A few days ago, I wrote about the French documentary Little Girl, and how the impact of trans-roles in contemporary entertainment is essential to the collective image and fight for trans peoples rights in modern-day society. Fact of the matter is, images do ultimately matter and the connotation you provoke on screen can either make or break your work of art. At this rate, it isn’t even a matter of separating the art from the artist, because the values you share directly on screen can’t be separated from the piece itself. The values you share are directly linked to the piece, in which anything you share on that canvas can be equally criticised with deserving merit. So, with all that being said, I can officially announce that Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar’s A Good Man is a perfect example of a negative piece of trans representation.
Casting a cis woman in the role of trans man is already problematic from the very get-go. Making matters even worse, the justification of this casting decision throughout the film is ludicrous. With the exception of a few unnecessary pre-transition flashback scenes that were simply not needed in the larger context of the narrative, there’s nothing necessarily particularly harmful or triggering about A Good Man. With just a little bit of makeup and hairstyling, the role could have easily been given to a trans actor, where the role would have also been a major step forward in demystifying transphobic images that are usually spread through numerous far-right networks. There’s also the relatability aspect of the role, where if a trans actor were to tackle this subject, they would easily be more familiar with the material based on their own experiences.
People want to see trans people be played by trans actors on screen. In reality, people interpret the job of cis-actors in these roles as merely cheap imitations of real-life people. It’s offensive and transphobic, and regardless of how realistic and grounded the role is, the end result will always be uncomfortable. Merlant does an adequate job on paper in conveying a trans man going through the circles of acceptance, but it doesn’t even really matter at the end of the day when the film’s purpose feels unjustified due to the problematic casting. Merlant’s correlation with the project is simply unnecessary and reductive. When looking only through the lens of the direction and screenplay, A Good Man is a formidable drama with some interesting subject matter. The relationship dynamic between Aude and Ben is emotionally touching, even if there are the occasional cliched narrative beats that one would expect from a “based on a true story” drama of this caliber.
But then again, we’re back to stage one. There just isn’t a point in telling this story if there isn’t going to be any form of trans representation on screen. It’s a trans story that should be led by trans people. Doing anything otherwise is regressive. Want a film with a positive trans representation that tackles a similar subject to A Good Man? Try Jeanie Finlay’s Seahorse, a decently edited film that actually gives a damn about positive representation on screen. A film that actually attempts to provoke questions in regards to trans identity and gender dysphoria. A film that actually cares about the advancements of trans images on screen and the development of society itself. A film about trans people starring trans people; as it always should be.
A Good Man is currently seeking international distribution.