Transgender rights is a hot issue as of recent. Trans representation in the media is a direct result of the positive civil rights movement the transgender community. With such successful trans characters in hit shows such as Amazon’s “Transparent”, Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black”, TLC’s “I Am Jazz”, and E’s “I Am Cait” the transgender educational era has come to reach millions of learners.
Now that there has been much media released focusing on educating people on the psychological and personal issues transgender men and women face, it should be about time that the media begins writing and casting trans characters and actors for simpler and more common roles. But last week the trailer for Zoolander 2 was released and LGBTA groups are not too thrilled with the trans representation in the film. They have even issued a boycott of the film.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays a gender fluid model named All. Many trans rights activists find this offensive for a multitude of reasons. It’s understandable why. For one, the name seems to be a joke in and of itself. Secondly, for years transgender men and women have never been seen in television and film. Neither have any trans men or women been cast in many roles. To cast Cumberbatch, though many people love him well, is insulting to the many trans actors.
To have Cumberbatch playing a gender fluid model is nearly worse. Because it doesn’t just come down to eliminating actual trans men and women from getting a role. To have Cumberbatch play a trans model is neglecting to look at the struggle of many trans models who have faced actual discrimination in their industry. The trailer jokes about extremely sensitive subjects, and turns them into cheap one liners like, “Do you have a hot dog or bun?”. To make a joke of these issues, before even allowing actual trans models to play the role with actual conviction and experience seems unfair. LGBTA activists feel that it’s making light of a recent issue without first trying to bring awareness or change.
It’s quite possibly negative for anyone who has faced discrimination in their career pursuits. The transphobic humor in the trailer could translate negatively to viewers of any orientation, gender, even race. It’s simply just too soon to make jokes of an issue many people do not know the true weight of. And anyone ignorant to true trans facts, may see Benedict Cumberbatch in wig and dress, and assume that that’s all transgender is.
To simply write in a trans character to appeal to the current interest in trans issues is one thing. But to reduce the existence and struggle of trans models to joking matters is a far worse thing. It’s not a horrible topic to show case, but it’s ignorant of real life experience. Zoolander is a comedy, of course. And sure there are going to be humorous moments for Cumberbatch’s character that doesn’t entirely revolve around his character’s gender identity. But the manner in which this was handled, loosely and without sensitivity, may result in bad box office numbers for Zoolander 2.