Best of 2015: Transfixing, Transgressive, Transparent

By Lyndsey Bourne

Courtesy of Amazon

Courtesy of Amazon

Since its release, Transparent has become the most widely accepted radical show on mainstream television. Jill Soloway’s groundbreaking television series buries the binary, successfully arguing that gender is a construct and sexuality is fluid. Much has been said about this transgressive show, and even more about Soloway, the seditious mind behind a series that so cleverly explores intersectionality in our patriarchal society.

Like many, I devoured the second season feeling heartbroken and transfixed. Never before have I experienced a show that so acutely conveys the vulnerabilities and confusion of being a person in 2015. The second season focuses greatly on Ali, the Pfefferman's youngest daughter (and portrayed by Gaby Hoffman), examining her adventurous and brave confusion over her families' past, her gender, and the correlation between the two. Ali is constantly questioning her femininity, and what it is to be feminine - something which, to my knowledge, has yet to be represented on television though the confusion (even the word itself) characterizes such a huge part of the experience (at least my experience) of being a woman.

Femininity is fucking confusing and that’s something we’re still not talking about enough. Hollywood and the media’s representation of women usually falls into two categories (not surprisingly stemming from the bible): Madonna/whore, or wife/mistress, virgin/slut… This reductive division is a result of the male gaze, and the all too often, male camera, reaffirming the idea that women are there to be watched. In film and television, on and off screen, women are not the ones watching.

In 2014, women only accounted for 27% of directing, writing, producing and editing positions in television according to The Center for the Study Of Women in Television and Film. I know, I know, we’ve had this conversation, I’m preaching to the choir here but our perspective is simply under-represented.

In her book, Tiny Women in Shiny Pants, Soloway explains it like this: in basic sentence structure, there is a subject and an object. The subject is doing, while the object is receiving. We need to change the subjectivity of on screen narratives by positioning the camera “into the hands of people who would normally be the object of the story instead of the subject.” Of course, this doesn’t apply exclusively to women. Hollywood – the whole world really, needs to transition to a less binary way of viewing society.

Sad, silly, messy, charming, heartbreaking – all words that can be used to describe what I believe is the most important television show on air. If nothing else, Transparent succeeds by encouraging viewers to – like the Pfefferman Family – live more authentically, more thoughtfully, and question a worldview that has been so specifically dominated by heteronormative opinions and experiences.