Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives

9 Apr

Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives

TICKED-OFF TRANNIES WITH KNIVES is a “Transploitation” film by Israel Luna scheduled to play the Tribeca Film Festival, and pissing a lot of people off.

I finally saw this film that has many in the LGBT community, especially those in the T, up in arms. After the film, I participated in a very thoughtful discussion with (mostly) queer and gender non-conforming artists.

Generally, when a minority population has evolved its media-making enough to begin creating genre films – i.e. a Gay Romantic Comedy/Slasher/Action picture, that’s generally seen as a step forward in the growth of that minority’s representation on screen. So, it could be argued that TOTWK as a slasher/self-proclaimed “Transploitation” film is a step up that ladder. However, that rule really only applies when it’s the minority self-representing. From what I understand, Israel Luna is not a transgender person. His use of all the stereotypical tropes of transwomen as campy performers, as vengeful killers, using knives as phallic symbols, etc… only serve to perpetuate the dominant hegemonic view of transpeople as an exotic and terrifying “other.” Props to Mr. Luna for casting strong talented transwomen to actually play transwomen; Too bad they had such poor source material with which to work.

Mr. Luna also plays fast and loose with racial stereotypes in plot and language veiled as humor in the mouths of his performers. While racism was typical of the exploitation films of the 1970’s, Mr. Luna seems to be using “‘sploitation” as an excuse to get away with lapses in storytelling. Had this idea been done well, the social commentary and level of discourse generated by this film could have been on such a deeper and more meaningful level than “to ban or not to ban.”

The film is in dire need of an editor. Mr. Luna wrote, directed and edited the film himself and it shows. A second or third eye is desperately needed to trim the dialogue, make sense of the story and tame the wild jumps in tone. Much of the dialogue is witty and the violence disturbingly realistic. Billed as a revenge fantasy, the film spends a mere pittance of its 90 minutes on the actual revenge, which is partly why it feels unsatisfying as a fantasy.

I didn’t like the film, but I wholeheartedly support its right to exist and be screened at Tribeca and beyond, just as I support peoples’ right to boycott it. I do not, however, support censorship. Rescinding a film’s invitation to a festival is not acceptable – I did not agree with Frameline’s decision to revoke THE GENDERCATOR and I do not agree with GLAAD’s call to remove TICKED-OFF TRANNIES WITH KNIVES from The Tribeca Film Festival. I am thrilled to bits that people are talking! Media matters. See? Even if you hate a film and what it represents, it can open an important dialogue with people. If nothing else, the question has been asked: How do you want to be portrayed in the media?

Everyone is passionate about their own point of view, and advocates for it. Israel Luna wants people to see his film, so he gave it the best chance possible by packing a lot of controversy into the title and first trailer. Tribeca wants press for its festival, so it picked a film with a modicum of talent behind it and a lot of flashpoint potential. Magnet doesn’t want the world to see every transwoman as a victim or perpetrator of violence, so they’re picketing Tribeca. GLAAD doesn’t want to be caught on the wrong side of an aggrieved member of the LGBT community, so they’re calling for removal of the film from Tribeca. And we, as canny NYC filmgoers, don’t want to be deprived of a juicy screening opportunity, so we’re buying tickets to the festival. Me? I’m currently getting my Masters in Queer Media Advocacy at Gallatin and this kind of thing is right up my alley. I’m glad I saw it, even though it’s not my cup of tea. I do that – support my community by seeing films that aren’t targeted to me specifically. I’m of the mind that you make the media you want to see. Don’t like TOTWK? Make your own trans genre film. I’ll be the first in line to buy a ticket. Maybe your film will inspire someone else to make their own…

All right, now I’ve got to go write my paper for my Minorities in the Media class. ;-)


7 Responses to “Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives”

  1. nome April 10, 2010 at 2:53 am #

    There is a difference between saying a film is not good enough, is too offensive (or in this case, both) to be shown at an honored film festival, and saying it should be censored or destroyed. Censorship means taking action to ban the viewing of the film. The Tribeca is a film festival that tends to show good inde films. This movie is not that and so it doesn’t fit. On top of that, it’s also hugely offensive to both transfolx of all stripes and people of color.

    In no way would I say this movie should never be viewed. Hardly. I would love to watch it with a group of friends. First we would laugh at how bad it is, and then logically tear it to shreds. Sounds like a good time to me. But does it deserve the endorsement of the Tribeca Film Festival? HARDLY!

    Also, saying “make your own films” implies that transfolk’s voices are respected in our society. This is obviously not the case. Trans people are generally not allowed to tell our stories. There are very few trans films that actually represent the community because we do not have the social capital in this society. It’s the same “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality that ignores all kinds of oppression, from sexism to racism to xenophobia.

  2. queergoddess April 10, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    nome –

    I’ve seen plenty of bad films that had some sort of spark of controversy/talent/idea at Tribeca FF before. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece to screen there.

    I’ve worked at LGBT film festivals and we get a lot of trans films. You can make a film on your phone. We’ve screened those. You’re implying that someone is not “allowing” trans people to tell their stories. I think you’re talking about controlling what’s seen in the mainstream media. I’m saying don’t let anyone control what media you _make_. Just make it however you can. Film festivals are currently the highest profile venue for most trans films, but they are just one venue.

    Everything you said about social capital in society and the attendant “isms” are true. All the more reason to have authentic trans narratives in as many venues as possible. I’m not ignoring the obstacles; I’m saying find a way, with whatever you do have, to get around them, incorporate them, co-opt them, talk about them – whatever needs to be down to tell your own story. I’ve seen it done a hundred times and I’ve done it myself, so I know it is possible. I never said it was easy.

  3. gina April 27, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    From the date of this review, you must have seen the film at the “secret invited screening” which, so I’ve heard, was sponsored by the Tribeca Film Festival. I’m curious how you heard about this screening and who else was invited to it? I’m also wondering what you saw in terms of which parts of the community (trans, LGBT, cis, straight) were represented? Was there any discussion before or after the screening? I’m curious because, from what I’ve heard so far, the only people I know who’ve identified they were at this screening were either transmasculine-identified, GQ or cis-queer. While I know that’s not always identifiable, I wonder how many trans women were actually invited to the screening and how did they decide who any of the invitees were?

    • queergoddess April 28, 2010 at 7:53 am #

      Gina –

      The “secret invited screening” I attended wasn’t sponsored by Tribeca. It was secret because to reveal how the the film was obtained would get the person screening it in trouble. The invitees were mostly artists of some type or another, spanning the spectrum of gender identity and sexual orientation. There were trans women present. I am a lesbian. I can’t speak for how the guest list was compiled, other than the host knew us all, knew us to be artistically inclined, in the LGBTQI galaxy and opinionated with our own audiences, i.e. that we had our own blogs or podcasts or shows. He wanted us to see the film for ourselves, form our own opinions and talk about it. We had a lengthy and very thoughtful discussion afterwords, which was taped and transcribed. I’ll try to find the link to it. Many of us blogged about it within 24 hours of the screening. There was nothing nefarious about who was invited or attended, really just friends of the host, as far as I can tell. I’m glad I went.

  4. gina April 28, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    QG: What concerns me if that the pre-showings of the film that I’ve heard about actually had very few trans women present. Problematic because the protests against the film were overwhelmingly by trans women (not GLAAD) specifically expressing concerns from that community (and I’m not saying it’s in any way monolithic). What I’ve seen is a number of people who are either trans masculine or not trans at all basically discussing a film which has specific issues towards trans women (and I don’t accept the idea it’s just about the general “queer community”). In other words we, as trans women, are being told we’re somehow being represented by people who really may not know our issues or even us especially well. If you had a film which many lesbians found problematic, would you want straight men to see the film and be “explaining” the film to you? One of the primary issues which has come out of this entire affair is how many parts of the “LGBTQ community” (especially cis gay men, but not only) somehow feel entitled to speak for us, to dismiss our concerns and even ridicule us for protesting against this.

    I also want to say how most of the protesters (including myself) did NOT ask for the film to be pulled from the Film Festival, but we did want the festival to explain its process in programming a film which, if they had any consideration for our community, should have known would be problematic. That including a film for “adding edginess” is analogous to how trans people have long been added to projects to add “freak/sleaze factor” and that’s not okay. And that, had a similarly problematic film about the black, latin or Jewish communities been proposed, in all likelihood they wouldn’t have screened it. Had their been a film criticizing their corporate sponsors they likely wouldn’t have programmed it. They programmed this film because they think our community is weak and they weren’t concerned about offending us.

    I also want to point out that the overwhelming amount of censorship which goes daily on in this country is censorship of omission and distribution. Entire communities and viewpoints (eg anti-corporate) are censored from the vast majority of US media. There is a BIG difference between groups protesting problematic art (which black people did with Amos and Andy or Stepin Fetchit, gay people did against films like Cruising, 9 Dead Gay Guys and Basic Instinct) and the large scale censorship which goes on in this society. Regardless of what would or wouldn’t have happened at Tribeca, the film was being show at other festivals and will be distributed in one outlet or other. I also want to clarify that we had people accusing us of censorship before anyone in the protest even mentioned that (and there are only 2 of us who have) or before GLAAD even spoke up. This tells me this is really more about silencing trans voices and protest than real freedom of speech or expression.

    • queergoddess April 29, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

      gina –

      I hear you.

      I did make a film about lesbians that was controversial and people found problematic that played film festivals world-wide, with a lot of divided press and patronage and some protests thrown in for good measure. That’s why I can speak from experience to some of this controversy.

      Nothing in my review contradicts the very salient points you make. Neither am I your enemy. I am advocating for more trans narratives and representation (by, for, about). If nothing else, TOTWK is an example of how lacking the film canon is in transwomen’s voices, and I’m glad a spotlight has been shown on that pathetic fact. Now maybe that will change.


  1. “The Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives” Premiere « BLoGT: NYU's Queer Blog - April 24, 2010

    […] on the film itself, rather than GLAAD’s reporting (as queergoddess recommended in an earlier review on BLoGT). Check the movie’s schedule and buy tickets […]

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