The world isn’t ready for a transgender thriller


‘A Dog’s Purpose’ is not being a prop

By Managing Editor

Originally titled “Tomboy: A Revenger’s Tale”—which is perhaps the worst name for a movie ever—”The Assignment” premiered last year at the Toronto Film Festival and released its first trailer Jan. 23. The movie has generated backlash since its original debut, and the trailer for the U.S. 2017 release added more fuel to the fire, causing more calls for boycotts.

“The Assignment,” alternatively referred to as “(re)Assignment,” follows low-life hit man Frank Kitchen as he tries to get revenge on the people who have wronged him. Seems like a typical B-movie, right? Wrong. Near the beginning of his journey, Kitchen angers a psychotic Hannibal Lector-like surgeon, played by Sigourney Weaver, by killing her brother. This causes Weaver’s character to use her mad-doctor skills to kidnap and force Kitchen to undergo gender reassignment surgery, which is why he is played by Michelle Rodriguez of “Fast and Furious” fame.

Many transgender activist groups have been protesting the movie as insensitive to the struggle of transgender people by turning a potentially life-saving surgery into torture. But the movie isn’t about being transgender as it relates to gender identity. Frank is still Frank throughout, despite his anatomy change. To Frank, the surgical alteration of his biological sex is a punishment; it is not something he wanted.

“The Assignment” is not a movie about someone who identifies as transgender or reaffirming one’s gender through surgery. This is just a crappy action movie that tried to use a hot topic to be edgy and did it too soon. A film using gender reassignment surgery and treating it as a punishment cannot happen until the reaffirming, correct use of it is socially accepted.

The writer of a Jan. 23 Refinery29 post raises the query that is most commonly brought up in movies or TV shows with transgender characters: Why isn’t the character being played by a transgender actor?

Although that is usually an important question to ask, the Refinery29 post fails to ask what it would mean to have a transgender actor playing a character who is not even transgender and never wanted to go through gender reassignment surgery. There is no reason a transgender actor should have to go through the possible dysphoria resulting from playing such a character.

One of the most problematic issues that has come out of this movie is how news sites have reported on it. In reviews of the movie and articles on its release from outlets like Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and IndieWire, Kitchen is referred to by offensive and unacceptable terms and pronouns. These include “(s)he,” “him/her” and, the worst yet, “he-turned-she.”

No matter how terrible a movie is or how much someone does not agree with its topic, offensive terms such as these should never be used, let alone make it into publication. This somewhat crude and cheesy film has inadvertently brought up the issue of how disrepesctfully many news publications treat people, even fictional ones, when they are trying to make a point. A news outlet cannot condemn a movie for trivializing and mistreating transgender issues while using offensive pronouns in the same sentence.

While there are many problems with this movie—including its original title—there are just as many problems with the media condemning it.