Saturday, 22 February 2014

Dallas Buyers Club and the transgender in film

At the moment, its 13/8 odds of Jared Leto winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as transgendered HIV-positive Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club. The role of cross-dressers/drag queens/transgendered/transexuals, as well as women playing men, in the movies brings up a lot of different sentiments. Are they there for humour, to raise the problems these people come across, or, like Rayon, a vehicle to show Ron Woodroof's change in opinion as he peddles Mexican drugs to Aids patients. Very few films have the transgendered as main characters, but in this post we'll be looking at a few that have caused debate, promoted equality and entertained us over the years.

Edna Turnblad in Hairspray
Played by the ledgendary Divine (Harris Glen Milstead), Edna was the mother to Ricki Lake's Tracy Turnblad in John Waters brilliant Hairspray. Divine had previously starred in Waters Pink Flamingos, which cemented his reputation as an outrageous drag queen. Dying three weeks after the Hairspray premier due to an enlarged heart, Divine lives on as the trashy Waters idol beloved by members of the gay community and beyond.

Hedwig Robinson in Hedwig and the Angry Inch
One of the best rocking and most sensitive portrayals of a transgendered woman I've seen on screen, as well as being one the best musicals ever. Seriously, I watched this hundreds of times when I was a teenager. Adapted, directed and playing Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell has come up with a fantastic film you should all watch.

Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry
Based on actual events, Hilary Swanks portrayal of Brandon Teena earned her Oscar for Best Actress. Telling the horrendous story of a girl who identified with being a man, and was consiquently raped and murdered after by male aquaintances after they found out he was anatomically female.

Fa Mulan in Mulan
Based on the ancient Chinese figure of Hua Mulan, who served for 10 years in the army disguised as a man to protect her elderly father. While the film may have all the trappings of a Disney film, the original ballad is one of the first in China to promote gender equality.

Is there any you think should be mentioned? And do you think Leto will win the Oscar? Let us know in the comments. Meanwhile, listen to our Dallas Buyers Club review to hear what we thought of the whole film. Also out on iTunes.

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