Monday, March 31, 2014

Mr Angel (2013): Coming to Terms

Mr Angel (2013)
dir: Dan Hunt

Buck Angel is an FTM transexual porn star. He has had top surgery and is also on male hormones, but he refuses to get bottom surgery due to cost and pointlessness. He asks, at one point in the documentary, Why sacrifice a perfectly good vagina and $50k just to have a penis that doesn't even work like a real one? In a sense, this type of blunt acknowledgement with little respect for Political Correctness is indicative of the tone that Mr. Angel takes on.

Dan Hunt is tasked with creating a glossy profile of Buck Angel that is based in a blunter reality than usual for such a singular profile. He follows Buck Angel's attempts to succeed in the porn world as a man with a vagina. He goes through Buck's childhood, and his troubled history without questioning anything about Buck's choices. Much like Red Without Blue, we're meant to take Buck Angel's self-attitude for its face value without asking too many of the deeper questions.

When Angel was younger, he was a bit of a tomboy and then a bit of a drug addict hellfire who conducted emotional warfare on his family before even realizing that he really wanted to be a manly man. Then he came out to his deeply religious and gender role-conforming family, and...then he becomes a man, a porn star and an activist for the trans community.

There's a lot in this film that Dan Hunt and Buck Angel unpack, but there's a lot left unasked. Buck Angel at one point practically blames his father for making him want to be a boy because his father played with him as if he was a boy. Doing sports stuff, and allowing him to do boyish things socially, except when they went to church where he had to return to his feminine clothing. But, at another he says that this is natural and normal and people are made this way.

At one point, he says "I don't blame my parents. They didn't know what they were doing to me as a kid." And, it's almost a crutch to show how he got so heavily into modeling and drugs as a younger woman. And, then how he saw the manly men and decided that's what he wanted to be, and set out to be one. But, just kept the vagina.

At another point, Hunt is interviewing Angel's parents, and they're trying to put on their accepting face but it's clear they still aren't OK with it. They still see Buck as their daughter. But, how much of that distrust for his identity was caused by the havoc he wrecked as a drug addict and alcoholic is left unasked. This isn't therapy and we're not connecting all of the dots here.

The main difference between Mr Angel and Red Without Blue is that Buck Angel is setting out to be an activist and wants to be a role model. In Red Without Blue, the characters really would rather be living their life in private. Buck Angel is an even more problematic character than anybody in Red Without Blue. Not because of the porn. But because of his past traumas, and it seems fairly obvious that he isn't quite out of the woods in terms of his mental anguish. He's still processing his childhood in various ways. His sister, also interviewed, hasn't reconciled herself with Buck's new maleness, and is skeptical of his new found trans identity. His mom wants to embrace it because Buck is trying to do something good, she guesses.

Mr Angel is by no means a completed film, as most biopics of an ongoing, living person aren't. But, Dan Hunt seems to think that by showing the issues that trans people have to face when they're coming out he's doing something good. But, there is no unpacking going on. At times, Hunt starts diving into traditional gender roles, and genderqueer topics. But, he dives right back out of them.

It's a frustratingly surface movie about a person who changed his surface in order to reflect the tumultuous interior with which he lives. It frequently attempts to dive deeper, but very rarely succeeds. I wish there were more to this film, with more trust being built causing the subjects to break their own masks. But, everybody keeps their masks pretty in tact while the cameras are rolling, doing nobody any favors.

No comments:

Post a Comment