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I was strongly pushed to watch this as an alternative perspective on the "toxicity" of conventional masculine identity, and to gain a wider understanding around scientific "advances" i allegedly may have missed. Wary of my own views and the degenerative nature of confirmation bias, i tried hard to retain an open mind. It's difficult to stay friendly to this film, because like a lot of LGBT material, it can be disingenuous, and bordering on potentially manipulative. Strong words, perhaps - but justified.
First thing to know is that Gore Vidal was a) gay, and b) a very strong campaigner against gender "essentialism"; even going so far to advocate human pansexuality. It's also disappointing to see Indian-born Anthony Thomas being responsible for this kind of editorial guff.
Those looking for an objective or circumspect - dare i say, critical - look at the fascinating subject of gender and human sexuality will feel cheated. There is a real bias at work, and it's the fact that the doc presents itself as an honestly naturalistic, rounded look at scientific issues such as foetal development and social determinism, is what makes it so distasteful.
And speaking of science, you'll get steadily angrier if you work in a scientific profession as the minutes go on and on. Using science to make an argument is one thing; misrepresenting it is another. Add that to the "objective" sales tag, and you have a toxic combination. If, of course, you *want* to believe the suggestions because you already believe them anyway, and don't care whether its validated as reliable, it won't matter too much.
For example: if you can watch pseudo-scientists explaining that all animals actually breed just because it "feels good" (like male black widow spiders who have a sexual "experience"), that sexual "rules" appeared subject of natural variance that the West somehow misinterprets, or how gender identity disorder apparently is a misunderstanding of Karma (because we all are ladyboys - no, seriously), you are a much more patient person than i am. There are unquestionably biological factors that come into play, but when you hear narration using politically charged terms like "intersex" (i.e. hermaphrodite) and "binary" genders, straining to use it a basis for disqualifying male/female normality, you can't take the interviewees seriously.
You also can't make non-sequitur/straw-man arguments about the same lower hormonal activity producing "underdeveloped" genitalia as infant gender variance, when your next point confirms that the same subjects have... fully-developed genitalia.
The simple fact is that this is apologism masquerading as legitimate scrutiny, pure and simple. And that's fine, if you just want to watch something that confirms the bad ideas you have that you'll never challenge anyway.
The same old clichés and poor thinking are around every corner: Eastern religions are more accepting in their enlightened wisdoms (when they're not doing animal sacrifice, honor rape etc), humans are actually pansexual, sexuality is fluid (yawn), everyone's so judgemental, nobody is actually heterosexual, sexuality is about feeling and relationships, boys have nipples, anyone who has boundaried views on sexuality is actually afraid of their own confused feelings (homophobes are closet homosexuals), on and on.
The loudest, most obnoxiously absent smoking gun in the whole rotten abyss of bad ideas is the abject lack of any conversation or examination of sexual *morality*, in any form: the existence or variance in moral sexual reasoning, or even the idea that humans subscribe to a moral framework around identity/gender, sexual behaviour, or any contemplation on the negative consequences of sexual choices (aggression, infidelity, disease, distress etc). Absolutely none, of any viewpoint. The filmmakers don't seem to hold any moral perspective, of any form - good or bad, left or right - there is no acknowledgement it is even linked.
This film is trying to sell you something - and it's really, really trying. But it doesn't want you to think it's selling, so it's lacquered in a "compassionate" or "intellectual" guise.
The most worrying aspect of films like these is that people who wouldn't describe themselves as scientifically or philosophically-minded watch them, and are fooled into concluding they've seen an insightful, "smart" or "deep" look at something, simply because it *appears* legitimate. This kind of defensive grade-school reasoning belongs in a tedious college philosophy class of short-sighted San Francisco backpackers, not on a DVD shelf.
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