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Transphobic Film Alert (X-posted) - radical pedagogue, dude.

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May 16th, 2007

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09:19 pm - Transphobic Film Alert (X-posted)
Here's a letter I'm circulating regarding Catherine Crouch's new film "The Gendercator," which has had some recent showings in the queer film circuit, and is scheduled to show at Frameline here in San Francisco. I'm not only extremely offended by this film--at least by Catherine's descriptions of the film, why she made it, what she is afraid of (trans people and the "very scary future" they represent)--but am really angry that Frameline would agree to show it--presumably all in the name of "fostering discussion." In case you were wondering, I've tried repeatedly to have "discussion" with Crouch about this film and its blatant transphobia, but she refuses to engage my emails (only writing back, twice now, to say "I hope you see the film"). I will acknowledge here that I have not seen it; however, given what Crouch says about the film and why she made it, I feel I have plenty of justification for starting the buzz against it circulating before it gets here. My feeling is that films designed to antagonize, belittle, or demonize whole populations of (trans) people in the name of "fostering debate" should not be permitted to show in film festivals whose aim is to support and nurture those populations (and who are patronized by them). If you disagee, that's fine--but if you don't, I encourage you to write or call both Catherine Crouch, the filmmaker, and Frameline, to register your dismay. I'll be flyering about this at this Sunday's Trans Picnic in Dolores Park if anyone is interested.

Some reviews of Catherine Crouch’s new film The
characterize it as “feminist,” as in, a “feminist comedy take
on Rip Van Winkle, in which a hippie falls asleep after celebrating Billy Jean
King’s victory over Bobby Riggs in 1973, and wakes up in 2048 to discover a
world in which gender roles are more rigidly defined than ever” (Performink.com). As “a short, satirical take on female body
modification and gender” (nuvo.net), or a “futuristic” short wherein “a lesbian
falls asleep in 1973 and wakes up in 2048. Gays and lesbians no longer exist —
they have been subjected to sex reassignment surgery” (Miaminewtimes.com). Here is what Crouch has to say about the
film to interviewer Robert Sims:

“I think we see this happen in the
larger culture — think of Children of Men, The Fountain,” says
the film's director, Catherine Crouch, whose Rip Van Winkle-inspired
satire will receive its world premiere on May 5 as part of the program. “We're
uncomfortable with our own time, and we'll wonder what will happen in the
future. I've never made a sci-fi film before, but the story fit.”


Satire? Sci-fi? It’s one thing to say that you are spoofing,
satirizing, or putting a futuristic, Sci-Fi spin on some cultural image or
event or quality that makes “us” [a stretch] “uncomfortable with our own
time.” It is quite another to actually display
discomfort—the non-satirical, anxious, heavy-handed, alarmist kind Crouch
clearly feels—as the content of your film.


Satire, or transphobic rant? You decide. Here’s what
Crouch has to say about her own film, on her very own website http://www.catherinecrouch.com. Please pay especially close attention to the
“Director’s Note.” Please pay
especially close attention, too, to the fact that she describes medical
transitioning and sexual reassignment surgery as “female body
modification.” [And if anyone thinks
Crouch really is interested, as she claims, in “[fostering] discussion about
female body modification and medical ethics,” please ask me to send you my two
lengthy, thoughtful, challenging-but-respectful emails to her, and her
absolutely perfunctory replies (I can tell you here they consist of her saying,
“Thanks for writing. I hope you see the
film”). The End. (and, no—I’m not kidding).


This film is getting ready to show at San Francisco’s
Frameline LGBT Film Festival on June 15th at 10:30 p.m. (the
festival runs June 14th-24th, 2007). If you are as disturbed by this as I am, you
can let Frameline know by calling at (415) 703-8650, or emailing their info
line at info@frameline.org,


Here’s the blurb from Crouch’s

Sally (Emily Wood) celebrates Billie Jean King's historic 1973 victory over
Bobby Riggs on the fateful night before her 75 year slumber. 

by Josie Virgin copyright 2006

The Gendercator


The Gendercator is a short satirical take on female body
modification and gender. The story uses the “Rip van Winkle” model to
extrapolate from the past into a possible future.

In 1973 a group of hippie women
are celebrating Billie Jean King’s victory over Bobby Riggs. They are partying
in the rural woods outside of Bloomington, Indiana. Our heroine Sally  is
a simple minded, sporty type who overindulges at the party and passes out under
a tree. Sally wakes up 75 years later in 2048 to discover (amongst other social
changes) that feminism has failed utterly and completely. Sex roles and gender
expression are rigidly binary and enforced by law and social custom. When Sally
rejects the feminine hairdo and short skirt she is given, the doctor at the
emergency room calls in the “Gendercator”, a government official who informs
Sally that butch women and sissy boys are no longer tolerated – gender variants
are allowed to chose their gender, but they must chose one and follow its rigid

Sally is baffled by this brave
new world. All she wants is to “do her own thing” – but her own thing is no
more. Sally is a simple-minded stoner, indoctrinated into 70s feminism. She is
no poster girl or freedom fighter, just a gentle tomboy dropped into the future
with a tendency to respond in slogans such as “sisterhood is powerful”.

Nurse Nancy locates some of
Sally’s former friends – they are 100 now, but because of advances in the
medical profession (cloning spare parts), they are still healthy and thriving.
The friends tell Sally they heard she moved to California and that’s why they
never looked for her. One of her friends appears to be a man and tells Sally,
“They made me do it. They’ll make you too.” They explain to Sally that in the
early 2000s the evangelical Christians took over the government and legislated
their strict family values, legally sanctioning only “one man, one woman”
couples. Advances in sex reassignment surgery have made it possible to honor an
individual’s choice of gender AND government policy. Sally is comfortable in
the middle of the genders, an unacceptable choice in 2048.

Director’s Note

Things are getting very strange
for women these days. More and more often we see young heterosexual women
carving their bodies into porno Barbie dolls and lesbian women altering
themselves into transmen. Our distorted cultural norms are making women feel
compelled to use medical advances to change themselves, instead of working to
change the world. This is one story, showing one possible scary future. I am
hopeful that this story will foster discussion about female body modification
and medical ethics.



(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2007 06:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting, this seems like a terrible film from the premise and the director's note, as you point out. Can you also post your e-mails, or parts of them?
[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2007 06:48 pm (UTC)
sure--I'll do so momentarily.
[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC)
if you're interested, I posted the initial email and response, but had to do so as an entirely new post--

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