Austen Crowder

Transgender "comics" -- Zerophilia

Filed By Austen Crowder | July 20, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Transgender & Intersex

I have bad news: I spent my normal comic-review time reading Misfile. However, I have good news: I watched an indie movie with a transgender theme. Glorious! Without further ado: Zerophilia.

Its a simple recipe for success. Take a good ol' boy, add some hockey, a competitor, a love interest, and a couple of ironic twists on an old, werewolf-esque trope. Then turn him into a girl. For the most part, it's a winning combination that's plagued by a few new-director mistakes.

The movie follows a teenager named Luke who is, for all intents and purposes, a normal boy. He plays hockey with friends, drives a big truck, and flirts with girls. He discovers that he has a chromosomal anomaly called Zerophilia, which basically means that he turns into a girl. He then must make compromises between his male and female selves, all in the name of self-identity. There's a love interest, of course, as well as a quasi-villian with her own cruel intentions.

For as much as the Zerophilia gimmick gets built up in the movie, the plot reads like most teenage dramas. There's a love triangle, of course, and Luke has to work out some teenage angst as well as some rivalries in the neighborhood. When the movie hits its groove, it's pretty entertaining; there's lots of good one-liners, strange plot twists, and fun diversions to enjoy. However, the movie does take a while to ramp up to this groove, which does take away from the overall effect.

Its obvious that the film comes from a first-time director. Pacing falters from time to time, and some of the scenes feel stretched to awkward lengths. There's a stretch in the middle of the film, for example, that I desperately wanted to skip through -- there's plenty of exposition, yes, but there isn't anything to compel the viewer to stay along for the ride.

As a commentary on gender, it certainly hits home. Luke/Lucca has plenty of moments where misogyny meets practice, and the results do invite the viewer to ask their own questions. His gradual path to accepting a more, shall we say, fluid gender role does bring up questions of machismo, femininity, and the modern teenage dating scene. It's a good message: I just wish it'd not been muddled by sometimes dragging scenes.

Overall, though, Zerophilia is a fun little film with plenty to offer for a viewer willing to look past a few faults. Its a young film by a young director, and in that regard it certainly shows a lot of promise. I look forward to what Martin Curland can do once he's gotten over his first-film willies -- I'd love to see him step out and take more chances.

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