|It's official reading books is bad for you.
||[Apr. 7th, 2010|05:45 am]
After a long time avoiding trans-related writing, I decided to try reading Whipping Girl. I'm none too far into it, but so far I've found it readable, and not making me want to kill the author; I find this to be an important quality in a book.
However, I feel it's had a detrimental effect on my experience of TV shows. You see, as early as I am into reading the book, the author talks about the 2 main types of transwoman on TV, and I'll paraphrase so as not to totally rip her off, which boil down to: the bloody obvious kind, to be mocked (think of the Bounty ads); and the kind who are some kind of punchline or twist.
Problem is, you see one twist, you see them all.
motosycho was kind enough to lend me the first season of NCIS, and on my time off from work, I've been solidly working through them. Now, I admit that the reason for watching in the first place would be Pauley Perrette's character, Abby, a cute-looking gothic labrat, and the music she plays, but the show grew on me. I feel a lot less love for it now. I got to watching "Dead Man Talking" (if you don't know the episode and want reference, stream/pirate it, I don't advocate giving them money). About half-way into the episode, I could see the punchline. I was actually groaning out loud as my mind unfolded a rough sketch of how the plotline was to go. I was not wrong. Seriously, you see one "commit a crime, fake your death and transition" plotline, you've REALLY seen them all.
Anyone who knows me can guess that I'm generally pretty laid back and forgiving about such things. Some could argue that I'm a little too laid back, but I'm not one for in-your-face change; I'm not good with the direct confrontation that tends ensue, for I commune and am one with l'espirit de l'escalier. So, imagine my own surprise that I was royally irritated by the episode. I mean, once we hit The Big Reveal, what's the butt of the joke except that one of the characters kissed a transwoman, and the sudden drop of pronouns.
I can forgive the pronouns in the sense that the agents are in a rush to apprehend her minutes after her identity is revealed; I can understand, from a character-oriented view, that it's a very big context shift. What wasn't needed, in my view, was every main character expressing revulsion afterwards. The worst, for me, was the goth character, who has previously extolled the virtues of a lot of intersecting subcultures, describing the concept as worse than her worst expletive, "hinky". Obviously, goth, bdsm and various other subcultures have no inherent links with trans interests, but given that there's a little more diversity among their constituents, it strikes me as a leeeetle bit more likely that her reaction wouldn't be as stupid. (Ok, chances are I'm just as annoyed at the portrayal of a goth character, but you don't see many goth pressure groups other than the Sophie Lancaster foundation).
I realise I'm extremely late to the game given that the episode aired in 2004 but I thought I'd have a good old-fashioned rant and whine about it, and it got me thinking as to what could be done.
Again, back to Whipping Girl, there's mention of how the media don't handle us nearly as well as we'd like; that one's been clear to me for a long, long while. I realise it's not related to how plotlines are formed, but I've always applauded newspaper and magazine articles that at least get the basics right; you know not screwing up on pronouns or over-sensationalising to the point of, "Bob The Builder (58) traded in troweling plaster on walls for troweling foundation on his face after undergoing a sex change to become Bobbette Lorena. He now..." et cetera, et cetera, feel free to vomit after making a waste paper basket from the rag it was printed on. I've always given credit when they'd get the tone right, even when others are criticising something like how they covered some of the finer details. My attitude is that they're baby steps in the right direction. I'm a baby-steps kind of person, and until a few years ago, there weren't exactly any organisations in Ireland to represent trans interests in any way, let alone in the media.
So, I'm beginning to wonder if my self-imposed exile from trans politics is useful any more. I dropped out of it when I realised there wasn't a lot for me to contribute to the effort, and that there was nothing particularly keeping me there except the need for them to have a Bad Guy, but I'm not a fan of playing that role. Now I'm beginning to wonder if, assuming I manage to keep some sort of fire in me about this, there might be something I can contribute again.
Namely, it would be cool to help reduce the number of "Bobbette the builder" articles.
So yeah, the punchline is, reading books is bad for your (mental) health.
 On a sidenote, there's a very interesting youtube clip of Pauley with a shaved head - I pimp this whenever possible, just because I think it's a positive representation of bald women.