FTC Mass Comm student Sean Lanigan reviews the documentary which takes a deep dive into media representation of transgender people in Hollywood.
By Sean Lanigan
"Over the past two decades, Americans have experienced a significant evolution in their understanding and cultural acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people." This statement is from GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide. It’s inspiring to see some of this progress in Hollywood because, sadly, it wasn’t always this way. The 2020 Netflix Documentary "Disclosure" takes a deep dive into several ways that Hollywood has harmed the transgender community with what people see on screen.
This documentary does an incredible job educating people about the issues without giving them the guilt trip. Peter Debruge, a writer for Variety, explains further in his review of the film. "Rather than making audiences feel bad about trans themed movies they may have naively enjoyed in the past, it educates on the larger issues while unpacking a legacy of problematic representation."
Throughout the 108-minute film, transgender Hollywood actors, writers, and filmmakers discuss how the media’s historical long-standing portrayal of transgender characters has led to stereotypes and generalizations. Stars such as Laverne Cox and Candis Cayne discuss how difficult it was to see harmful representations that didn’t reflect their lives’ realities. More positive and accurate pictures on the screen can do so much for the well-being of a transgender person.
"Disclosure" dove into movies from the past several decades, where the representation of transgender people has been extremely negative, demeaning, and caused viewers to be fearful. The documentary highlighted films such as "Psycho", "Dressed to Kill", and "Silence of the Lambs."
Ben Travis, a writer for Empire Magazine,discusses his take when he reviewed the film. "As the film shows, the intervening century is littered with less than flattering portrayals that invariably present trans or gender fluid people as dangerous psychopaths, or murder victims."
Entering the small screen world of television, you will see more issues with the way transgender people are portrayed. Countless crime shows and police procedural shows write the same storyline over and over again, where the transgender person is murdered because they’re transgender. In this documentary, Candis Cayne discussed the frustrating fact that transgender characters have "died so many times on camera that she lost count."
The documentary emphasized how people who work in television or movies on screen want the opportunity to play diverse, complex roles, but many people in marginalized communities struggle to get different roles. That is why in entertainment industries like Hollywood, you have to strive for equal representation and allow transgender people to tell their own stories because they live their stories every day. It’s not only about the actors but also about the writers, directors, and several other production and creative jobs.
Media is the messenger when it comes to culture and daily American life. Balanced and positive images can give people so much hope. What can also give people hope is to watch documentaries like "Disclosure" and continue to educate themselves on media and society.
Watch the trailer of "Disclosure" below: