May 28, 2015

Queer Review: The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix
Directors: The Wachowskis (Credited at the time as The Wachowski Brothers)
Writers: The Wachowskis (Credited at the time as The Wachowski Brothers)
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster, Joe Pantoliano, Marcus Chong, Julian Arahanga, Matt Doran, Belinda McClory, Anthony Ray Parker

Overview
What is The Matrix but the greatest science fiction film of all time? Few films can match what The Wachowskis accomplish here, in this tale that takes some of the densest metaphysical questions that have ever been asked and uses them as the basis for a high octane, adrenaline fueled action flick, which also happens to serve as a modern re-telling of Plato's Allegory of the Cave.

Synopsis
Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a computer programer in search of the elusive Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who Neo (Thomas's hacker alias) believes holds the answer to the question: "What is the Matrix?" On his journey to see Morpheus, Neo manages to make contact with Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss), a female hacker whom everyone thinks is a guy. When Neo finally manages to meet with Morpheus, he finds that the answer is more complicated then he imagined and that the reality he has believed in his whole life has been a lie.

The Queering
A the time The Matrix was first released, Lana Wachowski was still going by the name "Larry" Wachowski and the film was credited to "The Wachowski Brothers" rather than the moniker "The Wachowskis". Looking at the first Matrix movie now, it's possible to see a great many transgender subtexts that were not as obvious when it first came out. For starters, there is Trinity, a female hacker whom everyone thinks is a man (as commented on by Neo when the two first meet). The fact that people think Trinity is a man in the Matrix, is also brought up in The Animatrix short A Detective Story, where the titular detective assigned to track down Trinity, constantly refers to Trinity as a man. This essentially makes Trinity a women who is in the process of either escaping from or attempting to destroy an artificial reality where everyone thinks she is a guy.

Other examples are more subtle but definitely are there. Take Neo, a hero who -- outside of scenes where he is required to fire off endless rounds of ammo from a variety of firearms -- is not generally presented in overly macho terms, at least if one were to compare him to the mold created by 80's action heros like Stallone or Schwarzenegger. As it is, Neo has to deliberately reject his old, gendered name of Mr. Thomas Anderson and has to correct Mr. Smith (Hugo Weaving), who constantly insists on using the old name. Then there is Switch, who in earlier drafts of the script, was supposed to change gender upon leaving or entering the Matrix. In the version that made it to screen, the character is instead presented as androgynous in both worlds.

These trans subtexts I would argue, tie directly in with the films' main themes regarding the nature of reality. As the Oracle points out to Neo, all knowledge begins with knowledge of ones self. In order for Neo to be able to do anything as "The One", he must first know what he is and what he is capable of. As the story progresses, a key plot point revolves around Neo being unable to access his abilities until he has knowledge that he is the one. In other words, Neo becomes "The One" through self actualization and increasing his self awareness of who he is.

Of course by now, it has been pointed out by others that The Matrix is basically a modern day retelling of Plato's Allegory of the Cave. The story of Plato's cave is one where an entire group of people is kept prisoner for their entire lives, forced to stare at flickering shadows on a cave wall. Because these shadows are all these prisoners experience, they assume that the shadows are all that there is to reality. One day, a prisoner finds himself able to escape his chains, and makes his way up out of the cave. As he travels out of the cave, he becomes scared and disorientated by the new experiences he undergoes. Once outside, he is blinded by the bright light of the outside world. Eventually his eyes adjust and he sets out to explore the new world. Afterwards he returns to the cave and attempts to free the other prisoners, only for most of them to not understand his story about the outside world.

Many of the elements of that story are present here. Neo is the prisoner who manages to escape and like the Prisoner, he is blinded by the bright lights of the outside world. "Why does the light hurt my eyes," Neo asks Morpheus. "Because you've never used them before," Morpheus answers. Presumably, the reason the Washowskis use white transition shots so frequently is to reference this element of the story. Furthermore, as Morpheus mentions to Neo in the scene with the Women in the Red Dress, many people who are kept prisoner in the Matrix, will fight to stay a part of that system, rather than accept the truth.

While what The Matrix ultimately offers up is primarily a cerebral experience, it is also worth mentioning that the action scenes are pure visual spectacles, (the film is still famous for introducing the world to the Bullet Time technique). While the sequels were disappointing, the first film in The Matrix Franchise still holds up today.

Recommendation
It would be worth doing advanced math problems involving matrices, if the reward was being able to see The Matrix

The Rating
4 stars out of 4.

Trailer


Want to find a review of a particular work? Check out the Title Index, the archive of all reviews posted listed alphabetically.

May 18, 2015

Fury Road: Mad Max Reboot or Remake of Communist Manifesto?

(Mild spoilers ahead)

So, my partner and I saw Mad Max Fury Road last night in the theater. It was pretty spectacular, even compared to other spectacular works of epic epicness. Right now there are more than a few people out there pointing out that there are a few feminist themes running around amidst all the testosterone. Some men have even go so far to condemn the film for tricking people into seeing a feminist film. (And this is a bad thing because...?)

What I haven't seen is a lot of people pointing out are the rather subtly overt communist themes that are also scattered throughout.

Consider:

-The Bourgeois Big Bad (BBB) owns the means of producing water and the main plot ends up being resolved by a coup to redistribute water production to the masses.

-The BBB uses religion as an opiate to keep the masses under his control. There are a couple of ways that the religion is a drug connection is made. For one, the Mad Boys are conditioned to kill themselves in the service of the main baddie and are shown using chrome spray paint as an inhalant before committing kamikaze suicide bombing runs. At the same time, these suicide attacks of the Mad Boys is given all sorts of religious overtones. Then there is a scene where the BBB lampshades what he's doing by telling people not to get too addicted to the water that he's rationing out to them. The BBB does this in a scene where he plays Moses producing water from rocks.

-People are frequently reduced to commodities to be exploited by the big bad. Examples of this include humans being used as sex slaves, milk mothers, and blood bags, with each group being ultimately separated from that which they produce.

Queer Review: 50 Shades of Grey (2015)

50 Shades of Grey
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Writer: Kelly Marcel. Based on the novel by E.L. James.
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Victor Rasuk, Marcia Gay Harden

Overview
In spite of what has been written about 50 Shades of Grey, it is difficult for me to argue that the final product that reached movie screens represents anything other than an anti-BDSM, pro-abuse propaganda piece. I have nothing against BDSM and although I don't consider myself a pro-BDSM advocate or anything, I support peoples right to engage in such activities. As it stands, there is nothing pro-BDSM about 50 Shades of Grey, which presents the activity as something that practitioners should be ashamed of.

Synopsis
Ana Steele (Dakota Johnson) is an ordinary college student about to graduate with a degree in English Literature, who ends up interviewing the mysterious Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). In spite of her clumsiness, or perhaps because of it, Christian appears attracted to Ana during the interview, and afterwards, she finds herself thinking about him during quiet moments. Eventually, Mr. Grey starts to stalk Ana, showing up at her place of work, buying expensive gifts for her, and generally being a creep. Which Ana oddly enough finds attractive. After being mysterious, and vague about what he really wants with her, Christian eventually reveals that he is a BDSM Dom and proposes that Ana could be his sub. In spite of not being interested in BDSM, Ana naively continues to think that she and Christian can maintain a normal relationship. Unsurprisingly, what develops is about as unhealthy as unhealthy can be.

The Queering
50 Shades of Grey was originally developed as a fan fic based on The Twilight Saga before being published and released as it's own book series. Only rather than featuring vampires, 50 Shades of Grey has BDSM. While I have never read any of the books in either series, I did watch the first Twilight film and the similarities are striking. The female leads are both underdeveloped and both find themselves falling for mysterious man-childs. Stylistically speaking, both adaptions appear to have been influenced by the Chris Columbus School of Adaptation. This means remaining as faithful as possible to the source material, while including as much stilted camerawork, stilted dialog, and as many stilted action/sex/singing scenes as possible.

As for claims of 50 Shades of Grey being pro-BDSM, it's hard to reconcile such a view given what is on screen. Ana consistently seems repulsed at the thought of being a submissive to Christian. For his part, Christian expresses extreme self loathing because of his partaking and getting off on doing BDSM. There is no indication that this self loathing is caused by anti-BDSM stigma but rather appears to be the result of a writer who legitimately believes BDSM to be a bad thing.

This is a critical point to understanding if a work of art is for or against LGBTQ folks, when such a work shows us engaging in self loathing: What is the cause of the angst? If the work in question shows that the loathing is the result of societal prejudice, and the character has overcome the self-loathing to become confident with regards to their sexuality and/or gender identity, then the work should not be considered anti-queer. However, if the work shows the character needing to be "cured" or otherwise overcome their gender identity or sexuality, then it absolutely should be reviled for being a transphobic or homophobic crapfest.

Given the ending of 50 Shades of Grey (and having read what others have written about where the series ends up) I get the impression that this particular story is following the latter trajectory.

Otherwise, there are a few other parallels between BDSM and queer identity present in the film. For starters, the way Mr. Grey gradually builds up to the reveal of his sexual proclivities strongly suggests an individual who is coming out of the closet. In fact, that's where most of the BDSM activities take place in the story, in a locked closet (or rather dungeon as it's called by the characters).

Then there is the idea of sin and seduction that parallels ones anti-LGBTQ narratives are built upon. Specifically, the way sin, in the religious sense, is frequently shown to require a recruiter to lure people into engaging in a sinful activity. Once the victim has given into the temptation of a sinful lifestyle in question, the victim can thus be punished for their weakness and even start to engage in luring others in as well. Consider the ultimate fate of Eve in the story of Genesis or how in the 1961 film Boys Beware has the underage protagonist being punished for having sex with a pedophile, in spite of the fact he had been the victim of statutory rape. Note how the sin narrative erases the idea that anyone would have a natural inclination towards an activity that society has deemed as sin. Also note Ana's frequent incredulity at the idea that anyone would enjoy subbing for a dom.

For those interested, here is the film Boys Beware for you to... enjoy.


In 50 Shades of Grey, Christian is mentioned as having been seduced into the BDSM lifestyle by an older woman when he was all of 15. Of course, now that Christian has been seduced into the lifestyle he is now both a lurer and a sinner who should be ashamed of what he is. Again, the idea that anyone would be naturally inclined towards engaging in BDSM is all but assumed to be impossible.

Ultimately, given the way both films ignore actually abusive behavior -- be it stalking, sexual assault, or statutory rape -- in favor of condemning sexual activities frowned upon by society, 50 Shades of Grey becomes the equivalent of Boys Beware with regards to BDSM films.

Recommendation
If you ever have the misfortune to hear the line: "Mr. Grey will see you now." - take it as your cue to leave.

The Rating
0 stars out of 4.

Trailer


Want to find a review of a particular work? Check out the Title Index, the archive of all reviews posted listed alphabetically.

May 6, 2015

Queer Review: Get on the Bus (1996)

Get on the Bus
Director: Spike Lee
Writer: Reggie Rock Bythewood
Cast: De'aundre Bonds, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Richard Belzer, Gabriel Casseus, Albert Hall, Hill Harper, Harry Lennix, Bernie Mac, Wendell Pierce, Roger Guenveur Smith, Isaiah Washington, Steve White, Ossie Davis, Charles S. Dutton, Andre Braugher

Overview
The Million Man March on Washington DC in 1995 was an event organized by the controversial Louis Farrakhan and was designed to improve the image of black men by challenging negative stereotypes. That at least is what the textbooks say about the event. What Spike Lees' film Get on the Bus about The Million Man March does is paint a more intimate, on the ground perspective of a group of black men on their way to the rally.

Synopsis
The story begins by introducing the characters we will be spending the next two hours with boarding the bus. Once the trip has begun, conflicts between as the men begin to clash with each other. Gary, who is both biracial and a police officer whose father was killed in the line of duty, becomes a source of tension that is exacerbated when it is revealed that Jamal (Gabriel Casseus) is a former Crip. Flip (Andre Braugher), a snobbish actor, becomes virulently homophobic when he finds out that Randall and Kyle (Henry Lennix and Isaiah Washington) are a gay couple in the midst of a breakup. Evan and his son Smooth (Thomas Jefferson Byrd and De'Aundre Bonds) who are handcuffed together because of a judge's order after Smooth was caught robbing a grocery store. Further problems arise when the bus breaks down and a new bus driver who happens to be Jewish is brought on as a replacement.

Through it all, Xavier (Hill Harper) a film student makes a noble effort to document the proceedings. As tensions flair, guidance is provided by George (Charles S. Dutton), who organized the trip, and Jeremiah (Ossie Davis), an elderly man who it is eventually revealed to have a serious heart condition that threatens his life.

The Queering
It is perhaps because my recent film viewing has been exceptionally selective, but I feel that there has been a strong aversion in recent years by filmmakers to avoid actually addressing complex ideas or real life issues in films. As it is, I found myself surprised at the philosophical depth displayed by Spike Lee in Get on the Bus. Lee has always been a controversial figure and accusations against him for being divisive are everywhere. But as it is, every time I watch a Spike Lee Joint I find it to be an exceptionally thoughtful and balanced effort.

Get on the Bus manages to explore a variety of political issues all the while never losing sight of the characters. The dialog at a couple of points comes across as stilted, but given the nature of the production (filmed on a low budget over 16 days) that's to be expected. The issues that are addressed by the characters range cover just about everything from the root causes of economic deprivation faced by African Americans (is it the result of discrimination or welfare causing the breakup of African American families) to what it means to reform oneself after a hard life of crime. At one point, a character points out the problematic symbolism of Evan arriving at the rally with his son in chains.

As the story unfolds, much of the conflict is driven by the prejudices of the characters. The replacement bus driver, Rick (Richard Belzer) finds himself the target of anti-semitic remarks and quits as a result. Several black women express the view that the march is both exclusionary and sexist. Randal and Kyle find themselves the target of homophobia. It's fascinating how Lee was able to present a microcosm within the film of the march that includes most of the criticism against it and Louis Farrakhan without any of these elements coming across as a forced attempt at balance -- or at least none of it felt forced when I watched it the film while unaware of the criticism against Farrakhan for being both anti-semitic and homophobic. While the March is presented as having the potential for positive change for African-American Men, Lee still makes sure to include a cross section of this criticism.

As for the gay couple Kyle and Randal, they are presented as just as dedicated to the march and as integral to the group as any other main character. Furthermore, the unique prejudices they face are presented as no less significant to them than those faced by the other characters. That is there is no game of oppression olympics being played out here. When Kyle reveals that he served in the Marines, he talks about having to face both racism and homophobia when he tells of an incident where he was wounded by friendly fire:
When I woke up, they were laughing and talking about how...they killed two birds with one stone. One nigger, one faggot.

External obstacles to the group include a scene where they are pulled over by a State Trooper in Tennessee. The scene makes us wonder if someone broke the rule the group was given at the beginning about not carrying illegal substances and is about to be arrested.

In spite of the obstacles that the group faces (which are frequently set up to mirror the obstacles and discrimination that African American Men face in our larger society) the movie ends on a note of hope. In the final scene, a prayer is read which had been written by a character who passed away just when the group had reached Washington. It includes the following quote from the Book of Job:
For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down...
... that it will sprout again...
... and that its tender shoots will not cease...
... though its roots may grow old in the earth...
... and its stump may die in the ground.
Yet at the scent of water...
... it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant.

Recommendation
Definitely would be worth a difficult bus ride to see Get on the Bus.

The Rating
3 stars out of 4.

Trailer


Want to find a review of a particular work? Check out the Title Index, the archive of all reviews posted listed alphabetically.

March 28, 2015

Logic, The Bible, and Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination Laws.

1)
Given:
(D) The existence of laws allowing business owners to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals.

Assume:
(d) The existence of business owners who actually wish to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals.

2)
Given:
(S) In The Bible, it is stated that Jesus ate with sinners. (Mathew 1:9)
(C) Christians should emulate Christ.

Conclude:
(s1) Eating or socializing with sinners is therefore Christian-like behavior.
(s2) Going out of your way to avoid eating or socializing with sinners is therefore un-Christian like behavior and thus a sin too. (Modus Tollens)
(s3) Business owners refusing to serve sinners, are therefore committing a sin.

3)
Given:
(L) There are a few versus in Leviticus and Romans that can be seen as broadly condemning sexual relationships between men (if you squint at them carefully and ignore a lot of history and cultural context things).

Conclude:
(l) That broadly speaking any person in the LGBTQ spectrum can be seen as a sinner. Even thought that is not... *exactly* what is stated (given that there is nothing in there about sexual relations betwen women, transgender idenitity, and so on..) we'd waste too much time trying to fine tune this bit. Also, the idea of Original Sin, has it that everyone is a sinner any ways so, let's not get too nitpicky here, okay?

4)
Given (l), (d), and (s3)

Conclude:
(B) Refusing service to LGBTQ individuals would therefore be a sin and therefore those business owners who engage in it are sinners.

5)
Conclusion: Christians should invite all sinners, including both LGBTQ individuals and discriminatory business owners over to their place for potlucks.

March 4, 2015

Queer Review: Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Jupiter Ascending
Directors: The Wachowskis
Writers: The Wachowskis
Cast: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatumn, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton

Overview
Jupiter Ascending is a mess and not in a good way. This represents the weakest entry into The Wachowskis filmography that I have had to opportunity to see, due to this film falling far shorter than usual with regards to the high ambitions that The Wachowskis usually set for the stories that they tell. Then there is the tricky matter of the main villain, Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne), falling prey to sexist and transphobic tropes.

Synopsis
Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is an ordinary young woman, working a dead end job as a cleaning lady in her family's business. When her cousin encourages her to donate her eggs at a fertility clinic, she goes, only for the medical attendants to turn into aliens and try to kill her. Fortunately, she is then kidnapped-slash-rescued by a strange being who calls himself Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) who informs her that her reality is a computer generated dreamworld designed to turn human beings into batteries, or uh rather... that earth is a farm maintained by aliens who harvest humans so they can have eternal youth. It also turns out that there are a lot of planets like that out there. Oh and we humans were genetically engineered by the aliens with their DNA, which they spliced onto a native species in order to create us. Also, Jupiter is the reincarnation of the Abrasax siblings mother, who was murdered. And Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne) is the one who inherited Earth and wants to start the harvesting, like right now. Meanwhile Jupiter and Caine are (supposedly) falling in love, while Jupiter tries to claim her title to Earth.

The Queering
There are times when Jupiter Ascending almost manages to achieve the ambitious goals set out for itself by the Wachowskis, but the end result is more disaster than the intriguing space adventure it aims for. There are parts that show off an intricately developed universe, complex characters, the development of philosophical themes, and even bits of intriguing social commentary. Then there are parts that are just confusing and too often, the Wachowskis simply seem to want to show off that they know how to handle a special effects budget.

In the past, the Wachowskis have shown the ability to combine the examination of philosophical themes, even while blowing stuff up real good. Even their post-Matrix material is better than the reputation it has received. Cloud Atlas suffered a bit from over-editing, but still managed to hold itself together and The Matrix sequels while a step down from the first, still managed to tell coherent and engaging stories.

Jupiter Ascending on the other hand, does not hold together so well. Much of the important plot points feel rushed, the big action scenes tend towards the incoherent and confusing, and the universe all of this is set in feels half developed. In spite of the fact that the story drags, there were times when I wanted more time spent explaining how this particular universe worked and to character development as well. The relationships and motivations of the Abrasax siblings in particular felt under-developed (a situation not helped much by the fact that they always spoke softly in half-whispers with each other). Furthermore, the fact that we are never shown exactly what a harvesting of a planet looks likely (merely the results) makes audience investment in the central conflict that much harder.

In Jupiter Ascending's defense, there are a couple of interesting ideas presented, even if they are half developed. The concept of creating sentient life to lengthen the lifespans of other beings, is not that far removed from the creation of savior siblings, where a child is created via in vitro fertilization and is expected to donate cells and tissues for an older sibling with a fatal disease. In other words, the technology for doing what is presented as science fiction here, not only exists, but is already being utilized. I'm not sure if the Wachowskis actually intended for their to be any parallels here, but they are worth pointing out.

As it is, the characters and situation itself are both interesting, even if they are only half developed.

However, there is one awkward element that I want to point out. The main villain, Balem, is presented as being both extremely effeminate and having an obsession with his mother (and thus by default, he also has an obsession with Jupiter Jones). Note: Lana Wachowski said that the story was inspired by The Odessey but with regards to greek mythology, the Oedipal Complexing going on is lot more obvious than anything else. Anyways, the point being is that Balem is queer coded in some pretty obvious ways.

Now, one trope regarding transgender villains that I have pointed out before, is that trans villains (who are almost always woman) are always presented as not only deceptive, but as actively stealing the bodies and or identities (among other things) of woman. Now, while Balem is not presented as transgender, he is still an obviously effeminate, queer coded villain, who actively seeks to steal an entire planet from a female character. Between the use of human bodies to create a fountain-of-youth type substance and Balem's mother obsession, several uncomfortable parallels end up being created with extremely transphobic films such as Psycho (where the titular character is also obsessed with his mother) and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (an alternate take on the story where Dr. Jekyll uses female hormones in order lengthen his lifespan and winds up killing numerous female sex workers in order to obtain them)

What makes this particularly awkward is that Lana Wachowski (who co-directed along side her brother Andy Wachowski) is herself transgender.

Admittedly, there are a few problems with trying to paint Jupiter Ascending into a transphobic corner. As close as it comes to paralleling one transphobic trope, there are numerous others that it avoids. Balem never engages in deception to obtain what he wants, but instead shows himself resorting to force to get it. Instead, there is only one Abrasax sibling who resorts to deception, and he was shown engaging in sex play with several female looking alien type characters. Furthermore, Balem doesn't want to steal anyone's body to assist with a gender transition type process (as was done by the main villain in The X-Files: I Want to Believe but merely to extend his life. Even if the specific person he is trying to steal the planet from is a woman, the bodies that the fountain-of-youth substance is made from are going to inevitably have to come from males, females, and anyone otherwise outside the gender binary. Thus, due to this generality, one could argue that the trope of "trans women stealing from women" is technically avoided.

When I first saw the previews for Jupiter Ascending part of me was interested in seeing a female lead in an action heavy film being made by a direction team of whom one half is a woman. As it is, whenever a woman is made the lead of an action film, it inevitably ends up being a member of (as Mr. Cranky put it in his review of Underworld: Evolution) "'hot chicks in skimpy or skin-tight outfits beating the crap out of things' genre."

However, while Mila Kunis plays the role with spunk and determination and the character does get to display both a degree of autonomy and show off her intellect (she manages to memorize most of the universes legal code in what could not have been more than a few hours time). There is even a bit during the climax where she is shown risking life and limb to remove members of her family from a dangerous situation. However, for all the ways Jupiter Jones parallels "The Hero's Quest" (that is, the story hero who comes from a humble background to be revealed to have an important role in grand events) she still tends to wind up a mere damsel in distress to be rescued by Caine.

As it is, he potential for Jupiter Jones to be a female hero is wasted, like so many of the other potentially intriguing elements of this story.

Recommendation
Not quite worth ascending to Jupiter in order to see, but might be worth taking a reasonably priced commercial space flight (if those were to ever be developed at some point in the near future).

The Rating
2 and 1/2 stars out of 4.

Trailer


Want to find a review of a particular work? Check out the Title Index, the archive of all reviews posted listed alphabetically.

February 3, 2015

Queer Issue: The Box Trolls, Same Sex Parents, and the Never Ending Parade of Gender Transgressive Villains.

In the grand scheme of things, there are plenty of little details that can escape my attention. I didn't know until last night, for example, that the original teaser trailer for The Boxtrolls featured same sex parenting.

The trailer opens with an anonymous narrator intoning, "Sometimes there's a mother, sometimes a mother and a father, sometimes there's a father and a father, sometimes both fathers are mothers."

It appears then that the makers of ParaNorman (the first children's movie to feature an openly gay character) are still willing to continue pushing against homophobic boundaries.

This is a good thing.

Here is the trailer for those who are curious:


My partner and I watched The Boxtrolls the other night and while it at times evokes some of the better elements of ParaNorman, there were some other elements I want to comment on. I don't plan on writing a review, as I was watching it while playing on my laptop and thus was not fully paying attention to the film

The basic story revolves around Eggs, a human boy being raised by Boxtrolls, a sentient group of trolls who are vilified and hunted by the citizens of Cheesebridge. Thus it would appear that the references to same sex parenting in the teaser trailer are rather apt.

This too is good.

However, in a plot twist, it turns out that the head Snatcher (the group tasked with hunting down the Boxtrolls) is also a cross-dressing cabaret singer, who uses his secondary identity to help vilify the Boxtrolls via over the top theatrical performances.

This is not a good thing.

On one hand we are fortunately spared any over the top transphobic Ace Ventura-esque reactions. Eggs doesn't react much of all to the revelation, nor does any one else. And in what I think is a first, this is a first cross-dresser baddie who is shown stealing anything from any female characters. The closest he comes is trying to steal a truly feminine white hat from the mayor.

As it is, the White Hats (which represent the upper crust of Cheesebridge and are presented in the most fay terms possible) are what provide motivation to the Snatchers. As it is, the Snatchers work assiduously to join the ranks of the White Hats, and thus the Snatchers are the ones who spend the most time fanning the flames of hatred against the Boxtrolls.

There are definitely a few interesting subtexts regarding class roles going on here.

On the other hand, I am not sure what the point of the whole The-Head-Snatcher-Sometimes-Dresses-Up-Like-A-Woman sub-plot was. It does, however, do a pretty good job of reinforcing the idea that trans people are deceptive. In fact, deceptiveness is pretty much the character's defining character trait. When Eggs first shows up on the surface of Cheesebridge, and sees the Snatchers putting on his anti-Boxtroll propaganda piece, his immediate reaction to the drag performance is to label it as fraudulent.

In fact, Eggs attempting to reveal the head snatcher as a "fraud" pretty much sums up the rest of the movie. The final scene of the movie has Eggs exhorting the head Snatcher to "stay true to his own nature" and that it doesn't matter what the Snatcher wears or eats.

This is *not* a good subtext.

In fact, it's a pretty shitty subtext, precisely given the constant stream of transphobic rhetoric that transgender people should "stay true to their nature" and not try to live as the gender they identify as and instead live as the gender they were assigned by society.

Honestly, I don't know what more to say about all of this. ParaNorman was groundbreaking, and the same can be said about the trailer for The Boxtrolls. Too bad the actual movie The Boxtrolls delivers such a problematic message.