Before we go restarting the debate over self-identified men playing trans roles, can we just all agree that the upcoming Amazon series Transparent starring Jeffrey Tambor looks honest and heartfelt?
The show follows the story of a middle-aged trans woman (Tambor) with three adult children (one of whom is a lesbian) coming out of the closet late in life.
When the series played at Los Angeles gay film fest Outfest last month, trans activist Ashley Love said during the Q&A:
“We see this as ‘transface’—it’s 2014, why can’t the industry evolve? I personally know trans women who wanted to audition for the role, but [the production] wanted a well-known man instead. Why don’t our gay and lesbian friends learn from the trans community?”
But watching the newly released preview for the show, it’s hard to be anything but intrigued by what looks to be a sincere performance on Tambor’s part.
Take a look:
It’s a series? There should be opportunities for transgender actors here as episodes unfurl.
The fact that the show and performances are sincere and excellent, and the fact that this is unquesitonably “transface” and the opportunity should have been afforded to a trans actress, are not mutually exclusive things.
Trans Actress/teacher/trailblazer/singer Alexandra Billings is in the cast. She plays a role specifically written for her by the creators. I tried to link to this a month ago, when the discussion of Tambor’s( who is a genius and a long time ally) casting came u, Queerty blocked it for some inexplicable reason. This show looks incredible!!
Here’s the thing: blackface is offensive not simply because it’s a person of one race playing a person of another race. It’s offensive because of its history; for decades white actors performing in blackface portrayed black people extremely negatively, playing up every stereotype. This isn’t really the case with trans people (if for no other reason than that trans people haven’t really been represented in the media), so I think the term transface is totally inappropriate. It implies a history that just isn’t there.
It’s totally reasonable to wish that a trans person had been cast in the role as there are so few roles available for them. But it’s hard to fault the producers too much for going with an established, quality actor like Jeffrey Tambor rather than taking a risk on an unknown for the lead role.
I don’t see why this character should be played by a trans actor.
In terms of physicality, the character has been presenting as a man for his entire life (aside from dressing up in private). If a trans woman were to play it, surely the character would look too evolved as a woman. The whole point is that this character’s transition has come very late in life. It’s entirely plausible that a man in Jeffrey Tambor’s situation could announce that he is really a woman and from this day forward he will present as such.
In terms of spirituality, to say that this character must be played by an actor who is also trans sets a terrible precedent. The follow-on is that gays can only play gays, straights can only play straights, mothers can only play mothers, murderers can only play murderers etc etc.
@RiBrad: I completely agree with you. There isnt an older man alive that could pass well for a woman, its just impossible. And while it would be nice to see more trans actors period, are we really going down the road of that ridge of casting? Back in the late 50’s early 60’s non-white actors finally got the clout to demand to be cast in roles, rather than using not very convincing makeup on white actors. And while I’d much rather see a Asian playing an Asian, and a American Native playing the part than a white, on the basis of sexuality and gender, is it that important? I still think, let the best actor win and be down with it.
@morgan riggs: I don’t know. Men and women start looking pretty similar after a certain age. :p
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