‘Cartoonish’ trans character leads to call for Zoolander 2 boycott

21 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Cartoonish’ trans character leads to call for Zoolander 2 boycott.

In the trailer, Ben Stiller questions, “Are you like, a male model or a female model?” Owen Wilson’s character then asks the model, “Do you have a hot dog or a bun?” “Cumberbatch’s character is clearly portrayed as an over-the-top, cartoonish mockery of androgyne/trans/non-binary individuals,” writes Rose. “This is the modern equivalent of using blackface to represent a minority.” Rose continues: “Like any rational person, I think there’s a place for discourse and humor in society, but the last thing the transgender community needs at this moment is another harmful, cartoonish portrayal of our lives.” When actors Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson made a surprise return to the catwalk at Paris fashion week in March, movie fans instantly knew the 2001 hit comedy “Zoolander” was getting a sequel.

Paramount pictures have now released the trailer, offering a first look at the ongoing adventures of the hapless male models Derek (Stiller) and Hansel (Wilson). A pair of major houses (Dior and Lanvin) are without design heads, Chanel is about to begin the next pre-fall season – which will rumble on until late January – while world events have hit at the very heart of the industry. The original, which was a spin-off of a VH-1 skit by Stiller, told the story of Derek, who teams up with his arch-nemesis Hansel to thwart a plan by the evil fashion mogul Mugatu (Will Ferrell) using only their skills at modelling. Stiller once again writes and directs the sequel which sees the models face off against Mugatu a second time and features appearances by big celebrity names such as Penelope Cruz, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kristen Wiig, Justin Bieber, Kanye West and Lewis Hamilton. Also back are the models’ signature poses, with “Le Tigre”, “Magnum” and “Blue Steel” all featuring in the trailer.”Zoolander 2″ goes on release globally from mid-February.

The rest of the film takes equally slapstick swipes at the fashion industry: the strange outfits, pyrotechnic shows and odd pouts. “Deliberately dumb” was the general critical response, although the film was a box-office hit (hence the sequel). Kristen Wiig, for instance, plays a surgically enhanced fashion maven-type and sports a suit that, for fashion followers, directly references Alexander McQueen’s autumn/winter 2009 collection. However, one can’t help but feel that, just because you don’t understand something, it shouldn’t be a reason to denigrate its worth. (FYI, the fashion industry’s global worth was estimated at US$1.7 trillion in 2012; it employs about 75 million people). In that context, the striking thing about Zoo-lander 2 is the apparent desperation of fashion and fashion designers to be associated with it, and hence prove they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Which is strange, as they’ve been burned before: Robert Altman’s 1994 film Pret-a-Porter, for instance, featured a veritable wardrobe of Parisian designer names – Dior, Lacroix, Gaultier – as the background players to his chaotic farce. Altman even inveigled his celebrity cast into the audience of genuine catwalk shows, positioned front-row like the “editors” they played, while his fictional fashion designers presented real collections, ones designed by Sonia Rykiel and Vivienne Westwood. For example, the “Derelicte” clothing line of the first Zoolander – a deconstructed range inspired by the homeless, according to its designer, played by a wigged-up Will Ferrell – was itself influenced by a very real Galliano haute couture show for Dior. But then, deconstruction seems a special target for fashion-film funny men: anyone paying a lot of money for a dress with a torn hem must be stupid, right?

That’s why The September Issue, a 2009 documentary charting the production of an edition of American Vogue, was a critical hit but only a modest box-office success. On the other hand, the designer Isaac Mizrahi spun the success of a 1995 documentary following the creation of his previous winter collection into a talk show, and even his own one-man show off Broadway.

With the advent of the internet, previously niche fashion figures have become major stars in their own right; fashion shows are viewed by millions online, not just a few hundred attendees, or a few thousand who buy fashion magazines. Anna Wintour travels with a bodyguard who protects her, sure; but he also sweeps away the gawpers who cluster round her since her fame went stratospheric.

And at the recent Frieze art fair in London, when I saw the former Dior designer Raf Simons – himself the “star” of a documentary on the house – he’d been stopped for pictures dozens of times, as a result of that (really very good) film.

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