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I was walking my dog just the other morning, and good ole Frank got so excited when he saw another dog. Frank’s gotten a bit on the antisocial side as he’s aged, and he won’t play with just any dog. So it was really lovely to see him so happy and eager to play with this little fella.
I asked the owner his dog’s name and he said “Vinny”. I was surprised that I never met him before, and equally surprised that Frank was acting so familiar with him. That’s when the owner expressed that we may have all met before. He had recently acquired a local dog from a neighbor named “Venom” and renamed him. And then it all made since, since both Frank and I knew Venom and knew him well.
Something Felt Off
For the next ten minutes or so the dogs played with each other, and on occasion I called out to Vinny. But something was wrong. I felt like I was pretending. I felt like something was off or didn’t quite make sense.
Like I was playing some acting game, calling someone I knew by a phony name. And the whole time, I felt a little unsettled.
And then it all hit me. Everything that bothered me about the last season of Umbrella Academy started becoming just a little clearer for me.
The Umbrella Academy
For those who are unfamiliar:
One of the actors on Umbrella Academy (breathes deeply as he knows one out of place word will offend somebody) is Elliot Page, playing the enigmatic Victor Hargreeves.
Now for the first two seasons of the show, Elliot was not Elliot and Victor was not Victor. Elliot was Ellen, and Victor was Vanya. But between the second and third season, the actor transitioned. And thus left many wondering what would happen in season three of Umbrella Academy.
We speculated. One thought was it would be glossed over, and they would make the character male without anyone explaining anything. Another thought was that Vanya would stay Vanya, since actors often play folk different from themselves. It really shouldn’t matter where you fall on this debate. Why can’t a male actor just continue to play the female role portrayed in the first two seasons?
But neither of those two scenarios occurred.
I Was Always Victor
Instead, Elliot Page was Vanya for one episode, donning a completely ridiculous and unflattering wig. And in the second episode (spoiler), Vanya saw some pictures of short hair, chopped off the ugly wig, and went and told the family he was Victor now. He always was.
And everyone accepted everything without question. No one had a single problem or struggle or even a mild curiosity about what their sibling was thinking or feeling or had been experiencing for the last few decades.
It just was.
Now, you may say this is progressive. You may say this is the way it ought to be. You may applaud the writers for taking a complex situation and making a bold and inclusive statement.
And I respectfully disagree.
Why It Bugged Me
No, not because I’m a right wing monster or wish to deny people their basic human rights.
Neither are true.
I’ll be completely honest (with myself and anyone else around me): I’m confused. I don’t know what to think. The modern world is very perplexing, and I’m an open book trying to make sense of the world around me. I am listening and struggling and changing my opinion all the time.
But one thing is for certain: All people deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. There are no exceptions. Politics, science, and social expectations aside. People are people. They shouldn’t be mocked or mistreated. And they certainly shouldn’t be harmed in any way.
No, my objection to the show’s presentation was not because of some anger toward the actor or the transgender community.
Rather, my objection was because it was fake. It denied true emotions. It spat in the face of the ultra-complex reality of the situation at hand.
And I found it bothersome.One thing is for certain: All people deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. There are no exceptions. Click To Tweet
The Struggle is Real
I had trouble calling a dog by a different name. And I stood there feeling like I was doing something wrong. Yet you’re going to tell me that when someone transitions and just bursts out the news all of a sudden, not one person in their life will have even the slightest struggle with that moment or afterwards?
I think the show betrays the struggle countless people are going through. Whether the struggle is through societal rejection, familial rejection, or just an ongoing conflict with who they were and who they are now, one thing is for certain: It’s not easy. It’s not simply looking at a picture on a wall and making a brief announcement, and now everything is exactly as it should be.
Maybe it’s that way for an A-list actor who will end up praised by society, can dictate terms of a contract, and gets featured on magazine covers for their bravery. But it doesn’t represent the real and present struggles of the community they should be representing.
Bothered by Oversimplification
Again, I am a thoughtful adult who is trying to make sense of a complex topic and a progressively more complex world. I don’t know where I stand in this fight, or if I need to stand anywhere. I find myself vacillating all the time. And I see no shame in that. These are matters I didn’t consider at all until just a few short years ago, and words and opinions are flying at me from all angles. People are angry. People are passionate. And they’re all very sure of themselves. But I’m not.
Not yet, anyway.
And I don’t expect to be anytime soon.
And that really is the point here. I can nearly guarantee you that the most liberal, open-minded person in the world would give at the very least a slight pause when finding out their sister of twenty years is their brother now. They may or may not express this verbally, but to deny the confusion or struggle is to deny reality. It’s to pretend the world is something other than what it really is. And that’s not fair or accurate.
So no, I’m not offended at what happened in Umbrella Academy. I’m bothered by the oversimplification.
But alas, I’ll still watch it.
Because damn it, it’s a really fun show.