Tuesday, April 14, 2009

HERMAPHRODITES: Gender-benders are TV's new Titillation

If sex sells, then gender bending is flying off the shelves. TransGeneration, Nip/Tuck and America's Next Top Model are all enjoying some success, and A&E recently greenlighted a series detailing Alexis Arquette's process toward gender-reassignment surgery.

"We're absolutely seeing more transgender people on television," says Allison McCracken, an associate professor for American studies at DePaul University, who specializes in media and gender studies. "It's on talk shows, informational programs, drama series, but it's still primarily about showing someone who's deviant, someone who's shocking, provocative, pitiable." Transgender characters are often victims on crime and hospital shows, she says.

"In the way that coming out as gay used to be the big shock, now someone reveals that they're trans," McCracken says. "Programs depend on a titillation factor." Last season on Nip/Tuck, the jolting surprise was that vile temptress Ava was born a man. This season, her ex-boyfriend Matt is trying to deal, pretty unsuccessfully, with the fallout: He's worried he's gay, then he's worried he'll only like post-op transsexuals, then he beats the shit out of a preop transexual, then she and her band of other scrappy preop transsexuals beat the shit out of him. It's quite the transdrama.



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