I watched and am about to discuss a mediocre coming-of-age transgender male dramedy that nobody saw so you don’t have to: Gaby Dellal’s 3 Generations.
Let’s get a couple things out in the open beforehand. First, I am a cis queer white male. I do not identify as trans and as a result have no authority to speak on what is or is not valid as a trans experience. I have been culturally conditioned to be transphobic and, despite my best efforts, will likely falter in one manner or another in my engagement with transgender representation. That said, I think that while this movie is worth critiquing, it isn’t something that any transguy should be subjected to. Trans male representation is so scarce to begin with and 3 Generations, good intentions aside, doesn’t add much to the canon with its reductive melodrama and paper-thin characterization. So I’d like to be here to wade through the trash in your stead.
Second, 3 Generations was widely and justifiably criticized for casting a cis woman, Elle Fanning, as the trans male lead protagonist Ray. The director cited as reason that Ray still looks like a cis girl because he is pre-transition. What that means for Ray, whether pre-testosterone, pre-top surgery, pre-bottom surgery, and how the film doesn’t get into that, is a problem in itself, but more to the point pre-transition transgender male teens exist. What’s more, pre-transition transgender male teen actors exist. The director said that the decision was made because they needed guaranteed stars for a small budget production like this, but that’s ignoring the buzz that a breakout trans star would cause. (Or not cause, it’s still the right thing to do and a risk worth taking.) Even if you kept the entire rest of the movie as is, I think trans communities would have rallied for 3 Generations a lot more. Because even if the content of the film rightly stands to face harsh critique, at least we know on a production level that their hearts were in the right place. Because at least on the casting level they would have had genuine trans representation.
As it stands, it was a mediocre movie that nobody saw and is now already mostly forgotten. I do believe that the filmmakers had good intentions in mind (though their refusal to listen to casting criticisms is infuriating), and in fact I would expect at least a handful of transgender teen boys to watch this and feeling validated. (Certainly more than the only other young transguy film I can think of, the brutal PSA announcement Boys Don’t Cry.) But praising such a dubiously progressive movie just because it could have been worse and just because it is one of the very slim offerings in trans cinema, that doesn’t mean it can get away with what it does. 3 Generations is an unsubtle coming-of-age film that tries to bring forward a message of wholesomeness and acceptance, but in getting there it manages to perpetuate a lot of deeply problematic gender and identity politics.