Disclosure (2020) Movie Review: Emotionally Informative

Disclosure is a look at the way the trans community is represented in the media told through the voices of artists such as Laverne Cox, M.J. Rodriguez, Chaz Bono, Alexandra Billings, and Jamie Clayton. As the doc has them express the trials they’ve faced in their careers in the entertainment industry, it also forces cis artists to take a hard look in the mirror and rethink the way they portray the trans experience.

It explores the history of trans representation from the days of silent cinema to the present where a series like Pose has become a TV sensation. Even if it’s hard to acknowledge how some beloved classics have problematic elements, by having transgender artists dive into harmful tropes present in such films, Disclosure proves the necessity of being confronted with uncomfortable truths.

Silence of the Lambs may be an iconic Best Picture winner, but it still is an example of a cliche within the horror genre where trans people are presented as psychosexual cross dressers. In addition, when The Crying Game had its big twist involving the gender reveal of Dil, Fergus’ reaction became an example of a constant running gag involving cis characters vomiting or expressing absolute disgust over the revelation of a trans woman being trans.

While cis viewers, along with cis filmmakers, may see this type of revelation as an easy ploy for laughs, for the community it affects, it clearly impacts their self-esteem. To continue not pulling any punches, Disclosure adds historical context by exploring the 1969 Stonewall riots, an event that led to the gay liberation movement and was headed by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two trans women of color. Even after igniting a fight for equality and human rights, their fight to be seen as full-fledged human beings hasn’t been reflected in both the film and television world which have portrayed transgender people as comical punchlines, villains, and even disposable victims on cop shows.

From exploring the early days of cinema to transphobia within the LGBTQ+ community, Disclosure aims to demonstrate almost every microaggression that trans performers deal with on screen and some of the close mindedness they face off of it. Thanks to helmer Sam Feder’s matter-of-fact direction, presenting the traditional interweaving of interviews and archival media footage, Disclosure still manages to thrive.

For those who follow the film world closely, this level of under-representation isn’t anything new. In addition, despite projects like Pose and the Oscar-winning foreign language film A Fantastic Woman showing signs of forward thinking, there’s still plenty of work to be done. However, Disclosure does its part at both continuing that very conversation and letting trans artists bear out their life experiences and industry expertise so that Hollywood can do even better going forward.

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Matthew St.Clair

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