only say this: Let me know how you feel when YOUR creative work gets that kind of silencing - without even being watched by the vast majority of people who insist that you're demeaning them. Then we'll talk.

This is nothing more than GLAAD gladly exploiting the willingness of some to loudly condemn a work without even seeing it. There are all kinds of problems with media representations of transgender people, and GLAAD happily ignores most of those, choosing instead to go for the easy targets.

I'll get off now, but thanks again for writing on this.

Let me know how you feel when YOUR creative work gets that kind of silencing - without even being watched by the vast majority of people who insist that you're demeaning them. Then we'll talk.

That happened to me this morning. I completed a film I've been working on for three years and talked with a local theater for the screening. I found out today that they don't want to show it after previously saying they were fine with it. All based on a moral objection to what they think the film is like based solely on it's genre, without having seen the film or heard it's title.

Sure I'm pissed, but I talked with them more about it. I will have an opportunity to explain what my film is and isn't, and hopefully they will withdraw their objection when they have a clearer understanding of it. However, if they have an accurate sense of what my film is and stand by their objection, it's still within their prerogative to choose what to associate themselves with and if they don't want to associate themselves with films like mine, so be it. I'll find another theater. Or I'll screen it in a friends living room if I have to. I'd be free to publicize that I was denied by them perhaps put public pressure on them to change, but I still wouldn't call it censorship or deny them the right to make their own decisions about what is shown in their theater.

As an aside, though, I do agree with pretty much all GLAAD specific points you make. But at what point does appropriate criticism become inappropriate censorship. Is it not okay when Color of Change calls for advertisers to pull out of Glenn Beck's show? If it's about attempting to deny a creative work an audience, would it have been censorship if the committee selecting films for the festival had been up on trans issues and rejected the film up front? What about the general suggestion the film festival should take into consideration bigotry when determining what films get shown? How different is it to stand up now and suggest they consider a form of bigotry which they most likely were unaware of at the time of the original decision? What if I write an article condemning the film and send a copy to the film festival?

At what point does it become censorship to express an opinion or deliver a petition? And if criticizing or condemning someone else's speech is considered censorship, wouldn't it also be censorship to criticize or condemn the folks criticizing or condemning the film?

Tobi,

First, have you seen the film? I haven't, and neither have the overwhelming majority of the people who plan to protest. That fact says a lot about the nature of this "controversy" and GLAAD's ability and willingness to exploit specific communities in order to gain more exposure for its own extremely inchoate and nebulous politics. It also says a lot about the protestors' willingness to be exploited, frankly. And, sadly, it says a lot about what a segment of the trans community sees as people worthy of representation *as* trans.

Secondly, as far as your specific example goes: That's not how things work in some worlds of filmmaking. I'm working on publicising a film made by two friends who've deliberately bypassed even the film festival circuit (and whose trans characters may well give GLAAD something to complain about):

http://www.homotopiafilm.net/index.php/criminal-queers/

So I'm familiar with the kind of indie film scene you speak of. But that's not how it works for a lot of people for whom exposure through a film festival does actually mean something. The ubiquity of web marketing and the relative ease of digital film-making gives us the impression that just about anyone can make and market and make money off their films through word of mouth, house parties and such, but that's not the reality for a lot of people. And people have a right to expect that their films will actually be seen by people and make a profit. What's true for you and for Eric Stanley and Chris Vargas is not true for everyone.

In the case of Ticked-Off Trannies, the protestors may well have helped make the film a bigger success than the filmaker could have imagined.

As for: "At what point does it become censorship to express an opinion or deliver a petition?" But that's not what's happening here, is it? So far, we have a group of people who've not even the film, are deeply offended by something they have not seen, and are calling for a film they have not seen to NOT be shown in case it offends people who will never get to see the film in order to judge whether or not they should be offended. And I won't even get into the issues around art and offense. What the protestors are doing is not expressing an opinion - it's an outright call for censorship of a text they have not seen (I cannot emphasise that point often enough). And many of the protestors have made it clear that they plan on carrying on their drive torender the film completely invisible (a.k.a censor a film they have not seen) well after the Tribeca film festival.

I'm not condemning anyone for criticising the film - I'm asking what right anyone has to do it given that they simply haven't even seen the film. And yes, following that, I'm also asking questions about what, exactly, is being condemned here? Drag characters don't count? Transgender women can only be represented as perfectly feminine, whatever feminine means? Um, Stonewall, anyone?

It's a requirement for me - if people are going to criticise or condemn and yes, censor something, they ought to at least have seen it first. Otherwise, they're no different than the right-wing fanatics who censor gay plays or books about Heather's two mommies

Let's all see the film, at least. And then argue about what kinds of trans characters count as human enough to be represented. That's another can of worms, isn't it? One that might expose deeper issues within what is being portrayed here as "the" trans community.

As for trans representations - do we really want to doom ourselves to endless and deeply problematic repetitions of Boys Don't Cry and Transamerica? Neither of which were made by trans filmmakers or even, hell, featured trans actors but which GLAAD and others seem to think of as ideal representations?

And are we really going to insist that only people from a certain community can make films about that community? In any case, in my understanding, a number of trans people were involved in the making of the film. There are obviously going to be problems when outsiders make films about specific communities, but let's not move into the murky realm of insisting that only insiders/native informants count as proper chroniclers. And that doesn't even begin to approach the issue of what counts as "authentic" or "true" or desirable representations.

Yasmin,

First off, the film isn't exactly widely available. If it were on youtube, on tv, or otherwise easily accessible, I'd go ahead and watch it. But it isn't and likely never will be. Am I simply not allowed an opinion then?

I never saw Gendercator either, but the director's statement and reviews were enough to know exactly how it went. I complained then. I'm glad to say that it was rejected from some queer film festivals in part because of the awareness that trans activists spread about it. Unfortunately, even at queer film festivals, it can't be assumed that trans concerns will be given adequate consideration.

I'd love to pick apart the Gendercator scene by scene in an extensive critique, but I can't stomach the idea of handing over a significant chunk of money to someone so clearly perpetuating anti-trans perspectives when I could otherwise use it to support awesome queer artists that are doing good things. And I eventually did see the film, or at least 1/3 of it, at an academic presentation, and it was EXACTLY as described by it's critics.

But back to the current situation. I am reserving final judgment until more folks who've seen it have given a detailed report. But given what I've heard from the director and others, I don't hold out much hope. I still don't think that filmmakers have a right to showing at film festivals. I fully expect my film will be rejected from some festivals who decide they don't want to be associated with the type of work I'm producing. And whenever a film festival committee selects a bigoted piece of work due to the privilege of the committee members making such bigotry invisible, I believe it's fair for community members impacted by that invisibility ask the film festival to reconsider. Is this film bigoted? I don't know for sure. But I believe the film festival would benefit from re-evaluating it with that question in mind.

As for GLAAD, I don't know the timeline of everything here, but I've seen multiple blog posts by trans activists who take GLAAD to task for not opposing the film. It seems likely to me that GLAAD is changing their position because of input from trans activists (and making a messed up statement in the process) rather than taking advantage of all the poor helpless trans activists who are incapable of thinking for themselves.

Tobi,

Seriously, come on, how do you justify having an *opinion* about something you've never seen? Would you allow a film critic or a book reviewer that kind of leeway? I review books for part of my living - I can't imagine a scenario where I'd ever feel justified in saying to my readers, "I haven't read this book that's supposed to be really horrible for x reasons, but it's my considered opinion that you shouldn't either."

So, yes, to answer your question as flatly and baldly as possible: No, Tobi, you're not "allowed" to have an opinion on something you haven't yet seen. I'd say the same thing about anything else in life, whether breakfast cereals or Tolstoy. No, you can't judge them until you've actually tried them or read them.

It's a really sad state of affairs that I even have to put is as explicitly as that. This whole censorship campaign is symptomatic of everything that's wrong with the fiction of the blogosphere as some kind of grand community organising space where committed activists get to advance some great agenda. It's shown that the biggest and yet most illusory power of the web is to allow numbers of people to make mob-like appearances in various virtual realities and give the illusion that they actually have considered opinions. Your comment about its inaccessibility is especially ironic given that you're working to ensure that it will remain invisible to audiences.

Your experience with Gendercators, regardless of whether or not I agree with you, does not give you the right to decide that a preemptive strike against yet another film is justified.

And yes, I understand that you and others are not expected to respond as reviewers - but it's a sad state of public discourse where a group of people who are actually proud, it seems, of not having seen a film feel they have the right to deny anybody else the right to at least see it and make up their own minds. At the very least, people could be calling for more extended forms of viewings, perhaps with panels comprised of different viewpoints. But no, "we" have decided that this is... all sorts of things. In the meantime, as this snakes through the blogosphere, it gathers up its all kinds of urban myths around. A (supposedly) camp film has now become a film that is supposedly "stupid and hateful" to quote one person below. And, according to others, endorses trans violence? Really? How do you justify supporting these kinds of irrational readings without even having seen the film?

Let's at least watch the film. Then, hey, who knows, maybe I'll decide that it's completely fucked up and that nobody should see it (although I would still not call for its banning). But I'm not going to endorse the ridiculous idea that no one should watch a film based on the supposition that watching it supports transphobic politics when NO ONE has watched it.

As for GLAAD, sorry, but if they can send out what even you admit is a messed up statement which only further denigrates specific members of the yes, shock, horrors, trans community, that's only proof that they're not in this to advance any kind of trans-affirming politics and that they have no real politics to begin with. Where is GLAAD - and much of the trans community - when NBC puts out junk like these images asking who the "dude" might be among a group of sex workers apprehended on the street?

http://www.bilerico.com/2010/03/wtf_nbcs_dude_looks_like_a_lady_edition_of_mug_sho.php

*These* kinds of representations are far more harmful and cause FAR more direct and visceral forms of violence against trans-identified people than films like the one we're discussing. And this kind of bullshit goes on on a far more pervasive level, on talk shows etc. THESE are the kind of representations we could and should work on fixing by showing up and protesting outside the NBC Tower in Chicago, for instance. They're not sitcom or cinematic or other "artistic" representations and therefore have no kind of license whatsoever, in my mind. These are actual people whose faces get exposed on major news sites, people whose lives on the street could be directly impacted by such exposure (and whose vulnerability mostly ensures that they're not likely to come forward and protest). And yet, on that? Silence.

Is there a problem with the straight and the gay community too often readily exploiting trans characters and themes as the easy focus of jokes and violence? Yes. But is there tangible proof that this film is part of that? Um, no, not when NO ONE has seen it. Does this film and the ensuing hullabaloo indicate that there are some really complicated issues around trans representation to be explored? Yes. Should the trans community - and, for that matter, several other "minority" communities that figure in equivalent representations - be sick and tired of always have to be the ones pointing out the problems with said representation? Yes. But the alternative is not to shut something down WITHOUT EVEN SEEING IT.

I wouldn't let a student in any class deliver a summary judgment on a text without proof that they had actually read or seen it. I'm certainly not going to change that rule for anyone else.

As for "I still don't think that filmmakers have a right to showing at film festivals." Of course they don't. But that's not the issue here. The filmmakers have a right to have festivals respect their contractual obligations, and that's a different kettle of fish. Which means that a festival deciding to yank a film after agreeing to show it sets a terrible, terrible precedent. One that you, as a filmmaker, really should not be encouraging. And if you are, please don't complain when the entire system of film festivals and sponsorships begins to melt before your eyes because festival organisers start writing in "out in a hurry" clauses to protect themselves in such situations.

As for, "rather than taking advantage of all the poor helpless trans activists who are incapable of thinking for themselves." Well, no, I doubt that's the case, but it's really hard to not wonder about the awful gullibility or whatever it is that compels people to write that a movie is "stupid and hateful" without having seen it. And I do think it's important to acknowledge that people can think for themselves - so why not let audiences -trans and non-trans - see the film for themselves and decide?

And if we are going to talk about alternative community perceptions, here's Alexandra Billings - who is trans and has actually seen the film - on the issue:

http://abillings.livejournal.com/531688.html

I have no doubt several people will find reasons to condemn her response as well, but then it seems that "we" have all decided that there's only one opinion to be had and only one kind of trans community to be defended. But I think it's worth reading.

Sigh, so I'm not allowed to have an opinion no matter how reserved it is. In case you've blurred it in with everyone else's let me summarize where I stand.

1- Based on the title alone, the film shows a marked disrespect for trans people and ignorance or indifference to multiple types of anti-trans oppression.

2- The scenario is a delicate issue that is complicated to pull off in a respectful way. Given the way the title is approached and criticism about it is received I don't find it likely that it was pulled off appropriately and don't feel the need to extend the benefit of the doubt to them.

3- Given that the film festival almost certainly did not take these factors into consideration, they should reconsider the film with this in mind. Being film folks themselves and having seen the film, they would be in the best position to make the determination of whether or not they want to give a platform to the film given this new information. Is a contract signed? That would certainly complicate matters.

4- and I quote myself "I am reserving final judgment until more folks who've seen it have given a detailed report."

Is that opinion really so unreasonable?

I'd find it very hard to engage in activism if I had to directly experience each instance of oppression before I could pass on information about it. Do I have to have read "Transsexual Empire" before I can mention it's one of the most transphobic books out there? An excerpt or the whole thing? Or is it enough that my childhood friend's mom lost her job and received all kinds of hate mail because of it then I read articles criticizing it in school.

Do I have to go to a certain therapist who specializes in trans clients myself before advising newly out trans folk away from him even if I've heard half a dozen stories about sexist and transphobic things he's done and one of my friends used to burst into tears at the mention of his name?

There's a local group that regularly invites neo-nazi's, holocaust deniers, and holocaust minimizers to speak. Do I personally have to attend their meetings before I can request my old university does not provide them with meeting space? If so, there would be a small enough group of critics that they would easily be ignored.

I certainly choose to find out more about such things in certain cases, often second hand or through supporting materials, excerpts, statements from the individuals defending themselves, etc, but if it was a requirement before speaking then I would probably end up spending all my time verifying messed up oppressive things. Personally I'd much rather spend my time and money experiencing projects I expect to be good that I've heard were made with awareness and purpose around oppression.

And back to GLAAD, you keep attacking them as if I'm defending them. All I've ever said on this thread is that I don't believe they act consistently in the interest of trans issues and that I have similar criticisms of their lack of action on other issues. But GLAAD was not where I first heard mention of this. I saw several blog posts that were up before GLAAD's statement and I believe I got an invite to a facebook group on the topic before GLAAD's statement.

As for saying something is stupid and bigoted before seeing the whole thing... well, sometimes people do judge a book by it's cover. Maybe not an ideal way to do things, but covers (or trailers) are designed to give people a sense of what the whole thing might be lie. And sometimes it is so disgusting and horrible that you know with near certainty that it would be painful and triggering to put yourself through it. It's possible that the trailer and title are not reflective of the film as a whole, but they are nonetheless part of the whole.

Right now there's nothing else to judge the film on, and what is there is done in poor enough taste to warrant a response. I understand your call to a more reserved response, but I don't feel we need to be silent.

Tobi,

I'll just add (and repeat myself):

regarding:
"Do I have to have read "Transsexual Empire" before I can mention it's one of the most transphobic books out there?"

Yes, Tobi, you do. I've read it, and I found it deeply problematic. But I wouldn't really deign to have a conversation about the book with someone who decided they hated it without having actually read it. Because I dislike having uninformed, half-assed conversations with people who want to remain uninformed. You can't dismiss "Transsexual Empire" as one of the most transphobic books out there without having read it - what you CAN say is something to the effect of: "I haven't read it, but I've not been inclined to do so because a host of people whose opinion I trust have said it's one of the most transphobic books out there. Here's a list of places that reference the book etc. and the controversies surrounding it. Go read it and make up your own mind."

Ticked Off Trannies is not like a book - it's a film that hasn't been seen by the overwhelming majority of people who object to it. A film is not like a book - again, why am I making these obvious points? A book has a chance of at least having been published and read by people before it gets condemned (although if this group of protesters have their way, we may well enter a world where even that will no longer be possible). A film has very different production and distribution issues at stake. Again, as a filmmaker, that's just something you'll have to reconcile to as these sorts of controversies begin to pre-determine what can and can't get made.

As for the title, sorry, but it isn't one that's likely to strike a lot of transgender people as vicious or violent either. A lot of trans folk use that term, and it's not necessarily derogatory in every single context. Again, who among us has actually seen the film to judge how the term is deployed? So far, the one and only strike against the film is that it's not made by a trans-identified man. Would it be okay if it were made by a trans individual, with exactly the same title and the same trailer? Why? Because trans individuals can't be transphobic and have really problematic trans politics?

I've been on Bilerico long enough to know that I'm certainly not among those who agrees with the rank-and-file gay politics on Bilerico. So am I a self-hating queer or are the queers who call for my expulsion (even as they, in a fit of irony that utterly escapes them, decry this current call for censorship of Ticked Off Trannies) self-loathing and problematic? Who gets to decide what a community is and what its politics are? The trans blog posts' comment threads here on Bilerico certainly represent no trans community I know in the real world. Does that mean that people who show up here don't count or that they are simply one part of a "community?"

As for "The scenario is a delicate issue that is complicated to pull off in a respectful way." But what tells you that the film sets out to do anything in a "respectful way?" And why should it? What does respectful mean in this context? Frankly, given what we've already seen of protestors' issues with the representation of drag and femininity, it seems highly unlikely that anything other than a "Transamerica" narrative would have satisfied anyone.

Choosing a therapist based on the accounts you hear from friends is not the same as deciding that a film should not be seen based on what a couple of people in an extremely manipulative organisation decide. The same is true for the other analogies - they simply don't work as analogies. This is not the KKK coming to town; it's a film that nobody has seen.

And I'm curious - why do you have nothing to say about what Alexandra Billings has to say on the film given that she's actually seen it?

You say you're reserving final judgement but you're also insistent that "the film festival almost certainly did not take these factors into consideration, they should reconsider the film with this in mind." As I've already pointed out, via the Queerty link, they actually went to surprise, GLAAD itself, which approved the film. What more were they supposed to do? And if you're not asking the film festival to withdraw the screening, what else are you doing? That's not reserving final judgement, is it?

"Being film folks themselves and having seen the film, they would be in the best position to make the determination of whether or not they want to give a platform to the film given this new information." What new information? That a group of people who've never seen the film would like to ensure that no one else gets a chance to do so?

"Is a contract signed? That would certainly complicate matters." Well, Tobi, isn't that a question you should have verified BEFORE you decided that the film should not be seen?

Essentially, throughout your arguments, you're indicating that you're working off little to no real information but that you're also comfortable with complete censorship.

And to repeat, this is not a book. It's a film. The stakes are somewhat different, because,among other things, the mode of production is quite different. And, to repeat, I wouldn't put up with a student in a film or writing class delivering an opinion or engaging in a class discussion about a text without proof that they had actually seen it. There's a reason why these classroom teaching methods matter - they're examples of how and why we need to have some standards of public debate.

To sum up, this whole issue is a classic blogswarm, where a few and deeply uninformed people make a deeply problematic decision; corral others into siding with them; and when questioned about their lack of knowledge on the matter, resort to cheap rhetorical strategies and at best shaky analogies and various forms of name-calling to justify their untenable position. I don't mean that you, Tobi, have engaged in every single one of these strategies, but that's certainly the gist of what's going on here and in the general call to censor the film.

I'll have to extract myself from this conversation soon, as I'm leaving town tomorrow and have plenty of things to do, but a few responses. (and a new thread so there's a bit more width here)

And I'm curious - why do you have nothing to say about what Alexandra Billings has to say on the film given that she's actually seen it?

That's because I said it directly to her. I appreciate her perspective and liken it to my reaction to Killer Drag Queens on Dope follow your own link to see what I said. It's also worth noting that her favorite part of it basically describes trans people inherently as neither men nor women -- true for some, but a common transphobic insult for many. When it was pointed out to her she said that trans women are not real women.

they actually went to surprise, GLAAD itself, which approved the film. What more were they supposed to do?

Wait, after all your criticism of GLAAD you say that? You spent half this discussion lambasting GLAAD as ineffectual and unaware of trans issues and now you wonder what's an artist to do other than talk to GLAAD? Um, how about anything. With all the transphobic crap that got the thumbs up from GLAAD -- just cited in your own comments -- no one should think that it's not transphobic just 'cause it got the thumbs up from GLAAD.

Well, Tobi, isn't that a question you should have verified BEFORE you decided that the film should not be seen?

Are you tilting at windmills here? I'm not saying the film shouldn't be seen. Perhaps you are conflating my arguments with everyone elses. I'm saying that it should be considered okay for activists to ask the film festival to take into account analysis of transphobia and reconsider providing the film a platform.

The same is true for the other analogies - they simply don't work as analogies. This is not the KKK coming to town; it's a film that nobody has seen.

Except it's exactly the same thing the local group is saying. "We aren't a nazi group, but think that the Jewish/Pro-Israel lobby has way too much power and we need to discuss all kinds of issues around this, including questioning just how bad the holocaust is. People just call us anti-semitic because they are trying to stop our freedom of speech. The folks who monitor hate groups and have designated us a hate group are really just a secret zionist front. You can't know for yourself unless you come to a few meetings." I've heard that line from them for the past few years now. So why is it BS when they give it but gold when you do?

As for the title, sorry, but it isn't one that's likely to strike a lot of transgender people as vicious or violent either.

Um, I think you're missing the point here. It isn't likely too? It already has. Do you think the hysteria and overreaction is all caused by GLAAD? Most folks haven't read GLAAD's statement and are just reacting to the title. And it's not just about the use of a slur.

1- "Ticked off." Is that a reasonable description for someone who's friends were just killed. It lightens and makes fun of transphobic killings. Not a reason to denounce the film itself, but becomes more significant with each other problem.

2- "Trannies." A lot of folks are triggered just by the word. Sure others don't even think of it as a slur, but that doesn't minimize the reaction of those who do. I used to be fine with the term because it was never used against me and I didn't understand how it was used against those it targets, a lot of folks are in that same boat, and more folks are fine with the word as long as it's not used by cis folks.

3- "With Knives." Some of the oldest stereotypes of trans women in particular are about us being mentally unhinged, violent, dangerous, etc. The title suggests that trans women are violent and dangerous just by being "ticked off."

All of these dynamics appear to be confirmed by the director's statements and the trailer.

And finally, the big issue is the lack of trans folks in the production. Now you don't have to be a member of an oppressed group to create work around them, but it doesn't lend much credibility to an already suspect film. Having, what is it, two trans actors is a great step up from other films, but it's still next to nothing.

I have a feeling the conversation would be very different if we were talking about a film made by a white writer and director and an all white production crew called "Angry niggers with guns" that had three of the five black characters played by white folks, and the show provided a comedic look at lynching, and was condemned by the NAACP (even if they previously supported it), then there happened to be a black person on the internet who saw it and liked it, citing their favorite part was when the main black character said that black folks were like animals (but meant it positively).

I mean sure, you don't have to be a part of a minority group in order to create work focusing on their issues, but what angers me the most is the fact that there is a lot more folks willing to make excuses and give the benefit of the doubt and leeway to cis queers who deal with trans stuff inappropriately than any other case I've seen of a majority group mishandling a minority group's issues. How many instances of transphobia are required before cis queers stop giving other cis queers the benefit of the doubt on transphobia? It reminds me of Alex's recent post, No One is a Homophobe.

Tobi,

I don't think there's much more of a discussion to be had here. You support censoring a film without seeing it, I don't. And, as I hope I've made clear, I don't support censoring a film even if I'm deeply offended by it. I also don't think it's worth the time engaging any further given the slipperiness of your responses so far. And this might be the best example of this:

"You spent half this discussion lambasting GLAAD as ineffectual and unaware of trans issues and now you wonder what's an artist to do other than talk to GLAAD?"

I think it's clear to any intelligent person who's read my comments so far, and you're certainly one such, that I was using this as an example of the many contradictions the protestors are embroiled in. It's manipulative and disingenuous of you to suggest otherwise, and it speaks to the paucity and ineffectual quality of your points that you feel the need to deliberately take my words out of context of a long discussion in order to score a cheap and spurious point.

I don't support GLAAD or its agenda, and my point was, very clearly, this: If the protestors and you think that (and I'm quoting you again): "Given that the film festival almost certainly did not take these factors into consideration, they should reconsider the film with this in mind. Being film folks themselves and having seen the film, they would be in the best position to make the determination of whether or not they want to give a platform to the film given this new information."

Well, what do you want? Do you want them to take all points into consideration? Or not? They asked GLAAD what it thought and while I and many others don't think of GLAAD as any kind of arbiters, the protestors seem to think it's one. So if that bit of initial vetting went okay, what leads us to believe that this whole campaign spearheaded by GLAAD is actually sincere? And if not GLAAD, what do the protestors suggest the festival organisers do? Where does all this end? Whose views of proper trans representation get to be valorised as perfect and okay? Why aren't any of the protestors saying, "hey, wait a minute, if GLAAD, in whom we trust, first said it was okay, maybe we should think long and hard about why we now want a different opinion?"

Of course, what I'd really like to hear them say is, "We need to watch this film in its entirety before rushing to judgement and deciding to kill months of work by a filmmaker, crew, and actors." But that's not going to happen. You and the protestors are now knee-deep into the whole censorship campaign, and you seem to think there's no dignified exit in all this. There is. Give the filmmaker a chance to show his film. Protest the film afterwards if you still feel the same way. Show up with pamphlets, have panel discussions, talk to allies and queers about why this film is a problem.

In other words, do the hard work of real political activism and actual protest instead of hiding behind the relatively easy and lazy solution of simply ensuring that it never gets seen (and that is in fact what many of the protestors have decided).

I just don't think either you or any of the protestors really know enough about the film and, frankly, enough about what your own positions might be given the depth of misinformation that's being spread around here. And if we seriously think that every film about any community needs to be made only by members of the community exclusively, we should all just stop wishing for the funding of the NEA. Because then there's really no point to artistic endeavours anywhere, any time.

At any rate, good luck to you and anyone else who wants to make films that aren't the cookie-cutter perfect portrayals being demanded here. If these are the "standards" hewn to in the future, we have nothing but boredom and good-trans/queer-people-die-young-and-beautiful or look-how-fantastic-we-queers/trans people-are-fulfilling-every-standard-normalcy-as-we-adopt-and-run-for-President-of-America narratives to look forward to. It's goodbye to messy, complicated, interesting and, yes, occasionally deeply irksome material.

This deeply censorious and knee-jerk campaign by people who can't even be bothered to see a film before making sure that no one sees it bodes ill for filmmakers everywhere.

friday jones | April 1, 2010 7:03 PM

I get it, we're supposed to be sitting around the camps waiting for our turn in the showers before we can criticize Leni Reifenstahl's propaganda films? How very intellectually detached we are. If we all lived in some kind of rarefied vacuum then yes, let's give this schlock a slot and then have a discussion afterward.

But we don't live in that rarefied vacuum, we live in a world where films have done actual damage to actual people. The very genre of exploitation films have been terribly damaging. Blacksploitation films gave American cinema goers all sorts of false impressions about African Americans that persist to this day and that has white people reaching for their car door locks at the sight of a young black man.

Now they've got vengeance-crazed drag queens licking human blood off of butcher knives on the movie poster, you don't see that as damaging? Women are already nervous in the bathroom when a trans woman walks in, and now they'll think they're sharing their rest room with a homicidal maniac. Awesome.

Ah, yes, of course - the inevitable reference to the Nazis and the Holocaust. I stand corrected. Clearly, I'm just wrong, wrong, wrong - comparing Ticked Off Trannies to Leni Riefenstahl absolutely proves your point.

I trust you get the sarcasm here. And for the record, I'd take a chance to watch Riefenstahl if I were you. Watching a film made by her does not a) make you a Nazi b) mean that you support Nazis. But it might give you a more informed and, dare I say, more educated view on how even abstract ideology can be made powerfully visual. And a host of other incredibly complicated matters. You might actually learn a lot about how and why Nazi propaganda was so successful. That might enrich your understanding of visual culture.

And there's a lot going in culture that reinforces racism and transphobia - if films were the magic bullet, wouldn't all the sappy postive representations about marriage ensured its enduring success? I could go on. And let me assure you - blaxploitation films were not the main reason why so many white folks reach for their car doors. That's not to deny the power of images, and that they have a ripple effect even on people who don't see them but really, at least be aware these were cult films. And I think it's safe to say that white racism towards African Americans has a longer genealogy than can be explained away by some films.

But then, of course, it's wrong to be informed and educated, isn't it? Or maybe we're all so incredibly smart we can figure out everything about a movie from ... a movie poster or a trailer (and we can ignore a whole history of camp in the process). And no one else is smart enough to be trusted to actually see the film and make up their own minds. And perhaps have open public discussions about it all.

And yet, and yet, and yet...astonishing how so many queers like to make fun of and stereotype all right-wingers and even people outside the cities as uneducated, boorish louts who refuse to listen to opposing views and follow their cult leaders/right-wing church pastors like lemmings.

There's lots of busted works of bad art that I don't need to see, thanks to the artist explaining to the general public their intent in making the work, to know that they are busted. Such films include:

The Gendercator
Birth of a Nation
and
Ticked off Trannies with Knives

In fact, it's important to note that both Ticked off Trannies with Knives and Corpus Christi are works of deliberate provocation made by queer artists. But for that reason, you'd think we might give them the benefit of the doubt.

It's disingenuous to link these as both by queer artists because the issue of contention for both is not queerness. Being queer is not an excuse for being racist, classist, or xenophobic. Why should it be an excuse for being transphobic.

If I think a creative work is homophobic, I'll give the benefit of the doubt to queer artists. Just as I'd give the benefit of the doubt to artists of color whose work is being considered racist, to women artists whose work is being considered sexist, and so on. But status as an oppressed minority does not extend the benefit of my doubt on all forms of oppression.

Horizontal oppression exists and being queer, unfortunately, makes a person no less likely to be transphobic or produce a transphobic work.

Why do I treat these two pieces differently?

One is dealing with an oppressed community, created by a member of that community, and condemned by people who are not members of that community and use threats of violence.

The other is dealing with an oppressed community, created by someone who is not a member of that community, and condemned by people who are a part of that community and use petitions and blog posts.

Can you honestly not see the difference?

Tobi, I am not arguing that the two situations are identical, only that there are meaningful similarities. And, though I see the distinction you are making, I have to say (at the risk of opening another big can of worms) I don't draw such a strong distinction between so-called gay male experience and trans experience. I believe the differences between homosexual men, drag queens, and MTF women are murky and permeable.

Steven, I appreciate your point that there are gray areas between the experience of gender non-conforming queer folks who are presumably not trans and the experience of trans folks. But I've seen nothing indicating that this is meant to be a reflection of or inspired by the director's experience. If he came out and said, "I'm a swishy fag and a drag queen and I pass as female and get harassed on the street and that is part of what inspired this film even though I don't identify as trans," then I would do a 180 here. But what he has said is more along the lines of "I wanted to do a film about gay bashing but thought it was overdone and went for something edgier."

Outside of just this instance, there's a serious pattern of non-trans queer folks being incredibly transphobic, and often feeling like it's okay because we're all under one big LGBTQ umbrella. The general rule for slurs is that you shouldn't use one unless you could be targeted by it. Some non-trans identified queer folks might get called tranny or receive transphobic harassment. But in most cases that's not who we're talking about. I've had a cis gay guy call me a shemale, another cis gay guy beat up my ex for being trans, others have made calls against trans rights. "I'm queer" is not an excuse for such transphobia, and I'm tired of it being offered as one. "I'm gender non-conforming and have overlapping experiences" is another issue, but again, not what's going on here.

One is dealing with an oppressed community, created by a member of that community, and condemned by people who are not members of that community and use threats of violence.

I don't think that's the way the tea baggers who were calling the school trying to get Corpus Christi saw it. They saw it as a play about Christ (which it is), and they're Christians (which they probably are), and they don't think that gay people can be Christian (which isn't true) so they see it as an attack from outside.

In other words, I don't think a play that reenvisioned Buddha as gay would have attracted so much attention. It was specifically the fact that it was about Jesus, and therefore about Christians. And while I see it as gay Christians looking for a way to square away their faith and their identity, the tea baggers probably saw it as people outside their faith attacking it.

Not to say that it's the same thing. Christians definitely aren't an oppressed minority in the US, much as they may think they are. Goes to show how much ID politics rhetoric gets coopted by them!

The genre that TTWK purports to be, the exploitation film genre, is all about offending- being provocative - and disgusting. Through that revulsion, viewers hopefully see a message. Whether its I spit on your grave- being a female rape revenge fantasy or my personal favorite, Cannibal Holocaust, which attempts to show the grotesque ness of Western culture- I would hope TTWK is trying to do something similar around anti-trans violence.

I watched the trailer- and was annoyed, merely because it seemed to be poorly produced.

The problem with boycotts is sometimes a film that would go under the radar without a boycott is suddenly thrust into the limelight because of the boycott that is trying to silence the film.

Ultimately, I will not see TTWK- but I'm not upset about it. If other people are upset about it- I hope they will protest, boycott, etc. Whether those will be effective- and actually silence the film- I doubt it.

Instead, I'll continue to try and focus my limited upsettiness on pushing for the passage of ENDA or DADT.

The best art I've ever encountered is art that upsets me, makes me feel uncomfortable. Then it usually makes me view the world a little bit differently- hopefully in a good way.

Paige Listerud | March 30, 2010 7:39 PM

Just thought I'd try to remind everyone of a little film called "Basic Instinct."

Leading up to its release, Queer Nation demonstrated nationwide against the film because it had unstable killer lesbian and bisexual women. No nuanced distinction between the two; no nuanced explanation of fluid sexuality--no nuance as a film, period. It was made by a straight male director; it capitalized in a sexploitative way on the worst stereotypes of women who have sex with women.

Now, the film is received as a campy classic by some lesbian, bi, and queer women. When I asked one lesbian woman why she claimed the film as camp, she said, "We take dross and turn it into gold." This was, of course, her opinion about the film, not the opinion of all lesbians.

Will transgenders reject "Ticked Off Trannies with Knives" now but enjoy it ironically years later? It's difficult to predict--and I have no opinion presently about it because I haven't seen it. I do know that some Queer Nation members rued the attention we drew to the film via our direct action against it. Some even speculated that was the studio's intention all along.

Bi the way, Paul Verhoeven's "Showgirls" became a camp classic, revived by drag queens in the Castro and elsewhere.

"Bi the way, Paul Verhoeven's "Showgirls" became a camp classic, revived by drag queens in the Castro and elsewhere."

[cough] and me! I found a copy years ago in a used book store, and even the straight male shop owner backed away from me in horror when I expressed my delight. I'm one of those who delights in its sheer and, to me, subversive camp. Thanks for the historical reminders, Paige.

You touch an an interesting subtext in this whole ongoing thing here:

the subversion.

I'm likely too meta about the whole thing overall, but wow, the stuff I'm seeing as I float around reading more on this right now has me pretty wowed.

Perspective is important.

But - how could you know you would like it before viewing it? Did it's advertising give you something that could enable such a decision?

Kathy,

I wasn't clear, so I'll clarify what I meant:

I had already seen it as a rental (I was intrigued by all the discussion) but wasn't able to pay for a new copy of my own. I was thrilled to find a used copy, which was more affordable (this was in the days of VHS, when $7-10 for a used copy was considered cheap), hence my delight.

Either way - something about the advertisng, portrayals and discussion about the film - not the film itself - caused you to make a decision about its value sufficient enough so that you would invest your time & money in supporting it financially and viewing it.

Is the project merely what gets shown on the stage at the festival or is it the sum of all what gets produced in association with it, the DVD's, the advertising, & the merchandise associated with it? Most in Hollywood consider the entire package to be the product - hence calling it the movie biz.

"Something about the advertising, portrayals and discussion about the film" compelled me to see the film.

Yes, to view a film universally reviled as a misogynistic piece of crap. And I wanted to see it. And loved it. Which is why we ought not to rush to shut down Ticked-off Trannies without even seeing it (and, btw, I wouldn't advocate for banning films that *are* misogynistic pieces of crap either). And which is why, by the way, this film is steadily inching towards near-cult status, given all the brouhaha over it.

As for you point about the "project," it's the film that people pay to see, not the rest, in the case of indie films.


This blog post is missing the point for why the two are attacked. It's for very different reasons. Corpus Christi is playing with ideas that are held sacred, but isn't attacking the group. Trannies with Knives is putting a group of people who are already oppressed into a negative light. Corpus Christi isn't going to encourage violence towards Christians, Trannies with Knives very well may encourage violence towards the transgendered.

And it's not censorship to say that your movie is stupid and hateful. That's the thing about free speech, just because you can say something doesn't mean you can do so without consequence. It's the director's right to film Trannies with Knives, but it's also my right to say he's a bigot.

I'm just going to ask this question of everyone who denounces the film, so I'll ask you, Vene: Have you seen the film? Can you point to specific instances/scenes in the film, not the trailer, that prove that the film is "stupid and hateful?"

Or are you just willing to trust the endlessly manipulative GLAAD - which approved the film before disapproving of it?

I have not seen the film.

Please explain how seeing the entirety of the film will change the concerns that are raised regarding it.

I should note that according to Queerty, Luna has chosen to remake the Trailer, notably removing the most offensive parts of it (the mention of the murders).

The Title, which is, for many trans folk, essentially the same as saying Nigger in a film during the late 1960's, is not being changed.

Do please understand that -- and note that I say it as a person who does not have the same strong issues with it in general.

The comment below where Steven uses the term in a particular way is offensive to me (as an example, and based on the context in which it is being used), but were a close friend (for example, Bil) refer to me, personally, as a tranny is a friendly, conversational manner, I wouldn't have a problem with it.

The issues are still present, regardless of whether one has seen the film or not. Saying that "it only counts if you've seen the film, not the trailer" is essentially saying that trailers are meaningless as a whole -- when their point is to give a person an idea of what the film is about and how the film is structured in order to get people to see it. If the trailer doesn't matter, then why make it?

So, begging your pardon, but truly:

Please explain how seeing the entirety of the film will change the concerns that are raised regarding it.

See above response to Tobi, Antonia.

Hmmm.

Ok, I get the points you raised there in your response to Tobi.

But that doesn't address what I asked you about -- which is how that affects the trailer and what it contains?

To make it simpler, I don't think that you get why it is that the film is so offensive.

Then again, for that matter,I don't think a lot of trans folk are aware of some of the things that are going into why it's so offensive, but that's something I'll have to deal with in a space more conducive to it.

Toni, first, I'm sorry I offended you with my use of the word "trannies." (It was my attempt at a humorous response to the absurd comment about my jawline.)

Here's what it comes down to for me. GLAAD is calling for the banning of a film (remember, this is not a boycott, this is a call for a ban), and a big chunk of our community is supporting that call for a ban without even seeing the film.

A trailer is not, as you say, made "to give a person an idea of what the film is about and how the film is structured in order to get people to see it." A trailer is an advertisement. It may give you an idea of the film, it may tell you how the film is structured, but it is not the film. Simple as that. It is not the film. It's like saying, "somebody told me that this book is bad, so we're gonna burn it."

As an artist, the idea of a group calling for a film to be banned based on its marketing is terrifying. The idea that someone would be able to prevent a work of art from being seen -- based on a set of political criteria -- is absolutely chilling.

(As an aside, even if you HAD seen the film, I would still disagree with banning the film. I just don't think banning art is a good thing. But at least then I would say you have a right to your opinion.)

No - calling for a prestiguos film festival to not show a film and lend it its message credibility isn't banning a film. It will still be seen in many places & the filmaker can sell it online, via amazon, netflix or just post it on youtube.

Otherwise - Showgirls not being ivited to the Academy Awards was banninating the film.

Kathy,

That's not the reality of film distribution, despite what people today think of the empowerment of the web and the relative ease of digital film-making. Making films still takes money, and the basic costs still have to be recuperated in the old-fashioned way. Youtube etc are not likely to do that. If that were the case, we'd have a lot of young George Lucases and Steven Spielbergs around us and California would have run out of ranch land.

And I'm not sure what you mean by the comparison to Showgirls not being "invited" to the Academy Awards. The Tribeca is a film festival, not an awards ceremony. Films get nominated to the Academy Awards, they don't get invited - and they don't get shown there in their entirety. By the time - and if - a film makes its nomination to the Oscars, it's already been playing in theatres for a good period of time. Films begin their viewing history in film festivals like Tribeca, and that's why indie filmmakers in particular, who can't afford larger distribution networks, seek to have their films shown at such venues.

Again, let's not deal in rank misinformation to make spurious points.

Steven,

Don't stress over offending me -- I mentioned it only because it was germane to the point I was making as an example.

IT's symptomatic of a genuine problem: people who are trans do not see the use of Trannies -- even infomrally -- as a bad thing. And they should. I'm not all that offended by its use, but I am aware of that offensiveness, and how it's being offensive changes the conversation.

And that ties into some of the other subtexts here: the subversive quality (for gay folks, specifically) of the whole thing, the underlying lookism that's rampant in many of the comments by trans folk, the aspects of drag and trans intersection that are then jusxtaposed by the ongoing issue of separation within the Trans community both within itself and from the GLB, and perceptual attack on norms that are found in gay culture and are utlimately assimilative (as I'm disinclined to view drag as subversive given my involvement with it to date).

In other words, there's a lot of crap going on here.

What I described, though, *is advertising*. That is the purpose of advertising a film. THe trailers for films are that particular kind of selling.

I didn't read the memo where GLAAD called for a banning. DO you have a copy of htat? A banning I would disagree with. Asking that it be removed from the Festival is not banning it, though.

Nor is the general thrust of the arguments against the film a question of stopping it from being seen. However, since you brought that point up, keep in mind that political motivations go into a preventing a lot of things from being seen -- and not always purely negatively.

As a writer -- and, in particular, a writer *here*, at Bilerico, where people routinely call for my removal -- you can be assured that I'm well aware of the particular chilling effect such can have.

There's an article in the QUeue by me on an unrelated subject that ties into some of what is floating here -- that *other* discussion about the place and propriety, but in the end, we are not talking about censorship. We are talking about censure, which is a different creature, and yes, as artists, censure can be pretty frightening stuff to deal with.

"A banning I would disagree with. Asking that it be removed from the Festival is not banning it, though."

Ok, so we have a basic disagreement about film distribution. I say that canceling the world premiere screening of a small independent film in a prestigious festival IS a ban, IS censorship. You say it isn't. We'll just have to disagree about that.

But I'd like to take the conversation back to the original post, because I think it's instructive to look at the two incidents together (one, pressure from a group to cancel an offensive performance, and two, an actual cancellation compelled by pressure from an offended group):

Do you believe that it was justified for Christian conservatives to put pressure on Tarleton State University to cancel their student production of Corpus Christi because the play is offensive to them? Do you believe that the school deserved to be compelled to cancel the production? From your attitude toward the Tribeca Film Festival, it would follow that your opinion might be that Tarleton State should just suck it up because that's what you get when you agree to present art that turns out to offend a certain group of politically-organized people who would rather the work not be seen.

Good stuff :D

Ok..

Was it justified for Group A to put pressure on Group B to cancel an Artistic Expression because it is offensive to them?

Yes. It was justified for them to do so. Group A was offended. That offense is, in and of itself, is enough justification to apply pressure.

You state "from my attitude towards TFF" -- and yet, I haven't expresed my attitude towards TFF with any particular detail other than that I feel it's the wrong venue for this work of art.

So I'm curious what my perceived attitude towards TFF (as distinct from the film itself) is.

My position does not mean that Group B should just suck it up.

You did not ask me about what I think regarding group B's reaction, you asked me about the actions of Group A.

What I would do, given that I'm an unrepentant moderate, lol, is look at the reasons for the offensiveness.

That, to me, is the more important question that needs to be considered.

For me to say that Group A is unjustified in expressing their offense would be somewhat problematic.

Now, for the purposes of your question, you can apply Group A as either the conservatives *or* The Trans community, and Group B as either Tarleton State or Luna (or TFF, but that changes the nature of the objections yet again).

As to the agreement to disagree, that's difficult to do. That difference affects the way that you approached your question to me above.

Hence why I took the details out of the issue and presented it as Group A and Group B.

That makes it more clear by stripping the emotional context away from it and allowing us to look at the overall questions without getting side tracked.

"Now, for the purposes of your question, you can apply Group A as either the conservatives *or* The Trans community, and Group B as either Tarleton State or Luna (or TFF, but that changes the nature of the objections yet again)."

But that's the problem. Group B HAS to be Tarleton State and the Tribeca Film Festival, not Luna. We're not discussing a filmmaker an artist's ability to make the work, we're talking about the ability to show the work to an audience. If you take the venue away from a film or a play, you have squelched the work.

I'm all for expressing opinions about art, loudly and rudely if need be. I'll scream and yell with the rest of them, and I have. But I think there's an important difference between registering your offense and working to prevent the work from being seen by an audience. It's no different from book burning.

Ah! Thank you!

Ok, so your issue is more with the calls to the TFF to not show it, and not so much with the reason for those calls, correct?

The reason for those calls to not show it there is what Trans people are talking about.

I think that to that point I would have to point out that this does not, in fact, squelch the work. There are other venues, other ways to get this film to an audience.

And, to the Trans side of the point, this work is extremely damaging to trans people. IT is, from a trans point of view, essentially a piece of propaganda that's designed to foster further marginalization and suffering.

I think that if TFF were to change this overall framing of the piece from "a film about trans issues" to "a film about drag queens going out and being bad" the overall tone would signficantly different.

In part because of the subtexts I talk about below, not all of them good, lol.

So, again, staying focused on your issue -- how does asking *one* venue to not show this piece destroy the ability of the piece (especially at this pointk with the publicity it's generated) to be seen?

And, more importantly, from an artist's perspective, to profit from that art?

"Have you seen the film?"

Can we dispense with this meaningless pseudo-scholarly bit-o-histrionics?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, er..., reality, but some books can indeed by judged by their covers.

"The Man Who Would be Queen" was condemned by almost all transsexual people who saw its cover even before having the opportunity to read any of the "science" that Michael Bailey claimed was in the book.

And guess what? We were right - not simply because the inner pages of the book proved that the book itself was fraud and that it was fraudulently marketed, but because it bore out that the cover itself was an accurate representation of the trans-exterminationist anti-science that it led the book's detractors to presume would be inside.

Now, I'm off to my film studio to work on my new project: a big screen version of Amos and Andy that I intend to empower African-Americans...

and the trailer for it will be even more empowering.

And this is what I mean by all the misinformation enabled by the blogosphere.

Michael Bailey was not an unknown entity when the book came out - his work had been released in studies, heavily criticised. The controversy, a multi-faceted one, over his research in The Man Who Would Have Been Queenn continued to spiral even after its publication. Here's some more info on that (wiki, but it's a good start):

http://www.bilerico.com/2010/03/ticked_off_powers-that-be_with_spurious_opinions_a.php

I don't recall anyone criticising the book without being able to explain what their problems with it were. The kind of censure we're seeing here with this film wouldn't hold up even in the world of pseudo-scientific inquiry.

Come see me some time. I can explain the issues.

Antonia,

Please read my comment carefully. I'm not suggesting that I don't know what the issues with Bailey's book are. I'm stating that no one I know of who has criticised Bailey's book has done so without reading it. Although, as I'm learning from this fruitful thread, apparently there's a world of people out there who feel really good about saying they don't need to read it in order to criticise it.

I'm also stating, as baldly as I can, that anyone who criticises or discusses a film/book without viewing or seeing it is speaking from a place of ignorance and is contributing to the general vacuity of public discourse. I just had breakfast with friends who endured (as they put it) the film The Blind Side, suspecting they would have problems with its racial politics (and they're both white, before anyone here makes any more cheap and shoddy analogies). But, as one of them put it, "I knew I'd have to see it if I wanted to talk about it."

And that, my friends, is the best example of how to contribute to public discourse. You really don't have to be a professor or a "detached" intellectual to know that it's always best to come to a discussion prepared to demonstrate that you know all your facts. And not just rely on the impressionistic impressions of others.

Yeesh. As Professor Kirke puts in The Chronicles of Narnia, "What *do* they teach in schools these days?"

I don't need to see it to know what it is, just like I don't need to go to a KKK meeting to know that they're racist. The fact that the producer is saying it's okay because he's gay is, in and of itself, a reason, as is that he claims to not know "trannies" is a slur. He is not in a position to say anything about the trans community, he didn't even bother to get the input from a transgendered individual.

To compare this to blaxploitation films, that'd be like me making a film called "Irritated Niggers with Clubs" and say it's okay because I'm Asian and I didn't know "nigger" was offensive. Being a part of one minority, even a similar minority, doesn't mean you can speak for a different minority. Both groups here are racial/ethnic minorities, just as both homosexuals and transsexuals are sexual minorities (albeit in different ways).

And having the slur in the title is enough. If you're neither a part of the group the slur is against and you didn't even know it was a bloody slur, there is no way it can be done in a respectful manner. Which is a real shame because I can so see this being done in a humorous fashion.

friday jones | March 31, 2010 12:02 AM

I could not help but notice the square jaw and five o'clock shadow in your very handsome profile pic. Is it safe to assume that you are NOT transgendered? In which case you are just sloshing your gooey cis male privilege all over us and telling us that it's raining?

Thanks for telling us "ticked off trannies" what to think about something trans-related again, I don;t know WHAT we'd be thinking about trans-related stuff if we didn't have cis males around to tell us what to think and what's fair.

I've seen lots of trannies with square jaws and 5 o'clock shadow. But thanks anyway for noticing.

friday jones | March 31, 2010 2:31 AM

So would you feel just fine if there was a film made by trans women called "Pissed Off Faggots With Knives" that made a big fat gay-joke out of Matthew Shepard's murder?

I am beginning to see why this place is becoming known as "Failerico." White cis gay males around here pretty much seem to have three issues: We wanna pway SOLDIER, Mommy, we wanna pway HOUSE wif MAWWIAGE, Mommy, and lookit the yucky TRANNIES, Mommy! Meanwhile I'm going to annual memorials where we spend two hours just reading off the names of our dead from the past year. A dudebro who just happens to be gay is still just a lousy dudebro.

Wow, Same sex relationships are playing house? Anyone who's gay is automatically white and cisgender?

Don't ever let anyone say that we don't leave comments up by homophobes. Sure, they're not that common (a couple a week), but they happen and we generally feel that our readers are smart enough to take them for what they are. Why, Peter Labarbera just commented here the other day, and that one's staying up!

So would you feel just fine if there was a film made by trans women called "Pissed Off Faggots With Knives" that made a big fat gay-joke out of Matthew Shepard's murder?

I can't speak for all gay people (since we're not a monolithic category of people thinking from a hive mind, which you haven't seem to have noticed), but I'm thinking that Steven wouldn't have much of a problem with a movie like that. Just a guess.

I wouldn't either, but I doubt a film fest where I live would screen it. Des Pédés Fachés avec des Couteaux? Now that's a movie for your foreign film night!

If someone made a film called "Pissed Off Faggots With Knives" that made a big fat gay-joke out of Matthew Shepard's murder" I would be first in line to see it. That's not to say that I wouldn't be very leery (as I am regarding Ticked Off Trannies) because satire and pastiche are incredibly difficult to pull off. But I applaud the effort, because when they're done well they can be powerfully effective.

(I can't respond to the second part of your comment because it's 1) not directed to me, and 2) incomprehensible.)

Well with this last statement, and the behavior i have personally experienced these past 13 years i have lived *AFT* ... The most hateful and ignorant and biased bunch has been the Gay and some Lesbians.. With out exception. I have been invited by churches, who don't like and even work to deny Homosexual rights, to come and be part of their congregation. Yet more often than not when i go to a Gay establishment, Bar, Restaurant, etc. I have been met with Snarky Attitudes and dehumanized in the way spoken to..

So I ask myself again " Why do you support those who treat you so badly? As if they claim a power and right to denigrate you to less than they are."
I use to think cause its the way my friends who know my past view me tied to this group of people.. Now I am going to move from support and trying to educate and speak up for Gays and lesbians rights to one of indifference. And will stop any business i have given to gay Business's because i wanted them to be successful.. I know it wont change the world .. But when people ask me what do i think of gay marriage etc.. i will say i dont care anymore.. Since it doesn't affect me.. I am strait and my BC is changed to Female years ago.. I fortunate enough to be way past the painful process of transition that facial hair and the harshness of testosterone have faded into oblivion.. Not to have to face comments like squared jawed 5'O'Clock shadows..

I denounce the Trany,Transgender, etc.. term from this day forward and will work to fight against gays and lesbians rights.

Why because your inability to have empathy and understanding of Transgender issues You refuse to listen, Unlike the Cis Strait world who least try to understand and walk in our shoes .. and just cause you wore your mommas shoes in highschool doesnt equate to what I am talking about..

Transgender was a umbrella term put upon anyone with gender variances and it was a unfair application no asked if it was ok .. it wasn't our term. And most of us who live full time in genders opposite of what we were born.. Dont like it when Weekend Warriors in momma's heels and over done make up do Misogynist impersonation of what they view female as .. Doesnt give them a right to claim the title of T .. Us DQ or what ever or let us out of the T.. we love you as people but daym pissed at having to be lumped into your Drag bag ..

So goodbye good luck and thanks for the fish


*Aft* After Transition

I'll close out here with just this observation that comes from being seriously meta about stuff:

There is a whole bunch of trans folk who are really irate about a film.

Why, one could call them “ticked off trannies” if one was so inclined. And they are upset because of what they feel is a kind of violence done to them.

And in getting their revenge — by acting to censure the film that has them so ticked off — they are, well, um, err…

Being told how bad it is that they are ticked off about it.

By people who generally don’t understand why they are ticked off.

Is it just me, or is there a hell of a lot of seriously black humor there that is almost absurdist in a surreal way?

I'm a pretty meta gal myself - looking at context, history, and communication. Mr Luna, I think, had the best of intentions (and that counts for lots to me). Thing is, this is ripping open old deep wounds. There are issues and long-standing hurts being talked around here.

I'm honestly starting to think this isn't a discussion about a movie, a festival, a genre. This is something Mr Luna, his cast, GLAAD, or even the critics didn't expect to happen. This is a discussion about how/where/why Trans (women) fit in the LGB. There is the old who is a "real" trans woman being tossed in just to make this more painful. There are standing issues of erasue and appropriation between the G and T (and L). This is where I see this conversation heading - not sure how I feel about that.

There is no doubt in my mind that Luna had not only incredibly positive intentions (at least once he got past the ennui of his general oeuvre), but that he genuinely tried to do a decent job.

Then again, for the last two decades, people have genuinely tried to do the decent thing. Hell, some have even said tings like we can't do this right now, but we will come back for you". It wasn't done out of animosity most often (yes, sometimes it was, but not generally).

But wanting to do the right thing and succeeding in it are two different things. And while it may just be based on the trailer, it's still a valid criticism by trans people, and if nothing else, even those who are dead set on seeing the film -- often for the intent of spiting us -- will have this in their heads.

IT's an uncomfortable discussion for us. I'm committed to uncomfortable discussions because someone has to be so.

Or they never get held, and those are usually the most important ones.

Chitown Kev | March 31, 2010 9:47 AM

Steven, perhaps I need to better sum up my own critique of "Ticked-Off Trannies..." but I've made it a point at Pam's House Blend to not submit it to a "community standards of decency" type of critique but a film geek sort of critique based on film genre.

I have also critiqued the film trailer according to "the current political moment."

And actually, I am all for having "the discussion"

@Toni
Oh, I can't tell you the meta scenarios for a "revenge film" based on the reaction of the trans community that have gone off in my head.

I will give Luna some credit in that it certainly has my creative juices flowing a bit.

So - not giving Peter La Barbera a regular column here or criticizing the decision to do so would be censorship?

I'd like to extend that invitation to him.

The distinction between state power and private citizens actions is not a small one - they're not identical. Boycott's are a very different thing then censorship. If trying to influence editorial decisions of private endeavors were anathema - you wouldn't have written this post. You wouldn't have criticized this places removing Ron Gold as a contributor - you would have accepted it as the decision of the endeavor in how it wanted to portray its own message.

Also too, about the glib comparisons - "would you like a film about "Ticked off Faggots with Knives? Huh?!?!?!?!" - maybe they don't apply? Sometimes you can make a point that way, but when it comes to insults, not actual economic oppression, it usually doesn't apply.

Like I really don't think that a film called "ticked off faggots with knives" would get that much ire from gay people (although I'm sure you could find some), because.... well, I don't know why. We're just all different that way.

It's like how Dan Savage came under fire for saying that one AG was a trans man even though he's not, just to make fun of him. But Kathy Grifin just called the Dem's House whip a "big queen" and no one who was gay was offended (although a few people wondered about her effectiveness as a lobbyist). What Savage did there is what gay people have been doing regarding gay identity for decades, but which trans people generally find insulting.

These sorts of things don't translate, so I don't think anyone's going to be convinced by making those comparisons.

But I do want to take this opportunity to announce my new culinary series, "Fed up Faggot with Knives." First week's recipe: chili con tofu!

"Something about the advertising, portrayals and discussion about the film" compelled me to see the film.

Yes, to view a film universally reviled as a misogynistic piece of crap. And I wanted to see it."

So - you're impressions of the film based soley on the advertising and pre discussions were correct. And were the basis for your making a decision regarding the film. You thoroughly enjoyed its craptasticness.

If people thought the ads & trailers had nothing to do with the film and they wouldn't make decisions about the film via them - we wouldn't view them & businesses wouldn't produce them. Now we're just arguing about the degree


And - on many films - real cash is in the merchandising. Sometimes more than what gets on the screen. I'm willing to bet they'll have a bunch of that for this film. Perhaps a comic book, t-shirts, cards, posters, coffee mugs.

I'm sure we'll be lucky enough to see the images used by the religous right to denigrate us & make some cash. It's a win-win for almost everyone. Almost.

Kathy,

For the last time:

I said I saw the film even though it was reviled, i.e. denigrated; assailed with abusive language; dismissed etc., as misogynistic. When I said I enjoyed it, that meant I didn't see it as misogynistic. In other words, the descriptions of the film as deeply misogynistic were, in my estimation, wrong.

In other words, this film that everyone is currently describing as violently transphobic - without having seen it - could well be seen as completely the opposite of that. But we'll never know if the film isn't shown in the first place.

So, no, we're not arguing about the degree of...anything (I don't know what word you intended to use there, since it's missing). We're not really arguing anything from here on since you aren't even reading what I write. I think I've said everything I have to say about this fracas.

As for your ideas about film and merchandising, I'll just have to defer to YOUR degree in film studies and marketing. Yes, merchandising is really where it's at in the art/indie film scene. I've got the Lizzie Borden Born in Flames bobble heads to prove your point.

BUT ... Chris Vargas did send me some nifty coasters advertising his fabulous films http://www.chrisevargas.com/

Hmmmm... We really should check into how many of these will help recuperate the costs of Homotopia and Criminal Queers.

You have Lizzie Borden bobbleheads? Seriously? I want one so bad!

Oh, yeah. And a couple of Flaming Creatures drinking mugs :-)

Well...

Ok, So your point early on is that something that Group A sees as bad can also been seen as not bad by Group B.

Well, I think it's fair to say that Luna does not see his work as Bad. And that the Trans community does see it as bad.

I'm surprised that needed to be brought up. Truly. The issue here isn't that some see it as bad and others do not, the issue is *why* it's seen as bad.

And those who do not see it as bad do not understand why those that do see it as bad see it that way.

And, since they do not understand it, they are defending it without understanding what they are defending against.

Which is pretty damaging in a lot of ways. Enough that I'm going to ask a question and start a new set of comments below.

As for Born in Flames bobble heads, I gotta have one as well. Just cause. So share yer source, lol.

I'm curious.

For those defending the film, can you please explain, in your own words, why it is the Trans community is so offended by this trailer (and, thusly, by the film, through extension)?

I ask this in part because of something Yasmin said earlier (the online trans community doesn't resemble the one she knows in her daily life, to paraphrase), and in part because of following the whole mess in multiple locations where the subtexts I've seen coming up over and over again are visible to me.

This is one of those subtexts that I've noted.

However, I could be wrong. So, since I'm working on estimated ideas based on statements made, I'm asking directly in order to improve and correlate the findings.

This is also important, because there are several issues at play here.

There is the issue of Censure versus Censor.

There is the issue of definitonal understanding of censorship -- is it absolutist and unrealistic, or pragmatic and variable?

There is the issue of is absolutism in censorship being unrealistic.

There is the issue of gay perception of Trans people.

There is the issue of stigma being perpetuated.

There is the issue of drag people in cinema representing transsexuals.

There is the issue of privilege and it's attendant power dynamics between cis and trans.

There is the issue of Transsexual versus Drag.

And at least a dozen more so far, such as the question of subversion that Yasmin also made me note.

I will point out that it was the title of this piece by Steven that helped me to pull the black humor I see in it all to the fore. Mostly because it's been pretty obvious that trans folk are pretty ticked off, and when I saw that, it wasn't the film title I saw, but the statement of "Angry Trannies At Work *again* - sigh!" that was conveyed by it.

As someone widely accused of being an "Angry Tranny" (so much so I noted it previously here), I'm not unaware, and I'm pretty interested in the idea. Especially since my positions come out of the "real world" discussions on a daily basis with many, many trans people scattered all over the world and the US.

So, once more:

Can the people who are not trans explain to me what they think it is that has trans people upset about this film?