My Wife and I: Body Swap with Heart!

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Now FREE on Amazon Prime, a new body swap comedy with well-developed characters who delve deep into their relationship issues via a magical body swap. Now, to get right into the TG elements we all love so much– yes, the man in his wife’s body has to experience the things that women go through– make-up, heels, hosting a bachelorette party– and much of this is played as broad comedy. It is fun, and the actors do a great job embodying their roles!

Where the film goes deeper than most broad comedy body swap comedies is in the exploring of the relationships not only between the husband and wife, but their two teen-age children as well. The relationship between the married couple is terrible as the film starts and heading toward divorce, but it isn’t the same old same old. The wife, a successful executive, resents her husband for embracing what she sees as a career of mediocrity while also being the “fun” parent the kids like. She meanwhile is stuck being the major bread winner and the tough Mom. The father, meanwhile, questions whether his wife even loves him and, true to male type, is not a good listener. When they argue, which they do a LOT and LOUD, we see how it impacts their kids. and it is not good.

As they experience life in each other’s bodies, they start to learn about each other, coming to understand not just their partner, but they also learn things about themselves. All of this unfolds gradually and artfully throughout the movie. Again, super well-acted and very moving in certain scenes.

Oh, and back to the TG elements, we do get to see the guy gradually accepting a female role learning to do make-up, helping his daughter deal with feminine issues, and even, spoiler alert– deciding to see what it’s like in the sack! I won’t tell you how that turns out, but this is a good movie worth watching! Oh, and just a as bonus, once he starts getting used to dresses, heels and make-up, the guy is super hot!

Check it out!

If you don’t have Prime, get it for FREE for 30 days!

Transparent (Spoilers)

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So, I finally watched Transparent, mainlining the two existing seasons over the course of a weekend.

And I don’t know what to say.

I liked the show.  I found it very watchable, and I feel it won on all fronts from a creative perspective: great writing, acting, directing, music.  However, The Pfeffermans are horrible people.  Unbridled narcissists, they crash into the lives of much nicer, more caring people and remorselessly shred their psyches and then cast these people aside like outgrown toys, occasionally popping back in to see if they can inflict new pain upon their victims.

Transparent feels very much like a soap opera, where a lot of the drama is driven by the lurid pleasure that comes from watching these people lure one victim after another into their web of lies and then wait for the moment when the poor person realizes that they are just another victim of a very sick family.

What makes Transparent different from Falcon Crest, however, is that many of the characters, not just the father, find themselves exploring their identities, sexual and gender.  The father, Maura, has come out as transgender and expressed her desire to live as a woman.   Sarah leaves her husband to rekindle a lesbian relationship she had in college.  Gaby pursues both a trans man and later a lesbian relationship with an old friend and one of her brother’s former conquests, and Shelly, the mother of the family, explores a lesbian relationship with her former husband.  So, with the exception of the son, so far, they are all what I would call genderfluid, open to exploring their own sexualities if not always very accepting of others.

But they are all assholes! Narcissists. They are a prevalent stereotype of LGBT people as people who love only themselves and do not seem to care at all how their actions impact others.  They are always me, me, me, and they lie and abuse people with impunity. So, isn’t it a problem that this show, being lauded as a ground-breaking step forward for LGBT people, portrays LGBT as horrible, selfish parasites?

No, and for this reason; because it is just like Falcon Crest. Or Dallas.  Or countless other shows where rich, entitled turds go around being selfish and abusive toward others. Transparent is not a documentary or an after-school special. It is a soap opera, and nice people are boring, so naturally these characters need to be flawed and terrible, because that is what viewers find entertaining.  No one is going to tune in to watch a well-adjusted family work out their problems like mature adults.  No one.  No one is going to tune in to watch a happily married couple go on an uneventful vacation.

There needs to be conflict.  Disaster.  Bad thinking.

In addition, among the victims suffering for the misfortune of getting involved with any of the human misery machines known as the Pfeffermans, are straight and LGBT characters alike.   We see that in the world there are good and bad people, and some of them are straight and some of them are not, and it is a good thing that this show can portray a balance.

If I were going to fault anything it would be the classification of this show as a comedy.   It seemed very clearly a drama to me.  There are some funny moments, but they emerge out of dramatic situations and are far less frequent than more dramatic moments.  It seems to me that the only reason that anyone would find this to be a comedy is if they are an immature person who thinks anything with non-traditional gender roles is automatically funny.  There is a scene, for example, where Maura has decided to perform at a LGBT talent show, and as she comes out and begins to sing all of her children begin laughing uncontrollably and then flee the room in the middle of her performance.

When Maura first emerged onto the stage, I was thinking– yes!  Do it!  Live your life!  I didn’t find it hilariously funny that she would have the courage to get up there and do it. Not at all.  Nor did I find it hilarious that her children would burst out laughing and then run out of the room.

But then I am one of those kind-hearted folks that people like the Pfeffermans would prey upon, so maybe that is why I found it sad people would be so hateful toward their own parent.

Transparent is a soap opera, and I would say a good one.  Season Two got more and more into gender identity, and I found it more and more interesting.  I am looking forward to the third season.  To me, I would call is Falcon Crest in transition.

If you are looking for a show about good people who are interested in growing and becoming better people– for real, not just for fashion– this probably isn’t the show for you.  But if you want to see horrible people being horrible, check it out.

Free on Amazon Prime

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

New York Times Opinion Piece

The New York Times recently ran an Op-Ed piece where the writer discusses her life and how she and the world have changed and not changed.  It’s poetic and interesting and a little political, and I am just going to pass it on without further comment!

Loving Freely

AND, if you are in the New York Area, there are some interesting panels and films to check out as well mentioned in this article!

Film Fest!

Does The Soul Have a Gender?

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Each time I start a new book, I look for something new to explore.   Almost all of them have, of course, dealt with gender identity, but with most of my books I start off asking a slightly different question, or exploring a slightly different scenario.

For the book I am working on now, I started with the question which serves as the title of this blog– does the soul have a gender?  I have occasionally included religious dimensions in my work, usually Christian, but this time I am exploring the idea of reincarnation.

I know in some cultures the idea persists that the soul takes on a female form when it is less spiritually evolved, and that as one progresses in their lives they eventually get to be a male. However, I reject this notion, which I believe reflects patriarchal and misogynistic cultures and their fear of women more than any true spiritual understanding.

I believe that neither male nor female is a superior or more evolved gender.  I believe they are different identities and that each has its strengths and weaknesses.  I believe both males and females are capable of creating life and beauty, and both are also capable of destruction and ugliness.

The cyclops.   The sirens.  One crushes with brute strength.  One lures you to your death with the allure of their beautiful voices.   We need both the masculine and the feminine and all the gradations in between.   The most evolved cultures honor all and live without fear of any.

I don’t know where any of my books are going as I write them.  I just write and see where the characters take me.  Sometimes, readers have complained about my endings, but I always feel like I am ending the stories where I need to.   Right now, having started with my questions about the soul, I am just letting the characters go where they please, and I am really enjoying writing my mythic exploration of this idea as my main character slowly comes to realize that he has a female soul, and how that knowledge impacts him in his current life.

 Here is an excerpt:

The water felt warm and scented oils clung to his smooth leg, the sweet odor of eucalyptus rising up to meet him as he stepped in completely, sliding down into the luxurious waters, and the candles flickered and he sighed as the water rose over his soft, swaying breasts, and he sighed softly, arching his back as he ran his hands his breasts, lifting them and squeezing his legs together as he remembered the way Chris had fucked him…

Craig opened his eyes, looking down at his hands on his flat, muscular chest.  What the hell?  He’d seen himself as a woman.  Again.   Had… loved seeing himself as a woman.  It had felt so good, so real, so…. Right?

Everything was wrong.   So wrong.   What had Chris done to him?

TG in 3D: Alien Worlds (spoilers)

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Is what’s inside the true measure of a man?

Brick, a chauvinistic alpha male, asks this question just before revealing his new, pin-up girl body, with huge, gravity defying breasts, to his girlfriend, Connie.  And it is a first rate pin-up girl body, drawn by one of the masters of the form, Art Adams.  And those breasts are in 3-D, thrusting right off the page and right at the reader.

The girl he’d become– one of the most erotic images I had ever seen– a true fantasy girl in every way– blew my mind.  If you have seen Art Adam’s work, you know he loves the female form, and he draws erotic, idealized visions of femininity that surpass anything you will ever see in the real world.  The man who now found himself with those full, firm breasts and those slender, round arms was a tough, domineering, strong man who was all about the macho lifestyle, and now here he was in a physical form that embodied everything he had felt superior to before his change.

I think this was the first time I had seen a TG comic with nudity, a man as a bare-breasted woman, and that was part of the allure as well.   There he stood before the woman who loved him, now prettier and more generously endowed than she was.  I imagined the shame, the humiliation, the despair he must have felt to have his women see him as a female for the first time.

So, back to the question: Is what’s inside the true measure of a man?

The comic answers in a single panel as we see Brick, the former alpha male, wearing a pair of Daisy Dukes and cleaning laundry in a pond.  Connie, returning from a successful hunting trip, a rifle in one hand, calls out, “Better Hurry Up, Hun.”

“Yes, dear,”  Brick answers.  “Whatever you say, dear.”

The alpha male, now the prettier, curvier of the two, has become the fem in the relationship, and his formerly girly-girly girlfriend has become the dominant partner.  She has the rifle, she does the hunting.  He is in the traditional role of the wife.  The man with the bigger breasts has become the woman.  What’s inside has changed to match his new shape.

It may have been my juvenile state at the time, or maybe it is my still juvenile state as of today, but those breasts haunted me, the idea that those amazing breasts belonged to a man, and what it seemed like they had done to him.  I just felt like having those big, perfect breasts had stripped away his manhood, though I now would have to think there were other parts of his body that he lost that would have had an equal or bigger impact.  In any case, it seemed to me that it was the body that changed him.

In my own writings that have featured characters like Brick I have played with a different idea, though, than merely the idea that a perfect, sexy little pin-up girl body would turn a chauvinist into a pin-up girl personality.  My feeling has been that a chauvinist could become the victim of his own biases, and that he would turn himself into a submissive female, giggling and pleasing and all those things because he would believe that was all he could be given his new sex and shape. Perhaps it would not be a case of biology is destiny, but bias is destiny.

Check It Out at Mile High Comics

Should Non-TG actors play TG Characters?

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Yes, they should.

The question, and my response, arise in response to a recent New York Times article discussing the casting of Eddie Redmanye and Elle Fanning to play transgender characters even though neither publicly identifies as being transgender.  Some groups and individuals have raised concerns, saying only actors who identify as transgender should play transgender characters..

I can summarize my feeling on this issue pretty simply:

  1.  We are not our bodies
  2. We are not what other people tell us
  3. We do not have to choose to identify as anything
  4. No one should be pressured into “outing” themselves.

To focus on item three, the pressure to put myself into a box and slap a label on my forehead tortured me throughout my life, and the need of others to label me created conflict where there didn’t need to be any.   I do not like labels, and I do not think we need to live in a world where every character and every actor has to be assigned a label and put into a box–  oh, that’s that transgender actor… or that gay actor… or that ingenue, or whatever.  Because people couldn’t figure me out they labelled me with things like girly boy, or they lisp he’s sensitive at me like being sensitive was a crime.   Some people called me a freak and a deviant.   That was where the drive for labels took me.  Do I want to be labelled?

NO.  We are are all more than labels, we all contain multitudes.  Am I a girlish boy?  A boyish girl?  I don’t have to choose.   I feel different things different days and different times, and my dream would be to live in world with more choices, more freedom and less labels.

The film makers can and will cast the actors they want to cast.  That is their right.   They want to make the best movie they can.  Some will not like those choices, and they have a right to express their feelings as well.

But I, for one, will never raise my hand and scream,  “LABEL ME!  Give me a bar code!  Put me in on a box on a shelf!”

I transcend all labels.  And you do, too.

New York Times on Casting

Wild Cards, a princess and a pregnancy (Spoilers)

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How would a man react to being turned into a pregnant woman?

The Wild Cards series of books, edited by George R.R. Martin was set in a version of our world in which a strange virus mutated some of the population, giving super powers to a few and making others into grotesque outcasts.  In Book 9, Jokertown Shuffle, things got TG to the extreme when the very male Dr. Tachyon is switched into the body of a teen-age girl by his own sociopathic son.

The story line delved into some ugly realities faced by women–  Tachyon is raped and abused by his son– in way I had never seen up to that point, and it juxtaposed that story line brilliantly with a fairy-tale princess vision of reality, with Tachyon finding himself a damsel in distress, having dreams where he is in a Alice in Wonderland fairy world, passively hoping to be rescued by a mysterious figure known as The Outcast.

The combination of these various very feminine/female fears and fantasies being imposed on a man fascinated me, delving into those questions of behavior and the line between biology and free-will.  Tachyon, initially horrified to have something growing inside him, quickly becomes overwhelmed by his body’s maternal instincts, and helpless and desperate, he just as quickly embraces his role as a pretty young princess, dependent on a man to rescue and protect him.

At the time, I felt the book very clearly fell on the side of biology.  It seemed to say–  put a baby in a man’s belly, and he will become a mother, put a man in a woman’s body, and he will start to have female fantasies.   I feel now, re-reading the book, that I may have misjudged.  Tachyon does not just find himself in a young woman’s body– he is subjected to brutality and abuse, rape, physically and mentally tortured and imprisoned.   Could many of the behaviors that I thought were biological actually be the result of the experiences he suffered?

Clearly, these things all would have an impact, so that whatever the biology and brain chemistry he found himself swimming in as a man in a pregnant woman’s body, the abuse and imprisonment also shaped his reactions and feelings.  Abortion wasn’t an option.  He had to carry the baby, and so he chose to dedicate himself to being the best mother he could be to his unborn child.

I remain fascinated by the fairy tale elements of Tachyon’s journey into motherhood and the impact being turned into a damsel in distress had on him and might have on other types of men. It’s something I have explored and continue to explore in my own writing.  Many of my stories use fairy tale tropes and Jungian archetypes, and I continue to like to write about the interaction between biology, environment and culture when it comes to gender identity.  I think there are some men out there who would become good mothers, but my feeling is that most of them would not primarily due to fear and ego.  Maybe I’ll write about that sometime soon.

Check it Out on Amazon!

Turnabout Intruder: Thoughts and Speculations

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“She could have had as rich a life as any woman.  If only… If only….”

The last lines of the last episode of the original Star Trek television series, and the first body swap story I remember ever seeing.  I was young– pre-teens, and I loved Star Trek, which was in constant re-runs on the UHF stations that broadcast out of Detroit back in the 1970s.

Growing up without a father, I had chosen Captain James T. Kirk as a hero and role model, so it was a strange and fascinating thing to see this episode in which he found himself trapped in the body of a woman.  My hero?  my role model?  A girl?  Yet, early in the episode, the characters who put Kirk in that body still refer to him as a he, despite the female form.

Aha!  That excited and interested me.  He was still a he, even though he was a girl?

The episode raised a lot of questions that I had never really consider, particularly in the court martial scenes. “You claim to be Captain Kirk?”  Lester asks, smirking and laughing at the red-haired woman wearing some kind of weird mod pantsuit.

“No,”  Kirk answers.  “I claim that whatever makes James Kirk a unique entity is being held in this body.”    What I heard him saying, though I didn’t have the words, was, “I am not my body.  The thing that makes me who I am is not this woman’s shape.”

The essence of a person, their gender, their THEM, was independent of their form.  Being, to borrow philosophical terms later in life, was independent of essence.

The iconic nature of the role reversal that lit up my young mind.  Kirk, in the woman’s body, being carried around effortlessly by the man, like the women on the covers of my mother’s romance novels.  Kirk on his knees after being physically over-powered by his former male body.  Kirk, reaching for and grabbing Spock’s hand.  Placed in a woman’s body, Kirk was forced into a woman’s traditional role, pleading with the men in his life to rescue him.  In the end, of course, he saves himself through action, as men are supposed to do, but it is not as a man that James Kirk saved himself; it was as a woman, and that to me seemed to suggest that biology was not, as some would suggest, destiny.

Though I believe it may have been an attempt at a feminist statement, the episode has since been condemned for being sexist, retrograde.  The woman in Kirk’s body is prone to fits of hysteria, loves to file her nails and proves incapable of commanding a star ship.  At one point when she complains about the lack of opportunity for women,Kirk agrees with her that life is unfair for women, but with the kind of dismissive “Whaddya gonna do?”  attitude that is still far too prevalent.   The last lines of the episode are specific.   She could have lived a life as rich as any woman.  Not, clearly, as rich as any man, which was the real issue.

Still, I feel it holds up well both as an exploration of the cost of gender bias as well as a exploration of a body swapping gender reversal.  In the end, Lester’s ultimate defeat and punishment is to be trapped in a traditional gender role– to be dependent on a man for her care and protection.  What could be a more powerful statement against the notion of domestic bliss as the be all and end all for women than the image of a woman, broken and weeping with despair at the thought of being stuck marrying a doctor who wants her to just stop striving and be his wife?  And that was back when television shows portrayed that every woman on Earth creamed her jeans at the thought of marrying a doctor.

If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it lately, check it out on Amazon or Netflix,  Sandra Smith is great as Captain Kirk:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0708485/