The last half of the year will see the release of at least two movies about people who are transgender played by cis-gender actors. On September 18, 2015, About Ray starring Elle Fanning as a child who is transitioning to male and The Danish Girl, where Eddie Redmayne, who plays Einar Wegener, the Danish artist who transitions into Lili Elbe.
Elle Fanning was on Jimmy Fallon to talk about the film, “What a great fun movie and just an interesting movie.” Fallon said before he introduced Elle. Describing the film as “fun” let’s us know that there is a good chance Fallon has not seen the movie.
“It’s about a family going through going through a unique time,” Elle Fanning explained, “I play a transgender boy in the film and his name is Ray and he’s ready to take the next step and wants to get the testosterone treatment, so he wants to get hormones to make his full transition, then in order to do that, you have to get consent from your mom and your dad, but the dad is not really in the picture as much.”
The Director Gaby Dellal [On a Clear Day], and Fanning seem to be worlds apart in their character understanding, Dellal told The Daily Life, “The part is a girl and she is a girl who is presenting in a very ineffectual way as a boy,” She continued, “She’s not pretending to have a deeper voice. She’s just a girl who is being herself and is chasing the opportunity to start hormone treatment. So to actually use a Trans boy was not an option because this isn’t what my story is about.”
The Director’s language seems overly problematic in the complete lack of understanding of what it means to be transgender. Dellal apparently believes that her main character Ray does not have the ability to be a boy unless his voice is deep enough or until that first shot of testosterone is administered.
This seems to perpetuate the understanding among the general population that surgery and chemicals are inherently required to be transgender when in fact, many in the community may never receive surgery simply because it is not affordable. Understanding this is transgender 101, something the Director should have researched prior to filming.
When asked about the lack of a trans character in the lead role, Gaby Dellal said, “I would never discriminate against a trans kid or actor coming up to audition, but in this day and age in cinema, where it’s almost impossible to raise the financing, unfortunately we have to have some people that mean a certain amount of money,”
Believable prior to the launch of “Orange is the New Black,” this is simply no longer the case. Reuters recently ran an article, which was picked up by multiple media outlets, titled, “Wanted: Transgender actors for Hollywood, little experience required.” The article stated, “To meet the demand, casting directors and producers are often going through unorthodox channels to find transgender talent – experienced or not.”
GLAAD’s Nick Adams told Reuters, “What I hear anecdotally is that casting directors don’t understand much about the transgender community. There are many transgender actors out there, but casting directors just don’t know where to find them.”
Seemingly less problematic from the standpoint of the Director and early trailer reviews from the trans community is the release of The Danish Girl. The film which premiers in November of 2015 tells the story of Einar Wegener, the Danish artist who transitions into Lili Elbe.
IMDb describes the film as, “The remarkable love story inspired by the lives of artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.” Lili Elbe is the first known recipient of GCS and there is already Oscar buzz for Eddie Redmayne who plays the trans woman.
The new 2-minute trailer appeared on Elle yesterday and as been making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter with overwhelmingly positive reviews. The trailer is warm, tender and above all tastefully done as it draws upon scenes and memories that most, if not all, of us trans women have experienced.
Two vastly different films set during two completely different time periods will both be vying for the same trans dollar and in a community where those dollars are hard to come by, this author would recommend seeing The Danish Girl simply because it appears that both the Director and the actor have read Trans101.
It’s time for Hollywood to drop the excuses and hire trans actors for trans roles.