Many movies that America loved have a shameful track record of including transphobic storylines and characters. Here are a few of the worst offenders.
In the second act of the movie, when Australian Mick “Crocodile” Dundee is let loose on New York, he finds himself in a bar speaking to a lovely lady, Gwendoline. When his cab driver friend tells him that Gwendoline is “a man dressed up as a girl,” Dundee approaches her, puts his hand down under, and sexually assaults her to the laughs and jeers of the rest of the bar. But first, he tells the audience in that ol’ charming Australian lingo, “That was a guy dressed up like a sheila!”
Later in the movie, in a callback no one was asking for, Mick meets a masculine-looking woman and does the same trick. This time, however, all is well because he discovers that he had just assaulted a “real” woman. He shakes her hand.
Anna Nicole Smith had always been a favorite of the gays, but she did no favors for transgender people when her character in Naked Gun 33 1/3, Cherry, performed a sultry silhouette dance climaxing with a reveal of a penis to the disgust of star Leslie Nielsen.
The Cobbler is an indie-spirited movie about a man who can become a different person when he wears his or her shoes. Sounds great, right? What a great opportunity to show what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes, right? Not when the lead is Adam Sandler. Anything we could say about Mr. Sandler has already been said, like by critic Michael Richter: “Among the several individuals Max imitates is a transgender woman, which compels the film to make transphobic remarks. ‘Damn, you ugly,’ said a man directly to the transgender woman. Moreover, she is also referred to as ‘she-man.’ The offensiveness does not end there.”
Though The Crying Game featured a sympathetic transgender woman as the film's heroine, you can see how this movie became the poster child for the “big reveal” of a character being trans.
The mother of trans-shaming movies, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho does no favors to transgender, transvestite, and genderqueer people by portraying Norman Bates as a murderer who donned his dead mother’s clothes before killing Jamie Lee Curtis’s poor mother.
Judd Apatow is well-known for bringing sensitive men into the mainstream with actors like Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and even Steve Carell as the titular 40-year-old virgin, Andy. But one off-center plot point shows that maybe Apatow’s crew could be a bit more sensitive.
[The night after Andy’s friend, Jay, finds him a sex worker who turns out to be trans]
Jay: Wait, how do you know she was a transvestite?
Andy: Because her hands were as big as Andre the Giant's. And her Adam's apple was as big as her balls.
Jay: So you have no proof.
Like it or not, the Hangover movies are one of the most successful film franchises, comedy or otherwise. The antics of the Wolf Pack had everyone cracking up. But many weren’t laughing when the second installment has Stu engage in a pre-wedding tryst with trans actress Yasmin Lee. Watch the clip below.
Jim Carrey’s career shows a man unafraid to push boundaries and redefine himself, which is why Ace Ventura’s (and the rest of the Miami Police Department’s) fear of a trans person (and one that they all found themselves attracted to) is so shocking. Maybe it was just a sign of the times, but in retrospect, this plot twist was anything but “all righty, then.”
It’s not the way the film introduces the trans character (a morning-after reveal, a la The Crying Game) or the fact that said trans character was then used to embarrass a man with a sexy dance in front of his children. It’s not even the fact that the part was played by a cisgender (nontrans) woman. No, it’s a line toward the end of the movie, when Simon Pegg’s Sidney says to his love interest, “Don’t worry about my landlady. The last woman she caught me with had a penis, so you know you are a big step up!” At least the movie lives up to its title.
Buffalo Bill. Lady-skin suit. We don’t have to say anything more, do we?
Long before Robert Downey Jr. was Iron Man, he was but one member of the stellar cast of Soapdish. Holding his own alongside Whoopi Goldberg, Kevin Kline, Teri Hatcher, and, of course, Sally Field, Downey spends most of his time pursuing Cathy Moriarty’s Montana Moorehead. A woman with a deep voice, Moriarty’s Moorhead is as devious as they come. So it should be no surprise when the trickster also turns out to be transgender. (And a year ahead of The Crying Game, mind you.)
This 1980 Brian DePalma classic featured a memorable scene where Angie Dickinson was slashed to death in an elevator. Spoiler alert: It also featured Michael Caine as a serial killing transgender woman, setting the stage for the trope of "trans women are envious of/aroused by cis women and like to kill them."
Dishonorable mentions also go to: Bee Movie, Breakfast on Pluto, Sleepaway Camp, Stonewall (1995), and Trainspotting. Know any other films with transphobic scenes or storylines? Feel free to write about them in the comments.