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5 Movies like Tangerine: The Trans Experience

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Roxanne_Sancto_itcher_contributorIn recent years, the transgender community has finally found its own voice in the world of movies and entertainment. Movies like ‘Tangerine’ give us a glimpse into the lives of transgender sex workers; but there are also films that focus on the drag queen clichés, such as the ‘To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmark’ and ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’. ~ Roxanne Sancto

Out here it’s all about our hustle, and that’s it…

When Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is released from a 28-day stint in prison on Christmas Eve, she receives devastating news from her friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor): Sin-Dee Rella’s boyfriend and pimp, Chester (James Ransone), has been doing the dirty on her while she was stuck in a cell.

Promising she won’t be creating “no drama”, Sin-Dee Rella sets out to find Chester’s new flame, the cisgender woman, Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan). Although the plot revolves around Sin-Dee Rella’s quest to find Dinah, it goes into way more depth than that. In focusing on some of Alexandra and Sin-Dee Rella’s clients as well, ‘Tangerine’ portrays the lives and perceptions of both the clients and sex workers.

If you’d like to learn more about what it means to be transgender and how the transition can affect relationships, check out more movies like ‘Tangerine’ below.

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Movies Similar to ‘Tangerine’…

‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ (Killer Films, 2001)

Born on the Eastern side of the Berlin wall, Hansel (John Cameron Mitchell) was always more of a girl than a boy. When he meets his very own “sugar daddy”, an American soldier named Luther (Maurice Dean Wint), they fall in love and plan to marry but in order to do so, Hansel needs to undergo a sex-change.

His mother Hedwig (Alberta Watson) organises a doctor to perform the sex change and gives Hansel her own name, but unfortunately, the operation is botched and Hansel (now Hedwig) is left with a “one-inch mound of flesh” between her legs. She dubs it “the Angry Inch”.

‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ is a fantastic musical movie experience starring John Cameron Mitchell in one of his best roles to date. Each and every song on the soundtrack tells part of Hedwig’s story in a beautiful, humorous manner that can be enjoyed even without knowledge of the film itself.

‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ can also be enjoyed on Broadway, starring Neil Patrick Harris in the lead role.

Similarity Match: 85%
Hedwig and Sin-Dee Rella are happy to purposely shock those with a highly conservative take on the transgender community; but while their lifestyles are both extreme, Hedwig’s story is a bit more emotionally harrowing.

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‘Transamerica’ (ICF Films & The Weinstein Company, 2005)

Bree (Felicity Huffman) is finally ready to embrace her new life – having been trapped in the life and body of Stanley for too many years, she can hardly wait to travel to LA for her vaginoplasty surgery. But when she receives a phone call from a young boy named Toby (Kevin Zegers), her plans change.

Toby turns out to be Bree’s son, only she had no idea he even existed. She’s ready to forget she ever received the phone call, but her therapist (Elizabeth Peña), insists she find closure in her past, before taking on her new future. Bree complies and bails Toby out of jail, identifying herself as a Christian missionary. But it doesn’t take long until Toby discovers the truth about who Bree really is.

‘Transamerica’ follows Bree and Toby’s journey towards LA, as they try to suss out their individual personalities and how these can meet halfway in order to form a solid relationship. It’s a long and rocky road, but ultimately, they get there…

Similarity Match: 80%
Though Bree and Sin-Dee Rella’s lifestyles and personalities are vastly different, they are both dealing with the challenges that come with being a transgender woman in a generally conservative – and often transphobic – society.

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‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ (PolyGram Filmed Entertainment & Specific Films, 1994)

When Mitzi Del Bra’s (Hugo Weaving) ex-wife Marion (Sarah Chadwick) asks him to perform a drag show in the Casino Resort of Alice Springs, he drums up his fellow queens to set out on a four-week road trip in a tour bus named Priscilla.

Mitzi is nervous about seeing his estranged wife again and his friends are somewhat confused about his former life. Bernadette Bassinger (Terence Stamp) is also dealing with personal struggles, having just lost her partner. The only one who seems to be in high spirits is Felicia Jollygoodfellow (Guy Pearce).

As they make their way through the outback of Australia, they meet many characters along the way – some welcoming and friendly, such as the Aboriginals they perform for in the desert, others extremely hostile, homophobic and even violent.

What was meant to be a light-hearted tour turns into a journey of self-discovery that ends with the trio climbing the King’s Canyon in full drag get-up, i.e.: Three cocks “in a frock on a rock”!

Similarity Match: 75%
‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ is a true cult classic, set in the nineties, when the transgender community wasn’t as openly embraced as today. Both films deal with protagonists in search of answers.

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‘To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar’ (Amblin Entertainment, 1995)

Picture this: Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo as drag queens… almost seems too good to be true, right? Well, I’m here to tell you – it actually happened for the film ‘To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar’!

The movie follows Noxeema Jackson (Snipes) and Vida Boheme (Swayze), after they tie in New York’s Drag Queen Contest of the Year. As a prize, they get to compete in the Miss Drag Queen of America Pageant in Hollywood. They take their protégé Chi-Chi Rodriguez (Leguizamo) along for the ride.

Travelling in an old Cadillac, they have several car troubles along the way until finally, the motor gives up altogether and they find themselves stranded in a redneck town with a homophobic Sheriff and abusive B&B host.But that’s hardly enough  to take these sassy ladies down!

Similarity Match: 70%
‘Tangerine’ and ‘To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar’ both examine small-minded attitudes in regards to the transgender community. ‘Tangerine’ has an urban feel whereas ‘To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar’ is set in a small town.

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If You Like ‘Tangerine’, You Will Like…

It’s really refreshing seeing films like ‘Tangerine’ hitting the big screen. Up until recent years, movies following the transgender and LBGT communities were usually kept “underground” but it seems as though changing attitudes are finally allowing stories of gender identity struggles and transitions into the mainstream – Yas Queen! As Transparent’s “Moppa” might say!

If you’re interested in watching movies that focus on all members of the LBGT community, check out ‘Shortbus’.

‘Shortbus’ (Fortissimo Films & Q Television, 2006)

Sofia Lin (Sook-Yin Lee) is a couples’ counsellor/sex therapist, though lately, she feels like a fraud, seeing as she herself cannot achieve orgasm. When she lashes out at her patients Jamie (PJ DeBoy) and James (Paul Dawson) due to her frustration, she is forced to explain herself.

Jamie and James suggest she attend “Shortbus”, a weekly gathering where sex and art merge. Sofia is overwhelmed by the going-ons in the sex salon at first, but quickly finds her groove after meeting the dominatrix, Severin (Lindsay Beamish). Severin takes Sofia to a sensory deprivation tank on a regular basis where they engage in intense conversations, allowing Sofia to open up sexually.

‘Tangerine’ focuses on the transgender community whereas ‘Shortbus’ includes all sexual identities. Both films follow characters who are looking for stimulation in one way or another.

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No Matter What, You’ll Be Judged. So Be Yourself!

If we can learn anything from films similar to ‘Tangerine’, it’s that the most important thing is to embrace who you are and what you feel and just be yourself. People are always going to judge – whether you’re male, female, straight or gay, there’s no denying it.

So, at the end of the day, as long as you’re comfortable with who you are, who cares what others think?

The ladies in the movies, above all, managed to stand up for themselves and refused to let others get them down – whose example will you be following?

My name is Roxanne Sancto and I’ll be writing all things music, book and movie related for itcher mag. I also write for New Heroes & Pioneers’ upcoming Festival and Culture magazines, to be launched in the spring of 2014. I am the co-author of The Pink Boots and am currently working on two new novels. I love music, literature, cinema, crafting, yoga and animals.
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