Rey is Darth Vader (Spoilers)

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Until the next movie comes out and clears up Rey’s origins, I am going to believe that Rey is Darth Vader reborn as a woman.

For those who haven’t seen the movie, stop reading now and go see it.  You really need to.

For those who have, here is my thinking:

Rey has many skills which she could not have learned as an abandoned child living as a scavenger on a wasteland of a planet.  She can pilot a space ship, for example, and when Finn asks her how she did it, she responds, “I don’t know.”

The answer?  Because she learned to pilot in her previous life. As DARTH VADER!

She also knows how to handle a light-saber.  She can fight with one so well, in fact, that she out duels the movie’s baddie, the leader of the Knight of Ren, Kylo Ren.  How could she be so good with a lightsaber without having ever held one before?

Because she learned to use one in her previous life as Darth Freaking Vader!

In addition to her Annakin Skywalker skillset, there are other scenes offering mysterious hints as to her origins.  Kylo Ren, when he tries to use to force to mind control her, senses a connection between them.  “Don’t be scared,” he says.  “I feel it, too.”  The nature of the connection is left vague, but my belief is that what he senses, and doesn’t yet realize, is that the young woman before him is none other than his grandfather, the man he idolizes and seeks to emulate.

Her fear of the light saber she once owned, her eventual claiming of same, the look of tragic sorrow in Luke’s eyes when they meet, a tragic sorrow informed by the fact that Luke knows she is his father– all of these things point Rey, whose name means “king” as Darth Vader.

How, then, could it have happened?  Rumors have been circulating for some time that Darth Plagueis, who had the power to create life, would appear in the next film.  There, it will be revealed that he brought Vader back to life in the shape of a female and hid him on Jakku to await the time when she could be called forth to embrace her heritage.

So, there you have it.  Rey is Darth Vader.   I’m not the only one who thinks so, by the way.   Check out this link: Vader is Chick Now

Okay.  Now, the truth is, I am sure this is all wishful thinking on my part.  I look for TG stuff everywhere!   In fact, my first thought was that she was Obi Wan Kenobi, given her accent.   I only switched it up because we hear Obi Wan speak to her during her vision and say, “Rey, you have taken your first step.”

In fact, I doubt the creators would want to muddle the story by introducing gender fluid elements into the film, or risk backlash from all the people rightfully praising Rey for being such a great character who happens to be female.   Were it suddenly revealed that she was once a man, that might be perceived as undermining her value as a role model.

However, I can assure you that when I went to watch the movie a second time, I pretended it was Darth Vader saying, “Why are you holding my hand?” as Finn tried to make him into a damsel in distress, and it was a lot of fun!

So, even if she doesn’t turn out to be he, go watch it again and pretend.  Everything is more interesting if you give it a gender fluid subtext!

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Rey is Darth Vader (Spoilers)

Tangerine: Spoilers

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The film Tangerine explores the lives of two transgender friends living in Los Angeles, features transgender performers in the lead roles, and explores and celebrates their lives and struggles without ever being self-consciously a statement about transgender issues.

What I mean is that this film is a film about people.   And in the same way a similar movie might have been about two friends who happened to be straight, or two friends who happened to be doctors, or any two people who happened to be other things, this one explores the lives of two people who happen to be TG, but who are not limited by that aspect of their identities, and who are neither valorized or mocked because of it.  There is no sense that the audience has any obligation to pay special attention to the fact that they are TG, or to view the film like a movie in a sociology class where the subtext is, “This is how TG people put on their shoes!”   They are people like other people, and that is among the film’s triumphs.

And what do these people want?  The same things as everyone else: they want to be valued, loved, understood, and it is their pursuit of these universal human needs to drives the drama of the film and almost brought me to tears on several occasions.

Alexandra has planned a big concert and invited all of her friends as well as everyone else in the neighborhood.  She loves to sing and hopes for a special evening sharing her love with her friends, who have all enthusiastically promised to come see her.   When she gets to the venue, not even one person has shown up, and she stands outside arguing with the manager, insisting that people are on the way, refusing to believe that not even a single person cared enough to make it to the show.  I ached for her both because she had been abandoned, and because she refused to believe she had been abandoned.  I know that feeling.   When I was a kid, the last time my mother tried to throw a birthday party for me no one came.  No one.   And I could see the pain and shame she felt as much as I felt my own.  I didn’t even realize no one liked me until I was sitting there in our dirty little house, watching my mother calling neighbors and listening to their excuses.  I know that feeling and experience is shared by many people who are not “normal.”

Finally, one person does show up, Sin-Dee, who has brought along a woman she is kidnapping–  see the movie– and Alexandra performs for her friend and the other lonely people who spend their Christmas Eves at seedy bars.

Sin-Dee is the more temperamental of the two, and her quest on this Christmas Eve has been to find the woman who has been sleeping with her boyfriend and confront them.   During this confrontation, she learns that her boyfriend has cheated on her not only with the one girl, but also with her best friend, Alexandra, whose concert she alone cared enough to see.

The second betrayal breaks her heart.   She is devastated, and she wanders off into the night to turn some tricks, looking for some way to get out of herself, to stop feeling what she is feeling, only to have a car full of frat boys throw a bottle of piss in her face.

The movie does, in scenes like the one above, show some of the abusive behavior with a transgender person might face, some of the disgusting acts that happen.  These women are as far from Kaitlin Jenner and the Victoria’s Secret fashion show as you can get, and their lives are full of hardships, not magazine covers celebrating them for their courage.

So, when Sin-Dee is horrified, despairing, broken, who comes to the rescue?  Alexandra.   She comes over and helps her friend, and the two of them at least have each other.  They are not along on Christmas Eve, and they are not defeated.   They each seem determined to keep on living, to get up and make it another day.

There is a third character searching for connection in the movie, an Armenian cab driver.  He is married and has a child, and he loves men, and particularly Sin-Dee.   The last we see of him he is alone in his living room, standing in front of a Christmas tree, with a lost and lonely look on his face as he faces maintaining his marriage, keeping up his obligations, continuing to live in the closet.  How much worse to be alone in the presence of others?  To be a stranger to yourself?

The film could, I suppose, be accused of typing transgender characters in the sense that they are sex workers.  One of the criticism of the portrayal of TG people in the past is that they tend to be criminals or prostitutes, drug addicts.

But, see the movie. It doesn’t have that feel of otherness about it.  In fact, it brings attentions to harsh realities:

Ms. Taylor (Alexandra) now finds herself in a position similar to Ms. Cox, (Orange is the New Black) as a spokeswoman for transgender people, appreciative of the increased visibility yet dismayed at the soaring rates of homicide, suicide attempts and unemployment that plague this world. “Visibility is very important, but it’s not changing the day-to-day lives of everyday trans people,” Ms. Cox said. “We need another culture shift.”

They are people.  They may be poor. They may be TG.  They may be or do a lot of things good and bad– but what we see in this movie is that they are people who just want to be loved and live their lives, and that is a wonderful thing to see.

It’s available for streaming!  Tangerine On Netflix

 

 

 

 

Tangerine: Spoilers

The Skin I Live In: Off The Mark (Spoilers!)

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I should love The Skin I Live In, the Pedro Almodovar film featuring forced femme and role-reversal themes right off the pages of Fictionmania.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading and enjoying stories like it, often somewhat poorly written stories just like it, which I enjoyed anyway due to the themes, and when I first heard about it I became as excited as I’ve been about anything since the first Lord of the Rings.

Here was a film by one of the great directors of my lifetime, a director who had explored gender themes throughout his career, and he was making a film out of the French noir classic Mygale. How could I not love it?

And then it came out. And I didn’t.

The movie is full of great performances, and is very well-constructed, but in the end it just didn’t quite do it for me, and I recently watched the DVD to try and figure out why.

Now, the actress chosen to play the lead character after his forced sex-change is exquisite.  Here are the before and after shots:

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In addition to have a very feminine beauty, and it has always been interesting to me to think about what would happen to a straight male’s mind if he found himself pretty, but the actress also has a very small, feminine voice, very much the “little girl voice” often assigned to characters in forced femme stories, so he finds himself not only with a very pretty face, but an extremely feminine voice.

The character, renamed Vera after the sex change, is subtly placed in the context of a storybook damsel in distress, a beautiful female who is trapped in the surgeon (mad wizard’s) tower and subjected constantly to his watchful gaze via cameras in his room.  This connection is driven home as we see the character sitting in poses which are then echoed in classic paintings of female nudes that hand in the surgeon’s palatial home.

Vera even starts to dress and act feminine, wearing flowery dresses and putting on make-up as he seduces and then becomes the lover of the man who turned him into a woman:

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Now, one of the first disappointments for me comes with how much is not in the movie in terms of seeing the character struggle with the change.   I have always found the struggle the most interesting part of these stories– how the guy deals with his new body and face, what pressures and incidents could lead him to accept a new life and even go so far as to offer his woman’s body to the man who gave him a vagina against his will.  But, in this film, we don’t see much of that struggle.

For much of his physical transformation, Vera just seems in a daze, staring out into space with a stunned, glassy face.  We see him after getting breast implants, looking stupefied but not reacting or emoting.  The doctor comes to him at one point and informs him that he will need to start inserting dildos into his new slit, and shows him a collection of dildos that get bigger and thicker, informing him he will need to progress until his new slit can take the biggest, deepest one.   The scene is disturbing to watch, and would no doubt be a horrifying revelation for a straight man, but again Vera just sits staring blankly.

The idea that Vera is in shock, suffering PTSD seems very plausible given what he is going through and has been through along the way, including being kidnapped, starved, kept chained up like an animal and then emasculated, and I do not question the likely reality of such a reaction, but it doesn’t work for me in terms of a dramatic choice.

Similarly, when the doctor sends down a bunch of women’s cosmetics and a book on how to put on make-up, Vera sends them back. He seems perturbed, and we see his efforts to resist being feminized in mind as well as body here, and in a scene when he shreds a bunch of flowery dresses that have been left for him to wear, but otherwise we don’t see much more in terms of the doctor’s efforts or Vera’s resistance.  For much of the movie we see him sitting around reading (women’s fiction), watching television or else passively posing when he knows the doctor is watching him.

Vera breaks out of his feminine passivity, finally, when he decides to use his curvy new body to try and gain his freedom.  It is delicious and fascinating to see when Vera first tries to seduce the surgeon.  Vera becomes the aggressor, pushing his body against the doctor, following him when he tries to retreat, and much like a man insisting “I know that you want me.”  The doctor, we have seen, has been identifying with his creation, even mirroring Vera’s feminine poses:

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But, and here is another artistic choice that disappoints:  Almodovar is afflicted with the contemporary belief that being artsy and literature means being vague, suggestive and creating works which are indeterminate.  The doctor’s mirroring is never really explored, much like Vera’s own move to seek to seduce him.  We are also kept in the dark about Vera’s motives.  Is he suffering from Stockholm Syndrome?  Has he fallen in love with his captor?   Or, is he now forced to use his feminine whiles and pretty face to get what he wants?

And what does he want?  Does he want his freedom?  Or, has he resigned himself to a woman’s life, and does he truly wish to live with the doctor as the other man’s wife? Does he want revenge?

And why put him in that ugly flesh-toned body sock, which may be the single least appealing item of clothing I have ever seen in any movie, including Joe Dirt?

I am all for sophisticated storytelling, but I would prefer to be even more confused, for the psychological complexity to be more deeply and fully explored.  It is very possible that both Vera and the doctor are conflicted, that they don’t know what they want, which is fine, but it is all glossed over, hinted at, and what’s left is a study in characters who are often cold, cruel and detached, who we are the viewers never get to really know and I, at least, didn’t ultimately care about all that much, which reduced the impact of even the moving final scene where Vera, now a woman, goes back and sees his mother for the first time.

Lastly, the story, like too much modern art film, hides safely in a world of grey.   Unlike much forced femme literature, the character of Vincent/Vera may or may not have had it coming.  He had sex with the doctor’s daughter, but it seemed consensual, and she only panicked at the last minute and tried to stop him after he was already in the act.   Often, forced femme stories deal with people who we as readers feel deserve what they get, and in Mygale the character is much less blurry in terms of his immorality.

In The Skin I Live In, the character may be innocent. Did he rape her?   He is portrayed as a basically decent kid before the incident, and by making him possibly innocent, the story lacks the kind of he deserves it quality that for me makes forced femme stories palatable.

To watch someone who probably didn’t have it coming being tortured and cut apart made me feel a little sick.   Now, Almodovar may have been going for that, I can’t say.

But what I can say is that I didn’t love the experience.

Rent or Buy It On Amazon

 

 

 

The Skin I Live In: Off The Mark (Spoilers!)

5 Questions with Robyn Rhedd

 

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Hey, everyone.  I am super-excited to bring my latest 5 Questions interview to you all this week.   I first came across Robyn Rhedd’s work when The Parts Store was suggested to me by Amazon’s BuyBot.  I enjoyed the story, and feel that Rise of the Nymph, the latest book by this author, shows amazing growth and evolution.  I am excited to see how Rhedd’s work continues to evolve, and super thankful Robyn took the time to answer some questions for me!

  1. What are your top three TG experiences in terms of books, films, videos, songs?

 

Top 3… Okay… here we go… 1) Videos: Among my favorite videos is Ranma 1/2. I own most of the first season and watch those episodes frequently. I love how the tg elements of the story and interwoven into it. It’s not always the focus, but its always an element. Plus they always make me laugh.

2) Books: Jack Chalker… He’s my hero as far as how he was able to interweave tg elements into all of his stories. Among my favorites of his is Identity Matrix which focuses exclusively on a tg transformation. I also like his Changewinds saga for the same reason. Chalker was always able to interweave his tg into his stories making the transformation an essential part of the narrative.

3) Stories: I’m going to cheat here, but I have always been sustained by the tg fiction and comic community online! You didn’t ask about that…but there you go. When I can’t find a good Chalker book to read or find a Ranma video to watch, I can always find a good story or browse a tg comic online.

 

  1. Unlike a lot of TG fiction, which explores forced fem themes, I feel like your work deals with people who are TG but are in denial or don’t realize it until something forces their change, as in Rise of the Nymph.  Why do you feel this theme interests you?

 

I would hope that when people read my books that they can see themselves in the characters. People reading may be struggling with their own gender identity. They may wonder if they identify as a man or a woman and what does that mean? Should I be ashamed of who I am or not? When they see a character undergo a change in gender, discover the feminine part of themselves, and accept that part of themselves, it may help them accept themselves too. At least, that’s what I hope it does. 

 

3.  In Rise of the Nymph, the conflict comes not so much from the male character experiencing a sex-change as his being put into a traditional feminine role– a pretty object to be seen and not heard.   Can you talk about why the gender roles people are forced to inhabit interests you and what you would like to accomplish by exploring it in your writing? .

 

 In a perfect world I think we would be able to dress as we like, work as we like, and do as we like, free of the expectations society places upon our gender. Sadly we do not live in a perfect world. We are tied to what society places upon us and upon our gender identity. This applies not only to the transgender, struggling to determine what gender they identify as, but it also applies to people struggling with their own gender. What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? That’s what Alee, the main character in Rise of the Nymph faces. By becoming a woman, she escapes the gender roles imposed on men only to have them unconsciously imposed on her when she’s a woman. Liberation comes when she acknowledges those gender roles, escapes them, and lives her own life on her own terms. 

 

  1. Can you talk about your journey as a writer?  What was the process like for you in terms of reaching the point where you felt ready to put your work out there for the world to see?

 

I have dabbled in writing tg fiction privately but have never really found a story that I wanted to publish…until I found The Parts Store. Or rather it found me. That story spoke to my heart and really touched upon what has become a theme for me: gender identity and how we see ourselves. Shame and acceptance featured prominently in that book too. The story had a good reaction on tgstorytime so I considered what it might look like published. Confident in my story, I submitted The Parts Store to TG World Books who loved it. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

  1. What has been the most positive aspect of publishing your work?

 

Probably getting to do interviews like this. This is really something else! But, seriously, I have enjoyed connecting with the larger tg fiction community. They are amazing. When my work was on tgstorytime, I read the comments religiously. It was amazing how people anticipated and tried to predict the next chapter.

 

  1. What’s coming up next?  Let’s hear about your next projects!

 

The biggest project I’m currently working on is my TG Olympic War Saga. The war has just begun and there are many more mythological characters that enter the war and receive a TG Olympic War treatment. I’m already finished the second tale, Attack of the Harpies, and am working on stories with sirens, mermaids, furies, fates, and many more mythological minor characters. The great part of Greek Mythology: Most of the minor characters are female which makes giving them a tg treatment that much easier!  Besides that I have a few other stories up my sleeve. A mystery tale or two and one that might make it out before the rest centered around marriage therapy. We’ll see…

Thanks so much, Robin.   Readers, check out Robin’s author page on Amazon.com

5 Questions with Robyn Rhedd