By Kristen Lormand-Yoerger |
Acting is like magic - you assume a different persona, you become someone else, and your character can transcend the story. I like to think of actors and actresses like mannequins. They are put on display for us to see an idea, to tell us a story. The actors themselves are the frame, the persona is what we are meant to enjoy. Why then are people upset that the actors chosen to act, to play a part, are not cis? How does their gender identity or expression affect the role they are playing?
As many of you have heard, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman is being turned into a television show. Gaiman has been working with the show's producers every step of the way, and one reason why is to make sure the characters and the story remain true to the original graphic novel. Mason Alexander Park, a nonbinary actor, was chosen to play the character of Desire. Desire is a nonbinary character in the graphic novel as well as the screen adaptation.
While many “fans” of the graphic novel have taken umbrage with a nonbinary actor portraying a nonbinary character, Park tweeted a thank you to all of their fans and to say, “[a]nd to those who feel seen by a show of this size normalizing pronouns in a casting announcement... it’s a good day.”
Park is focusing on the right thing: the validation of gender identity in such a large production. I can think of very few, if any, mainstream visual productions featuring a nonbinary character, much less a portrayal done by an openly nonbinary actor.
Another example of representation is Elliot Page. He started playing the role of Vanya Hargreeves on Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy in 2019, before he had come out as trans. The character of Vanya is female, a role that Page has successfully been portraying for the three seasons the show has been in production. Being trans, for those who aren’t out, is a life of acting. Page spent 30+ years acting female, so I fail to see why people are upset that he is reprising his role as Vanya. He will be doing the same thing he has been doing; the difference is now he has different pronouns. Being an openly trans actor in a lot of big name movies and shows has brought attention to trans actors and actresses and what roles they should play. But, really, if they are the correct person for the job, their gender identity doesn’t matter in the context of acting. They will simply put on the persona of their character and act, like they’ve done every other time.
I for one am happy that nonbinary and transgender people are being represented in media. As a cis-het white woman I see myself represented almost every time I open my eyes. It is time for other people to get that recognition and validation. I believe it is vital for all people to feel and be seen.