Trans media is sorely missing. It is not just the point of Disclosure but it is a fact. Although there has been a significant shift in US television and film thanks to shows like Transparent and Sense8, it represents a droplet in a vast ocean of media. When it comes to British film and media its even worse. I can’t name a single production interested in telling trans stories and considering how important media is when it comes to bringing acceptance, that is a glaring oversight by a community selling the notion of inclusion in their films. Disclosure however doesn’t just look at the limited number of productions but the oftentimes offensive characterisations trans people have had to endure to get to this point.
From the painful disgust in The Crying Game to the constant painting of trans people as victims in crime procerdurals like Law & Order, Hollywood has had a habit of treating trans people as victims instead of actual people and while violence against the trans community is well documented , it isn’t the complete story. But disclosure itself misses the full picture as the focus is so remarkably narrow that not only is this aiming at an audience with some prior knowledge of the lives of trans people but also people with a vast knowledge of oftentimes obscure American film and television. Those expecting some kind of discussion of the stories being told along with the representations they bring will be left out in the cold.
For a documentary, it limits its audience by not going into enough detail, not using the clips it wants us to see through new eyes to the best of its ability. For example, if I hadn’t have watched Orange is the New Black I’d have no clue what it was about outside of the limited snippets of Laverne Cox and a few, sparse throwaway lines about her role. There is enough material here to have a very real and detailed discussion but Disclosure is not even half the story, it is a jumping off point for a series that never materialises. I think every documentary filmmaker wants their audience to seek out more information after the film is over but Discourse does it in the wrong ways, While the statements by trans actors and actresses, directors and writers about how new representation affected them are telling of good or bad portrayals and their words are deeply affecting in their own way, it never couples with the stories we are supposed to know but don’t.
If anything, Disclosure is a collection of strong voices let down by the media around them, not just the lack of decent trans stories but also a society of people less likely to seek them out. More often than not the clips shown are designed to induce pity or shame at our own behavior, our own prejudices, but when it flips to the interviews an entirely different picture emerges, one in which trans performers are empowered by their visibility but also still struggling through the same kind of admonishment for being who they want to be.
While it is impossible to ignore that the power of Disclosure is within the various interviews, ones full of humour, light and honesty that, despite the limitations of a film that doesn’t go into enough detail always proves informative and important. While wanting more from this film isn’t entirely a bad thing, Disclosure doesn’t disclose enough context to really make this vital discussion resonate.