2017, Movies

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017, David France)

This is a somewhat disjointed profile of two transgender activists posing as a true crime investigation into one of their deaths. It’s a bit of a mess as a film but I learned stuff.

The investigative part of this film is often the weakest part. Not only has it been 25 years, but once Victoria gets some leads things quickly veer into conspiracy territory. The theory she spends the most time on is not plausible, but nobody in the film seems to question this idea that the mob killed this woman because of her roommate. (The roommate is still alive and didn’t get the message.)

The profile of the two women is more compelling, more often than not. But, like a few documentaries I’ve seen that cater to particular audiences, there’s not enough context about the transgender rights movement. For example, they mention Stonewall a little bit but don’t go into detail. I know of Stonewall but I don’t know much about it. And there’s not much context provided about it. And that’s even more true about the organization they founded.

But I think the film does a good job of revealing the plight of transgender people in the United States, especially those who are the victim of crimes. Though the state is more responsive now, it’s clear transgender victims have normally been viewed as less than human, or “others” at the very least.

But I think the film should have just picked the story of the two activists, while emphasizing the potential murder of one of them as evidence of how badly people like this are treated, rater than using the “investigation” as a lens. Because the investigation just doesn’t really work as a device.

6/10 because I learned things

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.