News hit today that A-List superstar Michelle Rodriguez (Fast and Furious, Avatar) will join Sigourney Weaver in what they call a “gender reassignment thriller.” According to reports, Rodriguez will play a male assassin who is betrayed and turned over to a mysterious woman called only The Doctor, who forces him to have a sex-change against his will.
Now a woman, he seeks revenge against those who betrayed him.
Naturally, controversy has already arisen as Glaad has condemned the film, or rather the plot of the film as reported in The Guardian
I will get back to Glaad and their concerns in a minute, but as someone who has written more than one man forced into a woman’s body and seeks revenge story, I have high hopes for this film and for the excellent team being put in place.
One of my stories featured a mafia don who is turned into a woman and a stripper at one of his own strip clubs and then seeks revenge discovering, in the process, that he is just as fearless as a woman as he ever was as a man. He learns to let go of all his prejudices against women, and to confront his own misogyny.
But then why seek revenge? Isn’t he seeking revenge because being turned into a woman is a disgrace, something that makes him less than? Nope. He seeks revenge because his code of honor requires he seek revenge, and it is the disrespectful way he is treated as a woman that finally gives him the motivation to do what he should have done in the first place. Now, speaking as a writer, I also like to put my characters into plot-driven action stories, so having something like this revenge plot also lets me get this man, now in a busty woman’s body, out into the world facing trials and obstacles as a woman, growing and changing along the way as a result of the obstacles he has to overcome.
I suspect and hope that Tomboy will allow the authors to explore similar themes and ideas as the main character is forced to confront some of his own biases against women, and what it means to be one. A lot of interesting ideas about gender and identity can be explored in a film like this, and have been explored in non-mainstream media for years, and I have high hopes it will foster discussion and acceptance. By putting the story within the framework of a Payback-style thriller the creators can draw in action movie fans and lure them into thinking about gender and identity, whereas many of these viewers might not even consider watching a show like Transparent which they know is about TG issues from the outset.
Now, as for Glaad, here is the central quote from the article: “We haven’t read the script, but it’s disappointing to see film-makers turning what is a life-saving medical procedure for transgender people into a sensationalistic plot device,” the organisation’s director of programs for transgender media, Nick Adams, told The Hollywood Reporter. “We are at a crucial moment in the public’s understanding of transgender issues, and stories like these have the potential to undermine the progress we’ve worked so hard to achieve.”
I need more, Nick Adams. “Stories like these have the potential to undermine the progress we’ve worked so hard to achieve.” Really? Here is the deal. Any movie that features anything to do with transgender issues or a transgender actor or any genderfluid issues or people has the potential to undermine progress. The audience can always choose to react however they want, and even if a film is designed to cast the procedure as a life saving and affirmative procedure, which it is, any given viewer can still reject that portrayal and recoil against the message.
The last time I saw Kinky Boots on Broadway, there is a scene where a character finally comes to respect and accept Lola, the cross-dressing performer who designs the Kinky Boots. While most of the audience applauded, one of the people sitting in front of me mumbled, “What a homo.”
Now, for anyone who has not seen Kinky Boots, the show emphasizes. among other themes, a message of acceptance including a chant at the end of “Be who you wanna be. Never let them tell you who you ought to be.” But this audience member had no interest in that and was so angered he felt the need to express his homophobia verbally.
Any media anyone creates risks setting back progress, so unless we want to return to a world where no one ever talks about it, or we use phrases like, “the love that dare not speak its name” we will have to always risk putting something out there that could have an unintended impact.
We’ll have to see what happens, but given that Michelle Rodriguez has come out as bi-sexual I am confident she would not have signed onto the project if it were in any way derogatory. In fact, I suspect this film will allow her to explore and express her own glorious genderfluidity, and I am looking forward to it!
Let’s not hide out love away. Let’s not live in fear. Let’s all live out loud everyday all the time. Let’s express ourselves and let others have the freedom to do the same. Is there a risk some people might take it the wrong way? Yes. In fact, it is a certainty, but a lot of people might take it the right way as well, and the world can become a better place.