Current Affairs

Trans film critics blast Netflix Oscar contender ‘Girl’ as ‘dangerous’

Ella Braidwood December 5, 2018
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A scene from Netflix's "Girl" directed by Bewlgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont, who has rejected the label of "cis director" as "offensive."

A scene from the Netflix-distributed film "Girl" by Belgian director Lukas Dhont. (Netflix)

Trans film critics have widely condemned the Netflix-distributed film Girl—a contender at next year’s Oscars—as “dangerous” and “sickening.”

Girl, which details the story of 15-year trans girl Lara at a Belgium dance academy, is Belgium’s entry for the best foreign-language prize at the 91st Academy Awards.

The movie debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May to a standing ovation, and has been praised by many cisgender journalists.

But trans film critics have slammed the film, saying it is “dangerous” and excessively focuses on genitals.

Trans film critic slams Girl‘s “horrific, bloody finale”

Trans journalist Oliver Whitney, who is senior editor at ScreenCrush, wrote in The Hollywood Reporter: “The film isn’t just another case of irresponsible casting or harmful stereotypes, like much of Hollywood’s long, ugly treatment of the trans community; it’s the most dangerous movie about a trans character in years.

A scene from Girl, distributed by Netflix, which has been heavily criticised by trans campaigners
Girl has been heavily criticised by trans journalists. (Netflix)

“If Girl takes home an Oscar, it would be a drastic step backwards for trans representation in Hollywood.”

Girl follows Lara, played by cisgender actor Victor Polster, as she undergoes Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and tries to get gender reassignment surgery. It ends with her cutting of her own genitals with scissors.

“Watching Girl I came to the horrifying realisation that my body as a trans woman is not my own.”

—Trans film critic Cathy Brennan

Whitney was highly critical of the “horrific, bloody finale,” saying the film had a “disturbing fascination with trans bodies,” including the camera having a “persistent focus on [Lara’s] crotch.”

Trans campaigner Cathy Brennan, meanwhile, criticised Girl in an article for the BFI, saying that it played “neatly into transphobes’ hands.”

Girl is “sickening” and “horrifying”

She writes: “Watching Girl I came to the horrifying realisation that my body as a trans woman is not my own.

“A sickening sense of alienation swept through me in that screening as I watched cis men distort the intimate facets of my life in order to flex their artistic muscles.”

Girl is directed by Lukas Dhont, a cis man. It’s co-written by Dhont and Angelo Tigssens, also a cis man.

Brennan, who is part of a BFI mentoring scheme for film critics, adds: “Any attempt by a cis critic to pass this film off as a victory for trans representation is a patronising attempt to placate wary trans audiences.”

Tre’vell Anderson, director of culture and entertainment at Out Magazine, also condemned the movie.

“A vote for Netflix’s Girl is a vote for a dangerous, traumatizing, small-minded, and one-dimensional representation of the trans experience,” writes Anderson.

Related topics: Belgium, Europe, Film Reviews, girl, Oscars, Trans

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