The upcoming movie “3 Generations” has yet to hit theaters, but it’s already capturing the attention of the public. With a cast led by powerhouse actresses Susan Sarandon, Naomi Watts, and Elle Fanning, it’s no surprise that the casting choices are making headlines.
However, the response to the cast has been almost entirely negative. Back in 2014, when the movie began filming, people were upset about Elle Fanning playing the part of Ray, a transgender male. The general reaction seemed to be that the part should have been played by a transgender actor who would not only have a deeper understanding of the character, but would also be able to give the transgender community more visibility in the entertainment industry.
Director Gabby Dellal told reporters that she originally intended to find a transgender boy to take on the part, but she ultimately went with Fanning because of her experience in the entertainment industry. However, this unites the fact that even if a transgender male didn’t have Fanning’s acting experience, he would have a deep personal connection with the story that surely would have come across on camera.
Dellal’s comments reflect a cycle of underrepresentation: transgender actors don’t have any acting experience so no one will give them acting experience.
One transgender actor who recently entered the spotlight is Ian Alexander from Netflix’s “The OA.” Alexander responded to the controversy surrounding “3 Generations” by tweeting that over 400 transgender actors auditioned for his role on the Netflix show. His brief response seems to convey that Dellal couldn’t have searched too hard before turning to Fanning.
Freshman psychology major Julianna Walchuck told Valley, “I absolutely understand the backlash from critics because to highlight the story of a transgender person, only a true transgender person can fully understand and feel that difficult experience. A movie about a transgender person is a step in the right direction, so the film deserves credit for that, but a transgender person would be better suited to express the story on screen.”
Another step in the right direction is the preparation Fanning says she took before filming. She said that she spoke to many transgender teens about their experiences and stories. But, sitting and talking with someone still doesn’t make you an authority on an entire community with complex and deeply personal identities.