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Regressive, Reductive and Harmful: A Trans Woman’s Take On Tom Hooper’s Embarrassing ‘Danish Girl’

Regressive, Reductive and Harmful: A Trans Woman's Take On Tom Hooper's Embarrassing 'Danish Girl'

People like to ask me why I hate Eddie Redmayne.

Earlier this year, Redmayne won an Academy Award for portraying Stephen Hawking in James Marsh’s biopic "The Theory of Everything." When you watch him, it’s easy to see why. His mannerisms, physical movements and speech patterns are all perfectly calibrated to give us the closest approximation to Hawking’s disabilities one could possibly ask for in a fictional portrayal. It’s impressive to watch… as an impression. Redmayne can twitch and mumble and spasm his way through "The Theory of Everything" with precision, but without all of those exaggerated physical ticks, what is left of the performance? Nothing.

You are always aware of his performativity, but he imbues his obviousness with so much exaggerated, visible effort, it’s no wonder Academy voters and audiences love him. Redmayne is an actor who wants you not to discover deeper insight into his characters, but rather for you to see every ounce of effort he puts into portraying them. In that sense, he’s both an engrossing performer and a brilliant conman; all the razzle-dazzle, with nothing to deliver—the feel of Stephen Hawking rather than the real thing.

In a way, he was perfect for Tom Hooper’s "The Danish Girl," a heavily fictionalized account of the romance between 20th century painters Gerda Wegener and Lili Elbe that’s being sold as a "revolutionary" depiction of a "transgender pioneer". The timing of this film’s release could not have been more opportunistically lined up with not just the rise in transgender visibility in the media, but also my very own life.

For context: I had only recently discovered I was a trans woman since March of this year. In June, I started going out and presenting as a woman. I’ve still not come out to my family, who I’m currently living with, and before going outside as my true self, I drive to a secluded spot so I can change in my car, putting on a wig, make-up, and different clothes to align my presentation, drive off to where I need to be, hang out with friends, have a good time, then drive back to said spot and change back before I can return home and ensure my family that their totally cisgender heterosexual son has returned safe, unharmed, and uncorrupted. My life, as it is, is difficult. But it works. For now.

Then in September, the trailer for "The Danish Girl" debuted on the web, with Eddie Redmayne, my nemesis, already being touted by cis media for the bravery of his transformation. It’s discomforting as hell being so early in my own transition and seeing words like "bravery" and "heroism" used to describe Redmayne, even though he’ll be able to shed off the experience after his probable Oscar win, all the while having it be a matter-of-fact point of life for me and millions other trans women like me. But as much as I was dreading the inevitable thinkpieces by cisgender writers and the inevitable praise that Redmayne’s style of performance would garner from critics and Oscar-voters… I was so damn curious.

So I watched it with a cisgender friend, and we were both aghast that, even with our low expectations, it was worse than we could’ve predicted: a boring slog with director Tom Hooper’s typically ugly visual style and a laugh-out-loud embarrassing conclusion. It’s well-intentioned, but every movie’s well-intentioned in every directors’ heads.

That isn’t to say it’s entirely without merit. Alicia Vikander steals the entire film with her more nuanced, magnetic performance; and bad as Redmayne is, he and Vikander share a palpable romantic chemistry that makes scenes of Lili and Gerda’s acceptance of each other somewhat moving. And it’s admittedly hard to distance myself from this movie when I see some of my own experience portrayed in it: the secret walks outside, the stares of other men, the longing looks at the mirror, the debilitating dysphoria, all played out here like they’re part of a transgender playbook, ticking out the checkboxes. But when I see the form that that experience has taken in this film, and the lens with which Hooper uses to depict it, the emotional connection is lost, replaced only with discomfort.

"The Danish Girl"’s struggle to portray Lili Elbe’s story magnifies not only the most glaring weaknesses of both Redmayne and Hooper, but also the cisnormative gaze of the transgender community. You get this in Redmayne’s performance, of course, only instead of approximating a single individual, he’s approximating femininity itself, ratcheting his exaggerated, nervous physical ticks to 11 when playing both Einar and Lili. As Einar, he’s doing a proto-Stephen Hawking, with shaking hands, sad eyes, a sickly complexion, and a breathy voice. As Lili, he performs womanhood by way of stereotype. Amy Nicholson describes it very well in her LA Weekly article: it’s “exaggerated, simpering body language, all head-ducking and languid caresses, which she learns studying a peep-show stripper—someone who is herself playacting a faux femininity for men.”

That peep-show scene actually happens, and it’s even more embarrassing to watch onscreen. Redmayne’s Einar examines a cisgender stripper’s exaggerated body motions and then mimics them perfectly, as if learning how to sensually caress the back of your hand against your cheek will teach him how to be a “real woman”. His femininity is reduced to caricature. If the comparison isn’t already clear, Redmayne is that peep-show stripper, only he’s bringing it full-circle by presenting, instead, a faux-transsexuality for cis people.

Redmayne’s work is one thing, but the way Hooper and his DP Danny Cohen shoot him adds a grosser layer to their portrayal of Lili. Like Redmayne, Hooper exaggerates and conflates feminine imagery to the point of parodizing them. His camera doesn’t linger, or observe, or examine—it leers.

When Gerda is putting make-up on Lili, Hooper splices in extreme close-ups of the lipstick rubbing against Redmayne’s lips. When Einar touches a dress for the first time, we get more extreme close-ups of the fabric rubbing against Redmayne’s skin accompanied by heavy breathing and operatic strings courtesy of Alexandre Desplat. In the soon-to-be-infamous tucking scene, Hooper closes us in on Redmayne’s naked body and slowly moves his camera down, treating the tucking of his penis like a gigantic reveal that he—and thus the audience—gawks at.

This hyperbolizing of femininity is never given to Alicia Vikander’s Gerda, or any of the other cisgender characters. It is only for Lili. Intentionally or otherwise, Hooper’s intrusive camera doesn’t invite empathy, but only further otherizes Lili. Compare this to the way Celine Sciamma shoots a scene of self-reflection in her 2011 film "Tomboy," about a young, gender-questioning child named Mickäel who presents himself as a boy to his new friends. Sciamma allows us to examine him just as he’s examining his own body in the mirror, but she never once calls attention to tiny details that isolate Mickäel’s masculinity. Her patient, observant camera allows the audience to reflect on the body presented in the same way Mickäel is reflecting, and thus, empathy is created.

Hooper, on the other hand, will shove his camera right in the face of any feminine aspect of Lili. Especially her clothes. Another trans writer named Rani Baker wrote a terrific article about Lucinda Coxon’s script (from when it was leaked) and how the descriptions of fabrics, dresses, and stockings (so many stockings) border on fetishistic. The finished film is no different, the costumes and the way they congeal with Redmayne’s skin given the same kind of ogling Hooper gives to Redmayne’s tucked genitals. It’s no surprise that a cis male director would focus so intensely on a trans woman’s choice of fashion, as “sad man in drag” is just as easy a transgender stereotype as any mention of The Surgery.

Speaking of which, after Lili’s first surgery to remove the male genitalia, she finally feels comfortable enough with herself to live full-time as a woman and both her and the film’s true colors start to show. In “becoming a woman”, Lili gives up painting to become a department store salesgirl, where she teaches old ladies how the French put on perfume, becomes gal pals with her coworkers, and starts a close relationship with a depressingly wasted Ben Whishaw.

At this point, Lili’s finally happy as her true self, but we the audience are left wondering…what is that true self? Hooper and Redmayne have spent so much time and effort leching and leering at Lili’s femininity, we’re never given an insight on what else she really wants besides being a woman. What they give us instead are the stereotypical tropes of a housewife—simple retail job, gossiping with the girlfriends, desperately wants to have kids of her own—with nothing else to define her. Like the rest of the film, her ultimate form of femininity is a simplification, a caricature.

Vikander’s Gerda even questions her on this. Lili responds, “I want to be a woman, not a painter.” Gerda’s cheeky response: “Well, some people have been known to do both.”

From what we know of Lili’s life, she actually did give up painting, but not out of “wanting to be a woman instead”, but because she considered that to be so closely tied to Einar that she couldn’t do it anymore. This could’ve made for an interesting dialogue about identity and action, but is here reduced to Hooper, Redmayne and Coxon’s close-enough approximation of what they believe it means to be a woman. And wouldn’t you know it, they made it so the only person who has any “rational” sense of femininity is Gerda, the cisgender female. Because of course.

As these varying stereotypes of womanhood are given immense focus, it becomes all the more glaring what Hooper decides not to closely examine. The Male Gaze is presented in one scene for less than a minute, and then never brought up again. The owner of Lili’s department store mentions how the type of femininity they’re selling is “all about performance”, but the film never once engages with the idea of performative femininity—taking part in it entirely, instead. The difficulties of womanhood are glossed over, making room instead for the pity of Lili’s trans-ness, and her being unable to partake in the very simple, womanly pleasures as presented in the film.

For a film that’s being touted as a progressive step up for "transgender
visibility", everything about its view of trans women and women in
general is regressive, reductive, and contributes to harmful
stereotypes: the cisnormative idea that a trans woman is simply a man
performing faux-femininity, as Redmayne twirls and vogues his way into
womanhood; the reductive portrait of a trans woman as a figure of pity
whose tragedy stems from being a man unable to "practice womanhood",
rather than accepting her womanhood as natural fact; the arguments that
TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) love to perpetuate that
trans women only reinforce outdated gender stereotypes; the leering at a
trans woman’s body as something unnatural and abnormal instead of
inviting the audience to understand our dysphoria. What should’ve been a
celebration of a very complex, compelling transgender figure is instead
transmisogynist, and just plain-old misogynist in general.

We end with Lili’s capital-T Tragic death a mere few hours after her second surgery to receive ovaries, played like a "Tropic Thunder"-esque parody of Oscar-bait social-issues movies by having her slowly lose breath just as she’s staring at the sunrise, hand-in-hand with Gerda. Afterwards, we conclude with the hilarious denouement of Gerda and Hans (Lili’s childhood friend) visiting the location of one of her landscape paintings in her memory. One of Lili’s scarves is blown by the wind, and just as Hans is about to go after it, Gerda stops him: “No! Leave it… Let her fly.” The final shot is of the scarf being carried by the wind. Smash cut to me simultaneously cackling and barfing.

Funny as it was (to me, at least), it was the most fitting end to this film. Hooper and Redmayne define so much of Lili by their own shorthand feminine archetypes, that it was only appropriate to have her end this film not as a woman, but as a piece of frilly fabric being flung out to who-cares. That is clearly how they see her, and that is clearly how they define us. An artificial texture, careening through empty air.

Follow Carol Grant on Twitter.

This Article is related to: Features


Comments

T

So much anger; it must be hard. I don’t agree with this piece at all, but it’s well-written and I understand where the writer is coming from. I have read several takes on this film by trans writers, and I find myself more aligned with those who have taken a somewhat less harsh stance. For some, despite its flaws, the representation in this film has had a positive effect on their lives, and I think that’s worth something.At any rate, best of luck on your journey, Carol.

No

Why do I get the feeling that is more about the writer’s cowardice of not being brave about who s/he is than about the actual film? I thought the film was merely a conventional film, and that Vikander’s character should have been explored. By this take on the film really exposes the writer’s issues within.

Eric

To the comment written by "No" above, this movie is awful. And I’m a cisgender male so I don’t have the same sentiment as the writer, but it’s still garbage. If I want to know about Lili Rabe or the history of transgenderism, I’ll go do some research. Nobody is better off watching a bunch of well-paid actors playing dress-up with an implied social cause.

TROLALALALALALALALA

The above article is the longest string of bull*&^* I’ve ever read. There’s barely a word of decipherable English.

Annika

Thank you, both for sharing your story so openly and for saving me the trouble of watching this truly awful-sounding picture.

shill

you mean you recently discovered you are a crossdresser.

don’t try to sell you being "trans" if you just like being faggy

M

Great article and fantastic commentary. Stories like this that focus solely on a trans woman’s trans-ness, on her femininity, and fail to develop her as a person contribute to the horrible culture of dehumanization surrounding trans individuals. This article was a wonderful read.

TRUTH

Everyone who is thinking about seeing this should just watch Tangerine (2015, dir. Sean Baker) instead.

Erica

"putting on a wig, make-up, and different clothes to align my presentation, drive off to where I need to be, hang out with friends," lol. But Trans feminity isn’t about the clothes and other artificial accoutrements of femininity. Seems like the author here saw a little too much ‘Danish Girl’ in his own adoration of Femme.

Vin

I read an early version of this screenplay, and it was an incredible, moving read. My understanding is that the version that made it to the screen doesn’t do justice to those earlier drafts. Too bad. As for the author’s review – ugh. I imagine she is a millennial? You know, the generation for whom all critique and analyses begins and ends with the question "did this work personally offend or flatter me?"

Jowana Bueser

Comments from people who cannot even write their full name saying the writer is a coward. Said write not only wrote her name in full, but also linked her Twitter account.

Keep on writing!

Tev Sugarman

Thank you for saving me an couple of hours watching a terrible movie. This review was very funny, I hope you do more reviews, it’s good to read something written by an actual member of our community and not some cis person getting dazzled by how "brave" or "bizarre" these cliches are.

Ro

I thought I was the only person who felt this way about Redmayne, and thank God I’m not. While I’m not going through what you’re facing (I give you my hopes and prayers for a wonderful rest-of-your-life :) ), I still don’t intend to see it, mainly because I refuse to support outright Oscar bait. Thanks for confirming my belief.

b martins

Interesting take. I just saw the movie and Tom Hooper was there for a Q&A. Not sure if you know the following, but tonight he mentioned that he had this project before the King’s Speech, but it took several years to get made. & years ago, perhaps not as many people would be willing to finance a movie with this theme. Who knows, but finally getting a movie off the ground is pretty common. The scarf that blows away at the end was the same scarf that Lili buys for Gerda and they "fight"over who will wear it. So Gerda wearing the scarf at the end… might be hackneyed in your estimation cliche, in mine, but there was an attempt for some symbolism there… This piece reminds me of how I use to write my college essays. Solid, but trying way to hard to make points. Your writing in a way, is kind of like Hooper’s camera.

Sara

Wow someone really hates Eddie Redmayne. I doubt he personally had much influence in camera and storytelling. I’m not saying this film doesn’t have flaws but don’t watch Redmayne movies if you hate him so much!! He’s a better actor than most of these marvel idiots.

Jesse Transenberg

To the author "Carol" AKA Jesse Eisenberg. Haha. Very funny. Got us again. Another silly article where you pretend to be a critic all while injecting your character’s personal nonsense as part of the review. Take care "Carol".

Karma Suspect

Wow, you guys have some serious issues to deal with, especially the author. You do realize this a period piece, right? Of course it’s going to be regressive, that’s not even a point worth discussing. Stop approaching this film from a SJW angle and appreciate it for the art that it is. The story was great, the sets and wardrobe were lovely, and the acting was top-notch, surely Eddie will receive another Academy Award nomination.

Nobody cares what gender you are, it has nothing to do with this film. I’ve never read such drivel disguised as a movie review. Grow up.

Chris

I respect Carol’s thoughts on this film. If the production and the performance do not ring "true" for her, then her emotional response is valid and incontestable. It is in fact, her opinion of the film from her perspective. I have not yet viewed this film and I plan on doing so. Although i will not be experiencing this film from her perspective, I may still have a similar reaction as Carol since I abhor directorial contrivance or artistic manipulation when I see them – such as Carol has pointed out in her article — as they lessen my sense of belief in the film, the characters and the story. Plus, I too have a bit of problem with Redmayne’s performances. I always catch him acting, and I have a problem believing he is the characters that he portrays. I don’t expect my opinion will change when I see him in this film, but it I hope it does.

Anna

This is very thoughtful and interesting critique, and has given me a lot to think about. Thank you. Don’t listen to the the haters!

June

Haven’t seen the film but great article! Rly good. What a shame the filmmakers fell into the trap of making womanhood all about fetishisation of makeup and clothes. They will have to dig a little bit deeper in their bucket of symbolism next time.

James

Really strong piece, showing huge knowledge of film and trans issues. Thank you very much for your insightful and incredibly well-written thoughts.

Ni

I would have been able to take this article alot more seriously had you not basically wrote an article talking about how much you hate Redmayne instead of just thoughts about the movie.
actors are meant only to give an idea of a character and not the actual thing. An actors job is to resemble as closely as possible.
Furthermore you should probably read the source material (aka the book the movie was based on) before writing such a large piece about your hatred for an actor and disguising it as hatred for the movie.
Furthermore stating that people just arent paying attention because you are a woman is rubbish. People aren’t paying attention because your article was about hatred for an actor poorly disguised as a pretentious movie "critique".
Please read the source material (The book said film was based on).

Nat

Thanks for sharing your reaction and this insightful commentary. This is such an excellent breakdown of what’s wrong with this film.

Ruth

Hey Carol,

Your article is good. And regardless of whether or not it’s good, you deserve better than some of the horrible comments here. From one trans woman to another – hope you’re ignoring the haters and looking after yourself.

Laura VanZee Taylor

Thank you! As a cisgender woman, I left the screening of this film feeling offended, but I couldn’t articulate why. Afraid I’d look as if I was not sympathetic to transgender people– which is NOT the case, all I could say afterwards amongst the crowd of weeping festival fans was, "Well I’m not sure I appreciated the director’s take on what it means to be a woman. Silk, stockings, and stripping?"

Yes

LOVE it. I think this is well written, spot on and hilarious. It’s not a personal insult if you liked the film, it’s merely pointing out the continued limited and potentially offensive representation of women (including trans women) in the media).

Danna Waldman

I am a transwoman and I understand what has been written. If you don’t, have never spoken with transpeople, don’t know any, and believe what popular media and the mainstream arts community put out as accurate images of our lives, than your comments will be similar to the ones already included. What takes even more guts than living publically in a world where only a few of us have even the most basic of recognised human rights is to talk about it from OUR pov. It’s not up to us to listen to you, it is up to you to listen to us. We know our stories all too well. In consideration, please.

Bree

I have read the script and yeah… They stole trans history and turned it into a crossdresser’s erotica.

Mike

Another fine example of Indiewire giving voice to someone purely because it’s controversial – without actually anything meaningful to add. Well done for coming out and finally living the life you want, but taking Eddie Redmayne’s performance (your nemesis?!) and this film as a personal insult to you or the transgender community is more likely a projection of your personal struggles than a reflection of the quality of either. To call a film/performance whose purpose is, among many others, to shine a positive light on transgenderism, "regressive, reductive, and harmful" is very shortsighted.
Ultimately, my main issue here is with this website’s editors who despite often publishing very insightful reviews, columns etc, clearly take pleasure in giving a platform to people who have nothing better to do than attack a piece of work for being popular or mainstream.
In short, you all need to get a grip and – perhaps most importantly – get over yourselves.

John Allenson

I enjoyed the article, without seeing the movie I can understand the way the movie being made by people outside the experience tend to fetishize. It didn’t have to be this way but this tends to be the ‘low-hanging fruit’.
I wanted this article to have at least one response that was not gaslighting your understanding of the film.

Skye McNeely

How are you going to quotation Lili Elbe as a pioneer for trans women?? She was the first trans woman to undergo an srs surgery. Thats hardly a title to undermine considering she helped perfect the surgery youll have once youre brave enough to move out of your parents and not have to park somewhere to dress comfortably. Remember yourself, critic. Just because you’re newly transitioning doesnt make you able to talk badly about a film thatll educate people and open their minds.

Gone

I don’t understand why they didn’t cast real mutants in The X Men. I’m offended. I’m going to write a long winded self absorbed whining piece to tell the world all about my opinion no one asked to hear.

findlay

I’ve never quite been able to put into words what I didn’t like about Redmayne in The Theory Of Everything but I think you’ve done it beautifully.

Michelle Diane Rose

An excellent analysis and regrettably true: "The Danish Girl" reduces transgender to a series of faux fetishes. It also rewrites history: Gerda did not hold Lili’s hand as she died. She left her for a man.

Suckit

So sick of reading stuff like this from meandering idiots who have carved out a reason to be angry with the world. How you dress or what’s between your legs is no one else’s problem but yours. The writer’s annoyance at the depiction of "frilly femininity" takes no account of the time period in which the film is set, or the subtleties that movie storytelling is open to – surely there shouldn’t have to be sections of dialogue on performativity and identity…show, don’t tell etc??

Alan Kistler

I’ve been nervous that the movie would be just as you describe. The bit with the scarf at the end, God, that’s ridiculous. Thank you for explaining specifically just why and how this film failed in your eyes and for being so candid about your own personal experiences. It’s very much appreciated.

Didi

He’s wron on AV. She’s boring in this movie too. The movie isn’t very good.

Tina

Extremely biased personal rant, which was extremely uninteresting to read. Get over yourself and focus on more facts and analysis which is relevant for the audience, not only for you ;)

Mikayla

If you had read the book that this was based on you may actually have an appreciation that everything you describe in your misinformed article is in fact part of the story as written.
P.S. Just because you don’t relate to how feminine Lili is doesn’t mean that it isn’t accurate!

Lee Anne Leland

I am so happy you "present" as a woman. Perhaps you should try just being yourself. It’s so much more fun

cisgendered female

OR: instead of dismissing Carol’s writing as misplaced anger, we could listen to her, since the portrayal of Redmayne’s character directly affects her life and how people generally perceive trans women. Thank you for adding your voice to the conversation, Carol. Some of us are listening.

P

So let me get this straight. You already don’t like Eddie Redmayne, you’re barely out of the closet, and you want to criticise the way femininity is portrayed on the screen? Do you not realize the time in which this is set? Of course Lili would have to do all of those outdated, feminine stereotypes back then because otherwise she would have been locked up or killed. Some people still do it for protection. Some people do it BECAUSE THAT’S WHO THEY ARE! How dare you comment on what is and isn’t feminine – newsflash: EVERYTHING CAN BE FEMININE WHEN DONE BY A WOMAN. I suggest you read the book, then follow up by reading more about the real Lili Elbe. And then maybe live as a woman and come back in a year. How dare you crucify anyone or anything because it’s not the way YOU like it. This post is garbage.

Gwen

Trans women have the right to be whatever the hell they want to be without someone else judging it as "fake" femininity. These are our bodies and our lives and no one, not even another trans woman, has the right to comment on our choices. Try to have some respect for the experience of other people that perhaps are different from yours.

Dee

Everybody needs to take a deep breath, so much od this is incredibly personal, that personal is about the only point of view available. I had my SRS back in 1986, coming up on 30years ago next month, and there is a learning curve.

I have some issues with both the pro’s and cons and I haven’t seen the movie.. so I am going to try to stick to the portrayal and execution of being trans..

About the clothes make the woman thing..LOL I am sorry, but speaking as a M to F I spent much more energy and for a much longer time doing male drag, doing male mannerisms, compromising my authentic self to be seen as man enough and not knowing why it didn’t come naturally, not understanding why I had to prove anything about being male to anybody.. nobody ever thought I was anything but male.. I knew I was different.. I didn’t know how or why, but I knew I had to hide that I was a study hard to be a man correctly.. dress, mannerisms, attitudes, opinions, so why the heck was I appropriating Billy Jean King’s victory as my own? Why did I think my side won? Dysphoria.. what the heck is it .. To have a life, any life with all the normal stuff one wants in life you have to sell yourself out, and be what others want you to be, you have to meet expectations.. it’s all fake and shallow, but is you aren’t the mask an costume nobody will love you or like you or accept you, and that is how you learn how to be accepted.. and everybody wants to be accepted and loved.. is it any surprise that newly self realized trans folks take that approach trying to be accepted as their authentic self at first.. be kind, everybody is doing the best they can.. it can get to the point where it doesn’t matter if you are loved or hated for who you really are.. nobody has ever known the real you.. you have never been the real you and you have had scant chance at self discovery and even less at self understanding.. and forget self acceptance.. maybe if you look and act right, right being what other folks expect of you as a woman at the street level/ shoe salesman level/ passing on the sidewalk with only your exterior exposed, your mask your costume… and then there is the fear/expectation that nothing deeper will ever be needed.. you have made it this far never showing yourself, your heart, your soul.. why take the risk.. so long as you look right, you pass, maybe stealth is enough.. turns out it’s the same closet, the same pain, even if there is a small safe group that accept you enough to hide you from "others".. takes a few years to get your bearings and even consider being yourself.. it’s on the list, low priority, discover who you are.. irrelevancies come first.. why me? how does this happen, how do I explain myself to others .. Dressing can stop some of the pain, so can surgery but neither is a substitute to figuring out who you are and who you want to be..that takes time and experimentation and all you know is projecting the image to be accepted, as a male, and at first, a woman. Any disconnect between your personal struggle and the scripted portrayal or folks who just cross dress is not going to speak to you is a satisfactory way. You got to get out of the mindset that universal safe and assured acceptance is important. Real people have friends and enemies and for all sorts of reasons.. You could be a Victoria’s Angel and a total failure as a likeable person and if nobody knew you were trans.. the whole world could still hate you.. but you wouldn’t be hated for who you truly are.. so it wouldn’t help you feel hated.. If you were hated for who you truly are.. it would be validation and how cool is that.

Folks got to get past that surgery makes one trans.. lot of trans folks were trans and lived as the opposite from their assigned at birth sex before there was surgery … and GLBT isn’t the only closet in the world.. everybody has a closet.. everybody has a touch of dysphoria a desire to be authentic stifled by a fear of being honest and the damage such truth can do to a carefully constructed life and friendships. People are programed that their birth gender is the best gender and you would never want to be the other gender.. only way to fix that inside yourself if you are trans is to learn to respect the gender you are inside.. and the only way to completely do that is make some decent enemies that hate you for being you to go along with the akward folks who like you and accept you anyway that don’t and can’t understand you any better than you can accept and understand yourself… at some point after all the experimenting at making yourself appear acceptable you kind of just let go and start being yourself and you realize you gain more real friends and lovers and that they mean more in your life than your haters and detractors … just like any other real person. Try not to judge each other too harshly or make up to many idealized strawpersons for each other to live up to.

And for the cis folk .. all you got to do is imagine if you were dragged kicking and screaming out of all your secrets into the public view and commentary. Peace on Earth folks.. just listen more and define less.

Joe

This film AND this review leave much to be desired.

Kelly

The opening sentence the writer states their hatred for the actor. To actually ‘hate’ someone that you don’t even know pretty much shows what type of person you are. And as for Eric’s comment above, of course everyone should do some actual research if they want to know about the history of transgenderism. This is a movie, enjoy it for what it is.

Jake

This article is terrible. It’s people like you that cause the world to not accept us. Your article is picking apart a man who has done nothing wrong. Eddie Redmayne is literally doing his job. In the theory of everything he was excellent. In the Danish Girl, he was extremely powerful. This is a true story. It can’t be a misrepresentation of what it’s like to be transgender. She was the first transgender person to have full surgery. Carol you just seem like a jealous person. Jealous that your transition isn’t getting anywhere or is going very slowly. Btw I’m transgender as well. I find your piece full of bias that reflects negatively on you

Sarah

Congratulations on your transition. But honestly, if it took you most of your life to recognize your true gender, why criticize a film that deals with a woman coming out to herself and the world? Everyone’s experience in dealing with sexuality/gender/life is different. You clearly saw the film in the mindset of one who has recently come out to his/her/zirself–which, as anyone in the LGBTQUIA community can tell you, makes one both smug ("I discovered my true identity, now I know everything") and overly sensitive. Speaking as a bisexual ciswoman who knows a bit about trans and has not seen the film, I think you need to calm down and think about "The Danish Girl" from an objective point of view. Tom Hooper is a director who values the scenery and makes as much use of it as he can; just because you hate Eddie Redmayne doesn’t mean he doesn’t fit the role; and, most importantly, this film was set in the 1930’s, a time of intolerance and sexual repression. Modern-day society may not universally accept non-straight, non-cisgendered people, but homosexuality was considered a mental illness by the DSM until the 1970’s or 1980’s. Not every film is going to fit your idea of how to deal with transgender issues, and no single media piece ever will. Just remember that "The Danish Girl" is a period piece about one woman’s transition, and it has nothing to do with you.

EM

I had a similar reaction to the film. I am not trans and I felt uncomfortable and thought the film was conventional, melodramatic and performative; I felt like a voyeur. I was wanting to really get inside the mind of Lili and connect with Lili but I did not. I got distracted by Redmayne’s performance. I wanted to like the movie, but the melodrama put me off. I loved Vikander. She stole the show. The cinematography, set design and costumes were breathtaking.

Kate

Look, I don’t want to troll you, but really; "I had only recently discovered I was a trans woman since March of this year." and you’ve become a self-designated spokesperson for the transgender community? Six months in (in 2015,the year we’re finally coming out) and you feel OK mocking the stripper scene? When I was six months in it was 1948, since then I’ve witnessed and felt things that you will never have to experience because of Lilly, Christine, and so many others — including me. And I am truly happy that your path will be easier, but it still won’t be easy. Yours is the first generation in the 200,000 or so years of human history where you could write that blog.
Lighten up and show some respect for the pain your older sisters dealt with so you wouldn’t have to go to the strip clubs to dream.
Kate

Olivia

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder "
Let freedom ring"
Judge not les thou be judged"

Bamboo

I agree with the article however i think the movie isn’t all that bad. The shallow portrayal of trans femininity by the main character, either willingly or not, is i think a good reflection overall of the experience of many trans women coming to terms with the social codes of female behavior. Bear in mind that Lili Elbe only lived fully "as a woman" for 18 months before her death. Women assigned female at birth have a life time to develop their sense of self as women whereas many trans women only get a chance to do so later in life. I often feel that i am still a teenage girl trying to grasp what being a woman in society entails. TERFs see our admittedly sometime gauche struggle as anti-feminist portrayal of womanhood, which is unfair. In the same way that it would be unfair to blame a 16 y-o girl experimenting with her new found womanhood for portraying a reductive idea of womanhood.

Thomas Roche

Carol, I agree with every point you’ve made in your article. I detested this movie because I see it as furthering the dangerous inevitability-of-tragedy narrative — which would have been one thing if there were any depth to it, but there wasn’t. Who the hell is Redmayne’s Lili? A dull, self-obsessed cipher… exactly what film so often seems to want its women to be, whether they’re protagonists or just convenient dead girls for male characters to get emo about. Despite having spent two hours with Lili, we cannot understand her desire for transition because we don’t know the first thing about her. She’s a flat character who is in this narrative for one reason and one reason only: To be transsexual for the storyteller’s convenience.

well done

excellent piece on the ugly cycle of popular cinema in relation to the marginalized — find a sector of society which is perceived by the mainstream as the other, as strange, or as victimized, then exploit that group for the purposes of appearing progressive while cashing in, when in fact the effort only marginalizes the group further. whether it is based on race, class, gender, sexuality, etc, the end result is a lot of self-congratulation by rich-straight-cis-white dudes at the expense of whichever minority group has the misfortune of being caricatured that year

regressive indeed

CTF

Incredible film! Lousy article.

JamieCornelia

I am a mtf trans girl, who lives full time as a woman, and I am inclined to agree almost fully. The writing in this article is very truthful, from the POV of a trans person, the daily struggles to fit in to basic female society, and the feel of a male gaze, is far more important to the trans community, then where or how we tuck our junk. a applaud this author, in this albeit harsh, but realistic article.

JCF

If the actual Lili Elbe was anything like she was portrayed in the film, she seems to have been far more the sad story of a person w/ multiple personality disorder, than a "Trans Pioneer". But for many of the reasons the author critiques here, I’m highly suspect that TDG was an accurate portrayal (my only significant difference, is that I tend to fault the script more than anything else—certainly not Redmayne).

secure

This is just another case of hollywood making itself the self proclaimed moral authorities on everything. They must be using a special formula to make sure they get out enough good movies to stay in the black finiancially. Disney proved it with all their cartoon PC crap. Let’s see mulan, lilo and stitch,pocahontas, etc etc etc. Then comes FROZEN!!!
This movie has made and will continue to make more money than all the PC movies put forth before them.
This is no different than the new star wars. The PC formula is cute white girl whose a total leader of the entire cast and instantly the greatest woman ever to breath air. She is assisted by a reformed black storm trooper that she has to take care of and guide.
(it’s clear they are posing him as the storm trooper or "Gang Member" of the future that can be reformed only by the strong will and leadership of a powerful white women. Oh and by the way why couldn’t she have been a black women aren’t the strong women?
In fact they are stronger but the interaccial love udercurrent is more PC than a black female jedi.
They’re PC but they watch the bottom line more. I would find the same story much more believable and talented Zoe Saldana was the girl jedi. But the studios research showed them that they wouldn’t make as much money. I beg to differ. Zoe Saldana is a better actor, more athletic looking and already has movie credits like "Colombiana" where she has established her warrior credibility. Don’t say age. She can play 20-25 no problem.
This delusion that a neophite teen gymnast can conquer ‘THE EMPIRE" is BS even when luke trains her in the next movie.
Think for yourself people, you’re being led down a BS primrose path of fiction. If you’re a self hating woman he wants more out of life than being a woman, I’m sorry for you because women like you are being manipulated in servitude. Remember, men still get sex freely today, with giving away all their power by getting married. And today the "Strong Woman" illusion is a deception. You can be strong, get good jobs, earn higher pay, be self sufficient, not rely on men for anything but the sperm bank donation needed to have your own children. "it’s a wonderful life, but remember this. Children raised W/O daddies especially girl children are among the biggest failure in the society. It’s statistic. So you go raise that boy child or that girl child without a father in the home. Get her a stripper pole for her 18th birthday and of course because you believe men have it made, get him nothing. They’l both meet their counterpart in the world. The girls will have casual sex for daddy attention, and the boys will use women like gutter sluts, because they can. They definitely won’t marry marry and then be put on a sex schedule of appoint. only equal partner sex, when they can use the larger pool of women in the world that you’ve created for them.
Simply put the PC movement in all it’s form seeks to brainwash the public with legislation and intimidation PC BS, to try and eliminiate 40 thousand years of evolution. Their only real intent is to control the society by keeping it divided. A woman isa woman and a woman is a man. There are young girls taking steroids now in Middle School at a very high rate to get noticed for athl. scholarships at an earlier age. There are already lots of side effects showing physical problems.
That means using drugs to make women more like men. If you hate being a woman then that’s the route to take. Oh , again those are not the women men seek out.
The destruction of the family is the best way to control the people. No family means less children less children means less parental concern for the future of our world because the future dies when I do because I have no kids to worry about.
It’s pretty simple people and you’re buying right into the plan. Strong woman first, then family. Strong woman first… destroys family establishment.
Call me all yur nasty PC names. I don’t sweat you because I know the truth.
Only 50% of marriages last. Of those check the stat on those who feel they are in a loveless marriage. Strong woman is a great idea. Have fun in your single lives while your big political leaders like Hillary get richer and richer and more powerful and you get nothing but more angry. I her Book she wrote marriage is a prison for women. Ask single women or single mothers how free they really feel.

Tom

What critics, such as Ni, Gone and Mikayla don’t address (or don’t care to) is that, for the first movie supposedly about true transgendered individuals, this movie was, at its heart, a view of transgenderism made comfortable for cisgendered, heterosexual individuals — one in which their preconceived ideas of the community are affirmed.
The commenters I refer to seem to value the fact that the movie was adapted from the book more than they value the fact that the movie was based on minimal reality. As such it reeks of the same sentimentality and schmaltz seen in The English Patient. The movie portrays transgenderism as a mere matter of cross-dressing, effeminant mannerisms, an obsession with clothes and selfishness. As a homosexual, I remember a time not too long ago when we were viewed the same way. What the cisgendered world often fails to realize is that LGBTQ people are as individual in our looks, tastes (in music, clothes, sports — yes, some of us actually like football —, religious beliefs) as the straight community. We have all gone through a time in our lives when we questioned our identity and, sometimes, our sanity. To put a stereotyped display of any one of us on the screen to assuage your relative discomfort in talking about us for your own entertainment is not flattering to you or to us.

Brenda

I just saw this movie and i have to say the author of this article must have viewed it through contemporary political eyes rather than and understanding the context of the times and what they meant to someone who is transsexual

Most of what she criticized was how thing were for many not that many years ago.

I transitioned almost 20 years ago and while things had started changing already I know some who had made the changes decades before that and did many of thing she criticized about Lilly, at least in the first 5 years or so post-op.

In any case, while some things may have been overdone or a little off, overall emotionally much of this film rung true

I do question how much the author understands what it means to be transsexual. I can not comprehend how someone could not have clue about being a woman until adulthood as the author said is the case for her. I did not make the teh change young, but from childhood I felt I should have been female.. I just believed it was not possible for me and tried to have a live anyway… Until I couldn’t.

Sara

OMFG! THIS ARTICLE IS TITLED ALL WRONG!

Perhaps a more appropriate title could be….
A Closeted Crossdresser Who Still Lives At Home With Mommy and Daddy’s Personal Attack On Both Eddie Redmayne And Tom Hooper !!!
I cannot accept that somebody can wake up one morning in March to discover they were transgender…. oh come on! (Were you possibly watching re-runs of ‘I Am Cait’ the night before?)
And then only a short time later be writing such judgemental crap!!
Me thinks Carol, that you need to stop denying who you are and become authentic to yourself and your family before any more writing adventures…
So many younger trans seemingly don’t want to be ‘judged or stereotyped’.. Yet hypocritically are very keen to throw their naive opinions into the ring before anybody else.

I saw this movie for the first time ever tonight, after being pestered for so very long, by so many friends to do so…
I laughed, I cried, I cringed too! And in moments I could relate…
A dramatic telling of one persons story, Lili’s story.
And Lili came first!

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