Monday, 9 December 2013

Yes, I'm feeling Bamboozled

The majority of my readers - yes, all twelve of you - are based in the UK or US, but I do have a number of Australian readers, and, in any case, this could do with a more global exposure.

The winner of Tropfest, the Sydney-based global short film festival, has caused a great deal of controversy. The theme for this year's festival was change, and the winner, Bamboozled, appears to embrace this by telling a story about transexuality. To begin with, the film appears to take a humorous but sensitive look at the awkwardness that can ensue when meeting an old friend or acquaintance who has undergone gender reassignment. That's before you reach the punchline.

The best thing is to watch the film. It's only seven minutes long.

A lot of people have been offended by the ending of this film, accusing it of transphobia, homophobia and misandrony. Matt Hadrie, the star and creator of the film, claims that the film is satirical. I can see both sides of the argument. The punchline to the film can be taken as a satire on both the all-pervading influence of popular media and reality TV, and western society's attitudes to homosexuality and transexuality.

On the other hand, in doing so it is perpetuating those attitudes, reducing the complexities of transgender life to a stereotype, suitable only for comedy. The risk is that the majority of people who watch this will not see a satirical edge, only a joke. It risks perpetuating the idea that homosexuality in men is somehow shameful, and that for a man, being 'outed' as having had sex with a man to whom you are attracted is humiliating. There's also a nasty undercurrent of rape apologism here, something that pervades out culture, although primarily with women as its target. The idea seems to be that if a man is coerced into sex under false pretenses, there is nothing wrong with it. It's just a guy having sex, oh look, he's naked and everyone's laughing at him. Never mind the feelings of the man involved. I despise this kind of thing, and it's becoming more and more common in film and TV. There is an undercurrent that suggests that it is perfectly acceptable to do whatever you like to man. Try swapping the sexes of the characters in the film and see how it changes how it plays.

I understand the goal to make a satirical film, but for me, it doesn't come off. In any case, a number of people have been offended by it, and the general response by many is to shout them down. Get over it, it's just a joke. Don't be so easily offended. Art should provoke debate, and simply shouting people down when they disagree with you is the antithesis of that. On the part of Hardie, I understand the intentions, but intentions do not provide a 'get out of jail free' card when it comes to how people react to a given piece. is hosting a petition to ask Matt Hardie, and the organisers of Tropfest, to issue an apology to those they have offended. I have signed it; I don't think the film should be taken down or the prize revoked, but those involved must accept that they have caused offence to a number of people, and that queer and genderqueer issues should be handled with more sensitivity.


  1. You should put a trigger warning before sending people to that clip! It's very intense in the climax!