Walter Hill’s latest film The Assignment is about a hitman (Michelle Rodriguez) who has a forced sex change after crossing an unhinged mad doctor (Sigourney Weaver). After learning that the surgery cannot be reversed, the hitman goes on a killing rampage. The film has been hit with criticism for being problematic, because it is. It depicts the worst perceptions of trans people, plays into fears propagated by the anti-LGBT movement, and demonizes an important procedure. It is both insensitive, and wildly inappropriate.
“The film was written by novelist and former New York Daily News columnist Denis Hamill 40 years ago. He says that at the time he just wanted to write a “different” kind of pulp movie, and admits that the film arrives in “a completely different age” and that the whole topic is filled with politics that he didn’t anticipate.”
Why go ahead with the project is still a mystery. The issues regarding trans people are not new, and were taking place long before this film went into production. The writer also states,
“First of all, the character is not transgender. To be transgender, you have to believe you are in the wrong body. He’s forced into a body into which he does not identify with. He’s gone through a sex change, but it’s not a gender change. It’s not at all making fun of or exploiting the people in the transgender community, who I have nothing but sympathy for. Politically, everybody who made this film is a progressive person. The last thing we wanted to do was insult anybody. It’s pure entertainment.”
The director had this to say,
“The movie is consistent with transgender theory. He’s a guy inside his head, we had no idea when we were getting ready to make the movie that this was going to be a volatile subject. I’m certainly not here to make the journey of transgender people more difficult. As a matter of fact, I even find the suggestion insulting. We live in times where identity politics are rather prevalent, and people politicize almost everything.”
Both men lack awareness of what this film does. First, it highlights the lack of positive representation of trans people in mainstream media. Most trans roles are played by cis people, many trans actors/actresses have spoken against the lack of opportunities to tell their own story. Second, this film trivializes the trans experience. Third, when trans rights are in jeopardy all over the world, it does not aid the cause by having a film like this.
This film should have never been made. The story should have stayed in the past. The people behind this film should be ashamed.