Join 3,440 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


...homophobia isn't a punchline.
December 10, 2013 1:32 AM   Subscribe

Why I’m quitting Tropfest The December 2013 winner of Tropfest - The world's largest short film festival has attracted controversy by awarding first prize to Bamboozled - a story where a man sleeps with his ex girlfriend who's had a sex change as a punchline. TROPFEST #FAIL: WHY THEY GOT IT WRONG
posted by mattoxic (93 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
so is it a good film?
posted by Sebmojo at 1:44 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


so is it a good film?

Did you read the post at all? Everything screams 'no', AND the film itself is on youtube, linked from the FPP.
posted by Dysk at 1:58 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


What the every fuck? That was so much worse that I thought it was going to be. Horribly homophobic and transphobic. Terribly written. Shallow performances. Not a single redeeming feature.

How the fuck did this crap win?!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:06 AM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's 2013 and what the fuck is wrong with everybody
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:10 AM on December 10, 2013 [18 favorites]


I was ready to hate it right up till the ending, which is so over the top that I just gave in... it's not any kind of realism. It's a psychotic dream. Even when they did a version of this gag in 'The IT Crowd' it was more anchored in some kind of reality. Whereas this was more like one of those dreams where you go to school and realise you're naked, and the reaction of the man who did the seducing has so much mania in it that it crushes everything.
posted by colie at 2:13 AM on December 10, 2013


I have to say it was very different than what I expected from the description. The beginning of the story was kind of gentle, and then it took a turn into something that almost seemed like it had to be a satirical stab at the over the top,mean-spirited awfulness of GOTCHA! style, candid reality TV. The ending didn't seem like a simple punchline: it didn't feel like "HA HA PETE SLEPT WITH A MAN" but rather "Holy shit these people are horrible. God people do awful, petty things for entertainment" and the homophobia was just part of the awfulness.


I mean, the way the bottom of my stomach dropped out at that point tells me it HAD to be satirical, in a dark, Sex House kind of way, because otherwise what the actual fuck.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:20 AM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Director Matt Hardie has defended the film as a parody of the media in an interview with ABC.

"The punchline really is a comment on media and how the world may have homophobia, but the lead character, and what I was saying, he was completely willing to go with either gender, he was in love with the person," he says.


So yes. OK. Satire.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:22 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS. NO. DON'T. DO. NOT.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:26 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know... I don't really see the reason for the outrage. The straight guy didn't seem that freaked out about Helen becoming Harry, and I actually found the part where they got all flirty to be kind of sweet. It was like, their attraction transcended gender, and they fell back into their old romance. The twist at the end just seemed like a bit of surreal shock comedy, with maybe a slightly transphobic edge. I think the comedy was supposed to be more about this totally bizarre, pornographic prank show humiliating the guy and showing his ass on TV and all that.

I think of myself as a pretty thin-skinned trans person, but this one kind of bounced right off of me.

Just saw Louche Mustachio's comments, as I was writing this... and it sounds to me like the director had good intentions and maybe missed the mark a bit. I think Kostakis' post really overstate's the guy's reaction when he wakes up next to Harry. He's freaked out, but he's not hateful or mean. He says he's "confused". Up to the twist ending, it's kind of a sweet story... and the twist is only anti-trans if you choose to read it that way.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:39 AM on December 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


The bit where the seducer points in the 'victim's' face and yells 'you totally banged me' for the second time with an angry face is incredible. I've had to go back and watch that a few times and it's a worthy winner for that alone.
posted by colie at 3:41 AM on December 10, 2013


Oh god, I was hoping this wouldn't be here, after having it all over Facebook and Twitter.

I don't think it's a particularly good short film, and while I can see the argument for homophobic, I wasn't offended by it. I also don't think it's transphobic, but that is of course the most constant criticism of the film. I also saw it labelled biphobic, triggering (for someone who had a good friend who was trans) and the cause of all sorts of hate-filled rants.

I don't think it should have won, or that its leads should have won best actor. I'll even agree it was made from a position of privilege. But just because something bad includes a minority character does not automatically mean (or, of course, prevent it from containing) that the minority is presented in a hateful way. I found the start unbelievable, but not in a way that was offensive, just in a way that didn't work. Don't expect the entire nuances of every trans experience in a 6 minute short, in other words.

I would have made my case on Facebook and Twitter, but the argument would have required more than 140 characters for the latter, and in some small way defending a film I don't care enough about to do so for the former.
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:09 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


a story where a man sleeps with his ex girlfriend who's had a sex change as a punchline

I don't care for the short either way, but this description is not true within the context of the story, even before the ending trundles along. It's not treated as inherently funny that Helen is now Harry. It's certainly not the punchline, which is [SPOILER] rape by impersonation, because "Harry" had never been Helen.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:12 AM on December 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't see any reason why we shouldn't take the director at his word. The main character is sympathetic precisely because he's accepting and able to go outside his normal boundaries for someone with whom he shares a connection.

I think it's hard to read anything into the contrived, grotesque shaming that the film ends with except for commentary on societal attitudes-- it's clear that the people involved in the prank are horrid and, most importantly, we feel sympathy for the protagonist. I don't think the director's intent was for us to say "Gross! He slept with a dude!" Rather, it's to say "that's such horrible manipulation by people with offensive attitudes."

Those points seem pretty clear, I think peoples' problem with it is that it treats difficult subjects (transgendered people, homosexuality) cavalierly. People who feel strongly about the topic have a set of expectations about how those topics should be handled, and using them as a leverage for a set-up is counter to those expectations.

I don't think it's an excellent piece; the acting, placement and editing aren't great. But I think it's kind of charming and I don't think the humor is derived from the place where most of the detractors find it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:36 AM on December 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm not transgender, and am completely ready to accept that I'm coming at this from a position of privilege, but I don't particularly understand the extent of the criticism the film is receiving.

The joke isn't that he slept with a man - he already knew that. The joke is that he was deceived about who the man was. He was attracted to the person, and when he woke up he was 'confused', not disgusted or ashamed. The people trying to shame him for sleeping with a 'real man' are portrayed as fairly awful and shallow reality TV types - the film doesn't seem to champion their cause.

Yes, it treats a sex-change operation in a fairly shallow manner, but it doesn't feel like it is treating trans people as the butt of the joke.

Again, I'm not trying to say that it's irrational to be offended, just that I don't quite see it in this instance.
posted by twirlypen at 4:53 AM on December 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


rape by impersonation, because "Harry" had never been Helen - and setup as an act of "revenge" by a jilted ex - fucking hilarious.
posted by mattoxic at 4:54 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


when he woke up he was 'confused'

This is why it seems to me less offensive than the IT Crowd version, where the boss had previously been shown to be a 'sex pest' (so we wanted to see him punished to some extent) and also would not have slept with someone who'd had a sex change if he'd known about it. This guy is not shown being a bad dude earlier on so we don't want him to get any kind of come-uppance/punishment, and he also goes for it knowing about the sex change. The only thing he can't handle is the TV crew and the lie - and aren't director and audience totally with him on that?
posted by colie at 5:02 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I see no *phobia, merely what looks like absolutely plausible manipulation and betrayal.

But the director missed a trick. He should have shown the part where the victim has signed the releases and the segment's being aired on TV.
posted by flabdablet at 5:07 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


That is, I see no *phobia from the director, and I don't see the film inciting it in the audience. Obviously the fictitious Bamboozled program's intended audience is assumed to be composed mainly of mouthbreathing YouTube commenters.
posted by flabdablet at 5:14 AM on December 10, 2013


From the Tropfest #fail link:

The only person ridiculed in Bamboozled is the protagonist.

That is demonstrably untrue. The ex-girlfriend, fake trans person and the film crew are all clearly being ridiculed.

I'm not trying to say that it's irrational to be offended, just that I don't quite see it in this instance.

I agree with Ursula Hitler and twirlypen. It's not at all difficult for me to get offended at transphobic and homophobic garbage, but this short isn't that. It definitely pokes into a difficult and/or obnoxious place for some people, and you can argue that a lot of juvenile folks won't get the satire at the end (which, honestly, is a fairly dumb twist that makes the movie a lot stupider than it should have been), but that's about as far as it goes. Assuming that the director shares the feelings of the film crew in the final scene seems very much to me like going looking for a reason to be offended.
posted by mediareport at 5:39 AM on December 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


It shouldn't have won because it's an obvious, terribly unfunny piece of ham-fisted 'satire' .
posted by item at 5:46 AM on December 10, 2013


A better version of the "reality TV people are horrible people" story is the underrated Brittany Murphy vehicle Little Black Book. It's a much, much more grim and clever movie than people ever recognized.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:47 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS. NO. DON'T. DO. NOT.

Some of the comments at the last link are quite good, actually. And while it's impossible to dismiss the feelings of trans folks like this who felt "like my entire trans experience was just a joke and that it had just been reduced to some whim of the moment decision that was just so easy" it's also possible to think they missed the part where the person who did that reducing is shown to be an awful human being in the end.

Not sure how you could miss that, but some folks clearly did.
posted by mediareport at 5:48 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Not to be confused with the underrated Carice van Houten vehicle Black Book.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:48 AM on December 10, 2013


rape by impersonation, because "Harry" had never been Helen - and setup as an act of "revenge" by a jilted ex - fucking hilarious.

Yes, it's depicting a horrible act. But I imagine it's supposed to be a comment on what passes for entertainment in a world of reality shows. That it's not entirely successful doesn't mean it's *phobic. I don't see it as a punchline as much as it is a shock twist ending. To say it's a punchline is saying that the ending is a joke...and I don't think it is.

Look, it's tone deaf and stuff, but I don't agree that it's transphobic. Your mileage, of course, may vary...and you're entitled to be offended by anything that offends you. That you see it as an attempt at comedy does speak a lot to me about how you likely received it.
posted by inturnaround at 5:48 AM on December 10, 2013


I believe I'll reserve my outrage for something a little more offensive. This is just sketch comedy fluff.
posted by davelog at 5:48 AM on December 10, 2013


I don't see it as a punchline as much as it is a shock twist ending. To say it's a punchline is saying that the ending is a joke...and I don't think it is.

Especially since the "punchline" is actually that he didn't have sex with his ex, and that his ex never underwent any kind of gender transition.

To say that it's "a story where a man sleeps with his ex girlfriend who's had a sex change as a punchline" is like saying Jason is the killer in Friday the 13th.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:56 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sex House does indeed cover this territory way better in every respect.
posted by flabdablet at 5:59 AM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I mean, just because the short depicts assholes doesn't mean it was created by assholes.
posted by inturnaround at 5:59 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is just sketch comedy fluff.

Which makes it worthy of winning "the world's largest short film festival" how? THAT's the outrage. It's like giving "Tosh.0" an Emmy. The pandering use of hot-button issues is just frosting on the shitcake.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:42 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, it's depicting a horrible act. But I imagine it's supposed to be a comment on what passes for entertainment in a world of reality shows. That it's not entirely successful doesn't mean it's *phobic. I don't see it as a punchline as much as it is a shock twist ending. To say it's a punchline is saying that the ending is a joke...and I don't think it is.

That's as may be, but consider: their answer to the question of "what's the most outrageous thing a reality show can do" is, "oooh! Tricking a guy into a one-night stand with a trans person without telling him!" That's the part that's not cool - the implication that sleeping with someone trans is "outrageously embarrassing".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:44 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


"oooh! Tricking a guy into a one-night stand with a trans person without telling him!"

That's not what happens in the short.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:49 AM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


"what's the most outrageous thing a reality show can do" is, "oooh! Tricking a guy into a one-night stand with a trans person without telling him!"

You need to rewatch the short and then maybe watch it again because that is not what happened.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:00 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can honestly see both sides after watching this. The protagonist certainly isn't upset about sleeping with a man, or that his ex-girlfriend had gender reassignment, he's just being fooled by awful, horrible people who are shown to be awful and horrible, including in their homo/trans-phobias.

But it's an easy "ha ha" for those who are homo/trans-phobic, which is kind of the cutting edge satire tends to play in, and for that (don't read the comments, holy hell, don't read the comments), I understand the difficulties people have with it.
posted by xingcat at 7:01 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Which makes it worthy of winning "the world's largest short film festival" how? THAT's the outrage. It's like giving "Tosh.0" an Emmy. The pandering use of hot-button issues is just frosting on the shitcake.

Hi, welcome to modern American culture.
posted by davelog at 7:03 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which makes it worthy of winning "the world's largest short film festival" how? THAT's the outrage. It's like giving "Tosh.0" an Emmy. The pandering use of hot-button issues is just frosting on the shitcake.

Hi, welcome to modern American culture.


Tropfest is an Australian festival.
posted by xingcat at 7:08 AM on December 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


That's the part that's not cool - the implication that sleeping with someone trans is "outrageously embarrassing".

While we wait for EmpressCallipygos to (re)watch the film, it's worth noting that any homophobic/transphobic "implication" in the film is coming from the TV film crew *characters* and not necessarily the director. That's an important distinction.
posted by mediareport at 7:10 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


You need to rewatch the short and then maybe watch it again because that is not what happened.

You're right, and after reading the article I'm amending what I said thusly:

their answer to the question of "what's the most outrageous thing a reality show can do" is, "oooh! Tricking a guy into a one-night stand with a trans gay person without telling him by treating a trans person as a prop!" That's the part that's not cool - the implication that sleeping with someone trans gay is "outrageously embarrassing", and using the concept of a trans person as a prop.

Which actually makes it worse, as it's treating two groups of people as fodder for "wacky reality show hijinks". So to my mind, the question isn't "why are you calling this transphobic", the question is "why are people only calling this transphobic".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:13 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sex House does indeed cover this territory way better in every respect.

+1. It's been over a year since I watched SH and I didn't expect that it would have such staying power. It's downright resonant.

Is it possible that the folks who made BAMBOOZLED are sympathetic to LGBTQI issues, but don't actually know and had never met anyone LGBTQI, and intended to go post-meta like SH did, and it just fell flat? Please tell me that's what happened. Please.
posted by mochapickle at 7:14 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


As far as we know, there are no trans characters in the film. Just a horrible person claiming to be trans.
posted by straight at 7:17 AM on December 10, 2013


The "joke" is not that he had sex with a man, but that it was rape by impersonation. Are you basing your impressions of the plot from the article, and not from actually watching the short?

Yes, it's problematic that trans-ness is used as a prop, but that's a separate issue to what I keep railing against. I don't even care for the short as a short, I'm just irritated that people keep getting the plot - of a short - wrong.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:17 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


the question isn't "why are you calling this transphobic", the question is "why are people only calling this transphobic".

Um, they're calling it homophobic, too. Seriously, read the links. And again, the only folks using queerness as an outrageously embarrassing thing are the characters in the film who are clearly shown to be awful people.
posted by mediareport at 7:18 AM on December 10, 2013


The film actually seems sympathetic to the idea that a straight person could view a transexual person as real, sympathetic person, but then it jumps into full-on homophobia by giving us this horrible stereotype of a gay predator who is willing to rape a straight man for a reality television show.

It's that playing to homophobic fears of gay predators that really makes the story terrible.
posted by straight at 7:21 AM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Straight guys are afraid that gay men are going to come up to them and tell them that he's their ex-girlfriend of a decade ago after a sex change and a massive amount of plastic surgery so as to be not only a different gender, but also ethnicity and height, and that this will work as a means of seducing them into a night of drinking and debauchery, and in this case followed by shaming on reality TV?

Man, gay panic is so complicated.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:39 AM on December 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


What a horrible excuse for a film. If that won, I'd hate to see what lost.
posted by tg72657 at 7:40 AM on December 10, 2013


"But you don't understand, Osgood... I'm a man!"

"Well... nobody's perfect."



That's a proper punchline.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:43 AM on December 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Here's the full build up and video...

Osgood: I called Mama. She was so happy she cried! She wants you to have her wedding gown. It's white lace.

Daphne: Yeah, Osgood. I can't get married in your mother's dress. Ha ha. That-she and I, we are not built the same way.

Osgood: We can have it altered.

Daphne: Oh no you don't! Osgood, I'm gonna level with you. We can't get married at all.

Osgood: Why not?

Daphne: Well, in the first place, I'm not a natural blonde.

Osgood: Doesn't matter.

Daphne: I smoke! I smoke all the time!

Osgood: I don't care.

Daphne: Well, I have a terrible past. For three years now, I've been living with a saxophone player

Osgood: I forgive you.

Daphne: [Tragically] I can never have children!

Osgood: We can adopt some.

Daphne/Jerry: But you don't understand, Osgood! [Whips off his wig, exasperated, and changes to a manly voice.] Uhhh, I'm a man!

Osgood: [Looks at him then turns back, unperturbed]: Well, nobody's perfect!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:45 AM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


> Tropfest is an Australian festival.

I stand corrected. Let me amend my original statement:

Hi, welcome to modern American culture.
posted by davelog at 7:52 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Um, they're calling it homophobic, too. Seriously, read the links. And again, the only folks using queerness as an outrageously embarrassing thing are the characters in the film who are clearly shown to be awful people.

I did read the links. In fact, it is because I read the links that I understood "why this can be called [whatever you wish] phobic", and I'm speaking only to the people who are asking "what's [whatever]phobic about this in the first place".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:56 AM on December 10, 2013


What a horrible excuse for a film. If that won, I'd hate to see what lost.

Sturgeon's Law reigns supreme at shorts festivals.

I went to Tropfest New York last year. There were a few good ones, but even among the top selections, there were some big fat Butterball turkeys.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:56 AM on December 10, 2013


I like how the description of the film in the post is completely inaccurate. Thus encouraging more views, perhaps? Sure it's a moronic film, but hey, everyone needs something to whine about. If you want to go all nuclear about a silly 7-minute "Extreme Revenge" flick, so be it. Cuz that's all this is. It's making fun of the inanity of those kind of "Get Back at Someone" shows. Personally, I like art that stirs shit, provokes outrage and offends broad swaths of the population. At least we all have some blood coursing through our veins. Now let's pull our socks up, dry our tears away and get back to real life.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:16 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The above comment is completely insensitive to those of us who prefer to go barefoot.
posted by mochapickle at 9:26 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, it came so close. The ending is described as:
Then, he finds out it’s an 'elaborate hoax', and instead of sleeping with a Helen-turned-Harry, he's just slept with a Harry. And he's shamed for it. Cue more audience laughter.

"We got you, man! We got you!" Harry howls.

As if things can't get any worse, in comes Helen, his real ex. "How do you like that, Pete?" she asks.
And in my imagination it continues with
Pete looks away from his friends faces, stares out the window thoughtfully for a bit, and then replies "Y'know, it wasn't bad." Cut to friends' faces, uncertain.

Pete thinks a bit more, remembers a bit more, says softly "Not bad at all" more to himself than his friends, hint of a smile. Cut to friends looking to each other, rising surprise.

Pete breaks into a genuine smile, stands up, walks out of the room to take a shower. As he walks out he says clearly, not even bothering to turn back to his friends, "Not bad at all.".
posted by benito.strauss at 9:43 AM on December 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


benito, I think that's why they had to make the final scene so invasive (hidden cameras, pulling the duvet off him so he's naked) and also why his ex's complaint about him (I bet they struggled with the script for this line) is not a terrible hideous crime (she says he told a slightly embarrassing sexual boast involving her).

That TV crew could come into your bedroom any morning after any night of drunk sex with hidden cameras and it would be basically just as bad. So you're just thinking wow, that's a bad day for the poor dude.
posted by colie at 9:56 AM on December 10, 2013


This is a movie in which a woman is a vengeful harpie and a gay man is a lying rapist. Even if I buy the director's argument that the punchline is that they are horrible people, and not that the main character is someone who should be humiliated by having had gay sex, it's still messed up.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:09 AM on December 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, the whole point is that he did have a good night. Everything was fine, until the lie was revealed and the TV crew showed up.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:09 AM on December 10, 2013


Oh my god, I paused it halfway through to say, everyone complaining about it being homophobic, go watch their flirting montage, it is the most fucking adorable thing I've seen all year. I haven't gotten to the end yet, but at this point I'd totally vote for the film.
posted by corb at 10:21 AM on December 10, 2013


And on finish, it's not making fun of him at all, the awful awful people are making fun of him, but he just seems sad and confused and shocked and heartbroken and hiding from how awful things are, how the girl he thought he might have had a reconnection with is actually an awful human being and his great night was all a fake.
posted by corb at 10:25 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Roger Ebert used to say that films needed to "earn" the right to tackle sensitive material--particularly via satire--by intelligence and skill in presentation. I'm willing to concede the filmmakers probably didn't have any *phobic intent, but they certainly didn't manage to pull off earning the material to my eyes, and thus, pushing the wrong buttons is kind of an inevitable consequence.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:19 AM on December 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


"it is the most fucking adorable thing I've seen all year"

No it's not.

This was a shitty, lowest common denominator film for a festival attended by tens of thousands of straight bro's who laughed uproariously at the punchline where the protagonist was humiliated for, shock horror, sleeping with a dude, because eww gross gay sex. Its central gag (and Tropfest films are by and large gag films) relied on the audience recognising how exquisitely embarrassing it would be for a guy to be revealed as sleeping with another guy. Swap the genders around and imagine it was a gay protagonist who had mistakenly slept with a cis woman. See how the humiliation gag doesn't make sense, because it's not humiliating to have heterosexual sex?
posted by dontjumplarry at 12:21 PM on December 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


And I think one of the reasons why some straight people don't get why so many homos are offended by this shit is that the premise of the central gag -- "how utterly humiliating and embarrassing it would be if the world knew I had gay sex" -- is something many of us had to deal with right through school, and often beyond into adulthood, at least until we left our small towns for the big liberal city. It's something we recognise really well, in others and even in ourselves, so when some straight bro uses it as the basis of a shitty gag film to score a few points with the fratboys who watch this lame-ass festival, we notice.
posted by dontjumplarry at 12:29 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been thinking about this...

It's the short film equivalent of trolling. And it's particularly odious, more so than straightforward gaybashing, because the filmmakers spend 2/3 of the film building viewers' faith in their story and characters' perspectives. We as viewers follow the message that having this new personal experience is a positive thing, only to be slapped with an ending that says, Joke's on you for getting sucked in to our story and thinking this relationship would be OK!

Ick. Just ick.
posted by mochapickle at 12:52 PM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I really didn't understand this. It's as if the start and middle of one film was surgically attached to the end of another.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:57 PM on December 10, 2013


That's as may be, but consider: their answer to the question of "what's the most outrageous thing a reality show can do" is, "oooh! Tricking a guy into a one-night stand with a trans person without telling him!" That's the part that's not cool - the implication that sleeping with someone trans is "outrageously embarrassing".

I think this largely missing the point I feel - I mentioned up thread, tricking a guy into a one night stand with another guy - then using that to humiliate him - as an act of revenge - She sneers at him "You slept with a guy". If the film hadn't included that - it would have been ham fisted satire.

Let the world laugh at you because you performed "an homosexual act". Consider your dish served cold ex boyfriend.

With that unnecessary line it crossed into being offensive, homophobic crap.
posted by mattoxic at 1:08 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


some terrible referential joke about Spike Lee
posted by threeants at 1:55 PM on December 10, 2013


The people who are complaining that the film depicts "Harry" as an odious gay man are missing something... "Harry" clearly does not identify as gay, and is in fact an odious homophobe. He slept with the protagonist purely to humiliate him on this prank show, and doesn't seem to grasp that he also just "banged a dude" himself. He's shaming the protagonist for participating in a sex act which he himself not only participated in, but initiated. It's absurd, and it's supposed to be.

"my entire trans experience was just a joke and that it had just been reduced to some whim of the moment decision that was just so easy"

The fact that such a massive life-change as SRS is tossed off so casually is clearly supposed to be a joke.

It's as if the start and middle of one film was surgically attached to the end of another.

Well, there's your shock comedy. It's not supposed to flow organically out of what came before. It's supposed to be a big, appalling WTF. And this one is, by design.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:44 PM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ursula, maybe it's clearly supposed to be a joke that the transition process is handled so casually and inaccurately. But the cis audience of the film is not going to catch on. In fact, most people's understanding of transition doesn't go any further than the crass term "sex change" as some single transitional event. Why can't it be transphobic to have this insulting myth propagated when it should be challenged?

When it's revealed that the guy isn't trans, the appropriation of the trans identity becomes completely barbaric. If there's one misconception stronger than "gay men want to trick you to sleep with them" it's "trans people want to trick you to sleep with them." The fact that this person isn't trans doesn't excuse the use of such a trope even tangentially - again, audiences are simply plugged into a general feeling of yes this matches the depictions of trans people in other media I've consumed, or of course this person would lie once posing as a trans person - trans people lie.

Furthering this complete ignorance and dismissal of trans people is their use as simply a prop in "discussing" gay issues - this doesn't seem familiar to anyone? Using the T as a "reasonable" concession to the American right when discussing LGBT protections? It ties into the idea that trans people don't exist except as some bizarre other to be used in furtherance of LG goals. (Or simply as props to use for cis comedic purposes without any voice of their own - see every sitcom ever.)

Maybe this isn't the most -phobic seven minutes possible, but it does a great job at illustrating the exact problems with supporting rather than challenging the status quo: the status quo sucks.
posted by Corinth at 10:26 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also there's the whole gross implication that sleeping with a trans man isn't sleeping with a man, and the main character wasn't having so-called "gay" sex until his partner was revealed to be cis. That's no good either!
posted by Corinth at 10:36 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the whole "but the people mocking him are supposed to be terrible people!" thing is kind of a red herring, to be honest. The "twist" at the end is really cheap, poorly thought-out and has absolutely no actual set-up earlier in the film (which wouldn't have to be difficult--sign for "Bamboozled" at the bus shelter? The protagonist awkwardly apologizing for the circumstances of the break-up? Anything at all?) All of that makes it essentially the equivalent of shouting "NO HOMO", lest someone think you were actually trying to treat a queer relationship with seriousness and respect.
posted by kagredon at 1:15 PM on December 11, 2013


Also there's the whole gross implication that sleeping with a trans man isn't sleeping with a man, and the main character wasn't having so-called "gay" sex until his partner was revealed to be cis.

Where is that implied in the short?
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:23 PM on December 11, 2013


Where is that implied in the short?

After the reveal that 'Harry' is not the former girlfriend Helen, actual Helen shows up and yells: "You just slept with a man! How do you like that?"

That statement can only be based on the belief that a trans-man is not a 'real' man.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:42 PM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, but the guy he slept with seems upset about it too, and how does that work?
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:06 PM on December 11, 2013


It doesn't. It's a poorly written piece of crap.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:54 PM on December 11, 2013


That statement can only be based on the belief that a trans-man is not a 'real' man.

No other taunt works, though. Harry is a man.

"You've just slept with a man" is the appropriate taunt. Harry was not a trans man (as thought). Therefore it wouldn't make sense for Helen to break in jeering "You've just slept with a trans man." He hadn't.

And had Harry been a trans man (formerly Harriet, not Helen) it would still make sense to taunt "You've just slept with a man", treating 'trans' as a redundancy which escapes your criticism.

"You've just slept with a man" (trans or not) is the appropriate line. Pete is heterosexual, and Harry is a man, just not a trans man, formerly Helen.
posted by de at 1:10 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


'appropriate'?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:05 PM on December 12, 2013


For the script, appropriate. What else would Helen's line be? It's a line in a script that you think (is poorly written, but) demeans trans men as not real, and on your take only serves to express that demeaning. What else could the taunt be?

A heterosexual man has been tricked into sex with an unknown man. To achieve that the seducer — rapist, more correctly — impersonates a former girlfriend, supposedly transitioned. The particular line writes itself (I think).

I suppose Helen could have said "Ha! You've slept with a total stranger", but that would completely miss the con.

I can see your point but think 'The statement can only be based on belief X' is too strong. I think I've provided something like a counterexample: the statement could also be nothing more and nothing less than the best fit for circumstance.
posted by de at 8:14 PM on December 12, 2013


De, I don't think your interpretation is worse than any other - but the protagonist just slept with someone in a male body who identifies as a man. Why would he possibly be upset to be told that he slept with "a man"? Are we supposed to think that he somehow distinguishes between "a man" and "someone with beard and a dongle who calls himself a man but is in my opinion will always be ineluctably feminine"?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:39 PM on December 12, 2013


Why would he possibly be upset to be told that he slept with "a man"?

What, you mean aside from having the confusion he was already feeling about the challenge to his own assumed sexual orientation massively compounded by the brutal revelation that the person he'd just allowed himself to be vulnerable to and intimate with was not who he claimed to be but was in fact the worst kind of exploitative, manipulative liar as well as an utterly remorseless and unrepentant rapist laughing in his face after having raped him for shits and giggles?

No idea.

Homophobia is indeed not a punchline, so it seems to me that people who honestly perceive this as some kind of "comedy sketch" have actually allowed themselves to be Bamboozled. I couldn't laugh at this film at all, and I am one who prefers his humour dark.
posted by flabdablet at 10:11 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Joe, I'm saying that when Helen appears on the scene large as life and delivers her line, "now you've slept with a man", her revelation is "here I am, you've slept with a ring-in, a stranger, a guy. You've been had; raped".

"You've slept with a man" is loaded, but it's not (to me) a statement that, as delivered, can only be based on the belief that a trans-man is not a 'real' man, which is what HTART is getting from the delivery.
posted by de at 3:40 AM on December 13, 2013


It's what I'm getting from the delivery too.

And had Harry been a trans man (formerly Harriet, not Helen) it would still make sense to taunt "You've just slept with a man"

But notably, that taunt only comes up once Harry is revealed to be a cis dude.
posted by Dysk at 4:00 AM on December 13, 2013


I think the taunt really only comes up once Harry is revealed to be not Helen. I got the sense that it was trying to show someone who was genuinely conflicted - who wasn't attracted to men necessarily, but really loved the memories of Helen, and had a great time with Harry. He was confused - not necessarily against the idea, but stunned and trying to reevaluate who he was and what it all meant. And then, it's revealed that Harry is just some guy, some random guy, and so he's had sex with a man, while largely not being attracted to men, because of something he believed that wasn't, in fact, true - that this man was one he had loved.
posted by corb at 5:48 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not defending the short as a short, nor am I saying that it can't be unintentionally *phobic, or otherwise highly insensitive with regard to Actual Issues, but there's nothing in the movie to suggest that it has any conscious agenda against gay and/or trans men.

That's my preface to this: the taunt is a joke relating to the fact that the prank was dementedly cruel, insanely elaborate, and utterly asinine.

The Real Helen (et al.) think that it was funny to make the main character sleep with a man. The thing is, they're all obviously nuts. The main character is well aware of the fact that he just had (apparently very good) sex with a man. There is a fundamental disconnect between what the prankster think happened, and what the main character experienced.

Indeed, the short does tonal backflips in order to show what a fun night he had, reconnecting with his ex, whom he believes to be a trans man. That is the emotional journey the main character goes through.

The ending is supposed to be a "shock laugh", because the first two thirds appear to be on the level - we like these two guys, and the movie appears to be taking them seriously.

Then, the ending comes. The camera crew is shown as intrusive and venal. Bamboozled as a show is shown to be unpopular and unfunny. "Harry" tries to act like he didn't just have sex with the main character - this is obviously meant to be ridiculous. You can't be a guy who has sex with a guy and then be like, "ha ha, I WAS ONLY KIDDING." (Not that people don't do things like that in real life, but they're still ridiculous when they do it.) Helen's motivations for pranking her boyfriend are also meant-to-be-comically blown out of proportion, if they're even true at all. (The main character does not seem to even recognize what she's talking about, although to be fair he is pretty distracted at the time.)

Perhaps most importantly, the ultimate joke of the movie comes from the fact that what the movie initially appears to be about (the main character reconnecting with his ex, who is now a man), was not even what the prank was about. Helen et al. are so dense and evil that they just think it was funny to make him sleep with a man, but from the main character's perspective, he just had this amazing night of reconnection with his ex, and it was all revealed to have been an idiotic, overly complicated prank for some TV show he's never heard of.

The final scene makes no sense if we pretend that movie agrees with Helen et al. The "you just slept with a man" line only makes sense if we interpret it as a joke about how all the villains are bizarre idiots. If you interpret that line as saying that the movie regards trans men as not real men, then your interpretation makes that scene literally nonsensical. It makes no sense to think that the movie is granting Helen what it believes to be a legitimate point.

I'm not saying that people can't find the short offensive, nor am I even saying that I like the short all that much as a short, but I disagree with the assertions that the movie adopts Real Helen's POV.

...

Drawing a comparison with a sketch that I'm sure none of you have seen: I saw a show at the People's Improv Theater. In one of the skits, a lifelong friend asks a buddy if he can borrow $5. The friend then promptly runs off with the five dollar bill, and the sketch went on for a very long time, showing the Point Break-esque chase scene between the two friends, who are now bitter enemies. The skit ended with the thief launching into a long monologue about how this was it, this was the moment, this is the moment that years of "friendship", actually an elaborate long con, had been leading up to: stealing five dollars.

The ultimate joke, obviously, is that there could not be a more asinine reason to engage in such an activity. (Indeed, it would make more sense to betray a friend for no reason, if one was the friend-betraying type, as opposed to doing so for only five dollars, that one would only receive at some undefined point in the future.)

I see this short as being structurally similar.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:36 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The final scene makes no sense if we pretend that movie agrees with Helen et al. The "you just slept with a man" line only makes sense if we interpret it as a joke about how all the villains are bizarre idiots.

That's the charitable reading. The uncharitable reading is that since the dude was a cis dude, he was actually a guy, and protagonist just had gay sex, not weird not-quite-gay sex. Seriously, I don't see how your point about the absurdity of the 'prank' makes one reading any more essential or any less nonsensical than the other.
posted by Dysk at 7:03 AM on December 13, 2013


That's the charitable reading.

An interesting question might be: if there's a serviceable charitable reading, why seek for the other one if they're both equally likely?
posted by corb at 7:12 AM on December 13, 2013


Because centuries of privilege and murderous intolerance toward gays, women, and trans individuals provide much more weight to the uncharitable reading. All things being equal, the charitable reading would get the benefit of the doubt. When all things are equal, I will be inclined toward that benefit, but not today.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:44 AM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Honestly, I feel that we're giving this more headspace than it deserves. It just doesn't make sense, and I'm frankly amazed it won an award.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:15 AM on December 14, 2013


Stitcherbeast, it certainly adopts the trope in which depictions of trans people in media serve only to move the plot to some stupid joke. The casual and completely inaccurate bit about transition and the total dismissal of the trans identity at the end is textbook appropriation for convenience. It's also really imperative that any kind of trick or deception involving trans people be mindful of the prevailing view in society that we actually do set out to deviously fool hapless cis people into having disgusting sex with us.

This film certainly doesn't doesn't handle trans identity appropriately, or even seriously (hey it's just like real life). Can't that be bad enough on its own, even if you don't feel the film is -phobic?
posted by Corinth at 9:44 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


The final scene makes no sense if we pretend that movie agrees with Helen et al. The "you just slept with a man" line only makes sense if we interpret it as a joke about how all the villains are bizarre idiots.

Yep.

This film certainly doesn't doesn't handle trans identity appropriately, or even seriously (hey it's just like real life). Can't that be bad enough on its own, even if you don't feel the film is -phobic?

Those are two very different accusations that deserve very different responses, though. Can't it be good enough that some of us are saying the "PHOBIC" reaction is more than a bit overblown?
posted by mediareport at 5:40 AM on December 17, 2013


This film certainly doesn't doesn't handle trans identity appropriately, or even seriously (hey it's just like real life). Can't that be bad enough on its own, even if you don't feel the film is -phobic?

We must be talking past one another, and I must not have been clear, because I agree with that entirely, except for the idea that something has to be consciously *phobic in order to be *phobic.

That's why I had prefaced my last post with "I'm not defending the short as a short, nor am I saying that it can't be unintentionally *phobic, or otherwise highly insensitive with regard to Actual Issues, but there's nothing in the movie to suggest that it has any conscious agenda against gay and/or trans men."
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:23 AM on December 17, 2013


I don't see why you want to say the -phobic reaction is overblown, though? We are both reasonable people - I think it's -phobic and you don't. We probably have differently calibrated -phobicmeters. That's mostly okay. You aren't going to convince me it's not -phobic, because it totally feels familiarly -phobic to me. I might not convince you it is, either. That's just how this stuff is a lot of the time.

I recognize the treatment of the trans person from most other shows and films. I find that mindless propagation of tired nonsense contributes to -phobia enough that I find the mindless propagation -phobic. If we both agree that it's insensitive/bad/harmful/whatever then yeah, we're arguing past each other and we don't really need to continue the semantic investigation about which label we each prefer for that.
posted by Corinth at 9:49 AM on December 17, 2013


I don't see why you want to say the -phobic reaction is overblown, though?

I'm confused - are you responding to mediareport, or me?
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:58 AM on December 17, 2013


Both, sorry.
posted by Corinth at 11:11 AM on December 17, 2013


So why refer to two people as one person ("we're both reasonable people"), especially when they're arguing different and mutually exclusive things...? I've been harping on the inaccurate plot summaries upthread, and of the IMHO tortured reading some viewers have of the final scene, to the extent that it matters with regard to the filmmakers' apparent conscious intentions. I had explicitly stated, repeatedly, that I was *only* talking about the plot itself and the filmmakers' apparent conscious motivations. I had explicitly, repeatedly distinguished that from the separate concepts of the ability of people (or a thing) from being unintentionally *phobic, offensive, of being offensive by dint of treating Actual Issues in a flippant manner, and so on.

In other words, at least with regard to me and you in this thread, the confusion here is apparently not even about differently calibrated -phobicmeters.

Either way, it doesn't sound like we have a terribly significant disagreement by the end of it?
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:12 PM on December 17, 2013


The intentions of the world are bad when it comes to things like this. Intentions don't have to be conscious to make their fruit rotten, and being unaware of your own internalized bullshit isn't a free license to propagate this internalized bullshit. People are socialized to be transphobic by default, and this short, to me, is pretty clearly an extension of this. In this light I don't think those readings are tortured, but rather thoroughly contextualized.
posted by Corinth at 9:21 AM on December 18, 2013


« Older "We began the present study by asking, as some lin...  |  Let's admit it: Britain is now... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments