Guest post by Elizabeth Friedland
Senior PR Manager living the ad agency life. Voracious consumer (and sometimes publisher) of the written word, culture, politics and music.
What does it mean to be a man or a woman? How do you define being gay or straight? These seemingly logical and straightforward questions are turned on their heads in MR. ANGEL, a documentary on the life of pornstar Buck Angel.
Buck Angel looks a little like Mr. Clean. He’s bald and beefy, has a demanding presence, a girlfriend that likes to wear provocative outfits, and is just about as quintessentially manly as you can get. Except for his vagina.
The documentary explores gender identity in the context of Buck’s personal story and his struggle to define himself, struggle with his demons, and find acceptance amongst friends, family and the porn industry. Though born a woman (a gorgeous woman with a successful modeling career in the early 90s), Buck felt he was a man trapped in the wrong body all along. While he underwent hormone therapy to make him appear more like a man (a deepened voice, body hair, and the ability to build muscle mass) and “top” surgery (the removal of his breasts), he stopped short of a full transformation. Citing the risks and complications of “bottom” surgery, Buck happily stuck with his lady parts.
This kind of story is increasingly common in today’s society, which is becoming far more understanding of gender identity tissues. But Buck’s tale pushes the boundaries of our understanding. With his pants on – even shirtless – he looks like the manliest dude ever; he’s a man. But when the pants come off (and fair warning, you see it for yourself in this film), he’s all woman. One hundred percent, biological, vagina having woman. But Buck has sex with men – so does that make him and his male partners straight? Or since he presents as man, are he and his partners actually gay? And what about his girlfriend, who is a biological and presenting woman? Is she a lesbian? Heterosexual? Something in-between? When it comes to defining sexuality and gender, what matters more – how you feel, how you look, or what you biology says you are? Perhaps more importantly, does it really matter?
Buck Angel, the film and the man, is guaranteed to be like nothing you’ve ever seen. While Buck’s anatomy will certainly shock viewers, the filmmakers don’t treat him like a freak show. The documentary respectfully dives into Buck’s story, handling the subject matter with courtesy, consideration, and genuine intent. This truly fascinating film will have you thinking about society’s labels long after the credits have rolled.
The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for MR. ANGEL.