Earlier this month, the trailer for Zoolander 2 was sprawled across the internet as fans of the original Zoolander film revelled in excitement at the thought of getting to see Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson reprise the roles of clueless supermodels Derek Zoolander and Hansel. The trailer goes on to reveal the return of the original antagonist Mugatu, played by Will Ferrell, and it all breaks down into a bit of a spy flick.
Like we haven’t seen that before.
Recently however, the trailer has picked up quite a bit of stick from Trans Rights Activists, who launched an online petition to boycott the film for its “offensive representation of non-binary individuals”. In the trailer we see All, an androgynous model portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch. The character is asked about their gender with Hansel asking whether All has a ‘hotdog or a bun?’
Is this really that controversial?
The petition started by Sarah Rose has gained quite a following, with 13,000 people already signing the petition. This all seems a bit much. The petition description states:
Cumberbatch’s character is clearly portrayed as an over-the-top, cartoonish mockery of androgyny/trans/non-binary individuals.
Given that All is barely in the trailer, and that it’s a comedy film that pretty much mocks everything and anything, to boycott it seems a bit rash. The same argument could be made for any element of the film’s comedy: why are Zoolander and Hansel, both heterosexual males, such dim-witted characters full of vanity? I’d bet it’s nothing to do with hoping to offend anyone, and more to do with making us all laugh.
The petition does make a fair point to ask why a transgender model or actor wasn’t approached like Andreja Pejic, but then part of the humour comes from the casting of Cumberbatch – having a transgendered person play the role takes away the fiction and exaggeration of it all The petition goes on to say:
“By hiring a cis actor to play a non-binary individual in a clearly negative way, the film endorses harmful and dangerous perceptions of the queer community at large.”
It doesn’t. If the public perceive these characters seriously, then that’s the public’s fault for having negative preconceptions. Zoolander 2 is a comedy, and for people to take a comedy film seriously means they’re missing the point.
At the end of the petition’s description, it states:
“Tell Paramount Pictures, Ben Stiller, and Benedict Cumberbatch that mocking transgender/androgyny/gender fluid individuals is not okay – sign this petition to pledge to boycott the film!”
Benedict Cumberbatch is outspoken on his thoughts of gay rights. The actor openly said he’d defend gay rights ‘to the death’ when being interviewed about the hit film ‘The Imitation Game’, where he played Alan Turing (a gay code breaker that helped England to win the war). It’s quite clear that he didn’t take this role to insult or offend anybody intentionally.
I think it’s a bit over the top to boycott Zoolander 2 due to the perception of a character in a trailer. For all we know, All may not even be gender-fluid, as All never actually answers the question clearly. All just states that ‘All is All’. And the only genuine thing we do know is that the film looks pretty damn funny, so let’s not get strung out on gender issues. It sounds like we could all do with a good laugh…
Zoolander 2 is expected to be out in February 2016.