Russell’s final Oscar picks

At last the big night is finally upon us.

Just like last year, I offered a set of predictions totally blind and without the benefit (such as it is) of having  seen any of the nominated films and prior to any of the preceding predictor awards.  Having now seen all of the latter (but still none of the former), I have some revisions.

Due to a family commitment, I am (quelle horreur!!) going to be missing the red carpet coverage entirely and will have to catch up with the ceremony on the DVR.  Thus, I may not have a chance to live-Tweet the most hotly contested category, which is Best Supporting Actress.  I called it for Jennifer Lawrence before.  Since then I’ve come to agree with my friend Dan that it would actually be not so great for her career to get a second Academy Award so soon.  Unlike him, I no longer think she’ll win one, but that the trophy will go to Lupita Nyong’o.  Tune in tonight to see who wins our bet!

Best Supporting Actor is going to Jared Leto.  I see no reason to revise my previous prediction.

Best Actress is, I think, still going to Cate Blanchett.  Over at my other haunt they’ve covered pretty well why she might possibly lose, which is that suddenly it might be toxic to be associated with a Woody Allen film.  (Call it the “Zero Dark Thirty” effect.)  I think this would be terribly unfair, but suspect it won’t happen.  They gave Adrien Brody Best Actor despite being nominated for a film directed by the less-ambiguously-criminal Roman Polanski (whose defenders I understand far less well than Allen’s), who himself won the Oscar that night.  In the regrettable event of a Blanchett loss, the only consolation would be that Amy Adams would win, and I love Amy Adams.

Another major revision I’m going to make is that it seems Best Actor is going to go to Matthew McConaughey.  (I guessed it would finally be DiCaprio’s year.)  He’s won pretty much all the predictor awards for which he’s been nominated, and it seems that his critically-acclaimed recent work is enough for the Academy to forgive him for “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”  As noted in the Daily Beast link above, he’s also benefitting from HBO’s “True Detective,” a show on which he is apparently so good that even my McConaughey-skeptic best friend texted to say she’s revised her opinion.

For Best Director, I’m changing my guess to Alfonso Cuarón.  He won the DGA Award, and I think the Academy is in the mood to reward him for his visionary work in a way they weren’t for James Cameron and “Avatar.”  (In this regard, it really helps to be not James Cameron.)  Plus, “Gravity” will probably lose to “12 Years a Slave” for Best Picture, and the Academy will want it to win at least one prestige award.

So there are my guesses.  What are yours?

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57 thoughts on “Russell’s final Oscar picks

    • On Russell’s last thread, someone posted about how horrible the optics would be if the only person to win an Oscar for 12 years a slave was Michael Fassbender.

      That’s not going to happen. But if Russell is wrong about Nyong’o, but right about McConaughey and Alfonso Cuarón, that means that 12 years a slave will be mostly represented by white faces:

      -Of the five people who would get up on stage for a best picture win, four are white. The only one people will recognize is Brad Pitt.
      -The movie is also nominated for costume design, production design, and film editing. All of these nominees are white.
      -The only place a Black man will get up on stage by himself for the movie is for Adapted Screenplay. fortunately, the film is a favorite in that category.

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      • I want to gently push back against the idea that it would necessarily be awful if Fassbender is the lone winner for “12 Years”. Supposing he performed better than the others in his category but none of the others nominees performed better than the others in their category, it seems to me it’d be more problematic if he was denied the win because of a concern for optics. I get that there would be grumbling should it come to pass, but I think an ideal scenario is one in which each performance is evaluated on its merits and not on optics.

        I know that might seem like an odd position for me to take, but it feels like the right one.

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      • The argument wasn’t that it would necessarily be bad, only that it would have bad optics. If Fassbender had been a stand-out talent in a movie full of lesser actors, that would of course be a different story. But nothing suggests that Ejiofor’s or Nyong’o’s performances were in any way less deserving of a win than Fassbender’s.

        And of course I’d put more stock in the opinions of academy voters if they could even bother to learn the actors’ names.

        Here’s something you may not know about the academy ballots: The nominees are selected by specialized branches of the academy, but the final ballot is open to all academy members.

        That means the nominees for sound mixing were selected by fellow sound technicians, but the winner is selected by an academy whose members, on average, know not much more about sound mixing than you or I do. In practice, the technical awards tend to be a vote on which movie in the category the academy members liked best overall. So if 12 Years wins for Editing, Production Design, or Costumes, it will mean that a white person gets an award mostly on the strength of a movie that was written by a black person, directed by a black person, and acted in primarily by black people. If none of those black people won awards, that would be a pretty terrible situation.

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      • That fleshes it out a bit, . Thanks. However, it is possible that Fasbender was not the best actor in the movie but is the strongest candidate for an award by quirk of the nominees. Suppose [other nominated lead actor] is better than [“12 Years” lead actor] and [other nominated lead actress] is better than [“12 Years” lead actress], etc, etc, etc but Fasbender is better than [insert names of all other supporting actor nominees], it seems wrong to not award him accordingly.

        As you can tell, I know very little of the specifics so cannot comment on what should happen. But if Fasbender TRULY deserves to win and none of the others do, he should win.

        If the Academy has structural issues that make it less likely that people of color (or other traditionally marginalized groups) win, that is a whole ‘nother issue in need of serious remedying.

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    • Steve McQueen ought to win Best Director, but won’t.

      I really don’t get what’s supposed to be so great about Gravity. I went to see it. It was okay, with good visuals, but that’s all.

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      • It shows how far SF has come, from universally scorned, barely fictionalized science lectures written by nerdish hacks, to big-budget, hugely popular entertainments made by highly talented artists with the same grasp of elementary physics as a dead possum.

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      • Space opera (that is, pure adventure stories with SF trappings, generally set in the future) goes back almost a century. The term is derived from “horse opera”, because the earliest ones are basically westerns with spaceships instead of horses. Star Wars fits neatly into that tradition, with its FTL and cliched aliens. (They may look funny, but they all think like humans (the ugliest ones like evil humans), and the important ones are humans.) Gravity is set in the present and has a background that includes real things like the Hubble, and purports to show Bullock struggling against problems with realistic scientific and engineering solutions. That makes it really jarring that they get so much wrong.

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  1. I really want Hollywood to get it right and snub Jared Leto. Everything about the character, the presentation, his following comments and attitude, has been entirely marginalizing and transhpobic.

    I think this article sums up the problem (although any comparison between queer issues and black civil rights becomes tricky, but for me I think is is apt): http://ideas.time.com/2014/02/28/dont-applaud-jared-letos-transgender-mammy/

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    • I was wondering about this. I haven’t seen the film, so I can’t speak about his work on it, but I did wonder how much of the buzz was because, “ZOMG, he played a tranny! That’s so hard!”

      I considered another “Curious Casting” post on a recent EW article that discussed the history of trans characters on screen. I didn’t read it but glancing at the graphic, it stood out to me that all of them were played by cis actors. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. In a way, if we embrace the notion that gender is about a state of mind more than a collection of body parts, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for an actor to assume a state of mind other than their own. That is what the job entails, in fact. So a cis actor playing a trans character maybe isn’t necessarily a bad thing (akin to a straight actor playing a gay character or vice versa), but the idea that all of the highlighted characters were played by cis performers seemed problematic. And I doubt we are close to seeing a trans actor play a cis character. Of course, there are surely things I’m failing to consider in my mini-analysis, which is why I never felt comfortable writing the post.

      Hm… just found the EW article. It was not specifically about trans characters but about anything they deemed “Gender Bender”, including characters like “Tootsie”. More here: http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20311937_20785527,00.html#30097804

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      • — I would begin with this article: http://thoughtcatalog.com/zinnia-jones/2013/07/the-trouble-with-depicting-trans-people/

        Look, I say quite bluntly: believe nothing you hear about us that was not produced by us. Full stop. Transamerica was a disgusting lie. Hedwig is a disgusting lie. The Crying Game was a disgusting lie. On and on. And on. And on. And on. It’s enough to make me cry.

        It does make me cry. For instance, last year I tried to re-watch Queer as Folks, a show I liked very much when it first ran. Couldn’t get past the first few episode before I literally broke down sobbing. I asked where is our show? Where is our truth? I want to see us.

        Gender is a complex topic. It is deep, very deep. You can see your own. You can feel its meaning. But you cannot write about us. Your preoccupations will dominate.

        If you want to hear our voices, demand them.

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      • Do you think this is unique to trans people? Would you extend it to everyone (in terms of only listening to people tell their own stories)? Everyone with a marked identity? I understand the importance of having people tell their own stories, but worry about slicing so thinly that stories end up being completely homogenous (because a white cis male can only create white cis male characters) or stifling attempts to learn about others’ stories if we paint such a task as impossible.

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      • — Short answer: I don’t know.

        Long answer: I can speak for my own community. I can echo the voices of other communities to whom I pay attention. But the big-broad-general point — shrug.

        It’s complicated, right? The social dynamics of gender, for example, are not identical to the social dynamics of class. Maybe it works differently for us.

        Maybe not. What do you think?

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      • I don’t necessarily think it impossible for someone to authentically write a character different than they are. As you note, different vectors are going to be harder or easier. And it will never happen without real, hard work. Empathy is the name of the game. While I will probably never fully understand what it means to be black or female or trans or gay or living in poverty, I can probably sufficiently understand each of these enough to write characters embodying those characteristics. The nature of the characters is also hugely important. If the movie is an intense exploration of what it means to be trans, I will probably never be able to write that. If I’m writing a story primarily populated with cis characters but which has an ancillary character who is trans, there is probably less understanding required to get that part right.

        My fear of defaulting to, “It’s impossible,” is that it would seem to indicate sufficient understanding can never be gained. At which point, why even bother to try? If every attempt at understanding eventually ends with, “You just don’t get it and never will,” that indicates a rather bleak reality. And maybe that is the case, but I am optimistic that it is not.

        All that said, it is of little surprise to me that Hollywood (and elsewhere) so routinely get trans characters (and, in doing so, trans people) wrong. It takes remarkably hard work to truly develop empathy. Hollywood often doesn’t even seem to be trying.

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      • My fear of defaulting to, “It’s impossible,” is that it would seem to indicate sufficient understanding can never be gained.

        And in addition, it’s unfortunately easier–in most cases–to write the trans character out of the script than to find a trans screenwriter (just based on numbers, not because being trans has any relationship to writing ability). This could mean fewer trans characters.

        While I don’t dismiss the response that this would mean fewer badly written trans characters, it would also mean fewer sympathetic trans character from the cis audience’s perspective (assuming they’re not all being written in a way to increase cis dislike of transgendered folks).

        I agree that as a matter of justice trans people deserve to be treated right right now. But as a practical matter, appropriate treatment of an outgroup doesn’t happen until the mass of the in-group gets comfortable with them. And even a badly written trans character, as long as its sympathetic, helos cis folks get comfortable.

        I’m certainly not suggesting that you should like the characters, only that they are not without redeeming value, and may be doing more good than harm.

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      • Interesting point, . I never saw “Transamerica”, but I know that it opened a lot of people’s eyes with regards to trans issues. To hear that at least some within the trans community considered it a “disgusting lie” creates a difficult situation. I’m curious if those who felt that way about it saw it as actively harmful or just a failure to deliver. If it is the former, we run the risk of people being “enlightened” in the wrong way. If it is the latter, we have a potential iterative step but another place wherein people’s lives are being exploited as teachable moments. “Calm down, trans people! We know you hate the movie but, goshdarnit, it gave some cis people the warm fuzzies!” The realistic alternative would just be even fewer representations, which is probably worse but maybe not? The ideal is obviously more trans people involved in the creative process. As you note, we’re not there yet. We’re left grappling with a bevy of inadequate options. It seems reasonable to let the trans community drive the conversation on which of those options they think is the right one. But, well, obviously Hollywood is paying particular attention there. Thoughts, ?

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      • To hear that at least some within the trans community considered it a “disgusting lie” creates a difficult situation.

        Yes, I wholly agree.

        I’m curious if those who felt that way about it saw it as actively harmful or just a failure to deliver. </em)

        But who's most qualified to determine whether it's actively harmful? I think the litmus test is whether cis audiences leave the show with more positive or more negative feels about trans folks. If the response is,"sure, it made cis audiences less actively hostile, somewhat more sympathetic, but it didn't portray us as we really are," then I understand the frustration but can't give the criticism too much creedence. In politics, particularly when big social change is involved, we never get everything we want at the time we ought to have it, but push through bit by bit, making incremental process. It's like crossing a football field–you'll never be able to make it in one jump, but step by step you can get across.

        On the other hand, continued pressure from dissatisfaction, never saying "that's good enough" until it really is good enough, is crucial to driving the process forward. So I can't be too dismissive of the complaints, either. I just think a more fair phrasing of them would be, "that's much better than showing us as psychopaths, but you can still do a lot better."

        another place wherein people’s lives are being exploited as teachable moments.

        I made my position known on this a few weeks ago, but mostly this doesn’t bother me. How else are most people going to learn? And if we’re talking about a fictional character, it’s not actually any particular person’s life,

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      • I would generally agree with your assessment of what we’d need to consider with regards to a calculus of whether a given portrayal is beneficial or not. If “Transamerica” moved the needle among cis folk in a positive direction, that simply can’t be ignored.

        With regards to “teachable moments”, I have no intention of rehashing that conversation. I attempted to use different language here making clear that exploiting a person and his/her life to create a teachable moment is problematic. What I mean is that if someone makes a film knowing it is going to harm real trans people but which might help enlighten cis people… that is wrong. We should never tolerate doing harm to uninvolved individuals so that others might learn (though this sentence could probably just be cut off after “individuals” and still ring true). Well-intentioned films whose harm is limited to frustration or displeasure would not fit my definition of “exploitation”.

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      • Maybe, maybe not. But what fun would it be if we agreed all the time?

        I’m thinking of a scenario (and the fact that I can’t think of a real world example means I’m either ignorant or maybe worrying needlessly) wherein a portrayal raises out-group sympathy but does so by portraying the group in question in a negative light. E.g., “Oh, man. I thought trans people were a bunch of sexual deviants. Turns out they are all mentally ill and deserving of my sympathy!” Cut to cis people the world over becoming insultingly patronizing to trans people. I would call that movie a failure even if it supposedly increased sympathy.

        Then again, it could be argued that the movie didn’t actually increase sympathy, at which point we’d probably have a better route towards denouncing it.

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      • Heh, good example. I agree.

        I was thinking more of that fuzzy line–unobservable from the outside–between offense and emotional trauma, where I lean toward a more “conservative” view.

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      • (and I guess @james-hanley) — Some random-ish points:

        Of course not all trans women agree, and some certainly some feel that Transamerica and Dallas Buyers Club are better than nothing. And personally I love Hedwig, even if I find it deeply problematic. Short version: these things don’t need a simple answer.

        On cis folks writing, sure, if the trans character plays a minor role, then go for it. I don’t want to advocate write nothing. That said, I think our community has a unique relationship with bad media, and I am hardly the only trans woman who leans toward “nothing about us without us.” There are reasons we feel this way.

        For example, I cannot explain how much a movie such as Silence of the Lambs hurt me. It’s really subtle. It is not that I felt bad, although the movie made me feel weird, because the whole time I’m watching Buffalo Bill in his skin-drag, I’m thinking, “It wouldn’t work. You couldn’t really become a woman that way.”

        But I understood in ever fiber how badly he wanted it. And that was the image I had of transsexuality. For years and years, Buffalo Bill and characters more wretched.

        I CANNOT EXPLAIN ALL THE WAYS THIS HURT ME.

        I am still hurt, I am still broken. There are places and me that won’t get fixed.

        At least I finally did transition. Which is another thing I cannot explain.

        I wish I could. I wish that very much.

        I so wish young trans girls won’t have to experience this. I want to show them, “No, those aren’t our lives. That’s the shitty stuff that cis people think. Forget that, turn away, look at the real us.”

        ’Cause we’re beautiful.

        #

        Keep in mind, when I say “nothing about us without us,” one thing I know: I have no power to enforce anything. If I did have power, I would have to choose my position more carefully. But as long as I’m shouting at those not listening, I can be loud and blunt. I think I need to be.

        I notice (on this forum and elsewhere) that cis folks almost get offended when I say they cannot understand. But, really, they cannot. And how arrogant to think you could, that all paths of life are open to you, if you are sufficiently clever. But truly, our brains learn some things in some ways in other things in different ways. A thing happens when you immerse into a situation, when you live it, little things that hold big truths.

        Accept that you are limited.

        A big Hollywood production can find a trans woman to consult on any screenplay. They can find trans actors to play supporting roles, and in fact staring roles. To say otherwise is obnoxious.

        Should other groups feel the same? Dunno. But if you hear anything I say at all, you’ll realize they must speak for themselves. Ask them.

        There are far fewer trans women than gays or lesbians. We have much less economic clout. But the hunger is there to see the truth of ourselves. Perhaps in twenty years we will be where gays and lesbians are now. There are indie projects, here and there, small things for the small screen. But they are hard to find and often of marginal quality.

        But there remains the urgency of now. I am sad and angry about how little there is of us, and the stunning lack of curiosity and respect the cis media gives us.

        On the other hand, Nevada exists, and Janet Mock just hit 19 on the NYT: https://twitter.com/AtriaBooks/status/433731803753365504/photo/1

        Maybe that’s a big deal.

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  2. “Due to a family commitment, I am (quelle horreur!!) going to be missing the red carpet coverage entirely and will have to catch up with the ceremony on the DVR.”

    I feel like I don’t even know you anymore.

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  3. Since I’m not a movie buff, the only prediction I will make will be about the Death Montage.

    As I stated in the Sunday thread, I think the honor of the last one pictured will go to Philip Seymour Hoffman, just beating out Shirley Temple and Peter O’Toole.

    For Best Picture, I will be rooting for American Hustle only because of its Jersey theme. Fun Fact: the ABSCAM scandal paved the way for the recently-deceased Frank Lautenberg to get elected to the US Senate for the first time.

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  4. I haven’t seen enough of the pics but I think Steve McQueen has a chance of Best Director and I hope he wins.

    That being said, I was confused by his name the first time I heard it (when he directed Hunger) and thought “Hasn’t Steve McQueen been dead for nearly 30 years?”

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  5. If the Spaceman song from Inside Llewyln Davis is nominated for Best Song, I hope it wins. It is so much more original and fun than the standard Best Song stuff

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      • Maybe it is because I am a boy and Disney princess stuff was not for me. Maybe it is because I grew up in the 80s and don’t remember any Disney films being big until the early 90s with Aladain, Beauty and the Beast, and Lion King but I never liked Disney movies. My mom made me watch Snow White and Cinderella as a kid and I hated them.

        Looney Tunes for life. What is about Disney Princess stuff?

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      • I’ve actually been thinking of a mini-project wherein I ask my students about the princesses, trying to gauge their understanding of what they represent, what their allure is, etc. It’s going to have to wait since we’re in the middle of report writing season and then have spring break, but maybe in the coming months.

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      • I was too young from Tron (I was 2 when it came out). I don’t remember Fox and the Hound. Honey, I shrunk the Kids I remember.

        The movies from my childhood I remember are: American Tail, The Secret of NIMH, Short Circuit, Soapdish.

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      • I was 9 in 1989 so part of my childhood should have been Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Alldain but I disliked all those movies as a kid. Maybe it is being a boy?

        Also I disliked the Lion King when we saw it at camp at thirteen going on fourteen because I had moved on by then.

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      • I didn’t start watching any of the Disney princess movies until I was an adult (I did see The Lion King in theatres as a kid, and loved it, and Bambi was my favourite movie growing up). But Beauty and the Beast is an excellent animated films, on the same level with a lot of Pixar’s stuff. Frozen isn’t nearly as good, but “Let it Go” is a fantastic song, and the movie deserved both its Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song wins tonight.

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      • That, I have no explanation for. Surely it’s not a gender thing, because even if you shied away from the “Princess” movies, you still should have enjoyed Aladdin and the Lion King. Maybe you’re just a monster who hates everything good about life…

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  6. It is worth noting that if American Hustle wins for Best Picture, it will mark the fourth consecutive year that a period piece has won that award, following The King’s Speech, The Artist, and Argo.

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  7. @james-hanley

    Here is an interesting taking from Calpernia Addams, a trans woman who I understand helped advise Leto on his role. She posted this to her Facebook (which a friend then shared) and I don’t know how to link to it so I’m just going to cut and paste it in its entirety. It is a really interesting take.

    “#JaredLeto was kind enough to mention me in his 2014 Independent Spirit Awards acceptance speech last night (as part of a typically “Jared” list of people involved in the film alongside random notable people). Tonight he’s up for an #Oscar. Probs won’t mention me if he wins, but I really don’t mind either way. It was just another job.

    As I’ve said before, my job was to sit down with him and answer lots of questions about what it’s like to be trans, and to make a recording of me reading his lines from the script. From there, Jared did Jared’s thing: a brilliant, eccentric artist created his own performance of a movie character. A movie character who happens to be some form of trans, in this case. His follow up speeches left something to be desired when it came to speaking well on the issues facing his movie character, especially against the backdrops of current politics and social movements. I suppose it’s doubly rare to be a gifted artist AND a great political speaker. But personally, I thought Rayon seemed like a nice person and a real human being. I’ve known people like Rayon.

    Anyone who’s followed my 11 years in Hollywood knows that I’ve always advocated for trans people to play trans roles. But I also refuse to shoot down powerful people who take steps to bring human trans portrayals to the screen, even if they are played by a non-trans female (Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry) or a non-trans male (Lee Pace in Soldier’s Girl, Jared in Dallas Buyers Club). To all indications, Georges du Fresne was not a trans child when he played “Ludovic” in Ma Vie En Rose, but that incredible film continues to resonate with trans people and families of trans children. Good and important portrayals can come from non-trans actors. Sorry if that is an inconvenient truth, but there you have it.

    Sure, I’d *love* to get these roles as an actress with a history of transition, or see them go to other trans actors. (Heck, I love to play non-trans roles!) But I’m not so short-sighted that I’ll destroy allies and advocates. Even less than perfect allies, if I think the overall contribution is beneficial. This is a view that comes from long actual experience and familiarity with the business. Some small but vocal groups will disagree; that’s just the nature of contentious issues. You can do your thing and I’ll do mine. There are many ways to contribute.

    But beware: the same logic that leaves zero room for a non-trans actor to try a trans role will then be used to mandate that trans actors should not be able to play non-trans roles. And that would piss me off.

    Leto’s “Rayon” is not the rock upon which I’d make my last stand concerning this issue. It’s just an inspiration for this discussion. I advocate for positive portrayals and opportunities for trans people in the media. Some are displeased that this particular portrayal, “Rayon”, is another trans sex worker role. Another trans addict role. Another trans “mystical advisor/comic relief” role. Another “trans person punished in the end” role. Those are indeed over represented portrayals, and I do want more balance… Soon! But I have known people like Rayon. She is not a made-up grab bag of random hateful attributes. She’s a portrayal of an uncomfortable segment of the trans experience that a few TLGB folks would rather be erased and not discussed. I think many of the haters hate Rayon because she isn’t beautiful, she isn’t passable, she isn’t gender binary, she isn’t 2014-political. And when I see that elitist hypocrisy, I’m inclined to push back and write essays like this.

    It’s hard being trans, more so in the era and circumstances of Dallas Buyers Club. I’ve known plenty of trans sex workers, self-medicators, wise teachers, hilarious weirdos and people taken before their time due to violence and lack of healthcare. I’ve known trans people very much like Rayon, and maybe if some people got up from their remote-activism-devices (computer screens and smartphones) and left their ivory towers and privilege-bubbles, they’d meet a few people like Rayon face-to-face, too.

    Then they could see that a human portrayal of this real segment of the trans community is a good thing. Even if it’s by a non-trans person.

    Please do hire trans actors for ANY role, especially trans roles. But please don’t shoot trans people in the foot by attacking allies willing to open the door for us as we approach equality.”

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