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Apr 20 2013

Arrested development of good taste

(Warning for casual transmisogyny.)

I’ve watched Arrested Development a couple times. It’s not really my cup of tea, but Heather enjoys it, and I can certainly see why people might like it. Now that it’s returning on Netflix for another season, I might have given it another chance. And then someone who runs their Facebook page had the great idea of posting this:

(Text: "Who's your favorite granny tranny?")

(Text: “Who’s your favorite granny tranny?”)

For those not in the know, when cis people use the word “tranny”, they’re typically not referring to us in a kind or affectionate way. It’s vastly more likely to be used as a cheap insult, a threat, a porn keyword, or as seen in this case, a joke unto itself.

And that’s literally the entire joke here: Trannies! Ha ha, isn’t that funny?

Well, honestly… it’s kind of not funny at all. It’s the sort of lazy humor that every comedy, given enough time, will arrive at eventually – like a Godwin’s Law of transphobia. These low-effort attempts at comedy are made under the assumption that the mere idea of men in dresses, or trans people, is inherently laughable. Treating both as though they were the same is just the icing on the cake.

This can make it difficult to enjoy otherwise entertaining media, because you can run into it anywhere. You’re just looking up a Facebook page for a TV show, and… oh. There it is, the all-too-frequent reminder that This is not for you. It’s meant for other people, so that they can laugh at you. It tells us that the fact of our humanity wasn’t actually taken into account at any point between someone having an idea, someone cobbling it together, someone approving it, and someone clicking “post”. Just being able to go about our lives would be too much to ask – we have to be someone’s punchline.

That’s me they’re talking about.

You don’t have to be trans to have a problem with this. Knowing trans people is enough. Having an understanding of trans people as real human beings should be enough. Hell, all you need is a good sense of humor that doesn’t force you to lean on what’s become the most pervasive and played-out “joke” in comedy.

You can do better than this.

86 comments

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  1. 1
    J

    But they are funny and so are you!

  2. 2
    P

    It’s a parody of Mrs Doubtfire you moron.

    1. 2.1
      The Polyamorous Pagan

      No way bro! That makes it all better, because Robin Williams pretending to be a woman as a way to get around legal restrictions is in no way a transphobic premise all by itself. Welp, I guess this is double plus good afterall. Us silly tr*nnies and our over reactions to being a free space on the oppression bingo card of television.

      1. Shiresh

        Course it’s not a transphobic premise. It’s a classic disguised-as-a-servant trope, and they regularly include cross-dressing and cis-dressing disguises and no transphobia at all.

    2. 2.2
      transponderer

      And that makes a difference how?

    3. 2.3
      Eristae

      . . . and? Or are parodies somehow exempt from bigotry?

    4. 2.4
      Lynne L

      Hey P,

      Knock it off, troll.

    5. 2.5
      jamessweet

      I’ve been rewatching Arrested Development in preparation for it returning to Netflix, and coincidentally I just got to the part with Miss Featherbottom (if I recall the name correctly) last night. So it’s rather fresh in my mind.

      The troll is half right, I think, in that I think one could argue that that particular plot arc was not really all that transphobic, because the joke in that case wasn’t so much, “Haha, Tobias is dressed as a woman!”, but rather, “Haha, Tobias is so deluded into thinking he’s some sort of brilliant actor that he thinks he can pull off the plot of Mrs. Doubtfire in real life.” (One could still argue that it’s never okay to have a cis character cross-dressing for laughs, but the plot arc is not explicitly transphobic… FWIW)

      Nevertheless, there’s no denying the poster in question is explicitly transphobic, and that’s disappointing to say the least. :/

      1. jamessweet

        Aaaaaaand reading some later comments, I got reminded of the episode where Maeby tried to convince Steve Holt that Lindsay was trans. Okay, yeah that was explicitly transphobic, no doubt about it.

        cis privilege FTW: I’m trying to be more sensitive to trans issues, and yet I totally forgot about an episode of AD that I watched less than a week ago that was blatantly transphobic. Not really anything I can say about that…

  3. 3
    Natasha

    Oh how fun too fuckwads first thing. I’ve gotten very intolerant towards these cheap shots at our expense. I’ve given up Pysch because of their vile and dangerous trans misogyny in the marriage episode. It does seem true that if you watch a sit com long enough they will do a trans ‘joke’.

    1. 3.1
      SKB

      Hey, I’m a huge fan of Psych. Can you elaborate a little on what episode you’re talking about? I must have missed that one. Although I almost don’t want to know because I *do* love Psych so much… I don’t want to ruin that D:

    2. 3.2
      A-nonny-mouse

      I was really, really disappointed in Psych with that one. I’m a long-time fan of the show and always thought its humour was well-written so to see it stoop to such lazy and vile stereotyping and prejudice was unsettling to say the least.

    3. 3.3
      Rabidtreeweasel

      Omg yes! Thank you. I noticed that too. It took me out pf the episode and made it entirely unenjoyable for me. I kept pausing to explain to my girlfriend, who already gets it, why it was problematic. I stopped watching altogether what was once my favorite show. It already had some problems (Oh, she’s SHRILL and ASSERTIVE so she’s unattractive. Hilarious!) Sadly this was the last straw.

    4. 3.4
      edmundog

      Yeah, that was a shitty joke, and the “sassy black woman” stock character didn’t help. And the way they’re handling the whole Shawn/Juliet thing right now is just awful.

  4. 4
    Amy Dentata

    This being Arrested Development, I can’t say I’m surprised. That doesn’t make it ok nor will it stop me from speaking out about it. This kind of “humor” normalizes harassment and discrimination against trans people, especially trans women.

  5. 5
    Animaine Sparkster

    How the fuck is anything with “tranny” in it still ok? Oh right I forgot, Trans* people aren’t recognized as people yet. -___-

  6. 6
    Kimsels

    And this is why I haven’t watched TV in years.

  7. 7
    Thomas M.

    Remind yourself of this when you’re laughing at the simplistic humor directed at other types of folks on AD. You are not untouchable.

    1. 7.1
      Natasha

      There is a reason I have never watched AD and never will

  8. 8
    StarPuncher

    http://badtransjokes.tumblr.com/post/48443119764/the-timing-on-that-ad-was-really-weird-ive

    Sadly, that’s not the first time Arrested Development has pulled this crap. :/

  9. 9
    Thomas M.

    Addendum: But I agree, an *advert* shouldn’t have this brand of junkie in it. An advert is not the show. It is pretty tasteless … But I expect AD to be that way, not their advertising. Different.

    1. 9.1
      Natasha

      How? It’s still trans misogyny and it still hurts girls like us. This is not acceptable under any circumstances, fuck of and die AD.

  10. 10
    Jake

    What does the (admittedly offensive) wording in an ad campaign have to do with the content of the show itself? It’s not like it was written by anyone creatively involved with Arrested Development. It’s an ad. If you don’t like it, then yeah, complain. Complain in enough numbers and I’m sure they’ll take it down. It’s actually beyond me how anyone that it was acceptable to use the word “tranny” in the first place.

    But I don’t see why it should get in the way of you watching. Not if you “really* wanted to like the show”.

    1. 10.1
      Ace of Sevens

      I agree. The show certainly made jokes on the borders of taste, like the two referenced above where George is dressed in Lucille’s maternity clothes rather than doing laundry and Tobias disguises himself as Mrs. Featherbottom, an idea he got from Mrs. Doubtfire. He fools no one, but they exploit the situation to get him to do housework and he makes lots of accidental double-entendres with his attempts to speak in British English.

      There was also the plot where Maebe thought the boy she had a crush on her mom, Lindsay, so she told him Lindsay was trans, which only made him more interested.

      That ad is certainly a place the show didn’t go, though.

      1. Natasha

        From what you described it seems it’s a place the show went often. Still if you want to defend trans misogyny that’s your prerogative.

      2. StarPuncher

        Except in that episode, Maeby called her mom a “tranny”. And bought her a shirt for her with the word “shémale” on it.

        So, no, the show totally went into the same place that ad does.

        1. Ace of Sevens

          You do have a point there. While the show mined a lot of comedy out of Lucille Bluth’s racism and Barry Zuckercorn’s homophobia, Lucille never used any real slurs, just stereotypes and Barry never used anything worse than “homo.” There is a double-standard going on.

      3. Jake

        If someone has a problem with the ad then I think that’s entirely justifiable, but if it’s with the show itself, and specifically the instances you mention, then I think they need to take a step back and consider that the subject of a joke is not always the same as the target.

        One of the reasons why the show is so well loved is that’s it’s character-driven comedy and in the situations you mention above the humour isn’t derived from poking fun at minorities, it’s not “ha – trans people!” it’s about exploiting well-drawn characters’ weaknesses.

        The Mrs Featherbottom scenes kill because of who Tobias is. He’s a failed actor, completely oblivious to how much he sucks at his chosen profession, so the fact that he actually wants to have his real identity discovered, and that the family – aware that it is him from the start but only too happy to have him clean up after them – refuse to acknowledge totally plays to his hubris. He’s also a closet homosexual, and as you mention above, the writers manage to squeeze a lot more of his trademark double entendres/Freudian slips from the situation. But most importantly, he’s just a ridiculous man. The sort of man who thinks that a harebrained scheme plucked from a dumb Robin Williams movie might actually help him win his family back. The entire situation is risible, and that’s why we laugh. The fact that it happens to centre around a man in a dress does not mean that it is trans people or their way of life that is being mocked.

        And it’s the same thing with the Lindsey situation. Those scenes tap into how shallow and vain she is. The fact that she’ll obliviously wear a t-shirt that says SHEMALE on it because she thinks it’s a foreign designer. And as you point out, what’s most interesting about the situation is how Steve Holt – the school jock – is more interested in her after thinking she’s trans. The writers don’t employ any stock comedy vomiting or displays of disgust that were at one time at least a staple of comedies that dealt with straight men and trans women. It’s the opposite of lazy writing.

        Maeby’s use of the word “tranny” does rankle a bit, and I doubt it would’ve made it to the show in 2012. But again it’s character. George Michael, for instance, would never use that word. He’s far too sensitive to the feelings of others. But it’s Maeby. She’s blunt, completely insensitive to other people’s feelings, or to the rules of polite society. And it’s worth noting that it’s far less socially acceptable to use that word now than it was in 2003.

        I can’t claim to know what it feels like to be a transgender person watching. But I would hope at the very least that someone actually does watch it before forming an opinion on it. Looking at five subtitled screengrabs, taken entirely out of context, is hardly a suitable means of judging one of the best written TV comedies of recent years, if not ever.

        1. Natasha

          Nice bit of rationalization and tone policing there. As for the episodes you describe so what? Charterer driven trans misogyny is still trans ,misogyny. They still re-enforce damaging stereotypes about girls like us. They still make us the joke. they are still a symptom of lazy writing go for the easy joke at our expense.

          1. Jake

            I guess my point is that it’s not character-driven trans-misogyny, it’s character driven comedy NOT trans-misogyny.

            And I’m not sure about rationalising or tone policing. I’m making a defence of a show that I love and which you, if your previous comment is anything to go by, haven’t seen. Or at least not the episodes in question. And the only reason I did so was because of something that Lauren tweeted earlier where she said that she really* wanted to like it. I want her to like it too. Or at the very least to give it a chance. To not be to be put off by an idiotic and offensive Netflix ad, or jokes that are taken out of context.

            I’m not a child. I don’t need everyone to love the shows that I love. But AD has been a source of joy for me, and I don’t like the idea of someone cutting herself off from it because of what I believe to be a misperception.

            Even if I’m wrong though, isn’t it better to see for yourself? Because what would be rational is to actually watch something before forming an opinion of it. Maybe then you could explain to me why it’s trans-misigynistic.

          2. Natasha

            OK you’re on. I’ll watch those episodes and then come back with a report.

          3. Natasha

            And I’m back and yes there was trans misogyny in the ‘Shemale’ sequence. Pretty vile trans misogyny at that. Also a general homophobia which I suppose should not be unexpected. But mostly the episodes I saw, which included the pilot, were dead boring. What a total waste of my time. I need to watch something with far more humor in it like old Dragnet episodes.

        2. StarPuncher

          Haha, wow. The number of hoops cis people will jump through to try to defend blatant transphobia is always amazing.

          1. Jake

            Just so we’re clear, even if those episodes were guilty of transphobia or trans-misogyny, I would still attempt to make a defence for the show itself. And why not? I’m personally offended by the crows in Dumbo but they don’t detract from the other parts of the movie that I love.

            But I think it’s clear from my previous posts that I’m not defending transphobia (nor would I). That what I’m saying is that I don’t believe it is transphobia. And I’m not hearing a lot to counter that. Which I presume is because most of the people critiquing the show haven’t actually seen the show that they’re critiquing. Which, how ridiculous is that?

            It’s like those ruffled-feathers Christians who protested Monty Python’s Life of Brian before actually watching the thing. They had a good idea of what it was about and that was enough for them. I just find that attitude ludicrous. But you’ve obviously made up your minds. So whatevs.

          2. StarPuncher

            Haha. Except for the fact that I have seen the show. Every episode. I’m even rewatching it to prepare for season 4! Hell, I watched Sad Sack today! But I’m going to break it down for you, since you and every other cis guy in the world don’t seem to understand the following things:

            I’m a human.

            I have a brain.

            One capable of understanding jokes.

            I get the context

            I get the jokes!

            Most of the jokes are funny!

            Some are problematic.

            Because the show is problematic, it doesn’t mean it isn’t funny

            And because the show is funny, it doesn’t mean it isn’t problematic.

            The show has writers (The guys who choose what the characters say and don’t say)

            The actual characters don’t exist and cannot make decisions.

            They chose to have one of the characters say “tranny”

            This is a word used to dehumanize trans people.

            Most trans people don’t like this word.

            You aren’t trans

            You don’t find the word offensive

            It has no effect on you.

            you don’t get to decide what’s offensive to trans people

            You opinion on the subject doesn’t matter

            not even a little bit

          3. Jake

            I’m glad you watch AD. And that you like it. And that you’re able to be offended by some of the jokes without denouncing the show as a whole. I’m curious as to why you didn’t make the statement earlier about how just because the show is problematic doesn’t mean it isn’t funny, and vice versa. But whatever. I guess save it for the cis guy, who like every other cis guy in the world, doesn’t understand that you’re human or that you have a brain or that you’re capable of understanding jokes.

            I said the use of the word “tranny” rankles. That means it irritates me. Which as a cis guy, who can’t be offended by the word, and has no right to decide whether or not trans people should be offended by it, is my way of saying that I don’t like it.

            But the point isn’t whether or not the word “tranny” is transphobic. (I think it very obviously is, which is why I’ve referred to the “granny tranny” ad as offensive and idiotic, and expressed my shock at how anyone could think it was appropriate to use it in an ad campaign.) The point is whether or not a character in Arrested Development saying the word “tranny” is transphobic. Does it mean that the show, and the show’s writers are transphobic? I don’t believe it does.

            To put it in context, I’m watching the Sopranos right now and Tony has just referred to a black guy as an eggplant. So I guess that makes it a racist show, right? Because Tony Soprano didn’t say that word. He doesn’t actually exist, and he can’t make decisions. The writers took a word that dehumanises black people and they put it in his mouth. For what other purpose would they do that but to dehumanise black people?

            Here’s an idea: is it possible that writers choose the words that they put in characters’ mouths, even the bad ones – especially the bad ones – to bring those characters to life. To make them seem more authentic, distinct from the other characters on the show, fully rounded, as close to a real human being with all their flaws and their prejudices and their idiosyncrasies, as possible. I think it’s a fair assumption.

            I made the point earlier that even though the word offends, it is entirely in keeping with Maeby Fünke’s character to say it. I don’t see how anyone who watches the show and is familiar with her character can dispute that.

            Now, could the writers have done without using that word? Yes, I believe so. And a decade later, with attitudes continually evolving, I would be surprised to hear it in the fourth series.

            But is the word, when spoken in the context of that episode, being used to attack or mock transgender people or their way of life – to make them the butt of the joke? I don’t believe so. It’s a sophisticated show and while there are moments of broad comedy it seems unlikely that the writers were trying to mine the word “tranny” for a laugh. It would be an uncharacteristically flat one if they were. Indeed, if anything is funny at all about that sentence, it’s only how gauche Maeby sounds saying it. If she had used the word “transgendered” instead then the conversation between her and George Michael would have still served the same purpose. It may just have felt slightly out of character for her to be aware enough to use the correct terminology.

            Now might the inclusion of the word “tranny” offend trans people anyway, regardless of its intent? Yes. Sadly, this is the part where your opinion doesn’t matter. Not one little bit. Because nobody has the right not to be offended. You vote with your remote. If you watch Arrested Development and you see that episode and you hear that word and you can’t get past it then that’s your call. But don’t denigrate something that you haven’t seen.

            And I know that doesn’t apply to you. You can disagree with everything I’ve said but at least you’ve watched the show you’re finding fault with. My issue was with the people who hadn’t.

          4. StarPuncher

            Trans people are VERY CLEARLY the butt of the joke. Maeby tricks her mother into wearing a shirt that says “shémale”. Which Lindsay indicates she will wear in public—mistakenly believing it be a designer brand called “she-ma-lay”. This is super funny to the writers and most of the audience, because they know that being seen as trans in public is something that’s apparently worthy of contempt. The situation with Steve Holt is similar. Anything else is just bullshit.

            The writers would have done better by me, by leaving out the whole sub-plot. It wasn’t really necessary, and didn’t really add anything to the show, other than a couple of cheap jokes. Really if you find yourself in a situation wherein the characters you’re writing are /forced/ to use slurs—of any kind—I’d highly suggest going back to the drafting board. I mean, I’m sure there are situations wherein it might be likely and in-character for Maeby to unironically go on for 5 minutes about how it’s unfair for there not to be a white history month, or for George Sr. to spend a good part of an episode calling Tobias the F word, but I don’t particularly want to see that. And it would very obviously be telling of the points of views of the writers and creators of the show if they decided to include it.

            And if you believe that there’s any hesitance on the part of comedy writers to throw the T word around, you must not watch much TV. Even in the 2010s, it and just transphobic humor in general is extremely prevalent. I can barely watch or even walk by a TV—especially if a comedy show/stand up act is on—without hearing it. That sounds like an exaggeration, but I assure you that’s literally happened to me within the last week.

          5. Jake

            Isn’t Lindsey the butt of that joke though? Comedy comes from truth. The truth of the situation is that Lindsay, or practically any women as vain and as shallow as she is, would hate to be thought of as trans. Now that might suck, but it’s true. The Bluths aren’t nice people, and we’ve no reason to expect an enlightened opinion from her. I think that’s where the comedy comes from.

            She’s walking around with the t-shirt on and she doesn’t know what it means and if she did know what it meant then she would be mortified. I don’t think we’re laughing at her because trans people are worthy of contempt. I think we’re laughing at her because she looks like a fool, and because we understand what it will mean to her when she finds out. For me, being trans is the subject of that joke, but Lindsey and her hubris are its target.

            But yeah, it’s a grey area. I dunno how a trans person feels when they’re watching it and you’re right, they probably could have done without including the whole sub-plot. It would have been safer.

            Honestly though, I’m not trying to tell trans people what they should think or feel. I just didn’t like the idea of them seeing that stupid ad or hearing about this stuff and deciding as in the original post that “this show isn’t for me”. So I tried to make a case for it. Because even if those scenes are transphobic I still think the show has a lot to offer them.

          6. Robert B.

            Because even if those scenes are transphobic I still think the show has a lot to offer them.

            Jake, that’s a bit like telling folks they should try a shit sandwich because it’s made with delicious artisan bread.

            When something I otherwise like suddenly turns to bashing on who I am (which in my case would be gay jokes) I don’t go “oh well, the rest of it’s good.” I feel worse than I would encountering the same joke in something I didn’t care about. Sometimes I grit my teeth and struggle through, hoping it was a one-time thing, but usually I’m just setting myself up for another gut-punch disappointment. So if it were me (which it’s not in this case, I’m cis) I would not appreciate the argument that “the show has a lot to offer” in between the transphobia, especially if it came with attempts to deny or minimalize the transphobia.

            I’m a feminist anime fan, so I have some experience in liking problematic media. From that experience, I offer this advice: when someone points out that something you enjoy treats marginalized group X like crap – especially if they are part of group X – your only wise and moral response is to say “Yeah, that’s pretty awful, I don’t like that part either,” and then not say anything that starts with “but.” Anything else you are tempted to say is probably a halo error, not to mention presumptuous and rude.

          7. Jake

            The thing about a shit sandwich is, you get a mouthful of shit with every bite. I’m saying, why can’t you disregard one problematic episode of a show when there are 54 other episodes to consider? But I get your point. Again, this was in response to the original post and to any trans people who wanted to watch the show but feel like they can’t now, because somehow it’s not for them.

            And the reason I didn’t respond to the claim that elements within AD are transphobic or transmisogynistic with “you’re right – that’s awful” is because for the most part they were being made by people who hadn’t seen the episodes in question, and because as I’ve pointed out above I don’t believe those episodes necessarily are transphobic or transmisogynistic. Rude or presumptuous as that may be. As a cis man who has seen those episodes, that’s my opinion. I certainly don’t think it should count for any less than the opinion of a trans person who hasn’t seen those episodes. But then I don’t really think it should count for any less than the opinion of a trans person who has seen those episodes either.

            The idea that only gays are capable of recognising homophobia, or blacks of recognising racism, is risible. Why shouldn’t it be the same with transphobia? I can’t tell a trans person how they should feel, what they should or shouldn’t be offended by. But I am capable of dissecting a joke. Of ascertaining its purpose, its intended target. If I’m laughing at something I want to know what it is that I am laughing at. And if I thought that the point of Mrs Featherbottom was “ha – a man in a dress! trannies are hilarious!” then I wouldn’t laugh. I would find it off putting. But that’s not where the humour comes from in those scenes. As I’ve said above, everything that is funny about that entire subplot (save for sheer slapstick) stems from character.

            I’m not trying to defend transphobia. I just don’t think it is transphobia. And yeah, it probably does come off as rude or presumptuous for a cis guy to say that. And maybe it would’ve been wise to just agree with trans commentators that it is transphobia and that it’s awful. But it wouldn’t have been moral of me because I’d have been lying.

          8. Comrade Svilova

            Jake, why are you so invested in explaining to trans* people who are posting that they have seen AD and find some episodes to be transphobic that they are wrong? What do you or they gain by your insistence that your interpretation / experience of the show is the correct one? And why should someone (cis or trans) who dislikes transphobia seek out a show that has a record of jokes that play upon transphobic tropes / language / etc.? We all make decisions about how comfortable we are with encountering offensive content in media. You are clearly comfortable with watching AD and either dismissing or explaining away the transphobia. For others who experience the show’s treatment of gender boundary transgression as transphobic and offensive, it is not worth it to follow a show that can be cruel/hurtful/offensive. No matter how brilliantly character-based the transphobia is. It really sounds like you are cis-splaining.

          9. Jake

            I’m not trying to force my interpretation on anyone else. I would have welcomed more trans people posting to offer their own experience of AD, and why it is transphobic, because since this conversation started exactly one person has pointed out to me the elements that they have found to be transphobic and why. For the most part I’ve just been trying to defend earlier statements that I made, and why I thought I had a right to make.

            But I’ll stop now.

          10. Megan

            @Jake:

            But I’ll stop now.

            Please do.

          11. Sheesh

            Oh wow, I know this is over now, but this is just too rich:

            But then I don’t really think it should count for any less than the opinion of a trans person who has seen those episodes either.

            Here we have a dude spending tons of time saying informed opinions are better than uninformed opinions (and I don’t disagree) and then drops this turd where he says in effect “my uninformed opinion — with regards to watching something as a trans person — really shouldn’t count for any less than the opinion of a trans person”.

            Guess what, your opinion about oppression does count for less than the opinion of an oppressed person, because that person has a more informed opinion. Facepalm. Take all your arguments about “watching a show before juding”, and then just swap in “being trans before judging.”

      4. penn

        Total nitpicking, but they were Tracy’s (Michael’s never seen deceased wife) maternity clothes that George Sr. was wearing in the attic.

  11. 11
    Marian Gonzalez

    For those who may be confused as to why the transgender community is upset about this, the word in question is basically our “N-Word”.

    It’s people in our daily lives continuing to use language like this, that makes us feel like the world at large doesn’t care about us. Or rather, after we make a point of saying that language like this hurts us, makes us feel like the world at large actually hates us.

    To further draw on the “N-Word” metaphor, how do you think the African-American community would react seeing something advertised to the mainstream T.V. audience in a similar manner?

  12. 12
    Tom Strong

    Arrested Development is one of the greatest comedies of all time. Get off your politically correct high horses. That is all.

    1. 12.1
      Natasha

      Politically correct? No this stuff affects us directly in a very negative way. Why do you remove your privilege blinders and look at the world outside your little sandbox.

    2. 12.2
      A Hermit

      That ad is just awful.

      I love the show, think it’s clever, mostly intelligent and very funny. But since the first time I saw the show I’ve seen an acquaintance of mine change their physical gender, and I’ve been reading this blog, (and Natalie’s) trying to educate myself, and seeing the Lindsey “tranny” episode in reruns recently made me wince. Pushing boundaries can lead to great comedy, but there’s always the danger of crossing those boundaries and just being offensive.

      What irks me most is that I didn’t see the offense the first time.

      None of us like finding out we’ve been part of the problem…

    3. 12.3
      DS

      Yes but this isn’t good comedy, it is the equivalent of a poop of fart joke, expect its not shit they’re insulting, its human beings.

    4. 12.4
      swar

      So as long as someone else is laughing, nobody can take offense. I get it! Makes perfect sense.

  13. 13
    Doodad

    You’re one of my favorite people, Zinnia. I’m a big fan of the topics you write about.

  14. 14
    Sarah Turner

    Hey everybody, how about letting Mitchell Hurwitz, the creator of the show, know how you feel? I don’t have an email for him but he is on Twitter @MitchHurwitz. It doesn’t take any longer than saying it on any blog or internet forum, and if he gets enough pushback it may make a difference.

  15. 15
    ChrisCHJ

    This is just my interpretation of the ad but I think it’s referring to transvestitism instead of transgender. Having seen the show, the characters depicted are dressing in drag for a particular situation within the episode(s). I will agree that the wording wasn’t completely appropriate, don’t get me wrong. I have a friend who is transitioning FTM and he agreed that though the language is distasteful, he wasn’t personally offended by it. The fact that these aren’t transgender characters (which some of you might know if you watched the show) tells us that the ad isn’t intentionally being derogatory toward the transgender community. If I stopped watching every show that used derogatory stereotypes of gay people being gay myself, then I wouldn’t be watching Glee, Girls, Sex and the City, 30 Rock or Community which has a whole episode of effeminate, campy twinks in tight clothes (I didn’t find it particularly offensive because it was hilarious). But that’s just my opinion, I can’t speak for anyone else.

    1. 15.1
      Joel Layton

      The problem is that making fun of people for being crossdressers isn’t really cool in and of itself either? Let alone the fact that for many people (and perhaps endemic in the word ‘tranny’ itself) is the equivocation of transsexual people and crossdressing and an assortment of other things that are in fact not the same.

      Also, there are a lot of FTM people who are alright with the word ‘tranny’, and use it for themselves, which has problems because historically it has been used against MTF people like 99.9% of the time. Not exactly a great barometer.

  16. 16
    Comrade Svilova

    It’s clear that the jokes depend upon the assumption that there’s something ridiculous and contemptible about transgendered people, rather than pointing UP and mocking the characters’ transphobia. Characters behaving in away that reinforces the oppression of marginalized people is only funny if the medium positions the characters’ bigotry as the butt of the joke, which is not what AD does.

  17. 17
    AC

    “But I’m going to break it down for you, since you and every other cis guy in the world don’t seem to understand the following things”

    I absolutely hate that AD and Netflix used such an offensive word, but how does that give you the right to say that just because someone is cis they don’t have the ability empathize with others. You’re complaining about being being dehumanized by a joke, one that can easily be seen as distasteful, but you’re making an assumption about a large group of people you don’t know. That seems like you’re backtracking a little bit. Either way, I’m very sorry that the ad offended you all. Legitimately sorry. But I feel offended that you’ve condescendingly placed me in a group as if that makes your opinion valid. It just isn’t a productive means of getting your point across. Either way, I hope that this hasn’t deterred you from watching other comedy shows. I, personally, don’t watch a ton of television, because I’m a college student, and I’m too easily distracted. So, I don’t know about other shows, but I do think that it’s sad to completely disregard a show because something offended you.

    Everyone has a defining factor about them that is a sensitive subject. I mean, I’m a straight, white, female, and I come from a very conservative household. My family was not in any way happy that I’m in support of same sex marriage and other basic human rights. But by clumping me into a group of people who apparently use offensive words because we feel entitled to bring others down or whatever reason someone might give offends me. I guess what I’m saying is that everyone will find something that offends them, but to let that offense guide how you feel about a majority of the world seems a bit harsh. The world is more complicated than to group people into cis or not. Everyone has unique opinions that are based on their perception of reality. It’s kind of cool, actually.

    That isn’t to say that there aren’t people who truly feel that way about transgendered people, and I honestly have nothing nice to say to those people.

    I really do hate that y’all have been put in a situation where you feel like you’re being attacked. While I personally disagree with the claim that transgendered people are the butt of the joke, I can definitely see how someone might take it as such. Anyway, have a good day, y’all! As cheesy as it sounds, things will get better because people are finally being able to see that everyone is a person with the same rights. So, next time you laugh at a joke, remember that more than likely someone else finds it offensive.

    1. 17.1
      Setár, Elvenkitty

      I absolutely hate that AD and Netflix used such an offensive word, but how does that give you the right to say that just because someone is cis they don’t have the ability empathize with others.

      Accusing your opposition of making blatantly unreasonable statements like that implies that you think your opposition is incapable of being reasonable. Don’t do that.

      1. AC

        That’s the thing, though. You are not the statement that you make. The person who said that all cis people do not understand that transgendered people are human has the capability of being reasonable. However, the statement that they made was unreasonable. You cannot simply demand individual respect while also turning all cis people into a generalized other. There are a great deal of them who are allies to transgendered people. It’s easy to only see the bad that people are doing or saying or, in this case, promoting. Most people want the same thing: to live a full happy life. It’s an absolute crime that everyone isn’t afforded that.

        I really don’t have anything other to say. I wasn’t trying to say that the person who made that statement was unreasonable. I try my best not to argue with people who I feel cannot at least attempt to see my side of the argument. That’s what debates are for. I have no doubt that when Zinnia wrote this post it was to not only share her opinion, but to also inform those who might have overlooked the tasteless joke. And honestly, she, along with some of the commenters, has made her point very well!

        1. StarPuncher

          If you really want trans people to understand that there actually are allies out there who are awesome, perhaps coming into a discussion—one you know very little about—just to nitpick an OBVIOUSLY EXAGGERATED FOR EFFECT quote from one of them, respond to it out of context, berate them for it, and then whine about how hard it is for allies, rather than trying to understand where they are coming from, isn’t the best way to go about it.

          1. AC

            My entire point was to victimize allies. You’re so right.

          2. Sheesh

            And yet, consequences still matter more than intent… amiright? It would have been classier to just apologize.

  18. 18
    jaggington

    I understand that tranny has been co-opted as a derogatory term for a transgender person, but in this context I read it as meaning transvestite especially as Mrs Doubtfire is being referenced. Is this a cultural thing, as I’ve never watched Arrested Development?
    I’m obviously missing something – is transvestism viewed as inherently trans(gender)phobic?

    1. 18.1
      Comrade Svilova

      A joke that works by saying “transgressing gender boundaries and/or being seen as trans* is absurd/ridiculous/contemptible/embarassing/laughable/stupid etc.” is transphobic.

  19. 19
    jaggington

    I’d like to apologise for JAQing off. I had a somewhat muddled idea about the relationship between transvestism and transgender and transsexual people, well I still do to be honest. I’m trying to come to a better understanding. Not all people who cross-dress are transgender, and vice versa, so I didn’t directly associate the advert with transphobia.

    1. 19.1
      sleepingwytch(inactive)

      I do not, in the slightest, endorse transsexual separatism and the bigotry those people propose and endorse, and I am a transsexual woman myself. However, this article of theirs is very useful in clearing up the differences you are confused about (educational):

      http://gallae.com/cathy/essay12.html

      Just take the part where they say “transgenderists” with a grain of salt. All transsexuals are transgender, but the article is nonetheless useful to show the differences between the categories.

  20. 20
    deltamachina

    The Culture Industry – The Ideology of Death

    ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-961596

    .,,..,.,,.,.,.

  21. 21
    MatthewLaboratory

    When I read this whining little tirade I couldn’t help but think of all of the butthurt theists complaining about people hurting their “religious feelings”, the same thing all of you FTB people always make fun of and tell them to just grow a thicker skin and get over it.

    1. 21.1
      benco

      Because making fun of a privileged majority is totally the same thing as making fun of an oppressed minority.
      Yup

    2. 21.2
      Sassafras

      Or butthurt atheists complaining about creationism in schools? Just as long as we’re pretending all grievances are the same and context doesn’t matter.

  22. 22
    CerealBusiness

    You cut your dicks off and dress up like women, and your asking why people find this funny?

    They said “tranny” and now you’re acting as if you’re as oppressed as black people.

    Suck it up you fucking care bears. the worlds rougher than that.

    1. 22.1
      Zinnia Jones

      Actually, the penis is kept, but cut into pieces and inverted for placement inside the body, while the glans is used to create a clitoris. Another technique uses the scrotal skin to fashion a vaginal canal, while using penile tissue to form the labia and other external genitalia. Anyway, what I’m saying is that no one is “cutting their dicks off” – the dick is actually quite an important part of the process. The more you know!

      1. Comrade Svilova

        This is such an amazing reply to a contemptible troll comment!

      2. CerealBusiness

        Yeah, sorry. “cut your dicks off” seemed a little quicker to write.

        And you can cut your penis into a swan for all i care, the point is the same. You are all whiney carebears.

        1. Sassafras

          Says the person who turns nasty and defensive because someone criticized a fucking TV show.

        2. sleepingwytch(inactive)

          Statistics don’t seem to agree with anything coming out of your mouth: http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf

          Neither do the AMA and APA, which both endorse hormones and surgery as medically necessary:
          http://www.cristanwilliams.com/b/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/12-36-apa-position-statements-on-transgender-1.pdf

          http://www.cristanwilliams.com/b/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/AMA122.pdf

          also:
          http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/03/07/1072072/-Why-Sex-Change-Surgery-is-Medically-Necessary-Revisited

          Try to inhabit statistical reality first, then see if you hold to the same transphobia.

          Finally, no one is ‘pretending to be anything’, you’re just another asshole:

        3. sleepingwytch(inactive)

          http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/trans-people-forced-be-sterilized-across-europe300413

          Omg, major human rights abuse!? I thought we were all a bunch of wimps and now Europe has become completely delusional about major human rights abuses!! Someone should tell them we don’t exist and we’re not important and we just make up major human rights abuses, saying it over and over again until politicians believe there’s a problem where there isn’t.

          Wow, look at all those countries, I dunno, so many countries to be participating in a magical fairy land where major human rights abuses are delusionally held to happen but magically don’t even when statistics show they do.

          Gee, these mystical human rights abuses even occur right here in the United States in many states! Who would ever have thought that vicious assholes might be victimizing actual human beings?

          The only wimp I see here is just another asshole unwilling to face up to statistical reality and quit victimizing people whom he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about, in the slightest in fact.

          Grow the fuck up and embrace statistical reality, manchild.

    2. 22.2
      shockna

      They said “tranny” and now you’re acting as if you’re as oppressed as black people.

      You seem to imply that the ending statement isn’t true. Ever check the murder rate on trans people? As it turns out, trans people actually are an oppressed minority, and it’s stupid shit like the joke from the ad that help to perpetuate it.

      1. CerealBusiness

        “trans people actually are an oppressed minority,” LOLOLOL Don’t tell me there’s a whole continent of you guys(?)

        1. Sassafras

          You … think that only nationalities can be oppressed minorities? Wow. I would think you’re a troll except that what you’ve said is so profoundly stupid a troll wouldn’t even be able to take pride in it.

  23. 23
    surreptitious57

    I just clicked on here by chance and saw you are a tran which I did not know
    I see some here are showing zero respect since they feel that they have the
    right to say whatever they want // Which they so do but to deliberately harm
    or seek to harm the feelings of others is not on // As trans are human beings
    and should be treated as such // So having surgery does not alter that at all
    I used to be rather ignorant on the subject thinking that one must assume no
    other gender or sex but the one you were born with // Now no longer do and
    understand that this is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain // Correction
    please if I am wrong on that // But on to the subject of language // I just read
    a blog yesterday on offensive terms and all the different ones that trans find
    unacceptable and they all come from porn // So as a direct result of that and
    what I have read before I now no longer use those terms // Though however
    I would not assume some one to be trans phobic who used those terms for it
    is not universally recognised that these are derogatory terms such as faggot
    or nigger or cunt // And now trans could need support from others since they
    are so small relative to those groups that those offensive terms may be used
    against // That is all I have to say apart from to congratulate you on allowing
    others whose view is diametrically opposite to yours to be given a chance to
    air theirs even if it has zero redeemable value // That is genuinely refreshing

  24. 24
    ConnorBehan

    Somehow no one got mad when L&O SVU said tranny in “Fallacy” 2003. And that’s because it’s perfectly possible to use it in a non-offensive way. If the entire LGBT community suddenly banded together and decided that “queer” was offensive that wouldn’t make it offensive. The history of a term is what decides that. Whether you are aroused by dressing up as the opposite sex or by pink ponies, terms like “tranny” and “brony” are sources of tasteful comedy to those who don’t overreact.

  25. 25
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  1. 29
    “Arrested Development” Makes Tranny Joke In New Ad - Gay Las Vegas GuideGay Las Vegas Guide

    [...] from a usually sharp show that often toes the line of political correctness. Writer Zinnia Jones examines the issue with the [...]

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