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Sunday, June 16, 2024
"Transparent" was created by Jill Solloway, a UW-Madison alumna.

"Transparent" was created by Jill Solloway, a UW-Madison alumna.

'Transparent' dispels stigma, celebrates authenticity

Transgender Awareness Week concluded last Saturday however, in the wake of a shifting societal climate and a new presidency, it is essential now more than ever to expand transgender awareness beyond this weekly designation. Political views are more polarized, outdated stigmas are regaining traction and, sadly, there is a heightened danger attached to being yourself. “Transparent,” a small show making big waves, is helping dispel these stigmas and crumble these barriers of hate. The show, created by UW-Madison alumna Jill Solloway, has finished three award-winning seasons on Amazon. I am a bit behind and have some more binging left to do—I am still making my way through season two—yet it’s already very clear from the beginning that this show goes beyond the bounds of regular television. It has paved the way for transgender representation in Hollywood and society as a whole. The show is concurrent with the growing need for transgender visibility, capturing the bravery and nobility of being your authentic self.

Solloway undertook the important duty of representing the transgender community in television to those who may be unfamiliar and possibly uneducated on the topic. The result is a moving and elegant portrayal of Maura, an older woman who finds herself ready to come out as female to her family.

The show addresses transgender realities tenderly and delicately. “Transparent” is a non-dramatized portrayal of someone transitioning to their true gender identity later in their life, after practicing a false identity for many years all the while building a family and career on the hollow foundation. It follows a comedic and light tone, tracking an all-grown-up Jewish family, the Pfeffermans, living in Los Angeles and father Mort, now Maura, coming to terms with her true identity as a woman. This unexpected announcement inspires the rest of the family to reassess their own identities and live more authentically themselves.

The acting performances build a nuanced foundation that complements the socially significant series. Maura, played by the incredible Jeffrey Tambour, expresses the timidity, insecurity and relatable fragility when hiding a part of yourself from the world. Watching the series unravel also treats the viewers to Maura’s journey of gaining confidence and embracing a true sense of self. Every small detail Tambour expresses in his performance shows the difference between Maura’s old and new self. Her mannerisms are more natural and fitting, feeling more at ease and less stand-offish. Tambour has won multiple awards for his performance, but it is important to acknowledge the need for real-life transgender individuals to be represented in our media. Even Tambour stated in an acceptance speech that he would be happy if he was the last cisgender actor playing a transgender character. However, “Transparent” does feature many real-life transgender actors as well, helping initiate the movement of transgender actor employment in Hollywood.

It is important to keep in mind that this series depicts a much easier way of life when compared to the tragedies faced by many transgender individuals. For example, Maura is well-off financially and has a welcoming support system with her wife and family. However, there are still many difficulties shown, specifically discrimination, that are suffered by transgender people across a variety of identities. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 41 percent of the trans or gender non-conforming population have attempted suicide. Individuals who are so heavily oppressed in society are in desperate need to have their voices heard and these stigmas eradicated. “Transparent” is a step in the right direction—providing a fictional yet informative portrayal of a trans person’s life that functions to avert the oppressors and illustrate how being authentic is beautiful.

Do you watch "Transparent"? Do you think it's a valuable part of the cultural conversation surrounding the experiences of transgender people? Let Ben know at arts@dailycardinal.com. 

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