Using Transsexual Characters in Film for Shock Value
I have often written about the poor use of transgender characters in film to either provoke or shock the audience. Here are two examples. Sleepaway Camp from 1983, when the mainstream media didn't know any better and also more recently with the 2012 transsexuals in prison film K11.
Sleepaway Camp (aka Nightmare Vacation)This review does contain spoilers, but you can still enjoy the movie (if you like such movies) whilst still knowing the twist. The clip here shows 'Angela' with her doctor mother whilst still a boy, informing young Peter of his new future as a feminized male who will be called Angela. We presume as she is a doctor the mother will be supplying hormones etc, although this is not part of the plot. We then see the unhappy boy now 'Angela' with her brother and mother before going off to summer camp. The clip also shows some bullying from one of her room mates about the use of the shower.
The film was successful enough to spawn three sequels. After the first film Angela has her sexchange operation and is now even more psychotic than before. The suggestion that Angela is now more unstable is in poor taste but remember the media didn't know better at the time. Technically speaking this film is not about a transsexual but about an ordinary boy forced to live as a female to satisfy his mothers' desire for a daughter. So perhaps we should not get too critical of the theme. The recent ReAssignment movie is similar as it's just using the idea and methods of transsexuality and not a real based character. Is a person who becomes transsexual not subject to the same rights and respect as someone who is born transsexual?
The original poster shown on the left shows a large knife penetrating through a pair of shorts. I wonder if this is some castration complex being illustrated here?
Notice how the poster for Sleepaway Camp II shows a rather androgynous Angela, who is now post op, and presumed more dangerous than before. Her title has been upgraded to "The Angel of Death".
All of the Sleepaway Camp films are freely available to purchase from Amazon here and are also available on many streaming services.
The basic synopsis from the Amazon site is
After a terrible boating accident killed her family, shy Angela Baker (Felissa Rose, Return To Sleepaway Camp) went to live with her eccentric Aunt Martha and her cousin Ricky. This summer, Martha decides to send them both to Camp Arawak, a place to enjoy the great outdoors. Shortly after their arrival, a series of bizarre and violent accidents begin to claim the lives of various campers. Has a dark secret returned from the camp’s past…or will an unspeakable horror end the Summer season for all?
|"Oh God..Angela....She's a boy!!!"|
K11 'Transsexuals Bare Behind Bars' (well almost!)
K11 was made in 2012 by Jules Mann-Stewart. The tag line for the movie reads, "There is a unit in the Los Angeles jail system that separates gay and transgender inmates from the general population. It's called K11." It's in this unit that many new rookies do at least four weeks duty, apparently most of them survive.
There are a number of trans characters featured in the story and we are told by one of the prison guards, "Don't get distracted by the females in here. There aren't any females in here". These trans ladies are hard, very hard, no one messes around with them. The transgender diva of the inmates actually calls herself The Queen / Mousey and enjoys establishing her position to any new inmate. She is played by Kate del Castillo, who in real life looks nothing like her frightening character Mousey.
Sadly the film only uses CIS actors to play the transgender inmates. I don't know why this was as in todays world there are plenty of very talented trans actors. However I wonder how many would be willing to appear in such a film. The film was not well received by critics and was awarded an 8% 'cotton' rating from Rotton Tomatoes.
|Kate del Castillo looks nothing |
like her Mousey character.
This film didn't seem to cause offence within the trans community despite the very negative image of trans people. Still it did show then as very tough and not to be messed with. I am comparing the recent 'Reassignment' controversy to this film, which as far as I know missed the trans activist radar.
From Amazon the synopsis reads:
Record producer Raymond Saxx, Jr. (Goran Visnjic), has never seen anything like this before. After a weekend of binge drinking and drug use, he wakes in a jail cell completely oblivious of what happened and how he got there; Ray is abruptly hauled off into a completely new brand of Hell Los Angeles County s controversial K-11 unit. Like Alice in a brutally violent Wonderland, Ray must learn to navigate the politics of vicious transvestites and drug-addicted criminals if he wants to see his perfect life again.
Complicating matters is a troubled young transgender named Butterfly (Portia Doubleday), a predatory child molester (Tommy Tiny Lister) and K-11 s drug-dealing gang headed by Mousey (Kate Del Castillo, Under the Same Moon, La Reina del Sur) and Ben (Jason Mewes). Even the so-called authority, Sheriff s Deputy Lt. Johnson (D.B. Sweeney), can t be trusted.
You can stream the film on Netflix or Amazon and the DVD can be purchased here
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