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Cisgender Males Playing Transgender For Oscar Bait Is Still A Thing

By Kristy Puchko | Industry | February 27, 2015 |

By Kristy Puchko | Industry | February 27, 2015 |

That’s Eddie Redmayne, who just won an Oscar for re-enacting Stephen Hawking’s brutal physical decline in the biopic The Theory of Everything. For his next bit of Oscar baiting, the Brit will reunite with his Les Miserables helmer Tom Hooper for film that’ll have him playing transgender.

The Wrap reports the above is the first image from The Danish Girl, a biopic about 1930s artist Einar Wegener, who was born biologically male, but with the support of her wife Gerda Gottlieb transitioned to female and the name Lili Elbe. Below you can see a picture of Elbe along with one of the many paintings Gottlieb made of her:


The presumed intention of The Danish Girl—to provide better representation and empathy to a widely misunderstood community—is good. But this casting has us questioning its execution. On a personal bias note, I think Tom Hooper is a hack who can leech the art out of any property no matter how rich. I hated his Les Mis and found The King’s Speech bland. (Come at me.) So I don’t trust he’ll deliver anything but a dishwater drama from Elbe’s compelling story of self-discovery. But the bigger problem here is that this is another example of a cisgender male wearing the mantle of transgender to show off his transformative acting chops for acclaim and awards.

Similar issues were raised when Jared Leto played Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club. (I’ve written on how that movie is nowhere near as progressive as it likes to think.) But the Academy wasn’t bothered, giving Leto an Oscar for his bravery or transformation or some such thing.

The thing is, there are transgender actresses out there. The most famous is Laverne Cox of Orange is The New Black fame. Ingenue Michelle Hendley recently fronted the indie romance Boy Meets Girl:

But why bother with someone who might fully understand Elbe’s struggle when you can cast the charming Oscar-winner, right? I get the PR of it, but its politics suck.

Kristy Puchko also loses her shit over movies on her podcast Popcorn & Prosecco.

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Kristy Puchko is the managing editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.