Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Like Horsradish and Hot Fudge: "Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives" Fails, as a Movie and as a Concept

It's rare that a three-and-a-half-minute trailer tells you just about everything you need to know about a movie, but in the case of "Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives" the movie is everything you see in those few minutes but more...and worse.

First and foremost, this is a really bad movie, but clearly intentionally so. The film is artificially "aged" and made to have a look similar to the "blaxploitation" films of the early 70's, complete with low-budget production, film imperfections, and missing reel notices.The overplayed transgender stereotypes are blatant and ludicrous, but it's the titling and the marketing of this film where the biggest mistakes have been made.

Anyone who sees this movie understands something about it in very short order: This isn't a movie about transgender women, it's a movie about drag queens. Not that any confirmation is needed once Pinky La'Trimm, Emma Grashun, Bubbles Cliquot, Tipper Sommore, and Rachel Slur (no, I'm not kidding) are introduced to the viewer, but there's even a scene in the movie where one of the characters defines herself and the other queens with her as "gay men in dresses".

Immediately after seeing this movie I remarked to someone who'd already seen it that if they'd titled this movie "Ticked-Off Drag Queens With Knives" probably no one would have batted an eye, but thinking about it now I'm not so sure. The biggest problem with this movie is that the concept just doesn't work, no matter what perspective you view it from. You can make a campy movie about drag queens or you can make a film about hate crimes, but you can't do both in the same film and expect it to be seen as credible on any level.

Director Israel Luna's attempt to meld these completely and utterly disparate elements into the same film results in nothing short of disaster, with the campy, comedic scenes undercutting and perhaps even completely discrediting whatever anti-hate crimes message he may have been hoping to convey. At the same time, the graphic and gory hate-motivated violence ruins whatever comedic value the film might otherwise have had. Hate crimes, after all, just aren't funny, not ever. For all too many, that bloody baseball bat has been real. Including graphic depictions of anti-transgender hate violence in a movie that's clearly being played for camp and comedy comes off as complete ignorance of the reality of anti-transgender hate violence at best and outright mockery and denigration of transpeople and the hate violence perpetrated against us at worst.

The transgender community's reaction to this film is understandable. This low-budget hackfest employs just about every tired transgender stereotype out there and doesn't even do a decent job of mocking itself as you'd expect a film like this to do. Despite the mostly generic hairstyles and clothes that are presumably supposed to reflect the styles of the early 70's, the queens are seen in a late-model convertible that couldn't have been built more than than a few years ago. This film fails even the most basic tests of consistency and good writing.

"Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives" is so bad on so many different levels that it's even schlock when compared to other schlock. It's almost like Israel Luna set out to do an early John Waters film (right down to the Divine-like "mama queen") but just didn't have the chops to pull it off. The hate crime element, while perhaps well-intentioned, seems more like a written-in afterthought than anything else, just an excuse for the drag queens to comically kick some ass rather than an attempt at any sort of truly serious statement about hate crimes. This aspect of the film comes through clearly even when watching the trailer so it's not surprising that many transpeople and allies find it disparaging and offensive.

"Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives" tries to succeed as a comedy while making a statement about something as deadly serious and unfunny as anti-transgender hate crimes, and therefore fails miserably at both. Honestly, I wonder what the folks at the Tribeca Film Festival saw in this disjointed, poorly-made mess of a movie. Fortunately, real transwomen can take heart that this film is such an unremitting and unadulterated piece of shit that once the Tribeca festival ends it's highly likely that this film and its director will quickly fade back into the obscurity they so richly deserve.


Gina said...

But Rebecca, I've been repeatedly assured that once I saw the film I would totally understand what a trans-affirming experience it is. How can it be that you describe what sounds like a poorly-done piece of crap?

Dex said...

Have you seen it yet? I've heard some mixed reviews, but the intention behind the film just seems silly and fun; not transphobic or malicious.

I'm going to give it a chance, seeing as I -am- a fan of exploitation films and it's about time that I get a taste of my own medicine with a little transploitation. ;]

Unknown said...

Vegan -

"and it's about time that I get a taste of my own medicine with a little transploitation. ;]"

not so much about you - really.

The best that can be said about this film is that it's not very clever, but at least it's not funny.

Rebecca - you have my sympathy for sitting through it. A service to the community, thanks.

eastsidekate said...

Rebecca, how would you, a trans woman, have any insight into the lives of trans women?

Dex said...

Kathy: So much about who, then, if not trans people who have a different sense of humor than yours? Those who believe that censoring hoopla over a camp film like this only serves to limit our varied range of idea expression AND distracts attention from addressing the real causes of transphobia?

If you'd prefer to hear from those who identify as trans women (I'll go stand in my allotted corner), then maybe you'd be more receptive to Krystal Summers (a transgender woman and one of the stars of the comedy) who responded to the controversy in a statement:

"I am a transgender woman and one of the lead actors in 'Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives.' Our film does not promote hate or violence against transgender women. It is not a documentary, but a work of fiction and a revenge fantasy."

Or how about the fact that three out of five (more than half) of the leading ladies in this film are actual trans women?

Is their insight into the lives of trans women being negated and dismissed simply because they have a different sense of humor than you, or...?

bme77 said...

"overplayed transgender stereotypes"

At the Q and A after the Dallas screening they actors said that alot of what they said wasnt written but it was how they talk in real life. So to them it is not overplayed, it is them in real life being filmed. It may not be everyones charector but it is to some.

From what I have read on many blogs, people keep talking about this movie as if it were to be a mainstream, oscar worthy film. It wasnt ment to be good, accurate to everyone or PC, it was ment to be what the movie ended up being. A 2 hour movie. Some may love it, some may hate it, some will relate, some will be entertained some will be disgusted. In the end, it will draw an emotion. Isnt that what movies are for? I would be limiting my book/movie/tv watching and reading if I were to only read and watch things that define who I am and only relate to me. One persons "poorly done piece of crap" is another persons entertainment. Some can understand what a movie is about and knows not to take everything so serious. YES, trans violence is a serious issue. BUT from the title alone you know what you are getting ourself into b4 you watch the trailor. Anyone who thinks this is a accurate portrayal of real trans people need to see a shrink not a movie.

Vegan. If you like b-movie, exploitation, grindhouse, tarrantino/waters etc movies, go see it. I went to see it in Dallas because i knew people who were in it and had set myself up for it being a train wreck. I was highly suprised by it. I enjoyed it so much more then I thought I would. But I am able to seperate fact from fiction and know that I am not going to feel enlightened and have a new view of the world because its just a movie.

laughriotgirl said...

Vegan - you sure are fixated on the fact some trans women appeared in the film and defend it. Here is a small problem I have with tehir defense:

1) They are being paid by the profits of the film - they stand to gain transphobia or no.

2) They are the friends of the director. As a friend, I would assume they have a level of trust for his motivations that would be sill to expect of anyone who is not. Further, one tends to defend their friends in public.

3) They all work in the entertainment industry putting on shows with/for gay men. Entertaining and defending a popular gay man is in their best interests.

While I have no doubt the sincerity of Krystal, I find it telling that her one brief statement in the NYT keeps getting trotted out, A statement that doesn't address anything brought up about the film (except to ask people not to use the trailer to judge the movie - umm what!!).

Trans porn uses trans people playing trans characters all the time. I'm not looking at that of empowering images of women with bodies like mine or realistic representations of how trans women are sexually.

Mr Luna has stated the film should be empowering to trans women (I think he meant gay men, trans women who entertain gay men, and obviously trans guys). I'm not feeling empowered by rape jokes or guys having an "OMG this hot girl has a willie" moment and then trying to kill her.

It should also be noted that 2 of the main parts are played by cis men in drag - as trans women characters. People talk about how totally fantackulous the movie is for casting 3 trans women, but ignore the fact that nearly 50% of the "trans" characters are really in tranny face, and not actually trans ID'd.

All this from a gal who loves nothing more than watching a schlocky movie in a pair of bunny slippers and bowl of popcorn.

little light said...

Thank you, Rebecca. I trust your take on this and I can't say I'm surprised.

Um. Vegan. As Kathy pointed out: is this movie about trans guys? Did it employ stereotypes about your particular community for cheap laughs? Did it promote itself with real-life tales of violence against trans guys? Did its director make nasty comments on the record about trans guys while promoting a film that is supposedly about them?

It's not a taste of your own medicine any more than your enjoyment of classic blaxploitation films is for you as--if that's your photo and please correct me if I'm wrong--a white person. Your part of the trans community wasn't the part putting the "trans" in "transploitation" and won't be paying the consequences.
If these trans women in the film who you keep citing feel fine about it, well, that's their prerogative--it's about them. But it's not about you, and it's not about the cis gay director, and it's not about the cis actors dressed up as trans people and presenting our lives as lurid drag and going on their websites to make remarks about how awful we are while making money off of us.

I think it is really telling which lines the community has divided along in this argument. Look. I would never tell people not to make this film or have them somehow punished for showing it to people who want to see it. I would never advocate for someone's art to be destroyed no matter how much it might offend me. That doesn't mean I am going to refrain from expressing my opinion about it, or not give that opinion to a reputable organization promoting the film, or suggest that they ought not do that promotion. I'm not saying erase the film forever. I'm saying that the people in the community actually affected by this film--again, correct me, please, if I am making the wrong assumption about you--have every damn right to protest it and say it's wrong.

That's not censorship. Censorship is saying those of us who are upset ought to sit down, shut up, and let other people talk about us while we don't dare express our disapproval.

But then, maybe I'm being unreasonable. I'm ticked off, after all.

Dex said...

laughriotgirl: Way fixated on it! Why? Because it's an incredibly important aspect to this discussion that needs to be brought up.

In response, all three of the problems you have with their opinions sound more like attempted rationalizations to completely dismiss their input and push them out of the discussion entirely.

The thing is, everyone's intellect is formed by a combination of biology and cultural influences-including parents, school, books, television, and peer pressure. Yet I'm doubting that anyone would argue that a woman should not be allowed to think for herself and reach her own conclusions, simply because she has been influenced by her environment.

A transwoman's ability to reason and to control her own actions may be her only defense against hostile surroundings.

I'm quite positive that Krystal is thinking for herself, and not just as a mindless puppet for gay men - just as I, too, can think for myself and come to very similar conclusions about TOTWK without any economic incentive, friends in the film, or a league of gay men to impress.

The thing is, I don't think it's fair to be so quick to dismiss a sister simply because she may have an opinion or mode of expression that offends you. Our community deserves more than that. The last thing we need is to be censored, dismissed, or belittled; especially being so marginalized in the first place.

Consider a parallel (since you brought up pornography): For years and years radical feminists were able to contemptuously dismiss fellow feminists who were sex workers, because these women have so little status within society that few people listened to them anyway. It was more difficult to ignore liberal feminists, however - many of whom had been prominent within the movement for years. When the pornography actress Marilyn Chambers defended pornography, she could be written off as a brainwashed victim who had fallen in love with her own oppression. When the President of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Nadine Strossen, argued against censorship in her book Defending Pornography (1995), a different line of dismissal had to be taken.

But she was dismissed all the same. There's always a way when one's opinion offends.

Same logic here. I'm not about to dismiss you, Krystal, or Marilyn Chambers under some fabricated rationalization about why your opinions are "influenced" or invalid.

And yes, "2 of the main parts are played by cis men in drag" - why? Because they're actors and it's a fictional film. Again, it isn't a documentary. In the world of fiction, actors frequently, well, act.

It wasn't long before women realized that not all voices were equal in this new utopia.
Pornography presented a kaleidoscope of sexual possibilities: as pleasure, with a stranger, as self-exploration, as power, with groups or with another woman

Liberal feminists who dare to speak up meet with abuse and dismissal. Anti-pornography feminists deal with the liberal threat of sexual tolerance by simply defining liberals out of the movement. That's one way to eliminate dissent.

If radical feminist attacks against pornography spill over onto liberal feminists or women in the industry, so be it. These women can be redefined as traitors or as "victims" who require saving, whether or not they want salvation.

bme77 said...


What are they being paid from the profits of the film? Because the people that I know that are in the film were paid already. But you apparently know more then them so please enlighten them as to what will they be getting pain in the future?

Friends of the director? Before being cast in the movie, Luna was guy in a huge nightclub. At best they might of been introduced to him by someone, but friends, no.The were cast in the film by auditions not because of who they knew. Are you making this stuff up?

FYI Luna is popular in Dallas. Well, not until now atleast. The protesting of the film has had it in out gay newspaper every week. So that isnt due to the actors, or film, but more so because of people like you have made his name more known.

Whats wrong with working in the entertainment industry? They make very good livings doing that. And that is what they do at night. Some have day jobs aswell. Are all trans people supost to be shy, quiet, hide in the corner and not speak? Any trans that is successful at there profession isnt a real trans person to you? I will admit that trans people in mainstream america has a long way to go to being portrayed correctly. But it seems like people like you dont want the lines to not be blurred. You thrive of the struggle and wouldnt be content if you were fully excepted by all and hate the ones that are excepted by a community.Sad.For the cast in Dallas the showgirls have worked in a library at a college, retail, secretary, Krystal has her real estate liscense, do makeup for broadway shows, teach at high schools etc....Please dont sum these girls up like you know them and belittle there lives to try and make a cute blogg post. Know before you speak. What is that they say when you assume?

Trans porn. You can drop trans, Porn in general is all fantasy. And everyone will have there own take on it. If you dont like it, great, dont watch it. its subjective. Get over it.

So with your statement, trans women who are entertainers arent real trans women? Who do you think you are trying to limit the boundries of what is trans and what is not? What seperates trans and men in drag to do? DO you know how these actors live there lives? Or are you judging them based on how they look? If that is the case to how you tell them apart we have a whole different topic to address.

This movie was made for people who like the genre of film. B movie, exploitation, midnight movies. You dont like it, so, you shouldnt go see it. I have seen it and will see it again. And am attending an event next week with the cast and will be there at the next film festival. I cant wait until the single tickets for Tribeca go onsale to see how fast it sells out due to all this negativity beings positive press.

laughriotgirl said...

It appears my thought on miss Krystal have been construed in interesting ways. The fact is, Krystal etc. are invested in the film and their opinions of the film are going to be based on this financial and personal investment. The end. The fact they also are invested in the entertainment of gay men who seem to be largely supporting this film (along with other folks in the showgirl/drag scene) is an interesting observation. Being intimately familiar with that scene in the past, pissing off the boys would kill a career. It's simply a connection I have made and I'm sharing.

@bme77 - that is a whole lot of projecting. I'm glad you filled my head with opinions and ideas I don't have. I'll have to pass on that though, since I don't like them - thanks anyway. To be clear, paragraph #4 on have nothing to do with anything I have said, implied, or believe - even down to what kind of movies I like.

It's cute really that supporters of the film so so want the trans women who have problems with it to be seen as "humorless" and "petty" and I believe "brick faced transbian" has been thrown around. Quite a bit of misogyny passes as commentary on the TOTWK facebook page.

I also keep hearing "It's not a documentary"... Frankly there have been plenty of busted trans documentaries - plenty of busted documentaries in general. I don't give a Smurf's blue bottom what the genre of the film is. Messed up depictions of trans women are just that - particularly seen in a world where the only other available option is ... what??

bme77 said...

I kept re reading it, and it still dosnt make sense. But ok. I except that. I did not try and fill your head with thoughts. And if you took it that way, maybe I was assuming facts like you did in your original post about the actors, who they are friends with, what and if they get paid etc....Ive read alot of posts and seen alot of made up "facts" to try and support the cause. Funny and sad. You can not like the film. But there are people who have seen it and do support it and if you have questions about anything to do with the movie or actors, please ask questions and dont assume facts because you want it to be true.

Gina said...

Whether Krystal Summers thinks it's a cool film really isn't something into which I put much stock. It's her opinion... so? Lillian Gish spent her entire life convinced that "Birth of a Nation" wasn't a racist film.

That's on the same level as saying, "well, Michael Steele, head of the Republican Party, thinks so and so is fine, he's a black man, therefore, that should be okay with other black people." Alexandra Billings, who was actually on a rather offensive episode of Gray's Anatomy (dumb, and at least, filled with a lot of misinformation about transitioning) liked the film. Kate Bornstein thinks it could be great. (who, by the way, has done some fairly offensive pieces about trans women for queer audiences)

It's a totally irrelevant line of reasoning.

100% of the stars of trans porn films are trans... but that doesn't excuse the fact that they objectify and create stereotypes about trans women. (and I'm not in the least anti-porn).

"I don't think it's fair to be so quick to dismiss a sister simply because she may have an opinion or mode of expression that offends you. Our community deserves more than that. The last thing we need is to be censored, dismissed, or belittled; especially being so marginalized in the first place."

Countless trans women's concerns about aspects of this film have been dismissed and belittled. And yes, trans women deserve more than that. No one is dismissing her opinion, we're saying why does her opinion somehow matter more than any of our opinions?

As to your mention of Marilyn Chambers, she has acknowledged she was strung out on coke the entire time she did porn. She's recently stated "My advice to somebody who wants to go into adult films is: Absolutely not! It's heart-breaking. It leaves you kind of empty." What on earth she has to do with this discussion, I have no idea, but if you're bringing her up as someone who proves how women who make exploitive crap feel great about it years on... she's a very bad example.

laughriotgirl said...

What happened to the other ToTWK posts? I think there was some value in at least the comments section as well as the posts themselves.

helen_boyd said...

Scott Turner Schofield chose to delete his posts, and the comments went with them.

willam said...

I'm glad the writer "gets" that it was supposed to be a bad film. I'm personally hoping for a Razzie Award.

But John Waters himself loved the film and called the director himself to tell him so after seeing it.

I hope a worthwhile issue isn't being neglected while folks complain on this silly little film

Unknown said...

I do get it, William. The intentionally being bad part was quite obvious. Frankly, had this movie been released, say, several years from now when transgender people have achieved full equality or at least something approaching it, it might have been seen as less offensive. In a country where transpeople are still fighting for our basic civil rights, where hate crimes against us are still happening with a terrifying frequency, though, that's just not the reality we live in.

The original "blaxploitation" films may have a certain charm as timepieces now, forty years or so after they were made and racial and ethnic equal rights and treatment have come as far as they have in the interim, but transpeople don't have that luxury in 2010.

Unknown said...

I do get it, William. The intentionally being bad part was quite obvious. Frankly, had this movie been released, say, several years from now when transgender people have achieved full equality or at least something approaching it, it might have been seen as less offensive. In a country where transpeople are still fighting for our basic civil rights, where hate crimes against us are still happening with a terrifying frequency, though, that's just not the reality we live in.

The original "blaxploitation" films may have a certain charm as timepieces now, forty years or so after they were made and racial and ethnic equal rights and treatment have come as far as they have in the interim, but transpeople don't have that luxury in 2010.

Unknown said...

Whoops, I was accidentally logged into that "Bea" account when I posted the first time. Friggin' Google mail...