The hands and minds behind The Boxtrolls


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Some of the trans ladies I talk to are really upset and disappointed in this film. I, myself, was really into seeing it, but after hearing how the ladies reviewed it, I’m not sure I can. I’m trans myself, on the masculine side, so the overuse of these stereotypes don’t hit me really. However, I can’t help but be super aware that people I chat with online came out of that film frustrated to tears.

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Did somebody call for a Troll?

Hi, nice to meetcha!

“Those faces, about twice as big as a half dollar”

How big is a half-dollar?

As someone who is married to a M to F trans person, I was upset that we took our children to see this “wholesome family entertainment” and were confronted with the main villain being an evil crossdresser. I fervently wish that someday this stereotype will become as offensive as blackface.

Interesting. I have no idea what’s in the film but I noticed that the first teaser trailer seemed to have an unusually LGBT-friendly undertone for a family movie (“sometimes there’s a father and a father, sometimes both fathers are mothers…”)

That’s why they were so upset. They thought it would be a nice safe LGBT+ friendly film, then blammo! Transphobic tropes city.

Awkward. And just a few weeks ago the Advocate was showering praise on LAIKA for their “no big deal” approach to gay characters (both in the Boxtrolls teaser and Paranorman).

being a motion designer i loved the film for technical reasons but found the overall plot and pacing to be incredibly boring. the guy next to me at the theater fell asleep halfway through it and my daughter wanted to leave after an hour.

I’m a straight cis woman, who is very much a friend to the LGBT community. I can understand why you would be upset by the character, but I’d like to write a note and hope it clears up (at least my) perception of that character for you. I’m including it as a spoiler for those who have yet to see the film - there are some serious plot point reveals included here.

Snatcher is clearly the “bad guy”. He is the villain, and he is a cross dresser, but he isn’t the villain because he is a cross dresser. It is repeated often through the film that what he wants is a “tall, white hat” and to be included in the “cheese tasting”. Both of those are reserved for high society, which he isn’t a part of. So, his dressing as a woman isn’t what makes him evil, and that’s an important point.

In fact, at a party, when his wig is removed, he still is identified as M. Frou Frou - people don’t “see” Snatcher at the party, because M. Frou Frou is so very unlike Snatcher. It’s only the two children (who already had seen behind the disguise) who see how Frou Frou is misbehaving at the party at all. It’s clear that Snatcher uses that character to get the access into society he desires.

Also, the first appearance of M. Frou Frou is on stage, not at home. At home, he only ever dresses as Snatcher. There’s no gender confusion there - it’s quite clear that Frou Frou is just a disguise. When talking to a child, I would compare M. Frou Frou to Catwoman and Selena Kyle. Both are alter egos used so that the person can enter places they couldn’t in their “real” form.

In fact, the movie has a really good message for kids with gender issues. It tells kids “you make you” - not society, and not where you came from.So, while the villain may dress as a woman, I don’t believe the movie is negative toward LGBT at all. (The villain’s downfall is trying to live up to society, and a slight allergy.) When Snatcher ultimately is beaten, it’s as a man, not as Frou Frou. Meanwhile, Eggs chooses to be a Boxtroll rather than a little boy, and he lives successfully. So to choose to be the best you, no matter what that looks like, is a message contained in the film. I think it’s worth giving it a chance.

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I’m a transgender man, and as such, most of the anti trans biases, violence, and media troops fly right by me. I am aware of the issues, though. I will take the word of my trans lady friends when they say they are frustrated and angry about the film, because they are often silenced when they bring up criticism. In this case, I agree with them.

I think, as a cis person, you might not be in the best position to see why this is problematic. It’s not just this film, it’s that this film relies heavily on old problematic tropes that are used again and again. When women I know say they walked out, or cried because they felt betrayed by the film, then I think it’s best we believe them that it’s a big problem.

Do I think they meant to leave that impression with the trans community? No. I just think, like a lot of the world, they aren’t used to being aware that these kinds of depictions feed into a culture that reviles and victimizes trans women. As an ally, you might not be used to dealing with us specifically. God knows, the gay and lesbian community at large has had a long history of not knowing how to deal with us, or being down right hostile to us.

I think if we want better, aware, depictions in media, we need to bring it up, not sweep it under the rug. If the company wants to include us, they have to deal with the criticism, and do better next time. This is how people learn.

People also learn through experience, and you haven’t yet seen the film, but you’ve already decided what the content of it is - and how it should be taken.

You’re also making some seriously poor assumptions about me - a person you’ve never met. I’ve actually lived with people through their transition, am close friends with a married trans couple, and one of my oldest friends (of over 20 years) is an assistant manager at an Out of the Closet. While I myself am not gay or trans, I’m not someone who has only casually glimpsed at the problems people in the LGBT community live with. I really am someone who has bothered to learn what problems people living in that community deal with - probably because many of my friends have to encounter them daily.

About the movie: Here are a couple links to other people saying exactly what I’m saying - this clearly is not a trans character, but is a man in disguise. In fact, there are jokes built around that in the movie. Spoiler: the movie almost makes an “Emperor’s Clothes” joke out of the whole situation. It’s used as a way to mock the upper class, not the villain. You really need to see the film before you judge it.

Liam R. Findlay

The Boxtrolls is NOT transmisogynist, and here’s WHY

If one concern is about how the cis community responds to that character (because of negative trans stereotyping) - my comments should have value to you. After all, my point was that I didn’t associate that character with a “trans character” - but instead knew it was a villain using a disguise for personal gain. Other people online are saying the same thing. That’s why I suggested a way to explain the outfit to children. If you are living in a trans household, and you go to see the film, you might want to tell children in advance that the villain uses a disguise, but that he doesn’t believe it - it’s just a trick.

I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be a trans person living in a cisgendered world and, again, I haven’t seen this movie—but is “character disguised as member of the opposite sex in an attempt to deceive people” the problem or does it go deeper than that?

I never heard those kinds of objections over Mulan or Mrs. Doubtfire, but that could also just be because I wasn’t paying as much attention to LGBT issues at the time.

Playing the “I have transgender friends” card doesn’t really give you a voice to discredit other well known transgender women’s opinions on this subject. That’s great you’ve taken time to learn our the mysteries of the trans experience, and are a self professed ally, but when the trans community has voices stating they feel the film missed the mark by a wide margin, your cis voice is not the one that really has a right to tell them they are wrong. The best you can do is acknowledge that it’s a contention amongst the trans community, and walk away.

As to the differing voices in the community? We are all individuals with different experiences, and different perspectives. That doesn’t mean any of them are invalid.

You’re saying I should value your cis voice over what other trans women have said? That’s probably not going to happen. Transwomen’s voices are so often downplayed, and outright ignored. The least I can do as a transgender man, is take those voices seriously.

I think there were less objections to Mulan on several different points. One, it was a female to male thing. Being trans means you are a target, but FTM folks just don’t get the shit that transwomen do. If anything we just don’t figure in to media at all.

Transwoman have a long media history of being the butt of a joke, or a way to show a villain is truly perverse and twisted. It’s a trope that has been beaten to death. It’s just used over and over again.

Mulan was also a movie that focused on Mulan, her motivations, and was very clear she was hiding for the sole reason to protect her father. Not that the movie doesn’t figure into the FTM community. We have so few representations, that movie is often reached for as a possible positive trans masculine experience.

Mrs. Doubtfire does have criticisms, but I think that it saws a few years before the media rediscovered we exist, so it didn’t get much traction.

You are again, not understanding who I am.

I am in no way trying to discredit them. I even said that I fully believed their hurt was real.

In fact, I wholly appreciate their stance, and (while I can never understand what it means to be LGBT) I honestly do recognize how it feels to be misrepresented in media. I am naturally blonde and extremely busty. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s with Chrissy Snow as a popular TV representation of my “type” of woman, and she followed other “dumb blondes” and “bombshells”. I was only 16 when a substitute teacher felt it appropriate to call me “the Blonde Bomber”. (I am not a terrifically pretty woman, I’m just built.) So, while I can never experience being a trans woman, I have experienced negative stereotyping - to a ridiculous degree. (I am also an epileptic and an atheist.)

Go back and read what I wrote. What I have said is that you should form your own opinion, and that my opinion after seeing the film is that the character included does not represent a trans individual. I said you should see the film (any film) for yourself before you accept others’ interpretations of it - even my own. All I did was offer the voice of someone cis who had seen it, and say that if you were hearing their voices, you should hear mine as well.

I never once said my voice held more worth than your friends’.

P.S. If you’re looking for another positive example of an FTM disguise, I can recommend Dragonslayer. I just wrote it up yesterday as one of Disney’s best Medieval films in this thread.

Having seen what I felt to be a wonderful and moving film, in no way did I think the character was transgender. The only times he was shown as Frou Frou he was either spreading anti-boxtroll propaganda to further his goal of infiltrating high society, or actually infiltrating high society in disguise, which he was clearly rejected from. This was not a statement on transgendered individuals, but rather on the characters obsession with social class, which the film quite obviously spoke out against. He was a villain because he valued class above everything else. If there was any conflict in identity, it clearly went to eggs, who came to embrace both. I understand that we all see our own injustices in every work of art, but can’t we sometimes take a moment and enjoy something for what it is? if we see hate in everything, thats what we are going to get.


sounds like you should see the film.

Sure. Just try explaining to my ten-year old son why the villain - a man dressed as a woman, and being evil - is just SO different from how his dad is. I mean, all of this great abstract reasoning about who the villain is and why is great, but totally misses the fact that this is a film for KIDS. They don’t reason about how or why the villain is driven. They see the bad guy is dressing as a woman, full stop. Furthermore, the tropes used here are the worst possible. It’s not just the bad guy disguising himself, but he’s actively lying, and by inference with the comments from the other characters, being intimate with them AS a woman. It goes a little beyond mere disguise, and goes fully into the worst stereotypes possible.

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This is a film for kids and their parents, and like a lot of “whole family” entertainment (think Merrie Melodies) not all the jokes are aimed at children - they won’t get them. Here’s a perfectly clean example from the film: A poster advertises the town of Cheesebridge as “A Gouda Place to Live” That pun is way over most kids’ heads.

I do recognize your concerns (which I really shouldn’t have to say in every post!), and I did already offer a way to explain the villain that you could give to a child before seeing the film. Children often need to be told how to separate fantasy from reality - for all kinds of reasons - so it’s not a bad idea to explain who the villain is and just say that no one will let him into parties so he found a way to sneak in using a disguise. He could just as easily be a clown.

Stereotypes exist, but they aren’t always what they seem. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Monroe’s character is a “dumb blonde” who really isn’t - she’s just living up to society’s expectations. If I refused to see every film that had a “dumb blonde” in it, I would have missed some of Hollywood’s greatest classics - and some blondes being anything other than dumb.

This character isn’t designed to be trans. In fact, he’s more like a hybrid of the kid catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and an homage to Monty Python. It may help you to know that Eddie Izzard cited his main comedy role model as Monty Python. Cross dressing for humorous effect (for both sexes) is a British comedy tradition.

One last thing, and I am saying this to be helpful: At this point, you are on the brink of revealing far too much about a current, recent release film - that some people may want to see, this thread wasn’t originally about the topic that has taken it over - without using spoiler tags. Just go here to find out how to use them.