Title

Global Visions Film Series “Transamerica”

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

4-30-2012

Abstract

Global Visions Film Series “Transamerica”

The story of “Transamerica” is a journey through what might seem to be an impossible transformation. Felicity Huffman plays a transsexual, whose journey plays across the screen with humor, love, pain, and discovery.

Huffman’s performance as a transsexual is stunning and she flawlessly portrays the most basic of stories; what it means to be fully human through self-discovery, struggle, and joy. While the transformation from male-to-female sex change is gripping, it is the capacity of the director and the acting abilities of Huffman that bring the richness and sensitivity of the human experience to us in full force.

The movie is really about a journey of discovery, one that includes tragedy, and ultimately self-acceptance and expanded capacities for loving self and others. The story unfolds as we learn that the main character (Bree, played by Felicity Huffman) was once a man named Stanley, who fathered a son without knowing about it. Before Stanley’s complete sexual transformation can occur, he must first face his past and meet his son.

Stanley (who is internally a woman), soon to physically become Bree (a physical woman), plunges into a journey that takes her across the continent to find her son, and when they meet they travel across America on a car trip from New York to California. The journey of self-discovery begins when the road trip takes off and confessions and revelations find their expressions in the encounter between parent and child.

The once father-son relationship (that never existed) is now more than a mother-son relationship that must expand beyond the boundaries of constructed gendered identities and biological sexuality. It is the complexity of this journey into the self, the opening up of new identities, and the eventual acceptance of the human capacity to love without boundaries or boarders that is the core message of this movie.

Indeed, the movie’s most impressive feat is that audiences travels with Bree and her son, and through our travels with them we see them both as people, not as gendered or sexualized categories whose capacities and identities are defined and limited by our social and cultural perceptions about gender and sexuality. Finally, as audience members we have the opportunity to be liberated along with the films characters from our associations about the stereotypes that negatively define gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered people.

“Transamerica” was nominated in 2006 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role by Felicity Huffman. Additional awards include the Golden Kinnaree Award for best actress (Felicity Huffman) in the Bangkok International Film Festival, the Reader Jury of the "Siegessäule" award in the Berlin International Film Festival, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards for best actress and best song sung by Dolly Parton.

Marcia Mikulak

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

Eriverto Vargas

Student

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