Trans Themed Film “Anything” Stirs Controversy

| Jun 25, 2018
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By Melanie Yarborough (Neutral Corner)

The trans-themed film Anything recently debuted at San Diego’s yearly LGBT film festival, in a special screening at North Park’s Observatory Theatre. Director Timothy McNeil and Associate Producer Kylene Steele made a special guest appearance to discuss the film and take questions from the audience.

The films premise is that a straitlaced middle-aged widower from Mississippi and a trans woman sex worker in Los Angeles can find commonalities and affection. Early Landry (John Carroll Lynch) has lost his wife of 26 years and become suicidal. He moves to Los Angeles to live with his sister Laurette (Maura Tierney). To escape her suffocating attempts to control his life, he moves into a working class Hollywood apartment complex. There, he meets a number of marginal and struggling people, including sex worker Freda Von Rhenburg (Matt Bomer). They bond over their own wounded lives, and his old-fashioned courtesies and her hard bitten realities strangely complement each other.

Bomer in character.

However, several trans activists have decried the films casting of a cisgender male instead a trans woman in the central role of Freda. The same controversy followed Jared Leto’s Rayon in The Dallas Buyers Club and Eddie Redmayne’s Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl. There have been calls for a national boycott of the film Anything.

This controversy brings home a central (and sad) truth: while many want to develop and advance the trans community, others merely want to stand in place and grind axes.

Fortunately, a large and appreciate audience attended the San Diego screening and expressed universal approval. During the question and answer session after the film’s end, director McNeil acknowledged the controversy, but saw it as something positive if it sparks a dialogue about transgender characters in cinema. He noted the importance of casting in his job as director, and felt he had made the right choice with Matt Bomer.

Kylene Steele, herself a trans woman, admitted to being taken aback by some of the intense negativity on Facebook and Twitter, as well as calls for a boycott. She felt this criticism was unfairly directed against community allies. She also stressed the need for greater accountability in the transgender community: for people to inform themselves better before making judgments, and not abuse the anonymity of the web to launch damaging personal and potentially financial attacks.

Protests for a perceived lack of trans inclusion and cries for punitive actions were perhaps inevitable. But the film viewer — as well as those in the trans community — need to ask themselves several questions: Why can’t Tim McNeil’s Anything be put to better use than as just another axe to grind? Why can’t it become a springboard to develop a more meaningful conversation about transgender in general? And does a “sour grapes” attitude which alienates the larger gay or cisgender or film-making world advance or hold back that conversation?

Editor’s Note: It may be of interest to our readers that Bomer’s co-star in Anything is John Carroll Lynch, the actor who portrayed Drew Carey’s crossdressing brother on The Drew Carey Show.

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Category: Transgender Community News, Transgender Opinion

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