Review: The Danish Girl Trivializes Trans People For Oscar Nominations
Title: The Danish Girl
Director: Tom Hooper
Screenwriter: David Ebershoff (novel) and Lucinda Coxon (screenplay)
Principal Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoemaerts, Amber Heard, and Ben Whishaw
The term ‘Oscar bait’ has been thrown around a few times this year. They say the best way to catch an Oscar is to follow a certain set of rules. The Oscars are the reason why we have so many movies based on true stories that come out toward the end of the year. The academy loves movies based on true stories and if you release your movie too early they tend to forget that it ever came out at all. (There are some exceptions but it’s not usually the case). Hollywood is in the process of trying to look like they are more accepting and diverse but it tends to fall flat. All you need to do is look at how “white” all of the nominees usually are. When I saw the information for The Danish Girl I got a bad feeling. Trans issues are just being talked about in non-derogatory terms; we didn’t need a movie to come along and trivialize it.
The Danish Girl takes the true story of woman finding herself and turns it into something nearly unrecognizable from the reality that it’s based on.
I went into The Danish Girl without knowing anything about it. As I watched the story go along I began to feel like I was not watching anything based on reality. It wasn’t until after the screening (and doing some Googling) that I found out that my hunch was correct. The great romance that The Danish Girl is pushing is not true at all. In reality Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) and Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) did not cohabitate like good friends after Lili’s transition. The idea that Lili had people she loved at her side when she underwent the extremely risky gender reassignment surgery could not have been further from the truth. In reality, she alienated nearly everyone she knew. There were so many moments that felt false that the movie didn’t feel real at all. I know they elaborate to make movies but in this case it seemed to do a disservice to the very real women that were on screen.
The other thing that did not sit right with me is the casting. I understand that the movie begins with Lili as a man but you have to wonder if Hollywood even considered casting an actual trans person for the role. There are trans actors and actresses out there so why did they default to yet another straight man to play a trans person? This is a problem that needs to addressed and looked at similarly to how black face was eventually weaned out of the popular culture. I also couldn’t shake the notion that I was going to be reading lots of “think pieces” about how brave Redmayne was for taking on such a role, like it was some great thing that he was putting himself through this ordeal. Hollywood and the academy love when an actor has to do something relatively extreme for a role, like work around a deformity or something like that, and I feel like this is somehow treating being trans as something to be gawked at.
The thing that made me cross the line from ‘this isn’t the worst thing in the world’ to ‘I’m so bored I want to fall asleep’ is the boring direction by Tom Hooper. I find him to be one of the most overrated directors working right now. It takes a lot to ruin Les Miserables for me and Hooper managed to do that to me back on 2012. It seems that Hooper hasn’t learned anything in the last few years because the directing is just as boring as all of Hooper’s other overrated movies. The only saving grace in this entire production is Alicia Vikander who is just having a great year between Ex Machina and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. While neither her or Lili are really likable at the end of the day I sided with her a lot more than I did with Lili, but I’m not sure how much of that is bad writing.
The Danish Girl is another Hollywood attempt to appear pro-LGBTQ but ends up coming up more offensive to that demographic than anything. Being trans is not something for Hollywood executives to exploit so another cisgender (a person who identifies with the sex they are born with) can win more Oscars. I’m hoping that it’s not going to work but I have a feeling that I’ll be listening to how brave Redmayne is for taking this role.