Advanced search

Thoughts on The Danish Girl

(53 Posts)
JKRowlingTransExplosion Thu 11-Jun-20 19:35:15

I’ve name changed for this post, mainly because “J K Rowling trans explosion” was how I described Twitter to my partner this morning and I thought that phrase needs to be either a Mumsnet handle or a punk band.

The Redmayne debacle got me thinking back to when I went to see The Danish Girl at the pictures, which was before I knew anything at all about the trans rights debate (beyond being liberal and supportive of trans people as part of the LGBT umbrella), and even before I recognised that I was a radical feminist.

I thought the film was very poor in terms of writing and structure, but also at the time it really annoyed me because I thought it was an insulting portrayal of transexuality - a missed opportunity to provide insight and understanding into a marginalised group.

I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that Redmayne’s character put on a pair of stockings and immediately realised he was a woman. I thought it was superficial and unrealistic.I found it offensive - on behalf of transwomen - that being a woman was portrayed as nothing more than dragging up and mincing about. There’s more to it than that, I thought. Real women don’t mince - why on earth has he suddenly started mincing and simpering? Real transwomen don’t just put on women’s underwear one day and suddenly realise - in that very sexualised context - that they’re actually a woman.

The characterisation of his wife was just as annoying too - she was a walking cliche.

I’m somewhat fascinated that my instinctive response to the film was “that’s not what a woman is” and to find it offensive for both women and transwomen.

These days, I’m not so sure that the film was off the mark.

OP’s posts: |
DreadPirateLuna Thu 11-Jun-20 20:25:57

I've never seen the film, but I recall reading that the real Lilli Elbe died following a uterus transplant. Even nowadays, uterus transplants are risky in women and never have successfully been done in a biological male. And I wonder what was the purpose? Did Elbe really believe this would allow Elbe to become pregnant? It seems like gross malpractice on the part of the doctors involved.

boatyardblues Thu 11-Jun-20 21:24:33

It’s got Eddie Redmayne in it, so it was an automatic swerve for me. I still haven’t seen the Hawking biopic for the same reason, but was annoyed that I was accidentally exposed to him helping my out with my friend’s son’s birthday trip to watch Fantastic Beasts.

TheFormerPorpentiaScamander Thu 11-Jun-20 21:26:20

I loved it because I love anything with Eddie Redmayne in.
Well I did until this week. sad

JKRowlingTransExplosion Thu 11-Jun-20 21:29:02

I think Eddie Redmayne is very talented, but he’s been in some ropey films.

OP’s posts: |
AreYouSiriusLupin Thu 11-Jun-20 23:16:17

I have always said I have an irrational dislike of him.

Not irrational anymore grin

But yes, I saw the film due to a friend talking about it. I thought that stocking scene was ridiculous.

HandsOffMyRights Thu 11-Jun-20 23:30:08

I haven't seen it for a while, but I remember being irked by all the coyness, to the degree that it reminded me of the way David Walliams' "I'm a lady" character is all shy and genteel behind the lace fan.

Councilworker Thu 11-Jun-20 23:30:12

I've not seen it in full but I have read the book and the biography that the novel was based on. There's a lot of, perhaps deliberate, confuscation in the novel about Lilli having ovaries. The intersex narrative is brought in but again the idea that suddenly slipping on a pair of stockings made him realise his womanhood is so cliché as to be beyond ridiculous.
The predominant narrative around Elbe is one created by him, the reality has long been lost. I think the doctors who performed surgery were butchers. He had 4 surgeries and hoped to bear children at the age of 48? Uterus and ovarian transplant being attempted in a pre antibiotics age. The novel draws a tasteful veil over that aspect of it all. Likewise it totally makes up Gerda's story because well, despite being the artist and talent she is just second fiddle to him.

We read it in the WI book club. I got very angry!

CharlieParley Thu 11-Jun-20 23:50:29

Textbook autogynephile. I'm surprised the film was so open about the fetishistic aspect of the crossdressing. I couldn't manage the necessary suppression of my disbelief to get into the movie, but even if I hadn't known so much about the issue, all that simpering would have annoyed me.

Interesting to note here that the scientific consensus is that Elbe died either from complications of a vaginoplasty or from a particular form of kidney cancer. Although this is widely reported today, there was no uterus transplant.

The particular technique used for the vaginoplasty was developed to surgically create a vagina for female patients born with an incomplete one. Using this new technique on a male patient was extremely risky and without precedent.

The kidney cancer, which is suggested by various items in the surviving documents, is one which leads to virilisation in female patients and feminisation in male ones. If that is indeed the ultimate cause of death, Elbe's story is even more tragic - to experience those longed for changes to your body only because you are dying from cancer is just cruel.

It's fascinating to see how far removed the public story of Elbe's last few months is in this regard - it is not the patient who was desperate for the operation, but the physician who suggested it. Elbe was reluctant, but agreed because of an infatuation with the surgeon. And from Elbe's correspondence it's clear that the patient understood very little about any of the medical procedures - none of the doctors were all that forthcoming about what they were doing. And Elbe was heartbroken that the surgeon went on holiday without regard for the worsening condition of his patient.

The other fascinating aspect to note is the story of Elbe as an intersex person. The autobiography is full of this narrative, and having a DSD and taking medical steps to rectify a congenital problem was of course vastly preferable to the then prevalent view of people like Elbe as depraved, perverts or freaks. Researchers are doubtful however, and Elbe appears to have been fully intact and functional as a young man.

JKRowlingTransExplosion Thu 11-Jun-20 23:59:58

Was the intersex stuff in the film? I don’t remember that.

I knew almost nothing about trans issues when I saw it - I’d met a few transsexuals and was happy to consider them women, because they behaved like ordinary women, even though they didn’t really pass. I knew nothing about the politics and the conflict with women’s rights.

I was close friends with a lot of people involved in LGBT societies at university at the time when the T was first added and there was debate about it among my gay friends at the time. The consensus seemed to be that T isn’t quite the same category at LGB but hey, let’s be supportive.

But yes, the simpering and coquettish nonsense in Redmayne’s performance was maddening. A dreadful parody of womanhood.

OP’s posts: |
contactusdeletus Fri 12-Jun-20 00:13:37

I never had any inclination to see the movie, but I do remember hearing the character of the wife was badly handled? Can't remember in what way, but I remember hearing it and thinking it didn't sit right with me that her character would be given less respect than his.

Also thought Eddie just looked vacant in the trailer. And as if he was trying to communicate the idea that fragility = femininity. Even back then I disliked it.

LockdownLump Fri 12-Jun-20 00:28:51

Never watched it but didn't he die after trying to get a BIO female womb implanted?

Do you see why I am only leaving certain donor organs. Take my eyes. Take my liver (rotted through lockdown) take anything. But not my tissue. No way.

LockdownLump Fri 12-Jun-20 00:29:57

That was a bit braveheart wasn't it😂

They can take my eyes, my lungs,

But they will never take my tissueeeeeee

NotTerfNorCis Fri 12-Jun-20 07:02:11

When I saw the film, Redmayne's character just seemed to me like a cross dresser whose addiction to 'being a woman' took over his life and destroyed it.

fuckinghellthisshit Fri 12-Jun-20 07:28:33

If TWAW, S Eddie says, why did a man play her? How is that not transphobia?

twoHopes Fri 12-Jun-20 07:35:15

If TWAW, S Eddie says, why did a man play her? How is that not transphobia?

Wait a second - why isn't a part about a trans person being played by a trans person? Isn't that the first rule of woketivism? No wonder Redmayne is cowing to the TRAs right now - they'll be coming for his head if he commits wrongthink on this.

MarshaBradyo Fri 12-Jun-20 07:37:42

It was an awful film and I had to switch it off early on due to Redmayne’s awful acting.

boatyardblues Fri 12-Jun-20 13:45:34

Redmayne’s been dead to me since he ruined Birdsong.

Collidascope Fri 12-Jun-20 13:51:44

I haven't seen it, but I think it's fitting he played Angel Clare in Tess of the D'urbervilles. He was a sexist hypocrite too.

MockersGuidedByTheScience Fri 12-Jun-20 14:00:06

I think Ozon's La Nouvelle Amie (The New Girlfriend) is a better film.

Fairenuff Fri 12-Jun-20 14:10:01

I've opted out of organ donation for this reason alone.

CadburysTastesVileNow Fri 12-Jun-20 14:38:13

What stuck with me was his wife's midery as he basically walked away from her and their marriage without a qualm. Me me me!!

CadburysTastesVileNow Fri 12-Jun-20 14:38:28


Rubidium Fri 12-Jun-20 16:32:23

Eddie Redmayne, king of the blank stare into the middle distance.

Cwenthryth Fri 12-Jun-20 16:47:08

I think Eddie Redmayne is very talented, but he’s been in some ropey films.
100%! Jupiter Ascending, anyone? That’s actually so bad it’s good in my books, it’s a cheesy comfort movie for me grin

I tried to watch The Danish Girl quite late one night,

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in