A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Disclosure, a 2020 documentary, not to be confused with the 1994 Michael Douglas film, is a comprehensive look at efforts to represent the authentic experience of trans people. Extensive research reveals the many offensive wrong turns made in surprisingly early, negative depictions in silent film, wrong-headed and demeaning depictions in mainstream television, and more enlightened recent depictions in such TV fare as Pose, Transparent, and the chronicling of Caitlin Jenner's transition. Viewers are reminded that trans people are generally subjected to hate crimes, violence, and murder at a higher rate than the rest of the population. A violent rape and murder scene from the movie Boys Don't Cry exemplifies violence that trans people can be subjected to. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "penis," "ass," "t-ts," "d--ks," "balls," "vagina," "queer," "orgasm" and "piss." Although none of the images are exploitive or used to promote titillation, expect full-frontal male nudity as well as images of breasts and sexual situations and references.
What's the story?
Discussions of the trans experience in DISCLOSURE range from prejudice in general to how hate and exclusion invade and intersect with other biases against trans people. Interview subjects include Jen Richards, Laverne Cox, Elliot Fletcher, Candis Cayne, Rain Valdez, Sandra Caldwell, Jamie Clayton, and filmmaker Lilly Wachowski (The Matrix), the last describing fear of coming out. Films such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Tootsie, Bosom Buddies, and other shows and films depict men dressing as women to underscore social views of femininity versus masculinity. Some suggest that for Black male comedians (Jamie Foxx, Flip Wilson) dressing as women is an expected trope and a step toward fame that can somehow help de-masculinize Black men and make them seem less threatening in the eyes of a mainstream white audience. This also frames men dressed as women as a comic stunt, not to be taken seriously, with the spillover effect preparing people to find trans people funny and mockable. Those who aren't laughed at are categorized as undesirables of society. In Dressed to Kill a cross-dressing man is a psychopathic killer, and a study finds that the most common profession for a trans character on television is a sex worker, prejudicing the general public against trans people. Chaz Bono, wanting to avoid the stigma of transitioning, considered faking his own death in order to live his life away from public view.
Is it any good?
This is a moving, fascinating, important, and wide-ranging look at the lives of trans people. Often the smart and animated interviewees offer startling insights that take us in unexpected directions, linking racism, feminism, misogyny, and masculine stereotyping, especially underscoring the difficulties historically facing trans people of color. The filmmakers dug up silent film examples dating to 1901 of mocking, condescending attitudes toward trans people, demonstrating long-standing stereotypes of Black males as violent and uncontrollable. And although activists appreciate the positive publicity and information that came out of I Am Cait, a television show about Caitlin's Jenner's coming out, some noted that Jenner's experience is atypical -- "very white, very privileged."
It's probably a small miracle that Sam Feder and Amy Scholder were able to get Disclosure made at all, but the wide range of subjects covered suggests the subject could easily provide enough material for a great multi-part series exploring the many critical subtopics presented here and how they intersect with the trans experience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what families can do to help trans members develop positive self- mages. How does Disclosure contrast the lasting effects of parental approval on trans kids versus parental disapproval?
Does society have an obligation to accept and normalize "otherness"? How does diversity broaden a culture? In what ways can exclusionary biases, practices, and policies narrow the openness and growth of a society? How can these insights apply to racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other prejudices?
How does the movie get across the message that "different" isn't bad? Did any trans interviewees say anything eye-opening about the trans experience? If so, what was it?
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