Tuesday, April 6, 2010

GLAAD Should Be MAD, And Should Sue!

“{It's like] Grand Theft Auto. If you have a bad day at work, you can shoot some people, kill some hookers, trash your car and feel better. It's the same with my movie…. It's a type of release and keeps the momentum going for gay movies.” — Israel Luna discussing his recent film

We’ve seen the past two weeks in Trans America dominated by a low B-grade, campy movie with the operative phrase, “Trannies With Knives,” a nice fear-instilling catch-phrase for phobic America. There’s not much need for me weighing in on the film itself as this subject’s been expertly plumbed by Gina Morvay, Katrina Rose and Marti Abernathey among others.

Additionally I’m not really keen on providing more controversial buzz to help build the film’s mystique. Israel Luna’s nothing more than an opportunistic gay male prostitute turned wannabe media whore and Hollywood film director hopeful. Perhaps he can become the next D.W. Griffith, another filmmaker who made fear and ignorance work for him.

Initially the Trans activist community was up in arms over not just the movie, but questioning where was a response from GLAAD, the community’s big media advocate. Shortly thereafter, GLAAD responded:
GLAAD was recently alerted by community members and allies to a film called Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives that will be screened at the upcoming TriBeCa Film Festival. After viewing the film, GLAAD is now calling on TriBeCa to pull the film from its schedule.

Although the title is certainly problematic, it is far from the only issue with this film. The film, its title and its marketing misrepresent the lives of transgender women and use grotesque, exploitative depictions of violence against transgender women in ways that make light of the horrific brutality they all too often face.

Meanwhile TriBeCa Film Festival went on the offensive. First there was Movieline’s Seth Abramovitch typing out an odiously dismissive editorial on GLAAD and the Trans Community’s protests of Luna’s film:
GLAAD is a funny little organization, on the one hand these self-appointed sentries for positive representation of gays in media, on the other a kind of nutless institution reluctant to get their Pradas dirty on the way to the awards show. …

And even more importantly — isn’t this, like, censorship? Take a cold shower and count downwards from ten, GLAAD. You don’t want to walk down this dark alley. There’s far worse things lurking in it than a couple punnily-named trannies with switchblades.

And of course we “trannies” (with or without switchblades) couldn’t help but notice how Abramovitch literally nuzzles up to Luna’s posterior orifice, crowning him the next Quentin Tarantino and effusively gushing how “his profile [is] heightened immeasurably as the man at the center of this particular contrannieversy.”

Contrannieversy! Nice. A clever way to shove a slur into the middle of a word, and make it appeal to both Hollywood’s and the Glenn Beck / Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter audiences! Guffaws all around. One wonders what other kinds of slurs Mr. Abramovitch could mash-up with words, but alas! Three days after his post he resigned to pursue other things. Pity.

“It’s a hot tranny mess up in here!” — fashion designer, Christian Siriano from Project Runway 4: The Season Of Love.

The Abramovitch screed proved insufficient for TriBeCa to cover its tracks though. So they followed with a statement to both Movieline and the New York Times ArtsBeat:
“The filmmakers provided a copy of this film to GLAAD in February, and for weeks the organization had been supportive to the filmmakers. In fact, GLAAD representatives advised the film’s producer, director and cast on how to describe the film to its core constituency.”

“TriBeCa is proud of its ongoing commitment to bring diverse voices and stories to its audiences, and looks forward to the film’s premiere at our Festival next month.”

GLAAD issued an update to their Call to Action on March 26, 2010:
Last month, GLAAD was asked to meet with the director and cast members prior to seeing the movie to educate them about transgender terminology and issues facing the transgender community. During that meeting, GLAAD was not shown the film and voiced strong concerns about the title and the use of the word "tranny." …

GLAAD hopes that an institution as respected as the TriBeCa Film Festival would be concerned about how this film trivializes violence against transgender people, concerns that the filmmaker has repeatedly shrugged off.

In the wake of this outcry, GLAAD and many other transgender advocates ask that TriBeCa rescind its selection….

Yes, I did note how they went from being “alerted” to the movie by the community to meeting with them the previous month.

Nevertheless, GLAAD also states for the record that they had indeed NOT seen the film and had “voiced strong concerns about the title and the use of the word "tranny".”

And TriBeCa Film Festival, for its part, tries to deftly sidestep controversy by fabricating the opposite story out of whole cloth: they “provided a copy of the film to GLAAD”? the “organization had been supportive”? GLAAD “advised” the filmmakers “how to describe the film to its core constituency”?

Is this what TriBeCa is proud of? Egregious falsehoods about GLAAD?

TriBeCa is, as GLAAD noted, a respected institution that was founded after 9/11 as a way to bring back some normalcy and vitality to a neighborhood devastated after the World Trade Center attacks. Robert DeNiro is one of their co-founders and co-chairs and even Martin Scorsese sits on their board of directors. What they’d attempted to accomplish with the festival heretofore is laudable.

Yet they’re committed to diverse voices, but have no problem dismissing us – ahem – ‘ticked off trannies’ in this “Trannygate.” It must also be noted that while Israel Luna’s work is featured, transwoman Kim Reed’s Prodigal Sons documentary (which has drawn quite a bit of positive press) is not – and she lives right there in the neighborhood!

With all this controversy brewing TriBeCa felt it would simpler to concoct a story and attempt a smear campaign on GLAAD for advocating for us. Essentially GLAAD was publicly defamed! And this is the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, no less!

GLAAD should pursue a libel suit against TriBeCa Film Festival. This is an excellent fundraising opportunity for them, and there’s certainly no reason why they shouldn’t pursue it. Yes, I realize this won’t put a penny in any Trans pocket. However, GLAAD stood up for us and got publicly smeared and it was their organization that TriBeCa damaged.

One thing we’ve noted in the Trans community is how easy it is for our own leadership to be slandered and libeled and have it become urban legendary fact. When there’s no brush-back in return, it only emboldens those same parties to continue the character assassinations. They don’t stop – they get worse.

Tonight, April 6, is the protest of the TriBeCa Film Festival in New York, and I wish Ashley and the rest of the crew all the best. One point that should be the following battle cry is to encourage GLAAD to file a libel suit and take TriBeCa Film Festival to the mat! They have every reason to do so.

And shame on TriBeCa for the lies!

“Good name in man and woman …
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands.
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.” — from Othello, by William Shakespeare


Sophie said...

Two points. First, it's a great idea to threaten to sue to at least find out who the festival might say actually gave them the information on GLAAD's stance, someone like...er...maybe a lunatic film director whose name escapes me ?
Second, you really have to know that it's going to far to label him as an ex gay male prostitute. I know sex workers. A couple of my best friends are queer BDSM dominas. The suggestion that they have anything at all in common with the dysfunctional dingleberry that is Israel Luna is a step too far.

Vanessa E. Foster said...

Hey Sophie, is it too far to go to consider him "ex"? And apologies to any connection to your friends. I had a couple that were into the dom thing without sex, so I'm not sure I understand the govt's take on considering them prostitutes. It seems to me that a piece is missing there somewhere.

As for where they got the message, they put it out there in the press and stated the claim as if it were their own. If they wish to file suit against Luna, have at it. But it's their words (I'm presuming libel because both wording in NY Times and Movieline are similar, however it's possible it could be slander instead if it was a phone convo. & read statement) Bottom line, GLAAD was disreputed by it -- heck, I even began wondering if that was true when I first read it.

GLAAD has no reason not to sue, and a great fundraising (and profile-raising) opportunity for themselves. They need to take them down.

What's truly sad out of all this is that I used to have a lot of interest and respect for the Tribeca. Even looking at other films in this year's fare, there are a number I'd love to see (love indie films). But their choice on Luna (while simultaneously not inviting Kim Reed's Prodigal Sons) exhibits some bias right there, esp. since she lives in Tribeca! For them to then try to dismiss and cover their tracks with lies about GLAAD (simply because they feel trans people and those who advocate for them are feckless and insignificant) really tarnishes my image of them, and I'm sure that of many others. Once GLAAD wins their suit, it'll take them down further with many others as well. I can't believe they stooped that low.

willam said...

GLAAD knows this movie will sell tickets.
Thanks for upping our Google hits ;)
And your referring to Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives as B-grade is a step up from some of the things that the film has been called lol.
John Waters liked it too. He's my arbiter of taste so i'm thrilled.
p.s. Israel Luna, the man your disparingly referred to as an ex gay male prostitute, identifies as bisexual. how bout some fact checking, dolls?

Unknown said...

You're kidding, right? You need to stop and read more carefully before you write where people can see. You misread both the Tribeca statement and the GLAAD Call to Action Update. Tribeca says that "the filmmakers provided a copy of this film to GLAAD in February." They did. Ask GLAAD's lawyers to confirm it. The GLAAD statement says only that "during that meeting, GLAAD was not shown the film." It's true, because at the meeting GLAAD was busy giving the filmmakers and cast advice on how to speak about the sensitive issues raised in the film. It's a nice dodge that GLAAD used to imply that the no one in the organization has seen the movie, but in fact it says only that no one saw the movie at the meeting.

And here's an observation: do you think that an organization like Tribeca, with it's own lawyers, would allow an official public statement of such a definite quality to go out without being confident that they were correct? I presume they did more homework before making their statement then you did before writing yours.

Genia said...

All this free publicity is priceless! I mean, umm, free!

Lemme ask YOU a question. Have YOU seen the film?

Polar said...

Having worked in the video side of this business, I feel that the community response to this film has played into the promotion of it. This is a cheap, low budget, exploitation movie that, if ignored, would have probably died a quiet death and ended up being a distasteful answer to a dozen trivia questions. Instead, it's now received thousands (if not millions) in free publicity.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, let me state that I hate the very idea of this movie. I hate the title and plot, the subject matter. It probably never should have been made. I respect artistic license and the right of the artisan to make their vision real and attempt to market it. For that reason, I can't justify any sort of effort to legally or corporately suppress the movie from being shown. I wouldn't want to go within 5 miles of a movie theater that would show this trash, myself, and don't have any respect for Luna's artistic vision, if that's what this is called - but he has the right to show it to anyone stupid enough to buy a ticket. And, quite frankly, the T community has been played for reasons of promotion, and played right into Luna's hands.

Just for the record, I didn't like "Hedwig and the Angry Inch", either, and never cared for John Waters' movies, either. Scorsese and Coppola are more my speed, and I don't like camp. See it if you must, I won't be joining you. Protest it if you will, I won't be there, either.

Sophie said...

Can't see how the publicity is good. It's not a film with any mainstream appeal, and it's got no credibility on the queer circuit now.
I suppose it's possible that GLAAD is dancing with words, but its hard to see how they could have been 'supportive' of the film. I can't see that the festival would have been involved, so presume that they were told about the process and the obvious source for that would have been the production company.
@william (Please note I've never seen you so this is not out of jealousy for your youth or putative good looks) John Waters may once have been an interesting film maker, but let's face it, anyone who knows him could say he'll give positives about nearly any camp performance regardless of merit.
And , as I've said, I don't like to descibe Luna as an ex gay sex worker. A moral cockroach who's pimped the real tragedies of trans women's deaths for promoting a trivial exploitation movie is far more accurate.I'm sure your support will be noted.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Foster,
As the owner of the copyrighted material of the official TICKED-OFF TRANNIES WITH KNIVES movie poster, we are placing you on notice that it is our understanding and belief that the derivative use of the poster image appearing on your blog risks copyright infringement as it was not authorized by us. It is in good faith that we are extending this notice to you and in turn requesting that you kindly remove the unauthorized material immediately.
Toni Miller
La Luna Entertainment

Sophie said...

Which gives the lie to the any publicity is good publicity argument.
Shame the notion of fair use seemed to have also escaped the comprehension of the film makers when it came to their appropriation of Angie Zapata's death.

Unknown said...

Toni Miller
La Luna Entertainment


Just curious - how can you speak for a company in any legal matter when the Texas Secretary of State says that company no longer legally exists? That it was revoked as a corporate entity?

Me - I'd like to file a suit in the name of Amalgamted Fuzz from the Addames Family - I'd have just as much legal standing as you do.



Vanessa E. Foster said...

Ms. Miller, my satirical graphic -- like all satire -- is by nature derivative. Otherwise the audience loses what was being satirically referenced.

Then again, I suppose the art of satire is lost on such a serious filmmaking venture as LaLuna.

Anonymous said...

Vanessa, I just want to point out that the humorless Toni Miller is, as far as I know, a cis man.

Aside from that, I'm sure if you tell him it's an example of high camp filmsploitation it'll be all good.

bme77 said...

People are reading way to much into this movie.

Who in straight american would see a film called TOTWK to get a better understanding of the trans community? No one. The title is blunt, but you know what you are getting into before you buy a tickets. Pink Flammingos, you might have one in your front yard, sounds fun, so the movie poster let you know what was going down in the film.

What I dont understand is how someone can say "I dont relates to the people in the movie" and take it personal because they arent like them. Im not blue, Avatar dosnt relate to me, but I watched it because it was a movie.

From what I have read this movie has become a blessing to the trans activists because it has given them something to hate against. Which from many of there blog posts is what they are in the movement to do. Dosnt matter what, as long as a finger can be pointed out of anger.

First you see the title, then the movie poster, the trailor then the last the film. Many steps to tell you if this is a movie for you or not. Its not ment to be taken seriously and it is not a movie for everyone.

I know, true deaths are mentioned in the opening, people just died last week, the movie is not all funny/campy. I have seen the film and will see it again when it is at the Q-Cinima festival.

I love the fact that people hate what they havnt seen, then turn around and want the world who does not know them to except them blindly.

And if you are going to a movie like this to get your ballot together in the next election you need to see a shrink not a b movie film.

Films for festivals need to be submitted for consideration. Was Prodigal Son submitted by the director or producers? Festivals except submissions, they dont beg or ask for films. Well, other then TOTWK is now being sought after for many film festivals due to the press it has gotten. I am all abvout standing up for what you believe in, but as far as films go, its about selling movie tickets. And this has promoted the movie to such a degree that without it would of died qucik but now will be in heavy rotation at film festivals. The only thing I am upse with at Luna is that he has not thanked the protestors, boycott pages and bloggers for boosting and promoting his film. They need a fruit basket or something.

Genia. Yes I have seen the film. Did you have a question about it that I might be able to answer?

Jessica Sideways said...

Well, just because we're talking about it and giving it press does not mean that people are really going to be enticed to see the movie. But then again, I would recommend seeing the movie, so we can argue against it and educate the public more effectively. We just have to keep up the press and the information in order to make it available and to keep our posts at the top of the Google searches.

I have seen every film and newscast about Scientology, from their Orientation and Dianetics films to critical films ranging in quality from the Profit to the Bridge. I've read through their website and the websites of critics. I'm still intrigued by Scientology but I don't think that after reading all the things I read that I could feel really comfortable taking courses at a church of Scientology.

Anonymous said...

i'm going to download the movie as soon as it hits the torrent sites, i'll let u know if it's any good :-)

Unknown said...

This is Zack Rosen and I run The New Gay, an alt-queer site based in DC. We put up this excellent video today of an Interview I did with Margaret Cho. She's in the midst of her "Cho Dependent" tour and, as usual, had a ton of interesting things to say about queer life. I would love if you could check this out and consider posting it.



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