zoolander’s offensive representation of transgender individuals leads to a boycott

Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of a transgender model has been called the “modern equivalent of using blackface”.

Wendy Syfret

Wendy Syfret

Last week's release of the first trailer for the Zoolander sequel may have dominated the internet, but many people weren't laughing. The trailer included an interaction between Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson's characters—male models Derek Zoolander and Hansel—with a trans model called All, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Despite the success of breakthrough shows like Transparent and lauded films like Tangerine, there is still very little trans representation in the media. So it sucks to see any role not being given to a trans performer. But the film then decided to present Cumberbatch's character as a cartoonish caricature of transgender models. We assume the reference is to the success of models like Andreja Pejić and Hari Nef, but Cumberbatch's All is presented as an abnormality whose very existence confuses the film's stars.

If that wasn't cringe enough, Owen Wilson's character proceeds to ask them if they have a "hotdog or a bun". A comment so offensive it begs belief. In response to the trailer, Care2petitions have started a campaign to boycott the film. At the time of writing, it had over 8,500 supporters. On their site, creator Sarah Rose compares the portrayal as the "modern equivalent of using blackface to represent a minority."

The petition page has been flooded with comments from people all over the world sharing their own thoughts and experiences.

Neither the actors, nor Paramount (the studio behind the film) has commented on the response. 


Text Wendy Syfret
Photograph via Care2Petitions