Sam Feder's eye-opening film explores Hollywood's humiliating and reductive representation of trans people since the early days of cinema
Educational, emotional, and enlightening, Sam Feder's Disclosure gives time and care to the history of trans representation on screen, in Hollywood and beyond. By alternating between interviews with trans actors, writers, producers, and activists, with clips from the films and TV shows in question, the documentary manages both to tell new stories and shine a light on existing ones – perhaps making obvious the transphobic jokes and plot lines that cisgender viewers would never be required to question otherwise.
Laverne Cox, Zackary Drucker, Chaz Bono, Candis Cayne, Jamie Clayton, Nick Adams, Tre’vell Anderson and so many more artists speak with compelling clarity and sensitivity. While they speak of damaging representations, of unacceptable circumstances and humiliating portrayals, every interviewee remains astonishingly composed and incisive, calmly doing the work an ignorant world so desperately needs.
This could feel like a wakeup shock to many a cis filmgoer, now forced to look closer at jokes that never were acceptable, and left to question how Mrs Doubtfire, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and even How I Met Your Mother each failed in one way or another.
The use of specific case studies, varying from Nip/Tuck to Pose, creates a rich and always entertaining tapestry of stories. It allows for nuance, too – explaining, for example, why there are so many more depictions of trans women than trans men, and why the experiences of Black trans people and ballroom culture are full of their own contradictions and difficulties as well. It’s about visibility as much as legacy, about acceptance and trauma and the future – why action beyond the screen is absolutely vital. For anyone, anywhere: it’s essential viewing.
Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen is now streaming on Netflix.Where to watch online