Just of late, the film trailer to Ben Stiller’s sequel of Zoolander met controversy from LGBTQ+ groups due to Benedict Cumberbatch’s appearance as an androgynous supermodel.
9000 individuals have signed a petition calling for a boycott of the film, with the figure continuing to increase.
In the trailer we see Cumberbatch’s character, named “All”, encounter both Zoolander and Hansel, played by Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson respectively. Within the dialogue, Zoolander asks All “Are you like a male model, or a female model?” Hansel adds “What I think he’s asking, is if you have a hot dog or a bun.”
This has caused outrage amongst the LGBTQ+ society, with claims that the film’s approach to representing androgyne/trans/non-binary groups as tasteless, prompting the formation of this online petition.
Lee Truman, a member of BU’s LGBTQ+ society says, “It is blatant transphobia, there is honestly no other way to see it. It makes cissexist jokes about genitals, and considering I as a trans person have had exactly the situations like the one in the trailer, it is really inexcusable.”
The trailer has provoked further backlash regarding Cumberbatch playing the role of a minority despite being cisgender. This topic has become a prevalent issue within the entertainment industry. Eddie Redmayne was subject to interrogation when it was announced he would be playing Lili Elbe, a landscape painter, known for undergoing the first gender reassignment surgeries.
Other examples include Elle Fanning playing a trans boy in new film ‘About Ray’. “Prolonging doesn’t keep me a girl any longer. It just keeps me being who I already am!” the trans character exclaims. An ironic statement considering the actress is a cisgender female.
LGBTQ+ activist groups also planned to boycott 2015 film Stonewall. The story depicts real-life events of LGBTQ+ individuals protesting against police, in what is named the “Stonewall riots”. However, groups were disgraced by the insincerity of the film. Displaying a lack of focus on revolutionary queer artists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who also happen to be people of colour, in turn of a white-washed, homosexual male as the central character.
Pete MacHale, another BU LGBTQ+ member, responds to the debate of whether it is fair for cisgender actors to play trans roles: “Trans actors have a hard enough time getting work, so not only is it offensive casting, it also denies us a chance at getting work. A significant number of directors do not even put out casting calls for trans individuals, which is vile. Why would you care enough to capitalise on our stories to make money, but do not provide work or credit to the people suffering through pain and discrimination every day?”
Many trans actors have proven to be successful in performing arts. Laverne Cox is notoriously well-known for her role as Sophia in Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black.
So why are trans people still being unfortunately marginalised in terms of acting roles? Talent is out there, and we can only hope over time that it is utilised appropriately, in roles that portray LGBTQ+ positively.