Reading Acevedo-Muñoz’s take on All About My Mother, “The Body and Spain: Pedro Almodovar’s All About My Mother,” I saw parallels and contradictions between this film’s depiction of trans-ness and that of the other trans-centric queer film we’ve seen this semester, Boys Don’t Cry.
Both these films are definitely more progressive portrayals of trans people. Acevedo-Muñoz does acknowledge, however, that Almodovar’s previous films depicted trans characters as “‘monstrous’ and symbolic of traumatic identity crisis” (27). In All About My Mother, the trans character is named Agrado. She is introduced as a sex worker in the midst of being attacked by John, and while this is problematic, Almodovar does not seem to dwell on this topic much or make moralistic judgments, which is good. All in all, Agrado appears to be a source of comic relief through her honesty and uplifts the film from its melodramatic plot (34). Agrado’s big pronouncement on her trans-ness comes in a surreal scene in a theatre in which she tells an audience “the story of [her] life” (35). Acevedo-Muñoz acknowledges that this story is, unfortunately, just Agrado breaking down all the cosmetic alterations she’s done to her body and their high costs, but also highlights that Agrado is explaining that she does not mean to trick people, but goes to these means to be her “authentic” self, which is a somewhat positive take on trans identity and passing.
In Boys Don’t Cry, there is no emphasis put on the need for cosmetic surgery in order to pass or be authentic. The trans character, Brandon, seems perfectly fine with just buzzing his hair, binding his breasts, and using a sock/dildo to simulate the bulge of a penis–in fact, there is no reference to cosmetic or sexual reassignment surgery at all. Furthermore, Brandon does not make a pronouncement on the nature of his trans-ness, and the one time he tries, his lover stops him, saying there is no need for an explanation.
These two films have very self-assured trans characters who don’t suffer from identity crises, but they differ completely on how to present trans-ness in relation to the physical body and passing.
- Acevedo-Munoz, Ernesto R. “The Body and Spain: Pedro Almodovar’s All About My Mother.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video. Volume 21, Issue 1 (2003): p. 25 – p. 38.
- All About My Mother (Spain/France: Pedro Almodovar, 1999 – 101 min.)
- Boys Don’t Cry (USA: Kimberly Peirce, 1999 – 118 min.)