• July 23, 2021

A horror movie about gender fluidity

The extreme violence at Titane, the Palme d’Or at Cannes, is at the service of empathy.

In a decision that shocked, frustrated, Y happy critics, the jury of the Cannes Film Festival awarded its highest award on Saturday to Julia Ducournau Titane. The decision made Ducournau, 37, the first female director to win the solo award (Jane Campion’s The piano tied for the Palme d’Or in 1993). TitaneThe victory also marked the first time the festival awarded the prestigious Palme d’Or to a horror film. But Titane It is not just any horror movie. With its vivid, hyper-saturated violence and gender-fluid protagonist, it demonstrates the genre’s ability to deliver social commentary on LGBTQ issues.

Horror movies have from the beginning been a vehicle for social analysis. The 1930 adaptation of Frankenstein He terrified audiences with an updated version of Mary Shelley’s foreboding vision of man’s desire to play God. In 1968, Roman Polanski Rosemary’s baby recounted a story of an unwanted pregnancy and a baby straight from the devil that may have foreshadowed Roe vs. Wade in 1973. In the 1970s, The Exorcist found dizzying horror in religious fervor, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre it channeled the fury of the working class at the dawn of deindustrialization.

The difference, then, was that horror movies provided their commentary through a subtext. Today, the directors are putting it front and center. Jordan Peele’s 2017 movie Salt He openly delivered a scathing comment on “casual” racism among liberal elite. Peele He said The New York Times that his goal was to make white people “see the world through the eyes of a black man for an hour and a half.” South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s 2019 Oscar-winning black comedy Parasite was a haunting tale on class-based inequality.

Titane continues that tradition, inviting viewers into a visceral and gruesome exploration of sexual assault and harassment, and an allegory of a character experiencing gender dysphoria – the feeling that one’s biology is at odds with one’s true gender. one.

The film’s central character, gender-fluid Alexia, embarks on a murder spree after she is nearly raped by a fan. Any subsequent person who tries to assault, harass, or even touch her without permission receives a metal hairpin on the brain. Finally, a particularly bloody rampage spirals out of control. When Alexia’s freedom is jeopardized, she eloped and assumes the identity of a boy named Andrei.

It remains ambiguous whether the androgynous Alexia chooses to present herself as a child as a mere disguise. Ducournau He said IndieWire wanted the audience to “relate to their transformation and believe that they are actually becoming that person and [is] not someone who just wears costumes. “Alexia’s transformation into Andrei involves a series of deliberately grotesque distortions of actual surgical procedures for gender reassignment. In the end, Andrei is covered in blood and open wounds.

Throughout these strange bloody plot points, Titane challenges its viewers by portraying Alexia as a victim and perpetrator of violence, and by depicting violent and unbridled emotions that survivors of sexual assault are often taught to suppress.

There is a twisted catharsis from Alexia’s most murderous instincts. No non-consensual encounter is dismissed, invalidated, or swept under the rug; Alexia’s extreme reactions make it very clear to the audience that violating a person’s consent is never a minor offense.

Titane expresses Alexia’s gender fluidity in a punishing way. Viewers watch her leave bruises from the duct tape on her breasts and pregnant belly. At one point, he tries to pull a baby out of his stomach. These represent an externalization of Alexia’s feelings. For some, the movie says that the desire to remove their breasts or change the structure of the face is so urgent that it is worth any amount of pain. most of TitaneThe audience will not be gender fluid and will not have experienced gender dysphoria themselves, but when they see Alexia turn into Andrei, they can better understand what those experiences can be like.

Even if Titane It is a French film, it has a message that could not be more current in the United States. Over the past year, Republican state legislators have inserted more than 100 bills to restrict trans rights, many of which are explicitly designed to make transition more difficult. The Conservative Culture War Against Gender Identity Rivals Titane in grotesquerie.

Unlike that culture war, though, the horror in Titane It is intended to be a radical experiment in empathy. No member of the audience will leave unchanged.

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