Nearly 10,000 people are petitioning moviegoers across the country to boycott Paramount Pictures's upcoming Zoolander sequel on the grounds that the movie is transphobic and to be honest…they're probably right.
Last week, the first trailer for Zoolander 2 finally dropped and we got a look at what to expect from Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson's return to the world of over. Male duck face? Check. Blank stares? Check. Transphobic portrayal of a gender-nonconforming character being positioned as the film's main villain? Check.
This time around, Stiller and Wilson are joined by Emmy and Olivier award-winning actor Benedict Cumberbatch who, as the trailer explains, plays an androgynous model known as All.
"All is All," the character explains when asked about their gender. "I think he's asking, 'Do you have a hot dog or a bun?'" Wilson reiterates in a cringe-worthy attempt at hammering the joke home (you know, in case you didn't get it the first time.)
Sarah Rose, the woman behind the petition to boycott Zoolander 2 and its characterization of All, describes Cumberbatch's character as the modern-day, trans-equivalent of "using blackface to represent a minority."
"Cumberbatch’s character is clearly portrayed as an over-the-top, cartoonish mockery of androgyne/trans/non-binary individuals,” she argues in the petition's listing. “By hiring a cis actor to play a non-binary individual in a clearly negative way, the film endorses harmful and dangerous perceptions of the queer community at large."
Rose makes a number of valid points. The original Zoolander was a camp satire of stereotypes that we have about supermodels and the very real oddities of the fashion industry. In a post-Yeezy Seasons 1 & 2 world, Zoolander's "Derelicte" seems like a particularly well crafted bit of humor.
All, on the other hand, seems to be merely making light of a person's gender for the sake of a few cheap jokes, all the while ignoring the inroads that the fashion industry has made in regards to trans inclusion. This past spring, Andrea Pejic became the first transgender supermodel to land a major deal with a cosmetics company as a spokeswoman and model.
Similarly, trans model Lea T has become a fixture in the fashion world as a professional muse to Givenchy and Jazz Jennings, a 14-year-old YouTube personality, has leveraged her vlogging career into a deal to become one of the new faces of Clean and Clear.
Increasingly, trans models are finding themselves welcomed in the world of high fashion specifically because of their beauty and not in spite of the specifics about their genders.
“She has done what no other model has ever been able to: toe the line between male and female successfully for a long time," Pejic's former male modeling agent said of the model in a Vogue profile. "Andreja had an extraordinary career as a male model, often modeling female clothes; she pulled it off. It opened a lot of eyes and made people see things from a new perspective."
Just how Zoolander 2 will handle incorporating a transgender character into its plot remains to be seen. One hopes that the movie's creative team will craft the character with thoughtfulness and respect, but if the trailer's any indication, there's a good chance that the movie's jokes are all pretty much going to come from a place of mild bigotry.