Netflix Pick of the Week: Double Feature – Pride Edition

When I first learned about the term “transgender”, I was fresh out of high school and working a brief summer job as a conference reporter. It wasn’t particularly exciting. The portion of the conference in question was about health and well-being in the workplace. I had just heard a particularly dull speech by a gay man about gay rights and how to avoid discrimination in the workplace.

And then this tall, well dressed, bad-ass looking woman comes up to the podium and in an unexpectedly deep voice says: “Hi, I’m Anne.” Before that moment, I had no idea what “transgender” meant. Much like the speaker before her, Anne was there to talk about how to avoid discrimination of LGBTQIA+ people in the workplace – only she did a much better job of it. She also shared some personal stories and told us all about her transition. Hers was, without a doubt, the best presentation of the day, and not just because she was an exceptional public speaker.

This was over ten years ago, and yet I still find myself thinking of Anne every once in a while, wondering how she’s doing. She made that much of an impact. So when I went on a documentary binge and ended up watching two documentaries about trans people, I found myself thinking about Anne again. This week’s Netflix pick is dedicated to Anne, wherever she may be, as well as all the other awesome trans and non-binary people I have met over the years.

Happy Pride ♥

img_0370The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson Directed by David France – Documentary: This documentary features a mix of archival and recent footage as Victoria Cruz investigates the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Marsha P. Johnson. A participant in the Stonewall riots, Johnson was a black, trans gay rights activist whose 1992 death was ruled a suicide by police.

Pros: This documentary is not just about Johnson. Other trans/gay rights activists, like Sylvia Rivera, are featured. There is also a focus on the fact that transgender women are still the victims of violence to this very day. It’s not simply the story of one person, but a story about a whole community.

Cons: I’m not sure if this was just because of the way that it was filmed, or if the investigation was just really that wild, but Cruz’s investigation into Johnson’s death felt almost sensationalized. At times, it felt like the story was building up to be more of a murder mystery, and that didn’t always seem to fit the tone of the rest of the documentary.

Final Thoughts: This was a very humanizing documentary in that it was so easy to love the subjects. I was familiar with Johnson’s involvement in the Stonewall riots from a historical point of view, but watching this I got more of a sense of who she was as a person.

img_0373Disclosure Directed by Sam Feder – Documentary: Through interviews with trans actors and activists, this documentary examines the portrayal of transgender people in movies and television and how this has impacted American culture. The interviewees also comment on how these fictional depictions impact the lives of real trans people.

Pros: As someone who has studied film in university, the film analysis portion of this was right up my alley. One particular analysis that stood out the most for me was the comment on the presence of a trans person (a eunuch, i.e. cut person) near a cinematic cut in a D. W. Griffith film.

Cons: It’s a bit of a nit-pick since I really couldn’t come up with any cons for this, but not all of the films/shows shown were identified. For most of the film footage, the title of the movie/show would be visible on screen, but there were a few where the title was not indicated.

Final Thoughts: The more I watched, the more I thought of other films with trans characters that had not been mentioned in the documentary. I found myself thinking about these other films and wondering what some of the interviewees would have to say about them.  Essentially, I enjoyed it so much that I wanted the documentary to keep going.

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