Kelley Winters

'Myrna' Transcends Media Barriers

Filed By Kelley Winters | March 05, 2015 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: entertainment, Marlo Bernier, Myrna, television, transgender

myrna-show-publicity-shot.jpgLast month, I was fortunate to preview a pilot episode of the TV series Myrna, created by and starring Marlo Bernier. I loved it. I can't wait to see new episodes when the series finds a network home.

Myrna is a semi-autobiographical story of a trans actress threading her way through discrimination and exploitation in the entertainment industry. This breakthrough crowdfunded production of a trans story told by a trans person speaks truth to power, in a media establishment that mostly shuns trans artists and authentic portrayals of trans lives.

In recent years, we've heard a drumbeat of excuses for the job discrimination that trans people still face in the performing arts. We've been told that trans people are too inexperienced, too obscure, and too incapable to portray leading roles in TV and movies -- even for trans parts. These roles almost exclusively are given to cis actors, much as Native American roles were caricatured by white actors a generation ago.

marlo-bernier-myrna.jpgWe've been told that anti-trans casting discrimination is acceptable, when it's perceived to be profitable. We've been told that trans performers haven't suffered long enough, waited long enough, or starved long enough for fair chances to audition for roles that they are uniquely qualified to understand and convey. (We were told the same a decade ago, when the movie Transamerica was cast.)

We've been told that it's OK that yet another generation of at-risk trans youth will grow up without seeing role models like themselves in meaningful, leading roles in the media, TV, and movies.

Laverne Cox, a star of Orange is the New Black, has shattered these myths -- and I think Marlo Bernier and her creative team have shattered them once again with Myrna.

They take on Hollywood transphobia and ageism directly, without apology. They portray trans life realistically, without sensationalizing transition. The script and performances are smart, real, nuanced, touching, and truly funny. Some of Myrna's deepest-cutting irony comes right from Ms. Bernier's offscreen life:

"...and you played Hannah."

"No."

"Harper?"

"Roy"

"Cohn??"

"Yes, Roy Marcus Cohn."

Congratulations and thanks to Marlo and her production staff for this historic work. Please join me in spreading the word about Myrna.

It's time that network executives give trans people and authentic trans stories a chance. It's time for a network to pick up the Myrna series.


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