Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Gendercator Part I

I saw a screener of the film The Gendercator today. This is the film that has been at the center of controversy since a group of (primarily) trans folk protested its showing at San Francisco Frameline Film Festival and succeeded in getting the film pulled from the festival line up.
Helen Boyd wrote a post about the film and protest earlier this year, and a number of trans folk have said (mostly off the record) that they were concerned by the film being pulled because it bordered on censorship.

Although I'll be doing a more indepth analysis of the film later, I'll share some of my initial thoughts. First and foremost I found the film a disappointment. Although the lesbian director, Catherine Crouch, has been involved in the writing and directing of noteworthy and award winning films like Stranger Inside and Stray Dogs, The Gendercator fails to live up to that standard. It's simply not a good film. The ironic part of this situation is that the controversy around the film has created far more interest and attention than the film deserves.

I have to admit that I was also disappointed that The Gendercator failed to do what some supporters hoped it would: address the real concerns that the lesbian community has about "losing" butch women to the world of men. While that concern might be a valid--if controversial--subject matter for a film, Crouch did not adequately or eloquently address it here. Instead her film and the protests it generated have done a disservice by likely precluding any real investigation into the perception of the endangered butch. Fearing a similar response filmmakers and festivals will likely steer clear of potentially controversial subject matter in the future.

The controversy also pitched lesbians against trans men and women, threatening to further deepen the growing chasm between our communities. That all of this occurred over a relatively inconsequential film is truly a shame.

I was offended by The Gendercator. But I think I was more offended as a feminist than a trans man. The film opens with what appears to be archival footage from the Sixties or Seventies in which a number of women-loving-women are loving women and getting high. One of these doobie puffing lesbians falls asleep and wakens Rip Van Winkle-like decades into the future, where she describes herself as "just doing my own thing" and "partying."

It seems that Crouch means the protagonist from the feminist era to contrast with a future where feminism has failed and the borders of gender are controlled by enforced sex reassignment surgeries. As a feminist I found it offensive that this character was more interested in getting stoned and playing softball than fighting the power or protesting the treatment of women.

Maybe Crouch means to situate the character as a sort of "natural" lesbian, one that pre-dates and is located outside of feminist criticisms of patriarchy that led some women to "choose" womyn-loving as political lesbians? I'm not sure.

Nor do I understand why she uses soccer as the metaphoric opposite of softball. Unless the U.S. is overrun by immigrant concerns (not reflected in the all white future of the Gendercator) I don't see soccer pushing football out of the glorified position as "real men"s favorite sport.

As you can see, there's much to criticize in this film, even when you don't examine how it portrays transsexuals.

1 comment:

Paul Decelles said...

I know a number of f to m's and I just don't think this comment the director makes reflects the f to m reality:

" Why does a woman do this? Most often, the reasons given are: to avoid harassment, rape and ridicule as a gender variant. It seems to me that what is also going on, but has not been explicitly addressed, is the desire to avoid being perceived by the world at large as female. Or to avoid the label of lesbian. Some may do this because it enables their sexual fantasies."

Sounds like shades of Michael Baily to me...