Review by Sean Boelman
Critics and scholars would be hard-pressed to find a better description of the depiction of the transgender community in film and television than the word “problematic”. Sam Feder’s new documentary Disclosure hopes to challenge that status quo to create better conditions for both trans people working in the industry and those who look to the media for representations of themselves.
In the movie, Feder explores the representation of transgender people in the media, taking a look at the historical depictions of trans characters and the working conditions of trans actors and actresses on and off set. It’s an interesting and important discussion that sadly hasn’t been held before, at least not in a way that is as logical and open as this.
Even for people who consider themselves aware of LBGTQ+ issues in film, there are some things discussed in this movie that will be absolutely shocking. One of the most eye-opening moments of the film addresses the bias that continues to permeate the media of accepting and representing trans women on a larger level than trans men.
This isn’t the only issue that Feder presents as desperately and urgently needing a fix, though. Even though it may seem like there have been huge strides in representation (and there have been), there’s still a lot of room for growth. Although the solutions might not be comfortable for those in power right now, Feder purports that it is truly the viewers who have the power in this industry.
More than anything else, this movie should show viewers that it is time to increase the amount of compassion we show to the LGBTQ+ community. It is not enough to idly sit by, as these issues aren’t just going to sort themselves out. It will take an active approach, not only from people within the industry, but also audiences who can demand change with the vote that is their media consumption.
The film features interviews with prominent transgender actors and actresses who voice their opinions about the state of the industry and discuss their own experiences as trans people in a field that was actively bias against them. Some of the best moments of the movie feature someone who has become a role model for trans youth discussing how the insufficient representation when they were young led them to want to make change.
Feder incorporates a lot of clips as examples of both positive and negative representations of trans people in films throughout the ages. By incorporating commentary on these examples from knowledgeable sources who are passionate about the issue, the movie allows audiences to see a different perspective on how some of these depictions are more harmful than they may have seemed at first glance.
Disclosure is an educational documentary about an issue that some people may have not realized is still an issue today. Essential viewing for anyone who cares about representation in the media, and still important for everyone else, this is definitely one not to skip.
Disclosure streams on Netflix beginning June 19.