TV’s Second Probability for Trans Illustration—the Proper Manner
When it debuted on in 2004, The L Phrase was a whole lot of issues: groundbreaking, provocative, a bit of bit campy. One of many first exhibits ever to concentrate on the lives of queer ladies, the Los Angeles-set Showtime sequence was a minor hit, working for six drama-filled, cable-ready seasons. It was additionally, in hindsight, problematic.
Although not as missing in variety as different exhibits, its forged was nonetheless predominantly well-off and white. It relied on tropes as usually because it tried to flee them. For sure, as information has unfold that a brand new run of The L Phrase is imminent, former followers of the present are experiencing emotions starting from anxious to tentatively excited. As a trans man, I’m anxious. Frightened about one character particularly: Max.
Max Sweeney, performed by Daniela Sea, made his first look in Season three as Moira, the previous flame of sequence common, and character routinely voted Least Likable, Jenny Schecter. After the pair reconnects of their hometown, Max returns to LA with Jenny, and following a quick questioning interval, begins transitioning from feminine to male—and that’s the place the issues start.
Max, as one of many first trans males on TV, had so much on his shoulders. He needed to symbolize the struggles trans males face, however he additionally needed to do it with restricted time in a sequence of one-hour(ish) episodes. Sadly for Max, this meant he embodied almost each horrible trope about trans males attainable. He buys black market testosterone and turns into aggressive virtually instantly; his sexuality flips like a light-weight change as his attraction to ladies is changed with an attraction to males; he grows a beard in a single day. In 2019, these storylines would seem flat, one-dimensional. In 2006, when Max was first launched, they took the chance to current audiences with a real trans character and turned it right into a sequence of stereotypes.
However much more than his characterization onscreen, Max’s largest shortcoming was that he was performed not by a trans man, however by a cis lady. As we speak, trans actors play trans characters in all method of programming, from Laverne Cox on Orange Is the New Black to the vast majority of the forged of Pose, however as Max transitioned on The L Phrase his look—mainly Sea with a pretend beard pasted on—turned virtually comical, making it laborious to take him critically as a personality, and as a person.
“Max in 2006 was a extremely good instance of cis individuals telling a trans narrative with no trans individuals concerned, level clean,” says transgender filmmaker Rhys Ernst, including that he was each grateful for, and pissed off by, the character’s storyline.
Now, as Showtime embarks on a brand new L Phrase, there’s a chance for the present to redeem itself from its previous errors. The brand new sequence, which the community guarantees may have “a brand new era of self-possessed LGBTQIA characters,” can have trans characters performed by trans individuals. It’s an opportunity The Danish Girl, Clear, and Boys Don’t Cry gained’t ever get, and it’s the type of factor that would show instructive the following time Scarlett Johansson considers enjoying a trans man.
There are such a lot of nice examples of nuanced trans characters on tv proper now, however solely a handful of these are transmasculine. Nearly all of People say they’ve by no means met a trans individual (or not less than didn’t notice they’d). And when cis actors tackle trans roles, it performs right into a narrative that trans individuals are simply “dressing up” as a special gender than the one they have been assigned at delivery, which is why constructive illustration is so important.
There’s no phrase come what may on whether or not Max will even be included within the reboot. However with the advantage of 10 years of hindsight and an understanding that 10 years of testosterone can drastically change somebody’s look, The L Phrase might carry again Max not with Daniela Sea, however with an precise trans male actor.
Quite a bit can, and has, occurred within the 15 years since The L Phrase debuted. Not solely is there extra consciousness of trans points, there’s extra room within the present’s storyline for these tales. By now, Max might have a 10-year-old youngster, opening up plenty of plot prospects past the struggles that include his gender. Even when Max doesn’t return, with a brand new era, The L Phrase might introduce extra, and extra nuanced, trans characters, a course of that would carry extra trans writers and actors. I hope they do.