The Wild Boys– Right out of Fictionmania!

(The director with the “Wild Boys” at premiere.)

A group of arrogant boys commits a terrible crime.  As punishment, they are sent to a mysterious island where they are transformed into girls.  It may sound like the plot of an old school TG story, but it is actually the plot of a new TG film from director Bertrand Mandico.

See Trailer

One of the excellent decisions the director made was to cast female actors to play the boys before, during and after transition.  The reviews I read have lauded these performers, and based on the trailer they did very well.  The film has the look and feel of a fever dream, the images taken directly from the seething cauldron of the unconscious.  There are screening dates set across the US for this summer and fall, and you can find them as well as links to buy tickets HERE

For non-US or if you live too far away from those locations, it is going to be streaming on a service called Mubi, and, of course, you can check European and French distributers for details.

I will report back when I have seen the film!

Forsooth, a TG Opera from the 1700s!

 

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(Photo: Discovery of Achilles on Skyros)

Achilles, the mighty warrior, pretending to be a girl and fighting off the manly advances of a king?  Finding himself pestered on all sides by people determined he should become a bride?  This and more all happens in John Gay’s 1700s opera, Achilles in Petticoats.

The story of Achilles and how his mother, the nymph Thetis, convinced him to live as a girl dates back to ancient times and has been the subject of paintings, sculptures, epic poems and operas in French, Spanish and, happily for me, English!  For a listing of the many depictions of this event, check out the Achilles on Skyros Wikipedia page.

The Opera itself, Achilles in Petticoats, can also be read online and features some scenes that, unfortunately, could have come right out of 21st century TG fiction.  I say unfortunately because it shows how little has changed in terms of women being sexually harassed.  Here, we see a man subjected to these kinds of sexist treatments, and that is what this opera explores, with songs such as this, a duet between Achilles and Lycomedes as the king is trying to pressure Achilles into sex, leading to a threatened rape.  This is the lead in and then the duet.  Notice how Lycomedes assumes Achilles is only pretending (s)he’s not interested:

 

Lycomedes:  Since your obstinate behavior then makes violence necessary–

Achilles: You make self-preservation, sir, a necessity–

Lycomedes:  I won’t be refused!

Air IX

 

Lycomedes:  Why this affectation?

Achilles: Why this provocation?

Lycomedes: Must I bear resistance still?

Achilles: Check your inclination.

Lycomedes: Dare you then deny me?

Achilles: You too far may try me

Lycomedes: Must I then against your will?

Achilles: Force will never ply me!

(Achilles pushes Lycomedes from him with great force and throws him down).

One of the more interesting twists in most versions of the story is that Achilles agrees to learn to walk and talk and live as a girl because he is in love with Deidamia, one of the king’s daughters, and the only way he can get close to her is if he pretends to be a girl.  So, it is full of gender role bending fun as it is his desire for a woman that makes Achilles willing to live as one.  There is also an interesting aspect in most version in that is is  his mother, Thetis, trains him to “graceful gait and modest tongue.”  It’s an interesting dynamic, a mother being the one who takes her manly and macho son and feminizes him– all to protect him from the early death it has been foretold awaits him at Troy.  But could there be more to it?  Could there be some other factors driving Thetis to this unusual plan?

I feel like a modern re-telling exploring all these relationships and issues is past due, and so I am starting to write one now, and I am having great fun in exploring these decisions by Thetis for her son, and Achilles for himself.  Of course, in my version, there will be a physical change!

 

 

Gender Bender streaming on Netflix

Check out my gender bending ebooks!

And especially My Epic Fantasy Series!

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In the future, you are not your body; you are data.  And, in this future world, corporations and governments can strip your data from one human body (called a sleeve) and place it in another, or even just store you indefinitely as information either with consciousness or within a simulated world.  This is the SCIFI basis of Altered Carbon, the name of both a book and a TV series.

Obviously, this opens up a lot of possibilities for gender swapping and exploration.  In the book and in the movie, it is clear that the main character, who identifies as male and embodies the tough guy investigator type (Deckard in Blade Runner, Mike Hammer in Mickey Spillane novels…etc…) has spent some time in female sleeves.  He mentions it in the book, and in the show when people scan his ID, all his former identities come up, and several are clearly female.

Unfortunately, neither the book nor the TV show delve too deeply into the gender games.  For those who enjoy the much more rare female to male swap, there is a fun sequence where a main character, Kristin Ortega, brings her grandmother back in the body of a hulking, tattooed and very male goon in order to celebrate El dia de los Muertos.  The actor does not over play the feminine mannerisms, and is actually very good at embodying a grandmother enjoying spending a holiday with her family.

All of the characters we meet seem to identify as straight male or female regardless of their sleeve’s sex, and there is little sense that the body swapping has led to any major changes in society in terms of how people perceive male and female.  It largely reflects our mainstream world with a SCIFI filter.  However, there is some interesting action, and the little taste of gender bending that’s there was enough to fire up my imagination.

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Another Netflix series based on a novel that gets into some gender bending is Kiss Me First.  

Get Book Here

Kiss Me First follows a young woman who spends a great deal of her time in a virtual reality game, using the name Shadowfax.  This show delves into identity more intentionally than AC, and without giving away too much I will reveal that there is a character in the virtual world who is not what she seems!  We also have characters logging in as other people, and lots of questions about what’s real and what isn’t.  I would love to see more gender stuff in future installments, but again what is there and what is potentially there got my imagination working.

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Lastly, a more straight up gender bending French film called I am Not an Easy Man.  In this film, like Second Nature, a chauvinistic male finds himself transported to a mirror universe where gender roles are revered.  Women are the aggressors, and they hold most of the money and the power.  Men are expected to do their best to look attractive for the women and are viewed as the lesser sex.  It’s a fun and interesting take on the usual story as the man finds himself struggling to deal with being objectified …etc… and there is a little body image stuff as at one point he contemplated putting inserts into his underwear to give himself a bigger butt.  The acting is all good, and the film does make some nice observations about gender and politics.

Check them out and let me know what you think!  I get lonely out here in my virtual world and would love to hear from you!  Thanks for reading!  Don’t forget to brush your teeth!

The Assignment (Spoilers)

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First of all, let me say this movie is not so bad.  I have seen the word terrible attached to it many times, but to me I would rate it average as a film in the revenge/payback film noir genre.

The main characters is betrayed.  He then systematically hunts down his betrayer.   Most of that hunting down involves him walking around shooting people without ever being remotely threatened himself or even challenged.  He walks in and shoots.  People die.  There is tension and no struggle.  He shoots.  They die.

There is very little here for fans of TG fiction, especially if you are interested in media that really explores gender identity.  The character is given a forced sex-change, and after initially freaking out when he wakes up to his new face and female body, he just goes right back to acting and dressing the same way as he always did.  He doesn’t seem to really even care all that much, but just throws on some guy clothes and goes back to being a thug.

A few times, he is spoken to in demeaning ways based on his new sex– someone calling him babe or sweetheart, but it seems to have no impact on him at all.   He just shrugs it off like it didn’t happen.  Likewise when he, for no clear reason, decides to dress up in a sexy women’s clothing and heels, even donning a blonde wig.  He acts just like he’d put on his usual leather jacket and hoodie, and doesn’t seem to care at all about how he looks or what it might mean in terms of how he is treated.

In addition, the movie features a framing story where Sigourney Weaver, the doctor who performed the surgery, is being interviewed by Tony Shaloub.  This is mostly just an exercise in lazy writing, with lots of opportunities for exposition dumps and a pointless cat and mouse game where nothing really seems to be at stake.

The motivation for the sex-change is thin and unconvincing, and in the end the biggest problem for me is that I didn’t care about any of the characters.   If anything, the villain Honest John  was more charismatic and likeable than the hero, Frank Kitchen, so I didn’t much care whether he got his or not.

Still and all, I would say it’s an okay movie, the kind you watch on a rainy day.   It’s okay, but just okay.

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