The new movie Ticked-Off Tra**ies with Knives, which is schedule to screen at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival, is drawing serious criticism from the transgender community for its advertising and content.
The film is about trans women who seek revenge against men who attack them and murder two of their friends. Part of the criticism has been about references to the brutal murders of Angie Zapata and Jorge Lopez Mercado in the film’s trailer (which I am not including in this post and do not recommend viewing, as it is incredibly triggering). As a result of pressure from GLAAD and Dallas area activists (the filmmakers are based in Dallas), director Israel Luna will remove mentions of these real life victims of transphobic violence from the trailer.
While this change fixes perhaps the most despicable aspect of the film’s marketing, the exploitative use of real murder victim’s names, it by no means makes the movie or its advertising OK. One poster contains the tag line, “It takes balls to get revenge,” and other promotional materials include references to “balls” as well. This attempt at humor about male genitalia delegitimizes the identities of transgender women – references to our crotches are used to suggest we are really men. Then there’s the use of the word “tra**ies” (without the asterisks) in the film’s title. Luna has claimed he didn’t know the word is an offensive slur — a clear sign he is not someone we want making a film about trans women.
Advocates who have seen the film confirm it is just as problematic as the ads suggest. From GLAAD:
[W]hile 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.”
Those who are ignorant about trans women often think of us as drag queens, men who perform a heightened version of femininity instead of actual women. This film just reinforces the stereotype.
Rape is a theme in the film as well, judging from the tasteless rape
jokes in the trailer. Ashley Love, organizer of the anti-defimation group Media Advocates Giving National Equality to Trans People (MAGNET), saw the film and reports that it does indeed make light of rape and violence.
Director Israel Luna is gay, and sadly confirms that the gay and transgender communities are not automatic allies. Luna made the film about trans women instead of violence against gay men because:
“That’s a story we’ve seen all too often… I wanted to do something more modern and I thought ‘Whose story do you never see on the news these days?’ It’s not gay men–it’s transgenders.”
The ignorance on display in this quote (“transgenders” is not accurate or accepted terminology) confirms Luna is opportunistically taking advantage of a marginalized group he is not a part of and does not understand or respect. This point is further driven home by the fact that he and the other filmmakers ignored repeated protests from the Dallas trans community during the making of the film.
So no, protest against this film will not be silenced by the removal of Angie Zapata and Jorge Lopez Mercado’s names from the trailer. GLAAD and other organizers are calling on Tribeca to rescind its selection of Ticked-Off Tra**ies with Knives, since support from the festival is a major boon for a small independent film like this. Take action against supporting transphobia by clicking here and joining this Facebook group.