LGBTQ Groups Are Not Happy with the New “Zoolander 2” Trailer

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The newest trailer for “Zoolander 2” follows the main characters, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and his fellow model buddy Hansel (Owen Wilson), from the 2001 original as they deal with their inevitable replacement by newer, fresher-faced models. But one of those new faces is sparking quite the controversy: an eyebrow-less Benedict Cumberbatch as a gender-flexible androgynous model named All that Stiller and Wilson find confusing. In the trailer, Stiller asks Cumberbatch if the character is a male or female model, and Wilson follows up by asking, “do you have a hot dog or a bun?

LGBTQ groups, trans advocates, and many onlookers are not pleased. Los Angeles Magazine called the trailer “sexist and transphobic” and called out the movie for using women and trans individuals as punchlines. Sarah Rose, an LGBTQ activist, created an online petition calling for a boycott of the movie for “its offensive representation of non-binary individuals!” The petition refers to Cumberbatch’s character as an “over-the top, cartoonish mockery of androgyne/trans/non-binary individuals. This is the modern equivalent of using blackface to represent a minority.” Rose also argues that “by hiring a cis actor to play a non-binary individual in a clearly negative way, the film endorses harmful and dangerous perceptions of the queer community at large.” As of now, the petition has almost 10,000 signatures. The Zoolander team has made no official response to the criticism.

Overall, 2015 has been such a pivotal year for androgyne/trans/non-binary individuals. Between influential public figures sharing their own personal histories of struggle with gender identification, and the subsequent media coverage of many different peoples’ stories, there has been a significant growth in knowledge and awareness of gender identification. We have begun the groundwork to a change in the ways in which we view gender and identification altogether. Is “Zoolander 2’s” proposed depiction of Cumberbatch’s character a mockery of this movement, or a testament to society’s increased comfort level with these issues that we are able to satirize them? Although progress has been made, the LGBTQ community still faces violence, stigma, and misunderstanding. This social movement toward better understandings of gender fluidity and identification is still in its infancy, and “Zoolander 2’s” lack of sensitivity may ultimately hinder this progress.

Kui Mwai
Kui Mwai is a junior at American University, studying Law and Literature. She is from Nairobi, Kenya. Contact Kui at Staff@LawStreetMedia.com.



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