Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Movie Review: IBTC

I liked several aspects of Itty Bitty Titty Committee (IBTC), a big one of which is Melonie Diaz and her portrayal of Anna, a young self-identified lesbian who works as a receptionist at a breast implant clinic (is that what they're called? breast implant clinics?).

In general, I want to see more of Diaz.

Preferably in "gay and lesbian movies with a strong female lead." And preferably with a character she actually has chemistry with, unlike her romantic interest in IBTC, Sadie. But more on that in a moment.

The basic outline of IBTC is that, one day while leaving work, Anna sees someone spray painting the clinic with feminist critiques of breast implants. (I know, right? How does a feminist critique using spray paint even fit on just one wall?). Anyway, the important thing is that the person spray-painting the building is Sadie. Anna, who is hiding in the bushes, is introduced to Sadie when Sadie hollers something cheesy and obnoxious which, to paraphrase, is basically a lesbian equivalent of "How YOU doin?"

Sorry, I just really don't like Sadie. That's not a statement against the actor portraying her, it's just that I think she's kind of a slimy, manipulative, insincere character who is blonde, flirtatious, and cute-sy and therefore gets away with being an asshole to people she hooks up with.

(Wow, writing that was strangely.... cathartic. Um... moving on then.)

So, as it turns out, Sadie is part of a radical feminist group called "cl!ts in action" (aka, "C(i)A", get it?)(Also: Is it NSFW to say "cl!t", except how it's really spelled? I've changed the spelling slightly just in case any filters pick that one up).

At this point, you think that maybe the movie is a satire, but then some parts of it hit a little too close to reality about some radical feminists. So that, well, I wasn't sure if it was a satire of radical feminism or a radical feminist's fantasy of what they/we could get away with. Maybe it's both.

The portrayal also is going to ring pretty true to a mainstream audience's perception of what all radical feminist lesbians are probably like. So on that front, I think people might actually mistake it for a documentary instead of recognizing it as a satire or exaggeration.

But anyway, very quickly, Anna kind of joins the C(i)A group as well. Which she seems to do mostly because she's newly single, thinks Sadie is hot, and is led on by Sadie.

Anyway, Sadie proceeds to be really flirty with Anna, even though (spoiler alert!) Sadie already has a long-term live-in girlfriend, who is an older, semi-famous, less-radical "second-wave feminist" who disapproves of the C(i)A's shennanigans. And really, can you blame her?

I couldn't. The C(i)A's activities, which include vandalism and property destruction intended to Take Down The Patriarchy, seem like the longings of a young person who is maybe brand new to Radical Politics and is looking for an outlet to vent some anger and aggression while still feeling self-righteous about it.

And, you know I'm all for dismantling the patriarchy as much as the next radical feminist, but... I don't know... maybe I'm getting too old, too soft, or too assimilated to approve of such "radical" acts.

That being said, the cast of characters was entertaining and rather diverse, especially from a gender identity perspective.

Daniela Sea makes an appearance as a butch lesbian former servicemember. Lesbian actor/model Jenny Shimizu pops in to make some amusingly snarky comments. And, Clea DuVall has a cameo too. I like Clea DuVall.

As for the members of the C(i)A, they consist of Shulie, who is a feminine hetero/bisexual (who needs labels? scoffs the Millenial Generation) woman. There is also Sadie (ugh). There's an androgynous artiste named Meat, whose gender identity is unclear, but who probably identifies as a woman since C(i)A is a "women's-only" club (more on that in a moment). And there's Aggie, who is a trans* man.

Anna joins them and, well, her identity is mostly.... dorky. But in a cute way. She's really new to feminism and is, like, instantly converted because of her infatuation with Sadie and so, like many a convert to a new ideology, starts taking it Very Seriously To Impress Hot Guy Or Gal. (And yes, this is how the lesbians recruit innocent young women into radical feminism OOGEDY BOOGEDY WOOGEDY! Again with the movie not being recognizable to mainstream viewers as a satire).

Unlike Sadie, Anna is also genuine. Despite being warned about Sadie leading people on, breaking their hearts, and already having a girlfriend, she ended up falling for the asshole anyway, because the asshole was a good actor who made Anna feel special.

So, I think it's difficult for viewers to root for an Anna/Sadie romance, because Sadie's phony demeanor seemed really obvious. As Sadie made googly eyes and spoke in her sexy, smokey voice at an enthralled Anna, I was all, "Anna, you in trouble girl."

In the end, (spoiler alert), Sadie actually finally does leave her girlfriend to be with Anna. But at that point, I was SO over her. And you just know it won't end well, because Sadie will find someone new and impressionable to make googly eyes at. I wanted Anna to recognize that Sadie was an asshole and to move on to someone nicer.

Like Aggie. (Spoiler alert!). At one point, Anna and Aggie do have a sexual encounter, which, to me, could have led to a more compelling relationship. Not only would it have been a groundbreaking portrayal of a lesbian cis woman and a hetero trans* man navigating a relationship, but Aggie was also a much more authentic and likable character. Like Anna, he is kind of adorkable. And nice. Nice is so under-rated.

But alas, instead Anna chose to pursue the cutesy, feminine blonde woman who, out of everyone in the group, most conforms to conventional beauty standards for women. That sure doesn't seem radical to me. But, you know, that's her choosey choice that she chose.

[Content/trigger warning: Tranbigotry, gender policing]

Aside from the Sadie issues, another aspect of the movie I am critical of is Sadie's statement that Aggie gets a pass to be in the "women-only" C(i)A group because "he was born with a cl!t." The statement seemed to be an echo of exclusionary "womyn-born-womyn" type of policies (like Michfest's) that police who does and doesn't count as a real woman.

Which, not only is that policing problematic, it is incoherent. By referring to Aggie by his preferred male gender pronoun while also allowing him into a women's-only club, the C(i)A seems to be giving a "it's okay, you're not really a man" nod and wink to his gender identity. The policy also suggests that some women, namely those not "born with a cl!t," would not be allowed into the super-special women's-only club.

At the same time, the epilogue indicates that Aggie later started hormone therapy and then started a feminist group for men. I'm not sure what to make of that. Does it suggest that Aggie only became a real man once he started hormone therapy? It seems to. Using the C(i)A's reasoning, would Aggie's man club be inclusive of trans* women, since some were born with balls? It's not clear.

In any event, I've said before that I'm not generally a big fan of movies that are overly-political. Because of issue fatigue and all that, I'm especially going to cast a wary, don't-you-dare-fuck-this-up eye at a movie about radical feminists, several of whom are lesbians.

IBTC is not the movie I'd write of my radical feminist lesbian experience, even a satirical one, but I think it will portray, albeit in exaggerated fantastical form, the experiences of some. Warts and all.

And would the C(i)A have it any other way?

1 comment:

Scooter said...

Odd! I was not consciously aware of this movie, but just this weekend I wondered if there was an analogous "teeny little dick committee" for boys?