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australia bamboozled by tropfest winner

Image: Youtube/Bamboozled

Image: Youtube/Bamboozled

*Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece reflecting the views of the individual writer. Do you have a very different take on Bamboozled and Tropfest 2013? We would welcome submissions of a counter-article on this subject. To contribute, get in touch with the friendly Lip crew here.

Tropfest is in its 22nd year this year, with people hitting Centennial Park in Sydney last Sunday for the annual short film festival.

It was on Monday, however, that the real storm started. The winner, a film called Bamboozled, has provoked a lot of controversy in the aftermath of taking out the top prize.

Bamboozled, directed by Matt Hardie, follows the story of Pete, who bumps into an ex-girlfriend, Helen, who has apparently undergone a sex change since they last saw each other, and now calls herself Harry. The two spend a night drinking and catching up, ultimately ending up in bed together. The kicker comes at the end when ‘Harry’ doesn’t turn out to be Helen, or anyone Pete knows – his real ex-girlfriend Helen has hired a reality television show called ‘Bamboozled’ to trick Pete into sleeping with a man as punishment.

For many in the trans* and intersex community, Bamboozled, is an insult and an outrage. Hardie’s film has quickly been accused of being homophobic, transphobic, and even perpetuating myths regarding gender identity and sexuality.

Many viewers took to Twitter to express their disdain for the winner:

‘The homophobic rape joke film won #Tropfest … how nauseating. :( #fail’

Jennifer Nash, @jennifernash2

‘I got about 2 minutes into the winning #Tropfest film before switching it off. Transgender is not a punchline

Patrick Magee, @Paddy_Magee

Hardie, however, says that he is not homophobic, and that he doesn’t think the film is homophobic or transphobic.

‘People are completely missing the point… it’s more of a comment on media and the extremes to which reality TV could go… It’s satirizing.’

While I disagree with anyone making gay or transgender people the punchline in a film, I have to agree with Hardie. Bamboozled paints a startling picture of the media and reality television. In a time where watching people live in a house for three months (a la Big Brother) is considered worthy of a series, the concept of the show ‘Bamboozled’ doesn’t seem very far fetched. When watching, I didn’t feel any disdain for transgendered or homosexual people, I felt more overwhelmed that ‘Bamboozled’ is only a few steps away from the series, Cheaters, a US reality show which actively catches and films cheating partners.

ABC contributor to The Drum, Will Kostakis, said of the film, ‘it was an unintentionally poignant reminder that we have a long way to go when it comes to treating the LGBTQI community as ‘equal’, rather than ‘other’.’

No, I don’t think Hardie was intentionally using transgender people as his punchline, however he has used Australia’s lack of acceptance and understanding as a storyline, and he’s won an award for it.

Kostakis says ‘there’s nothing particularly funny about being intimate with someone of the same gender. That, in and of itself, is not humorous. And neither is shaming them for it. That’s othering anyone who doesn’t identify as heterosexual, pointing at them and laughing (literally, in this case).’

Whether intentional or not, Bamboozled is a little disheartening. The Tropfest winner for 2013 shows, amongst other things, that Australia still has a long way to go with acceptance of LGBTIQ people.

What do you think of Bamboozled? Do you disagree with Matilda, and think the film is transphobic? If you’d like to write a counter-argument, please email Ruby at!

[Image Credit]

3 thoughts on “australia bamboozled by tropfest winner

  1. Hardie saying we “missed the point, it’s satire” is pretty much the equivalent of saying “I’m not racist, but…”
    He made a lot of people feel very sad/angry/disappointed, and somehow can’t see why. Not intending to cause harm doesn’t absolve you of it.
    The film was atrocious, and the only comment it makes to me about Australia’s media culture is that we’re so backwards we would select a transphobic film as the best short film in the country and be ok with it.

  2. Pingback: How has the Australian media portrayed women in 2013? | lip magazine

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