Some of the biggest issues within entertainment that queer and trans women audiences around the world are calling out, talking about, or wanting action on include the limited representation for trans and queer women, the depiction of transgender women in film, and the hypersexualization of queer women.
Limited Representation for Trans and Queer Women
- One issue that is being discussed is the incredibly limited representation for trans and queer women in world cinema.
- According to GLAAD’s 2020 Studio Responsibility Index, merely 16 queer women characters were featured in mainstream film in 2019. That same year, no major studio released a mainstream film with transgender characters, including transgender women, marking the third consecutive year this has occurred. Also, only 8% of the 488 recurring and regular LGBTQ characters on TV in are transgender, which equates to only 38 characters.
- Sarah Kate Ellis remarked that film studios need to address the lack of trans characters and the plummeting representation of queer women if they wish to remain relevant to modern audiences and compete in a sector that promotes diversity and inclusion.
- Some recent films that depicted queer women characters include Bombshell, Charlie’s Angels, Thelma (Norwegian film), and Mamma+Mamma (Italian film). Meanwhile, some recent films that featured trans women characters include Rocketman and Call Her Ganda. One caveat to these films is that many of the characters were often played by actors/actresses who were not queer or trans themselves.
- The project #ProudtoBe was created by transgender actors wanting to portray trans characters, roles usually given to non-transgender people, and tell stories about their community.
- This issue also impacts queer and trans women directors as revealed in the BBC Culture survey of the best movies crafted by women. As stated by Willow Catelyn Maclay, a trans woman, “there’s still a distinct lack of space made for the genre of queer cinema and films authored by gay or transgender women.”
Depiction of Transgender Women in Film
- Another issue within entertainment for queer and trans women audiences is the portrayal of trans women in film. Oftentimes, trans women are portrayed as being killers or displaying violent behavior. Moreover, these movies attempt to link the violence those characters engage in with mental illness, exacerbated by the fact that this is something that trans individuals deal with in real life.
- Historically, this villain trope occurs because of the perspective held by heternormative society that trading in the privilege of masculinity in exchange for femininity is some sort of act of madness.
- When they are not portrayed as villains, trans women are depicted as tragedies or victims, as seen in films such as ‘The Danish Girl’ and ‘Dallas Buyers Club.’ Additionally, trans women have been used in film for ridicule or to serve as “the butt of a joke.” They have also been used in cinema to offer a shocking twist to the plot of the film, as seen in ‘The Crying Game’, which features the tagline “Desire is a danger zone.”
- During a study of transgender characters on American TV, including trans women, from 2002 to 2012, GLAAD discovered that 21% of the storylines featured trans characters as villains or killers, while they were depicted as victims in 40% of them.
- Bollywood, India’s version of Hollywood, has been criticized for its demonization of trans people, displaying them as predatory, evil, and violent with horrific and grotesque bodies. Trans actress Living Smile Vidya lamented being ‘cis-plained‘ by straight men in a heteronormative narrative, following the release of ‘Laxmii’, a comedy-horror that shows the main character being possessed by a trans host that terrorizes a family. Additionally, trans characters in Bollywood cinema are viewed as being “othered” due to the belief that they threaten mainstream masculinity.
Hypersexualization of Queer Women
- The LGBTQ+ community has seen noticeable progression in the depiction of queer women over the years. However, the continuous hypersexualization of queer women in mainstream media such as film and television is leaving some in the community to question whether this is an accurate representation of the group or simply the promotion of stereotypes.
- Many of these films and TV shows feature prolonged sex scenes between the characters, which are often orchestrated by male directors. These scenes are seen as being crafted from the perspective of males, who lack a thorough understanding of the situations they depict. Queer women complain that the usage of queer female bodies solely to satisfy heterosexual male observers is invalidating.
- Furthermore, they believe that these films and TV shows “are taking advantage of the fetishizing of lesbians to service a heterosexual audience.” A piece published by Curiosity Shots states that TV shows that exhibit an oversexualized concept of queer women fuels stereotypes that plague the group.
- WLW (Women who Love Women) characters are typically placed into two primary categories: 1) someone who dies early, or 2) overly sexualized female. Audiences complain that WLW relationships exhibited on television are usually diminished to what the characters do while in bed together and how they are ‘entertaining’ one another.
- This hypersexualization/oversexualization has been described as diminishing the very worth of queer women in order to “satisfy the male gaze.”