Over the weekend, Halle Berry angered the transgender community and its allies after announcing she was being considered to play a transgender man in an upcoming film. In attempts to educate the actress, Netflix’s Disclosure team politely asked Berry to watch the film and learn about the possible dangers of her taking on the role, and she listened.
Since the dawn of time, Hollywood has been notorious for misrepresenting racial minorities, LGBTQ, and disabled people in film, often casting A-list actors in roles that they do not natively represent. Disclosure is a documentary that speaks out against the harmful consequences of casting cisgender actors in transgender roles and shows audiences that stereotypes, memes, and tropes in media warps people’s understanding of trans issues.
According to a 2015 study from the LGBTQ rights organization GLAAD, 80% of Americans do not personally know someone who is transgender, leaving the media responsible for influencing people’s perceptions about the trans community. We’ve seen this happen in Hollywood time and time again in movies like Dallas Buyers Club, The Danish Girl, and Transparent. Disclosure wants viewers to know it’s not just about representation, it’s also about telling true stories and accurately depicting the lives, experiences, and dreams of transgender people.
On Monday evening, Halle Berry released a statement saying she was backing out of consideration for the role in light of the concerns addressed to her by the Disclosure team and broader trans community.
Halle Berry has been acting on the big-screen for over 30 years. She is the first and only Black woman to have won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Lee Daniel’s Monster’s Ball (2001). In her emotional acceptance speech, Berry mentioned that the award was bigger than her and dedicated it to the Black actresses that came before her, and those who would come afterward. Since then, she’s gone on to become one of Hollywood’s highest-paid Black actresses. Berry who is no stranger to understanding the importance of representation, apologized to the trans community and vowed to be an ally on and offscreen.
The Disclosure team publicly thanked Berry for listening, learning, and deciding to back away from the role. GLAAD responded to Berry’s announcement saying, “We are pleased that Halle Berry listened to the concerns of transgender people and learned from them. Other powerful people should do the same.” GLAAD ended their statement by adding that Disclosure is a good place to start for people to educate themselves about trans representation in the media.
As conversations between Hollywood and social movements begin to happen, it is crucial that documentaries like Disclosure exist as a starting point to educate and help move those conversations into action. Halle Berry’s decision to not take the role is a step in the right direction, but seeing the role played by a transgender man will be the ultimate win.
Disclosure is an unprecedented, eye-opening look at transgender depictions in film and television, revealing how Hollywood simultaneously reflects and manufactures our deepest anxieties about gender. Sam Feder directed the documentary, and trans actress and activist Larverne Cox executive produced the film. In the documentary leading trans thinkers and creatives, including Laverne Cox, Lilly Wachowski, Yance Ford, Mj Rodriguez, Jamie Clayton, and Chaz Bono, share their reactions and resistance to some of Hollywood’s most beloved moments. What emerges is a fascinating story of the dynamic interplay between trans representation on screen, society’s beliefs, and the reality of trans lives.
The documentary premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was also a selection of the Tribeca, CPH:DOX, and Hot Docs festivals. The documentary launched globally on Netflix June 19th and is available to stream now. You can check out the trailer below.