Last Night’s Tropfest Winner Was Homophobic, Transphobic, Offensive, And Not Very Good
A dude is tricked into having sex with another dude. Humiliation and laughs ensue.
If you’ve been on Twitter, turned on the radio or just stuck your head out of the window this morning, you probably get the sense that something happened at Tropfest last night, and that something was not very good.
People are very, very angry at the short film festival for glorifying homophobia, transphobia, rape, and all-around ickiness.
The cause is filmmaker Matt Hardie’s Bamboozled, which took out competition’s top honours, winning its director a brand new car, $10,000 in cash, camera gear and a networking trip to L.A.
Just how bad is Hardie’s ‘sex change comedy’? It’s pretty bloody grim.
The film is rife with continuity errors – unless the main character has magical iPod headphones that move around of their own accord – and has the production values of a hastily-assembled College Humour sketch. And that’s before you even get to the thrust of the piece.
The premise of the film is fairly simple. A scruffy hipster meets an old girlfriend at a bus stop, except his old girlfriend is now a large-ish bearded man. He’s sceptical, but they go on a date, get very drunk and tumble into bed together. The next morning, it’s revealed that the whole thing has been an elaborate hidden-camera prank, with gay sex as the punch line.
It’s as if ‘#nohomo’ came to life and got itself a digital camera.
Hardie, who also won Best Male Actor for the film, has been doing the media rounds this morning. He insists that his movie’s deep homophobia masks a deeper critique of homophobia — or something like that.
“The idea straight away struck me as funny,” he said through some long pauses on ABC 24. “I was nervous a little bit, I didn’t want to offend anybody. The joke for me is more about how the media treats it, how this particular game show treats this situation.”
In summary: “Take a chill pill and stop overreacting, guys.”
Twitter isn’t having a bar of it; responses range from bemusement to downright disgust. Since last night, users have weighed in on the film, criticising everything from its casual homophobia to its glib treatment of transgender people.
Then of course, there’s the old gay panic chestnut, which holds that gay men are sexual predators, keen to lure any and all straight men into bed, even if they need to use deception and copious amounts of alcohol to do it.
Bamboozled was one of several Tropfest films to use queer people as a punchline. Ben Davies’ Truth Is … was a mockumentary about gay bikies, made by someone who has clearly never seen a mockumentary. The running joke in that one was the absurd notion that gay guys can sometimes do masculine shit. Spencer & Lloyd Harvey’s Sorry Baby, a Bound-like noir piece about lesbians with guns, was a little better, although it featured some of the most heightened ‘Aussie’ performances of the night.
Last night was a disappointing one all-round for the festival. Hosts Marc Fennell, Yumi Stynes and Adam Spencer competed to see who could be the most loud and grating (the real losers: the audience), and Stynes scored bonus points for her flippant response to the lack of women represented at the festival: “A lot of Twitter chat has been about the lack of female filmmakers here tonight. There’s a couple on there, and listen, if you’re going to complain, then why not go out and make a film yourself, LADIES?”
And what of Bamboozled and Matt Hardie’s Tropfest win? Were the judges actively trying to court controversy? Did they genuinely not realise that the film’s thuddingly homophobic and transphobic humour might strike a sour note with a lot of viewers?
To Matt Hardie personally, I would say that even if your intentions were good, your output was not. I’m glad you see queer people as a funny theme to be tackled, but we’re fine without a film like Bamboozled, thanks.
Alasdair Duncan is an author, freelance writer and video game-lover who has had work published in Crikey, The Drum, The Brag, Beat, Rip It Up, The Music Network, Rave Magazine, AXN Cult and Star Observer.
Feature image by Enzo Amato ©2013