Friday Philosophy: Say “No” to transploitation

Back in the early 1970s, there was a new genre of film, called Blaxploitation.  Remember it?  The movie would be set in the ghetto and all the characters would be hit men, drug dealers, pimps or narcs.  One may recall the films Foxy Brown and Blacula.  And who could forget Blackenstein?  Try as we might.

In the late 70s, there was a film called I spit on Your Grave, in the Rape and Revenge genre, trying to situate women’s rights the same way Blaxploitation did for African-American rights.  I Spit on your Grave is apparently being remade, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised about Ticked Off Trannies with Knives.

Synopsis of I Spit on your Grave 2010:

The story of a woman who is brutally attacked, raped, and left for dead in the wilderness.  She survives to hunt down her assailants and methodically, graphically takes her vengeance.  Based on the 1978 film.

The message drawn from I Spit on your Grave is that the answer to violence against women is violence against men.

Because it was said that the original I Spit on your Grave glorified violence against women, Ireland, Norway, Iceland, and West Germany banned that movie, as did Canada, initially.


And now we have Ticked Off Trannies with Knives, which offers itself as an homage to the exploitation films of the 70s and 80s.  I’ve not seen the movie and don’t plan to do so, but the people at GLAAD have seen it and are asking you, me, and everyone else to boycott this movie, even asking us to contact the director Israel Luna and the producers of the Tribecca Film Festival asking that this movie be withdrawn.

The program notes:

When a group of transgender women are violently beaten and left for dead, the violated vixens turn deadly divas in this hilariously campy homage to the exploitation films of the ’70s and ’80s (“Transploitation,” anyone?).  Loaded with bodacious bods and extreme violence, this revenge fantasy proves that it takes more than balls to get even.

Hilariously campy for transwomen to be raped and beaten?  Alrighty then.

It’s simple enough.  I don’t believe we need a Transploitation genre.  We probably don’t need movies made about transsexual women by a gay man who refuses to listen to our concerns and then says the movie is really about drag queens, but uses a derogatory word towards transpeople in the title.  And we most certainly don’t need men thinking that sex with transwomen begins with rape and ends with a baseball bat.  We have enough trouble with men thinking that if they are attracted to one of us, that would make them gay (which it doesn’t) and that it would be our fault, so we must be punished for this sin.

Movie Poster

I say that before I even address the title.  GLAAD has a Reference Guide for the media which includes the following about defamatory language:

“fag,” “faggot,” “dyke,” “homo,” “sodomite,” “queen,” “she-male,” “he-she,” “it,” “tranny” and similar epithets.

The criteria for using these derogatory terms should be the same as those applied to hate words for other groups: they should not be used except in a direct quote that reveals the bias of the person quoted. So that such words are not given credibility in the media, it is preferred that reporters say, “The person used a derogatory word for a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person.”

It is also problematic for me personally to portray what are supposed to be transwomen as drag queens.  I have friends who are drag queens.  Very few of them identify as transwomen.  And almost no transwomen choose names such as Emma Grashun or Rachel Slurr.  That’s a drag thing.  It does not help transsexual women to have people think of us as drag queens…essentially as men doing a performance.  From the out-takes and the trailer that I have seen, this movie seems to totally okay with the image of transwomen not living as women, but as performing the role.  It should go without saying that, unlike what is indicated in the poster, tranwomen do not perform fellatio on knives dripping with blood.  At least none of my friends are into that.

Neither is the phrase “IT TAKES BALLS TO GET REVENGE” in the least bit appreciated.  And that’s not because I don’t have a sense of humor, but rather because it is not funny.

In a time in which there is too little positive portrayal of transpeople in the media, I’m also not comfortable with the portrayal of us as viciously and wantonly vengeful.  I cannot see any way in which that advances our cause.

The fact that this movie, this comedy has a trailer which references the murders of Angie Zapata and Jorge Mercado is also inappropriate, since it serves to trivialize those acts.

GLAAD (action page) claims it reached out to writer/director Israel Luna with no positive result.  GLAAD urges us to contact the Tribeca Film Festival and ask that the movie be withdrawn.

Tammie Rosen

Vice-President of Communications – Tribeca Film Festival

[email protected]

(212) 941-2003

David Kwok

Director of Programming – Tribeca Film Festival

[email protected]

(212) 941-2420

Kimberly Kress

Senior VP, Rubenstein Communications

(212) 843-9394

[email protected]

Film & Programming

(212) 941-2305

There is even a facebook group:

Humour can be used to challenge and subvert, but this movie fails on both counts.  In a society where trans people struggle to be accepted and have their lives viewed as equally valuable, this film does them no service at all.  Instead, it perpetuates negative and harmful stereotypes.

If you object to tranwomen objecting to this film, here’s an FAQ for you.    


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    • Robyn on March 26, 2010 at 23:08

    …did anyone know that Itawamba Agricultural High School, , which wouldn’t let Constance McMillen take her girl friend to the prom also wouldn’t let Juin Baize attend classes earlier this year?  

    Why?  Because Juin is transgendered, and we certainly can’t have that going on in a public high school in Mississippi.  If you want to help, you can go to the SLOG.
  1. Mandingo (1975)?

    Upon its release in 1975, critical response was mixed although box office was strong.[1] Roger Ebert despised the film and gave it a “zero star” rating.[1]  The movie critic Robin Wood was enthusiatic about the film, calling it “the greatest film about race ever made in Hollywood”.[2]  Quentin Tarantino has cited Mandingo as one of only two instances “in the last twenty years [that] a major studio made a full-on, gigantic, big-budget exploitation movie”, comparing it to Showgirls.[

    Surprised that didn’t make the essay, somewhere between Blacula and I Spit.

  2. say no explotation ……

    where ever we find it….

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