Gotta move for the camera, lady
April 22, 2015 3:14 PM   Subscribe

American Reflexxx is a short film documenting a social experiment that took place in South Carolina. Alli Coates filmed performance artist Signe Pierce as she strutted down a busy oceanside street in stripper garb and a reflective mask. The results are horrifying.
posted by floatboth (32 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The weird editing was a deal breaker for me. Interesting otherwise. Why were kids throwing water at her, is that a thing now?
posted by yesster at 3:29 PM on April 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

sup public casual transphobia ltns
posted by byanyothername at 3:36 PM on April 22, 2015 [7 favorites]

Look, myrtle beach is a cesspool. Also, shitty beaches. This wouldn't happen in Charleston.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:37 PM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ugh. That really viscerally affected me. I was so tense all the way through, afraid of what was going to happen to her, and afraid when the filmmaker lost her in the crowd. And so fucking angry at the people who touched her, threw things at her, and fucking pushed her down what the fuck. She's amazing to keep on walking. The worst thing for me, maybe the saddest?, was that at the beginning I thought what I was going to see were loads of men sleazing on her but the majority of people taunting her and assaulting her were women. I have a lot of faith in humanity but sometimes being reminded of how ugly it can be in the face of someone outside the norm is a good thing. Being unnerved like this is useful but damn I feel like I need to go and be around some small animals for a little bit.
posted by billiebee at 3:38 PM on April 22, 2015 [8 favorites]

That was fucking heartbreaking.
posted by Imperfect at 3:45 PM on April 22, 2015

Trigger warning: human beings are %$@# awful. (At least some of them anyway).
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:01 PM on April 22, 2015

i would've appreciated a transphobia warning in the FPP tbh
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 4:13 PM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Thank you so much for posting this, that was awesome. So brave!
posted by phaedon at 4:16 PM on April 22, 2015

I could only watch a minute or so, because of the editing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:20 PM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Despite the awful human beings in the video, I thought the mask was really cool.
posted by gucci mane at 4:45 PM on April 22, 2015

On the positive side of things, I kinda liked the glitchy editing — it felt like it was trying to make the film reflect the experience by slowing down parts and rapidly replaying moments — and there did seem to be at least a few nice people in the crowd that gathered.
posted by lucidium at 4:51 PM on April 22, 2015

Yeah, less flippantly, I don't think this needs to be framed or responded to as vaguely as it is here. It is "people being awful," in a general sense, but more specifically it's people being transphobic and transmisogynistic (which honestly the vast majority of Americans probably are) when confronted with a woman whose gender is not even indeterminate, but presented in a way that doesn't allow for absolute public scrutiny.

Also could've used a trigger warning.
posted by byanyothername at 5:02 PM on April 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

Oh my god this is fantastic! I mean, it's blunt, it's like a glittery sledgehammer, there's no subtlety, but I cannot get over it!

I don't even know how to begin unpacking this thing. It is wrenching, disturbing, but darkly hilarious, and wears its provocative intent right out in the open.

I mean, the first thing to say is, this is not a touching portrait of a transperson who is experiencing othering and discrimination and hate. This isn't something like the Brittney Girl documentary we saw a few days ago, full of humanity and sympathy. This is a performer explicitly draining herself of humanity and sympathy, allowing herself to be objectified by onlookers, while doing the same right back: The camera, the performance drains these catcalling drunks and worried mothers of their humanity, and casts them as objects, as stereotypes, allowing no room for them to be anything but bestial. "Take off the mask! Take off the mask!" they yell into her robot face, but she refuses to allow them any entree into her sphere. Even the violence does not touch her so much as it seems to send her into a reboot.

The editing--and I understand why people would have a problem with it--takes this even further, into the weird editing of local furniture store and used car commercials (there's definitely some Tim and Eric aesthetic going on), using the glitches to further mechanize these observers whose responses, primal and ugly as they are, are being commodified, technologized, instagrammed. They cannot experience her, so they have to either remove her or translate her into social media--the camera is alive to their cameras, their own technological reflex.

And I mean, I mean, what is so fucking wonderful about it is the way she also totally tosses aside any hint of easy humor. She is not being your silly drag queen that you can laugh about. Her dance isn't meant to make you giggle--it does, obviously, you hear so much laughter, but it is shocked laughter, it is frightened and nervous turn-to-your-buddy laughter, it is something-must-be-done-about-this laughter, the reaction not to someone being a clown, but being a fucking gender terrorist.

In fact, I think my only qualm was with the ending. The bloody knee? Yes, that was good, but with a little planning, there should have been blood everywhere. The sidewalk should've looked like a murder scene, just to make everyone really, really understand what they were being complicit in. The message, live, in color, that your laughter is murder.
posted by mittens at 5:02 PM on April 22, 2015 [20 favorites]

It's difficult to watch more than a minute or two of that without getting that nuke-it-from-orbit feeling about the place, even though it probably isn't that different from the party district of just about any tourist town.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:05 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also: Oh my god this is their house!

Also: Best interview line ever (about a different project): "I wanted it to be loud, slightly annoying, and in your face so that you could get lost inside the freakish, sugary, bitch glitz environment. I’m going to stop now cuz I just said bitch glitz, which renders that answer over."

Also: Holy shit is that the cover of With Sympathy on her tumblr?

I am enraptured.
posted by mittens at 5:18 PM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Walking together on the left side of the frame from 9:41 to 9:49, I think you can see the girl who tried to trip her walking with the lady who gave her the shove from behind. My guess is that they are a mother & daughter trans-fighting duo. Lovely people I'm sure.
posted by peeedro at 5:39 PM on April 22, 2015

Glad I read the comments first. I molt a layer of lava in response to this sort of human behavior.

Also, in regard to the humanity of those (bleep) people in the film, in the way they respond to Signe Pierce:

posted by datawrangler at 6:37 PM on April 22, 2015

I didn't watch the whole thing, my heart was breaking too much, but is stripper garb really how most people would call her outfit? It just looked like a normal outfit I see all the time worn by young women. I didn't think "short skirt, cleavage, and heels" defined just stripper outfits. Because I have definately worn something similar to work without thinking twice about it.
posted by saucysault at 6:51 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd like to address the bloodied axe-man who just kind of showed up. Is that more Myrtle Beach Madness or what?
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 7:19 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

That is just awful, and awesome (in the "inspiring awe" sense), and amazing. This art moved me.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:39 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had to turn it off because the herky-jerky editing was making me queasy, but the music and colors reminded me (in a good way) of Spring Breakers. I liked the mask, but I don't think it is totally surprising how masks can help elicit strong reactions in performances.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:42 PM on April 22, 2015

Brava! That was incredible.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 8:01 PM on April 22, 2015

I dunno, watching this mostly just freaked me out and put me in fight-or-flight mode. It can be a valuable demonstration of transphobia and street harrassment, but from the comments I feel like that's getting lost in the editing, the "Art"-iness and an unwillingness to realize that the reactions people are having to her? Totally normal, mundane, commonplace American culture right there. What this is about is a woman concealing part of her body, refusing to be an object for public scrutiny, and being labeled and treated as one of the worst castes to be: a trans woman. It is kind of interesting how it opens with the rapey drunken dudebro all over her. That framing highlights a particular attitude: that a woman who is sexually desirable can so quickly be Othered and regarded with contempt and disgust if she refuses to allow strangers to gauge her sexual desirability.

I'll leave this alone now, but it's definitely not a "Myrtle Beach thing" or a "people are terrible" thing except in a very broad sense. There are a lot of specifics on display here but it may be too raw and artificially framed (in the editing, costume, presentation etc., not the FPP) to pick up on them. This totally happens in Charleston.
posted by byanyothername at 8:31 PM on April 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

This Friday, BreakOUT! is hosting a trans march in New Orleans at 15:30, starting and ending at the Treme street corner where TWOC Penny Proud was stabbed to death in February. See you art lovers there.
posted by Corinth at 9:35 PM on April 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yeah, it's hard not to see this as directly leveraging violent transmisogyny for a social/art experiment. I understand if they didn't expect it to play out this way, but really, publishing this is cis people pointing at the violence trans women face daily in all parts of the world and saying, "Hey, makes you think, right?"
posted by these are science wands at 11:42 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

It did make me think. Is thinking a bad thing now?
posted by GrapeApiary at 5:38 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

> I didn't watch the whole thing, my heart was breaking too much, but is stripper garb really how most people would call her outfit?

I hear ya based just on the outfit, but she also struck poses and did some dance moves that appeared to me to be intentionally invoking "stripper moves?" (Around the 4.00 mark.)
posted by desuetude at 9:19 AM on April 23, 2015

It did make me think. Is thinking a bad thing now?

Thinking is good! Are you thinking about the violence faced by trans women, or were you thinking that if she just took off her mask and revealed herself to be cis that she could escape this violence because she didn't deserve it?

I'm not trying to put words in your mouth--or thoughts in your brain, I suppose--but that is what the framing of the video said to me. And I've lived that experience, only without the mask. It didn't make me think; it gave me PTSD.
posted by these are science wands at 1:34 PM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Thinking is good! Are you thinking about the violence faced by trans women, or were you thinking that if she just took off her mask and revealed herself to be cis that she could escape this violence because she didn't deserve it?

Personally I wasn't thinking that she should just take off the mask and reveal herself to be cis, because I didn't (still don't) know if she's cis or trans and to me that was the point. The people on the street don't know and we don't know and that shouldn't make a difference to how someone is treated. She's a person. Also, even if she was cis and took off the mask to prove it, it didn't occur to me that she would then be "safe". Given her dress and some of her poses, dancing etc I'd still fully expect her to be subject to misogyny and potential sexual assault because she was looked on as a slut or a prostitute or some sort of "less-than" in the eyes of the people she was passing. It's what I thought the video was about initially. The transphobia totally took me by surprise, I admit that, and yes it did make me think about the reality for trans women and the violence they face, and it drove that point home hard, and I think that's a good thing.
posted by billiebee at 1:48 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Man, to me this was a "lookit these assholes" post. I kept waiting for something else to happen, but it was just kinda crappy Kid 606 editing and the idea that if you dehumanize a trans woman and provoke a bunch of drunk assholes, she's likely to be abused.
posted by klangklangston at 7:20 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Like, to put it another way, it's shit when a man dresses as a woman with the explicit purpose of "proving" women face street harassment, because you can ask any woman who's experienced it. (This doesn't stop people making videos like that, but I'm just as critical when they do.)

It's similarly shit when a cis woman dresses as a trans woman--yes, maybe that wasn't the intent, but the effect is up there on the screen--to make a point literally any one of us could have told you about in detail.

the fact that the blurb underneath the video makes no reference to transmisogyny or even transphobia--settling on the weakass "gender stereotypes"--leads me to believe they realised they'd struck Shock Value Gold
posted by these are science wands at 2:32 AM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

It made me think about being 18 and hundreds of miles from home for the first time with my buddies on senior trip, dangerously wasted, and how shitty I might have been to her then. And of how easy it is to be shitty and enjoy yourself at someone else's expense and not be mindful or present. Easiest thing in the world. Seeing that woman shove her, though, is shocking enough to snap a person out of that mindset, I think (I hope).

I get that based on your lived experience you have no use for this video, but I think it's informative and important viewing for the kinds of people you see prowling beside her in this video. That being said, I'm not sure if viewing it would change minds or just reinforce terrible behavior, which is the drift I'm getting from this discussion. So, now I'm split on whether or not this video was a net good.
posted by GrapeApiary at 6:51 AM on April 24, 2015

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