GLAAD was recently alerted by community members and allies to a film called Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives that will be screened at the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival.
GLAAD has since seen the film in its entirety and can report that the title is far from the only problem with this film. The film, its title and its marketing misrepresent the lives of transgender women and use grotesque, exploitative depictions of violence against transgender women in ways that make light of the horrific brutality they all too often face.
Misrepresenting the Lives of Transgender Women
Writer/director Israel Luna based his film on the "exploitation films" of the 1970s such as I Spit On Your Grave, about a woman who was raped and sought revenge on her attackers. The five lead characters in Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives are brutally attacked by a group of men; two do not survive the attack, but the surviving three seek gruesome revenge on their attackers. The film is a pastiche of graphic violence and horror movie clichés, with a few scenes of campy humor.
By marketing Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives as a "transploitation" film, by using the word "trannies" (a pejorative term for transgender people) in the title of the film, by casting transgender women in some roles, and by citing the murders of Angie Zapata and Jorge Mercado in the trailer, Israel Luna has attempted to place his film squarely within a transgender narrative.
However, while some of the actors in the film identify as transgender, the characters are written as drag queens, “performing” femininity in a way that is completely artificial. The very names of these over-the-top female caricatures (Emma Grashun, Rachel Slurr, et al.) drive this point home.
Because of its positioning as a transgender film, viewers unfamiliar with the lives of transgender women will likely leave this film with the impression that transgender women are ridiculous caricatures of "real women." It demeans actual transgender women who struggle for acceptance and respect in their day-to-day lives and to be valued for their contributions to our society.
Exploiting and Sensationalizing Anti-Transgender Violence
Transgender people are a marginalized and vulnerable minority in our culture, subjected to horrific hate crimes and pervasive discrimination. Relatively few media images of transgender people exist, so every media image becomes essential in educating audiences about transgender lives and working to eliminate the discrimination and violence they face.
In this context, it is irresponsible and insulting to make a film that serves up graphic anti-transgender violence as a "hook" for an homage to B-movies of the 1970s. Anti-LGBT hate crimes are serious issues that do not translate into an exploitation film. The very nature of exploitation films is to shock and titillate audiences with extreme, sensationalized violence.
Films like Boys Don’t Cry and A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story have graphically portrayed the murders of transgender people. In a serious dramatic context, such depictions convey the tragic reality of the violence that many transgender people face. But in this film, repeated shots of a baseball bat covered in clumps of hair and blood are grotesque – and serve only as horror movie-like gore. Depictions of violence and brutality are immediately followed by ridiculous scenes that make light of the horrific crimes that have been committed. There is nothing funny about the murders of the countless LGBT people who have fallen victim to hate-motivated violence.
Furthermore, the filmmakers have chosen to market Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives using a crass trailer that opens with references to the recent murders of Angie Zapata and Jorge Mercado, putting their brutal murders on par with the outlandish violence in this film.
TAKE ACTION NOW!
GLAAD finds it troubling that the respected Tribeca Film Festival would give a film that sensationalizes anti-transgender violence and misrepresents the lives of transgender women, a platform that affords such great exposure. The Tribeca Film Festival has a history of screening powerful LGBT films, such as the GLAAD Media Award-nominated Quentin Crisp biopic An Englishman in New York, and the GLAAD Media Award-winning film Transamerica, about a transgender woman reconnecting with her son. Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives does not meet, and in fact devalues, the standard of excellence established by the festival.
GLAAD has reached out to writer/director Israel Luna, the film’s producer and the Tribeca Film Festival, and both have refused to take responsibility for the problematic content and offensive marketing of this film. We urge you to contact the Tribeca Film Festival and call on them to pull Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives from their schedule.
Vice-President of Communications - Tribeca Film Festival
Director of Programming – Tribeca Film Festival
Senior VP, Rubenstein Communications
Film & Programming
To send an email with suggested text to the Tribeca Film Festival contacts above, go to http://www.glaad.org/2010/calltoaction/tribeca.
Concerned community members have developed a Facebook group called "Boycott 'Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives' at the Tribeca Film Festival" that you can join at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=106926329329724.
Latest on the Call to Action
updated March 26, 2010
GLAAD’s Call to Action asks that Tribeca not give a platform to a film that sensationalizes anti-transgender violence and misrepresents the lives of transgender women. When Tribeca announced its film selections, almost immediately GLAAD received numerous emails from upset transgender advocates asking GLAAD to speak out.
In just one day, over 800 community members and straight allies have sent e-mails to the Tribeca Film Festival voicing their concerns about the film and opposition to its selection for this year’s festival.
Last month, GLAAD was asked to meet with the director and cast members prior to seeing the movie to educate them about transgender terminology and issues facing the transgender community. During that meeting, GLAAD was not shown the film and voiced strong concerns about the title and the use of the word "tranny." While the word is used by some, it is largely an insult that is offensive to many transgender people. The filmmaker has elected to keep it, despite its potential offense.
At the time of the meeting, the film didn’t have a distributor or any major platform. Every year countless independent films are made and most remain unreleased. Showing at the Tribeca Film Festival offers the film a national space to spread its inaccurate message to thousands. It is because of this platform and the recognition it provides that we are standing with many in the community and raising our voices.
When GLAAD watched the film screener and trailer, we were immediately concerned about not just the title, but the film’s content and its exploitation of transgender victims Angie Zapata and Jorge Mercado in its trailer.
In a recent interview the filmmaker admits, “I agree that the baseball bat and the clumps of hair on the baseball bat are very disturbing…” This sort of violence is played for cheap laughs in the film.
Filmmakers have the right to pursue his or her vision. However, film festivals and other media distributors have the responsibility to consider the consequences of advancing that vision.
GLAAD hopes that an institution as respected as the Tribeca Film Festival would be concerned about how this film trivializes violence against transgender people, concerns that the filmmaker has repeatedly shrugged off.
In the wake of this outcry, GLAAD and many other transgender advocates ask that Tribeca rescind its selection of “Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives.”
“Negative and stereotyped media portrayals of transgender people hurt the community because Americans still need more education on transgender issues,” said Kim Person, Executive Director of TransYouth Family Allies. "The images in this film make a mockery of their lives. I want more for my child and all transgender people.”
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.