Lady Problems is a weekly column that looks at how the entertainment industry — and its corresponding culture and constituents — is treating women in a given week. (Hint: It will almost always be “poorly.”) Every Thursday we’ll review the week's most significant woman-centric conflicts, then provide a brilliant solution to each problem that nobody in Hollywood will ever listen to or enforce.
The Lady Problem: Among Hollywood’s multitudinous blind spots is the concept of accurately representing transgender women. Instead of casting, you know, actual transgender women, Hollywood has this decades-long habit of casting men, putting them in a bad wig and a pair of low heels, then returning to its regular scheduled agenda of throwing $100 bills at Michael Bay’s head. Recent examples include Jared Leto, who played a trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club (and referred to her as a “beautiful creature”), and Eddie Redmayne, who played The Extremely Boring Danish Girl.
Last week, news broke that Matt Bomer would be playing a trans woman in the forthcoming film Anything, produced by Mark Ruffalo. A good chunk of the transgender community — who’ve been underserved and marginalized and mistreated in nearly every aspect of the human experience — were upset, and rightfully so; not only does casting cisgender men in transgender roles imply that trans women are nothing more than men in bad makeup, it also denies already rare opportunities to trans actresses. Trans filmmaker and actress Jen Richards took up much of the mantle initially, tweeting a series of thought-provoking missives at Ruffalo explaining why the choice to cast yet another man in a transgender role was not only shortsighted and demoralizing, but also dangerous.
Even a fleeting look at the current transgender murder rate proves Richards’s point: Last year marked a record high for transgender homicide victims, almost all of them trans women of color.
Ruffalo, to his credit, addressed the issue — though in a sort of typically straight-cis-white-dude way which implied that, because he was finally “having this conversation,” this conversation was just beginning.
The Solution: First of all, Mark, please never say “getting woke” again. Thank you kindly.
Now that we’ve addressed that, let’s talk about why and how this nonsense is perpetuated. A common excuse for casting cis men in trans roles is that there “aren’t enough trans actresses,” or that the casting directors simply “chose the best actor for the role.” This is egregious bullshit. There are SO MANY TALENTED TRANS ACTRESSES at the industry’s disposal. I can think of several just off the top of my head: Laverne Cox, Hari Nef, Candis Cayne, Mya Taylor, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Alexandra Billings, Trace Lysette. The actual truth is that the straight-cis-white-dude overlords are afraid of casting trans women. They’re afraid they might alienate their audience members (i.e., they think you’re fucking stupid, dear reader). They’re afraid of what it might mean about their own desires if they personally find a trans woman attractive. They’re afraid of themselves. They’re afraid of cats (same).
The obvious solution to this Lady Problem is to cast trans women in trans roles, but we must understand that such obvious solutions are lost on these fuckbros. Instead, we will force them to spend a full month sporting the kind of lazily conceived, Hollywood Idiot’s Notion of What a Trans Person Should Look Like that they’ve previously foisted upon the likes of Leto et al. I’m talking neon lipstick, neon blush, neon eyeshadow, lashes to the ears, contouring that would topple Calabasas to the ground. They will wear this to the office, to bed, to the gym, to the pool. To hell! And as the shitty foundation drips down their faces in the blazing California sun, let them remember: In the end, you’ll always pay for cheap substitutions.
Also, Jared Leto will watch them all sleep.
The Lady Problem: In news that will be surprising only to aliens who have been asleep for millions of years, a new study released Tuesday by the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism confirms that, yes, Hollywood is continuing to do a gross disservice to women, people of color, and LGBTQ people. Some fun stats for everyone to enjoy over lunch and then puke up their lunch and then frantically try to clean it up but they can’t because it’s everywhere oh god it’s everywhere:
• 31.4 percent of speaking characters in the analyzed films were female in 2015 — roughly the same number as in 2007. That's a ratio of 2.2 men for every single woman.
• Characters identified as lesbian, gay, or transgender accounted for less than 1 percent of all speaking parts, or 32 out of 4,370 characters studied.
• From 2007 to 2015, the study found no significant change in the percentage of black (12.2 percent), Latino (5.3 percent), or Asian (3.9 percent) characters in the most popular films.
• Of the 107 directors of 2015 films studied, four were black or African-American and six were Asian or Asian-American. Eight were women.
As Stacy L. Smith, a USC professor and the study’s lead author, told the AP, “We’re seeing entrenched inequality. Whether we’re studying gender, race, ethnicity, LGBT or characters with disabilities, we’re really seeing exclusionary forces leaving out anybody that’s not a straight, white, able-bodied man.” More depressingly, she added, “Despite all the chatter and all the activism and all the press attention, it’s another year where the status quo has been maintained.”
The Solution: The study’s authors offer a few ideas of their own, including adding five female characters to each script and suggesting that top-tier stars put stipulations in their contracts pertaining to a film’s gender and racial balance. Again, considering that we’ve been talking about this problem for decades with little progress made, we all know that this shit is about as likely to happen as Jeremy Renner is to admit that he is a baby’s head Frankensteined on top of a man’s body.
As such, Lady Problems is going to have to step in yet again. The only thing left to do is start over. Just start Hollywood completely over. Burn down all the sets, except for the bench from Forrest Gump because my coworkers like that one. Turn all the corporate offices into places for people who have roommates to have sex. Fire all the men in charge and make them run the giant roommate-sex motels. Rebuild Hollywood in a new but tenuous city, like St. Petersburg, Florida. That way, when the industry inevitably continues to be worthless, it will sink into the ocean and we can start over again, again. Keep starting over until we get it right, or the apocalypse happens. Also we will throw a ball really, really far (if apocalypse scenario, into gaping pit of flaming lava) so that Michael Bay is distracted while this all goes down.