Is Benedict Cumberbatch’s character in ‘Zoolander 2′ actually transphobic?


As we discussed last week, Benedict Cumberbatch’s cameo in Zoolander 2 is featured prominently in the second trailer. I assumed Benedict would be playing himself or some version of himself, but he’s playing a real character, the top model in Zoolander’s fictional world. Bendy plays All, an androgynous/gender neutral model who literally says “All Is All” when asked by Zoolander if All is a male model or a female model. While many of us thought it was funny – it is clearly making fun of the current trends of the fashion industry – some people are not laughing. There’s a petition up claiming that Benedict’s All is transphobic and “the modern equivalent of blackface.”

The upcoming Zoolander sequel has come under fire after a new trailer was released featuring an androgynous model played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Critics are calling Cumberbatch’s character, named ‘All’ in the film, a ‘cartoonish mockery’ of transgender, androgyne and non-binary individuals – and ‘the modern equivalent of blackface’. In the trailer, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are introduced to ‘All’, who has been dubbed the ‘biggest supermodel in the world’.

An online petition urging a boycott against the film – which will be released in February – has since garnered nearly 8,000 signatures. Petition author Sarah Rose writes in the protest’s description: ‘Cumberbatch’s character is clearly portrayed as an over-the-top, cartoonish mockery of androgyne/trans/non-binary individuals. This is the modern equivalent of using blackface to represent a minority. If the producers and screenwriters of Zoolander wanted to provide social commentary on the presence of trans/androgyne individuals in the fashion industry, they could have approached models like Andreja Pejic to be in the film.’

Pejic came out publicly as a transgender woman and underwent sex reassignment surgery in 2014 after years of walking major runway shows for both men and women’s fashion as a male model. Rose said the character All mocked transgender, androgyne and non-binary individuals. She encouraged people to sign the petition and pledge to boycott the film.

‘By hiring a cis [non-transgender] actor to play a non-binary individual in a clearly negative way, the film endorses harmful and dangerous perceptions of the queer community at large,’ she writes.

[From The Daily Mail]

I have mixed feelings about this. Have we grown as a community to the point where we can openly discuss #TransLivesMatter and whether certain words, ideas, films, TV shows, questions, etc are “transphobic”? Yes, we have grown to that stage, where we’re in the process of being educated and we should be aware of trans issues, and we should be vigilant about representation, acceptance and tolerance. But at the end of the day, I’m not sure that was the point of the joke in the trailer. Zoolander isn’t making fun of All for being androgynous, Zoolander is coming to the realization that a lot has changed in the fashion industry since HE was the biggest supermodel in the world. The joke is “on” Zoolander, not All. I don’t find this the equivalent of “blackface” any more than Kristen Wiig’s portrayal of a crazy Donatella Versace/Lady Gaga type is the equivalent of “blackface” for people who get too much plastic surgery.

All that being said, it would have been amazing if Ben Stiller has asked Andreja Pejic to do a cameo as well.


Screencaps courtesy of the trailer.

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180 Responses to “Is Benedict Cumberbatch’s character in ‘Zoolander 2′ actually transphobic?”

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  1. Jenni says:

    I don’t like Ben Stiller and his movies so it’s another masterpiece I’m not going to watch. All I want to say that Cucumberbatch looks like some character from Harry Potter.

    • Jellybean says:

      I am not a stiller fan as such, but Zoolander and Dodgeball are both films that make me laugh out loud every time I see them. Unless the reviews are dire that is one comedy I will be paying to see.

      • Snappyfish says:

        I adored both Zoolander & Dodgeball. I’m not a Stiller fan but will see 2oolander! People need to give this a rest. It’s comedy at its most base & its poking fun at an industry, that I love, but do see the sheer absurd nature of.

        I don’t see All as being anything but a statement of androgyny. Much like David Bowie & then fashion in the 90s & then heroin chic

      • joan says:

        ‘If the producers and screenwriters of Zoolander wanted to provide social commentary on the presence of trans/androgyne individuals in the fashion industry, they could have approached models like Andreja Pejic to be in the film.’ –

        These protesters just don’t get it — it’s meant to be a SATIRE of the industry.

        Not a DOCUMENTARY!

        This is thin-skinned, on-your-high-horse complaining of the most ridiculous.

      • Sarah says:

        @ Snappyfish and @ Joan
        I agree. It’s a Ben Stiller comedy, not some deep thinking work of art. It makes fun of everyone – Zoolander is supposed to be an idiot and so is everyone else.

      • Lisa says:

        frikken 100% this! I was laughing my ass off just watching this trailer…that too, TWICE in a row! I laughed even harder the second time! This will be epic.

    • nic says:

      You know what? I AM a Ben Stiller fan, and not just because he looks so much like my favorite talking head, Sam Harris ( <3 ). I think his movies are funny and smart and genuinely sweet. I think he picks excellent material and puts his all into it. I trust him to make thoughtful, high quality comedy classics, and I'm looking forward to this.

      • Loopy says:

        Oh my gosh, tell you at least gave Meet the Parents a chance.

      • Kitten says:

        Meet The Parents was awesome. Jinxie FTW!

      • Pandy says:

        I love Ben Stiller as well. Can’t wait to see this. Can we really start petitions about fictional characters based on 15 seconds in a trailer? A bit ridiculous.

      • holly hobby says:

        Yup a Ben Stiller fan too! I can’t wait to see this movie. For the people who started this petition, they should wait and see the movie before getting upset. Sorry this is a satire. It pokes fun of the entire fashion industry – not just transgender people.

    • Maria A. says:

      What about Tropic Thunder? That one rocked.

      • Trillion says:

        My ultra conservative in-laws walked out of that movie in a huff because they thought it mocked the military and portrayed the Vietnam war in a negative light. (my husband and I loved it, of course! Tom cruise’s best role yet)

  2. Sam says:

    People will find a reason to be offended by anything.

    • Loulou says:

      Your comment will probably offend the easily offended.

      • SnarkySnarkers says:

        I’m offended you would even assume anyone is easily offended. I’m going to my #safe space!

      • asami says:

        I am offended you did not include those who are not easily offended – they are the minority now. You are not representing them.

    • Kasia says:

      Exactly. And this is how any sense of humour will eventually die.

      • Fran says:

        ^^^ THIS.
        I despair at the idea of this new butt-hurt generation.

      • claire says:

        At the rate the butthurt generation is taking things, we’ll be fined for laughing, all races will be segregated, and you’ll have to take a culture test to do anything. Imprisonment if you’re not from India and caught doing Yoga.

      • Santia says:

        @Claire – Your’re probably joking, but that is actually happening at some college. Some kids called a yoga class “cultural appropriation” of the Indian culture and the college shut it down. I read it yesterday (I want to say in the NY Daily News, but it could have been another NY paper).

      • claire says:

        @Santia: Oh, I know! That’s what made me include that. I’ve also read recently about the colleges that are creating the POC safe spaces and the bazillion Tumblrites who are calling for segregation. It’s all bonkers. Millenials have some, um, really interesting suggestions for ‘equal rights.’

      • Christin says:

        We have so little humor in entertainment as it is. It’s to the point that I find myself noticing things in older movies that would cause outrage in today’s super sensitive world.

      • NorthernGirl_20 says:

        @ Santia that was at Ottawa U.

      • Santia says:

        @Claire and @NorthernGirl_20 – Thanks for corroborating. After I wrote it, I thought maybe I’d made it up somehow, because, well, the world can’t really be that ridiculous. But, it is!

      • genevieve says:

        Regarding the U of Ottawa yoga, they cancelled one of the free classes because no one was taking it. There are still other free yoga classes. The article first appeared in the Sun, which is a right-wing rag.

    • knower says:

      I am offended by this comment!


    • Solanacaea (Nighty) says:

      How can you accuse people of finding excuses to be offended? That’s so offensive of you. You know people have feelings, right??

      ;) * Enjoy your evening, ladies.. Going back to making tests.. How awesome, making tests… yupi?!!!! ??

    • Zwella Ingrid says:

      Given enough time, political correctness will bite us all in the a$$ at some point.

      • Loulou says:

        Yep. I’m all for respecting one another and being kind to people. But I tend to dislike the PC agenda.

    • EM says:

      I’m offended at your view that I will be offended by anything :P
      Seriously though…I can accept people being offended, but when they have to put it on all social media, it becomes ridiculous.

  3. BendyWindy says:

    How did I never connect that selfie face is blue steel???

  4. Zapp Brannigan says:

    I think the joke “have you a hotdog or a bun?” is just lazy and not really funny. It would be like asking a gay person if they were the “husband or wife, the catcher or the mitt” in their marriage/bedroom imo.

    And yes I get the argument that it is just a movie not a serious piece, but it is still work that is presented to the general public and it is important how minority groups are portrayed in popular culture as it is often reflected in society as a whole. Whether we like it or not people often take their social mores from popular culture.

    • Miss Jupitero says:

      I agree the joke isn’t really funny. I have absolutely no plans to see this film, but I think the only thing that can redeem the joke is if it is at Owen Wilson’s character’s expense, i.e., meant to show what an idiot he is.

      I think the thing to do is listen to what people who are actually transgender/androgynous/nonbinary have to say on the subject. I get a little tired of those who are cis getting all cranky because they don’t see what the big deal is (i.e., it doesn’t affect them, therefore it is not important), or dismissing the points people are making out of hand. Listen and take the matter seriously. People deserve that much.

    • North of Boston says:

      It’s hard to tell from just one clip, but from the trailer, it seems the film agrees with you. The scene is set up so that the character that asks that question looks like an idiot (ie that it’s a rude, stupid, not funny question) The audience is meant to laugh AT the character who says that line, not WITH them.

  5. Brendan says:

    OMG. I saw the title and my eyes rolled out of my head, down the street, had a cocktail, and came back to me ready to view this nonsense.

    As a part of the LGBT community and a strong advocate/watchdog specifically for the at-risk community, I find this tiresome. Trans men and women and being killed every day around the world. They are being denied food and housing and being rejected by their biological families and their own communities. Many of our lawmakers have shown that they are not a priority to them. THAT is something to get upset over. That is something to yell about and get in the streets about and to raise money and awareness about.

    A silly sequel to a silly movie (not dissing the comedy, but it is a silly movie) in which a character is a parody of the equally silly fashion world and it’s obsession with androgyny is not the fight, friends. I know we now live in a culture where getting offended apparently makes you a better person and more aware (that’s a separate rant), but if we get offended over everything it makes the real issues less visible and discussed. If you aren’t actively involved and informed on trans issues I don’t think you get to be all up in arms over a 10 second clip of Zoolander 2.

    • missmerry says:

      well said.

    • Christin says:

      Applause — Well said.

    • SnarkySnarkers says:

      Hear hear!

    • original kay says:

      you took the words right out oh my head.

      we’re becoming desensitized as a society, which means the really big issues get tossed away.

      • SnarkySnarkers says:

        I actually think we are being oversensitized to the point where the really big issues matter just as much as the trivial stuff. People jump from issue to issue in a matter of days and think they all carry the same weight. They seem to think stating their opinion on the internet/social media means they have made a difference. Same result basically as being desensitized though I suppose.

      • Esmom says:

        SS, yes, like the Starbucks cup nonsense then the Paris attacks right on its heels. Sigh.

      • original kay says:

        I agree that people seem to think posting their opinions on a message board actually means they are facilitating change.

      • asami says:

        @snarky . . . + infinity

    • Samipup says:

      I am in awe of your perfect response.

    • Guesto says:

      Thank you, Brendan. My eyes, like yours, rolled right to the back of my head so thank you for helping restore them back to their forward position.

    • ichsi says:

      Amen. I’ve seen some people huffing and puffing about this on tumblr and it made me once again question why I don’t leave tumblr for good.

    • Rachel says:

      Can we Upworthy this comment???

    • Cran says:

      I agree. I believe people are working overtime these days looking to be offended and are not also considering context.

      There is currently a case at a university in Canada in which a yoga class that has been offered for several years being suspended over being called a yoga class. The purported offence being cultural misappropriation. Renaming it Mindful Stretching was unacceptable. Course is free and is open to everyone. I believe the complaint suggests the POSSIBILITY someone might be offended not that anyone actually has claimed offence.

      • I Choose Me says:

        Seriously? That is sad.

      • Jwoolman says:

        Can we still eat Indian food if we’re not of Indian extraction? I hate to think I’m relegated to corned beef and potatoes because I’m mostly Irish. Will have to find a source of vegetarian corned beef for starters. I will have to close all the blinds to eat pizza in secret, since I’m not Italian. (I am NOT giving up pizza.)

        Who exactly is complaining about calling such exercises yoga, and what alternatives do they suggest that would be descriptive? Or are we not allowed to stretch anymore? I’d like to hear from people actually in India about how they feel about it and what alternatives they would suggest.

      • idsmith says:

        According to an interview I watched on the news, the issue at U of Ottawa was not just calling the class “Yoga” but that the practice itself was cultural appropriation. They are not helping the cause of ACTUAL cultural appropriation by being so ridiculous. I guess cancel all martial arts classes in the world unless you are Asian because by this definition that would also be appropriation.

    • Tiny Martian says:

      Wow, Brendan. I think I love you! Well said.

    • The RealAlicia says:

      Best comment in this thread

      Has Sarah Rose – the author of this petition – done anything about trans men and women being abused/murdered at alarming rates? Has Rose does anything about trans men and women who are kicked out of their homes and are on the street?

      There are so many bigger issues facing the trans community than Zoolander 2.

    • Betches feel the need to be butt hurt about something nowadays…their outrage makes them feel like a special snowflake…and remember…we’re all ‘special’ now.

    • tracking says:

      Thank you.

    • I Choose Me says:


    • Kitten says:

      Good comment. Thanks for giving your personal take.

    • Illyra says:

      Great post.

    • Carol says:

      +1 so true!

    • holly hobby says:


    • kri says:

      Brendan-I love you. Amazing. Thank you.

    • imqrious2 says:

      “I saw the title and my eyes rolled out of my head, down the street, had a cocktail, and came back to me ready to view this nonsense.”

      OMG!!! THANK YOU Brendan, for giving me a great big, genuine LOL moment!! I hope you don’t mind if I use it (credit will be given, of course!) :-D

      Spot on to the rest of what you said!

    • cd3 says:

      Fabulous, spot-on, remarkably well-put post @Brendan!

      Could you please come back and comment on every story on this site? Or apply for a job at Celebitchy?

  6. Amberica says:

    This annoys me. People are offended by a lack of sensitivity from freaking Zoolander? How about you watch the movie first? Zoolander is stupid. I get the knee-jerk reaction of being offended, but maybe take a step back and consider the context of what’s offending you sometimes. I thought it was more about the trend of androgynous models, but I’ll grant that as a cis person I’m not conditioned to look for the potential offense to trans or other people. I agree there’s more sensitivity needed in our world, but it annoys me that anything that bothers someone is instantly labeled “-phobic”. Phobia is fear. A joke, even in poor taste, does not translate to fear of something. I think that’s a dangerous bit of rhetoric to use, especially considering the rates of suicide and depression prevalent in the trans community. Fear and hate are things they face on a daily basis, but not every joke or ignorant encounter qualify as hate and fear. Maybe we need to find a more productive way to dialogue about these things than simply instantly labeling everything “phobia”.

    • Santia says:

      For real. If everything has to be accurate, then they need to get a “real” stupid person to pay Zoolander. And a “real” model, at that. It’s a movie. Get over it.

  7. Tiffany says:

    On one hand you want to sit and listen and learn.

    On the other you want to say, that is what you took from the trailer.

  8. t.fanty says:

    Someone on the internet got offended? You lie.

  9. Bettyrose says:

    Is David Bowie circa 1980 like blackface? It’s wonderful that transgender rights have come so far, but androgeny is not new and it’s not disrespectful to transgender people.

    • Christin says:

      The offended apparently did not pay enough attention to the clip to realize the character is adrogynous.

      I guess SNL can never, ever run a repeat episode featuring Pat.

    • Guest21 says:

      Not all trans men and women are offended, just this “spokesperson”. I didn’t think the All scenes were particularly funny but I certainly wasn’t offended either. I’m much more freaked out by how Benedict Cumberbatch looks without eyebrows…

    • Miss Jupitero says:

      I think some of the people who are offended don’t understand that transgender/nonbinary/gender fluid/androgynous are not necessarily the same things.

      And yeah eyebrows. I could never, ever shave my eyebrows off! I don’t even want to think about how weird I would look!

    • justagirl says:

      No, androgyny is not new nor disrespectful to transgender people…but that wasn’t the point. Tho the CB headline says transphobic, the petition actually claims the film is “a ‘cartoonish mockery’ of transgender, androgyne and non-binary individuals”.

      Soapbox: does no one read the actual ‘detail’ content highlighted in the article? Saying it’s ok, it’s not transphobic because the character is androgynous is missing the point of the petition…

      • anon121 says:

        Lighten up Just A Girl. There’s much worse going on in the world today. Just saying-

      • TotallyBiased says:

        Anon 121:
        C’mon, now, that’s a terrible response. It isn’t a zero sum game, where people have a limited amount of care and/or should be judged on what is important to them. The whole ‘there are more terrible things in the world’ trope is so dismissive, when–even if you completely disagree with someone’s opinion–one might hope you can see the value in the discussion.
        And actually, the tone of your repeated comments on this post almost make it seem as if you are –trying– to set hackles up!

      • Bettyrose says:

        Alright, justagirl, I’ll own it. I reacted to the conflating of transgender with androgeny and jumped to defend the culture I love. I love Bowie and Tilda, men in eyeliner, and pixie girls like Ellen Page. The transgender movement is a powerful thing and I fully support it. Everyone should be able to define gender for themselves, but those of us who love to bend the rules and challenge gender norms shouldn’t be accused of transphobia. I mean no one really was making that accusation, but hey it’s the internet and we’re all entitled to jump in and voice our opinions passionately, right? ;-)

  10. littlemissnaughty says:

    1. Has she seen the entire movie?
    2. Yes, the joke is always on Zoolander, at least in the first movie. He’s the butt of every joke. I doubt this is different.
    3. Without having seen the movie, it’s hart to tell but I take it if they’re not making fun of Zoolander, they’re making fun of the fashion industry. That’s kind of the point of the movies?
    4. If they’d cast Pejic, somebody would scream about something as well.

    It’s Zoolander 2. I’m just saying.

    • Miss Jupitero says:

      “Yes, the joke is always on Zoolander, at least in the first movie. He’s the butt of every joke. I doubt this is different.”

      This for me is the crucial point. If this is true and if the joke is on them, rather than on All, then that goes a long way toward making this better.

      Otoh, if they are making fun of the fashion industry by saying “Oh look at the weirdo androgynous model!” well, that in my opinion is the problem.

    • Christin says:

      It’s a silly, mostly over the top comedy. No one is being forced to see it.

      I’m looking forward to the second installment of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and now wonder if someone will pick apart the trailer and claim it is offensive.

  11. EN says:

    > By hiring a cis [non-transgender] actor to play a non-binary individual in a clearly negative way, the film endorses harmful and dangerous perceptions of the queer community at large,’

    I’d like to understand what the actual issue is. She says “clearly negative way” – I don’t see it, I think the character’s portrayal is rather flattering.

    What is the issue here? Is it that Cumberbatch is not pretty enough ( I get this from their references to Prejic who is conventionally very good looking) or that Cumberbatch is not a trans?

    If the issue is what he is not a trans then – 1) we don’t know if the character is either 2) actors shouldn’t be hired based on their self-identification but based on their acting skill . We’ve been through that just recently with Eddie’s “Danish Girl”.

    Additionally, I saw 2 articles in the Guardian on the same subject, and there was no support of this petition in the comments, even though the Guardian is a liberal newspapers which supports LGBT community.

    It comes across as an attempt to garner some extra publicity at the expense of Cumberbatch.

    • Birdix says:

      I think that (from the trailer) it looks as if All is portrayed as strange and other, in a slightly different way that Zealander is (he’s more stupid). We are meant to laugh at All, not with All.

      • EN says:

        > We are meant to laugh at All, not with All.

        No, we are meant to laugh at Owen Wilson’s character. “All” comes across as above them. They are the ones stuck in the past.

      • Naya says:

        We are probably supposed to laugh at All. But isnt every model character in this film a figure of ridicule? The question is WHY are we laughing at All. You seem to think its a “haha, he doesnt even know what he is” joke. I think its a joke about how pretentious the character sounds, and how clueless Ben and Owens character are.

      • Birdix says:

        you’re right Naya, and this is the crux of it–if everyone is made ridiculous, why single out one character? but I can understand this community not being ready to be made ridiculous. And there are so few trans characters in mainstream movies that I can see being dismayed by a big splashy movie that will get wide release having a trans character that is portrayed in this way. I can see why people think this is oversensitive, too. It’s not cut and dry in my mind–although this is not the responsibility of this movie, I don’t think it will help advance the public understanding of the trans community. But who knows? I haven’t seen the movie.

      • claire says:

        “having a trans character that is portrayed in this way.”
        But it’s not a trans character, is it?

    • Miss Jupitero says:

      I don’t see what is negative, but then I secretly wish I were Tilda Swinton.

    • hermia says:

      Well said EN. Plus BC is really pretty in this, maybe non conventionally pretty, but still…

  12. Honeybubble says:

    Not my type of movie but I’m so sick of the professionally offended scouring the world for the flimsiest excuse imaginable to be offended by the most inoffensive little things. If I didn’t know how genuinely crazy underworked, overindulged people can be then I would wonder if these people are paid trolls used to undermine genuine issues by associating certain groups with ridiculousness and hysteria, leading people to mentally shut off from listening to them.

    • SloaneY says:

      I read the other day about some university in Canada where someone got the free yoga class that was accessible for people with disabilities shut down because it might be offensive because of cultural appropriation of yoga practices.

      What in the ever loving f is wrong with people?

      • claire says:

        The one interesting to me right now is the case of the college group that wanted to work towards erasing body shame of women. I guess they do various events but this one was towards taking the stigma away from nudity, etc. They had a bakesale with cupcakes decorated to look like vulvas. They were picketed and told that this was violence against transwomen; and since transwomen don’t have vulvas this was a direct attack on them and unfair – they managed to get the school to shut down the event.

    • Zip says:

      This. So much. It also discourages trying to be pc because obviously anything one does is wrong anyway. No matter what you do, someone will be offended (i.e. the free yoga classes mentioned above). So why put in any extra effort?

  13. Birdix says:

    “I don’t find this the equivalent of “blackface” any more than Kristen Wiig’s portrayal of a crazy Donatella Versace/Lady Gaga type is the equivalent of “blackface” for people who get too much plastic surgery.”
    Except that getting too much plastic surgery is a choice. I don’t think these are comparable.

  14. Lilacflowers says:


    Not paying money to see this in a cinema but that’s just because Ben Stiller movies don’t interest me enough to pay full price to see them

  15. Boston Green Eyes says:

    Ain’t gonna lie, I love offending self-righteous people!

    • Dawn says:

      Thank you. I am right there with you and although I am not a Ben Stiller fan I will be going to this movie just so I can offend more people!

  16. Lorelei says:

    Honestly, after reading that a free yoga class held at a University in Canada was canceled because of the possibility of cultural appropriation nothing surprises me anymore. It’s a fricking yoga class!!!!

    • SloaneY says:

      And it was taught through and was accessible to students with disabilities! Because some (insert your favorite insult here) who probably never even took the class thought it *might* be offensive to someone, somewhere at some time. Ridiculous.

    • Sam says:

      Especially when you learn about yoga and realize that the vast majority of the yoga gurus who helped created new forms of it totally intended for it to be spread throughout the world. Heck, most of them actually immigrated to either America or elsewhere to continue spreading it. They WANTED it to go out and spread and gain practitioners all over the world.

      Are there yoga teachers who engage in mis-representing HIndu spiritual beliefs? Certainly. There are also ones who have no spirituality as part of the classes and keep it as a solely physical exercise. Then there are ones who have fully embraced the spiritual side of it and do it well. It’s up to the student to decide what kind of class they want. But from what I’ve read, there’s no evidence that this particular yoga teacher was doing anything offensive. That’s what I find so crazy about it.

      (Also, I’d bet money that the individual who raised the complaint was white. It seems like there is now a big issue with white people presuming to “stand up” for minorities even when they don’t have any issues)

      • word says:

        As an Indian, let me tell you that the majority of the Indian people I personally know really don’t give a damn who does Yoga. It’s an exercise. This particular professor was not making it a “spritual” thing nor were they pretending to be a Yogi or Guru. The professor even said they would change the name of the classes and simply call it “stretching exercises”. I don’t know who complained about this but I can most likely bet you it wasn’t the Indian students at that University. We should be more offended how Yoga has become a billion dollar industry in America. They are selling really expensive yoga mats and yoga pants. Ridiculous ! You don’t need anything expensive to do yoga.

      • whatthe says:

        This happens a lot on Celebitchy – non POC who think they are the authorities on how POC think and feel.

    • swack says:

      What next, shutting down all the yoga classes at fitness clubs? Is it only cultural appropriation if it is done in public? What about all those who have yoga DVD’s and do yoga at home? This is totally ridiculous.

    • kate says:

      It seems that the real issue was one of bureaucracy. The school is French-Canadian, and everything has to be translated into both languages. People are saying the real problem was that they couldn’t translate the name of the class into French.

  17. j says:

    tbh the petition’s attempt to compare this to awfulness and legacy of blackface is the most offensive thing here.

  18. Sam says:

    I always thought the thrust of the Zoolander movies was that Ben and Owen were the butt of the jokes. There’s the whole scene in the first one where Christine Taylor is discussing developing bulimia and they think she’s referencing psychic powers. Nothing about that scene disparages bulimia or eating disorders. It’s about the models being stupid. I just don’t see how this joke is disparaging All the character. He’s not played as stupid, or gross or a freak. The other two just don’t get him. Not really that funny, I guess, but “blackface?” And isn’t part of the joke that he’s being played by Cumberbatch, who has a devoted female fan base? Like, I presume that’s part of the joke too.

    • Green Girl says:

      “And isn’t part of the joke that he’s being played by Cumberbatch, who has a devoted female fan base? Like, I presume that’s part of the joke too. ”

      I thought that, too. He also does a ton of historic films and plenty of serious roles, so seeing him in a frat pack film is a definite change!

  19. anon121 says:

    To all of you who get offended over stupid s**t-WAAH! I’M watching this the day it comes out!

  20. uninspired username says:

    They lost me at “the modern equivalent of blackface.”

    • hmph says:

      Yup, made my left eye twitch as well.
      I’m sick of everyone using black people to either further an agenda, or legitimize their cause/”offense”.
      Get a new crutch already!

    • Ankhel says:

      Yup. Cumberbatch could never be black, but he could’ve been an androgynous model all day long if he wanted to, and nobody could’ve said anything against it. So why shouldn’t he play one? It’s just a job, not an identity.

      And as I recall, the many ridiculous fashion fools in the world of Zoolander aren’t shown to be gay or trans anyway. The movie company probably doesn’t want trouble with focus groups. So All is very likely no more trans than Derek was gay.

  21. senna says:

    After raising the question of whether the character “All” was transphobic in the first post (but saying I would not come to judgment about it without seeing the movie) I’d like to recognize that this is one of those media kerfuffles where the conversation is important, and deserves more thorough examination than the “some people will be offended by anything; relax, it’s a joke,” crowd will allow. Trans models have been having a significant cultural moment lately. Andreja Peijc (when she publicly identified as androgynous) walked in women’s collections and men’s collections. Casey Legler, a woman, modeled for the men’s division of Ford. Lea T, who is trans, is a successful model. Caitlyn Jenner came out very publicly. This isn’t an exhaustive list. These models and public figures are generally recognized as beautiful, desirable, and are able to “pass” as an attractive member of the opposite sex, even if there’s a lot of problems with that sentiment.

    Since sexual attraction is bound up with identity for most people, this is no easy feat, since many people fear being sexually duped into lusting after someone outside their gender binary preference. There’s a certain shall-not-be-named website devoted to gossip about escorts I came across yesterday, and the transphobia on there was just staggering: there were at least 2 posts devoted to “outing” trans escorts. The intention was to mock and humiliate these people because of their transitions, and the sentiment was that we should be afraid of being “tricked” into intimate relations with a trans person, therefore they “deserved” to be outed.

    The fear is that if there is a trans person in a comedy, that they will be presented not as an object of desire, but as a person whose sexuality is something to be afraid of and the subject of ridicule. I think there’s a reason Andreja wouldn’t have been asked to be in the role Benedict plays. She passes as an exceptionally beautiful woman. If you’re going for androgyny as something unsettling in order to satirize it, it wouldn’t work, because her status as trans doesn’t make being trans seem ridiculous. That’s the aspect of the character I think people are reacting to about All. This character does seem to make being trans into the object of satire (and it’s also the writing, and the costuming, and everything else that went into the production). No matter Benedict’s good intentions, I think that’s the undercurrent of this, even if he CAN deliver sexy androgyny with a degree of conviction. Also, he can take off his androgynous getup and pass as a straight man. Trans people are trans all the time. They have to live with being trans and he doesn’t.

    I think the problem is that our learning moments, as people not directly affected by this issue, are at the expense of the trans community. If you have the privilege of not worrying about this stuff because it doesn’t affect you, maybe think twice before dismissing it as unimportant. Think about how it would feel to have your identity presented as a caricature for people to laugh at, to wonder if this portrayal will stoke fear about you or if you will be embarrassingly “outed” in a setting where you’d just like to quietly go about being a person. I understand where the boycott sentiment is coming from, though I’m more in favour of the cultural conversation than a boycott. And I hope there is a lot of public discussion about Benedict’s role and what it says about being trans in 2015.

    • Formerly AJ says:

      Thank you for taking the time to give this thoughtful comment. I agree with you.

    • anon121 says:

      As a woman who grew up in the 60′s and 70′s I got over being made fun of long ago! Please take a chill pill and focus on the real evil in the world.

    • EN says:

      > She passes as an exceptionally beautiful woman. If you’re going for androgyny as something unsettling in order to satirize it, it wouldn’t work, because her status as trans doesn’t make being trans seem ridiculous.

      I don’t think androgyny is unsettling, I think it is attractive. This is probably why such models are popular.
      I am really trying to understand the argument, but I can’t. I think you ( or maybe trans people who signed the petition) make assumptions about how people see things, and they aren’t necessarily true for everyone.

      And in case of Prejic, for the argument to work wouldn’t the viewers need to know in advance that she is someone who transitioned into a woman? Because that wouldn’t be obvious just from looking at her.

      So, how would that be different than hiring a woman to play the part? Wouldn’t that be even more confusing or equally confusing? Someone like Tilda who can look male or female?
      Fore this to work it has to be obvious to a viewer that there is some gender ambiguity going on. With Prejic this wouldn’t have worked.

      • senna says:

        I totally agree that androgyny can be attractive. You’re also right that people see complicated issues such as attraction and sexuality differently, and I was trying to think through why the people who are so offended they would sign a petition are reacting the way they are, rather than assuming all people think and feel the same way about this issue.

        What I was trying to emphasize in my meander through the cultural situation of today was that, despite the vetted attractiveness of some trans people by mass culture, other people still have a deep-seated fear of trans people. It is this fear of the trans person’s sexuality that I see fueling the comedy of the trans character here. People who are sexy aren’t ridiculous. All this is said without actually seeing the movie, which is always a dangerous proposition, so I could be very wrong.

        On the issue of gender ambiguity, what you and I are saying about Pejic is actually pretty close. No, she would not have worked in the role, which we both agree upon. You state that she wouldn’t have worked because she passes. I additionally state that she wouldn’t have worked if androgyny is being played for laughs, because she passes. The entire premise of setting up a trans character as a punchline for “omg, how much the fashion world has changed” is the issue, not which trans or straight person would be most appropriately cast in such a role. Perhaps I confused the issue by invoking Pejic vs Benedict.

    • Naya says:

      What a thought provoking post! Thanks for taking the time to explain your position so well.

      Just one thing. “The fear is that if there is a trans person in a comedy, that they will be presented not as an object of desire, ….but as the subject of ridicule”. This bit made me want to point out that this is how any woman who isnt white, thin, young and able bodied is treated in this type of “comedy” anyway. The standard gag is that this hideous beast has her eye on our hero but he is too good for her because she is too fat or too black or too old etc. Perhaps thats why people think this is an over reaction, the vast majority of us are targets for “comedy” too. Not that it makes it acceptable, just that we are all desensitized to it.

      • senna says:

        I agree so much. What’s sad is that comedy doesn’t have to resort to tired archetypes, and is a lot funnier when minorities are given a platform to speak. There’s a Canadian comic named Russel Peters who does hilarious bits about growing up in an immigrant family. Amy Schumer’s comedy often skewers the way women are criticized in the media, as in the piece she did where white men debated whether she was attractive enough to be on TV. Aziz Ansari’s Master of None is getting raves (and I need to check it out). Louis CK does an amazing job of thoughtfully presenting other points of view in his own comedy, of writing characters that are not straight white men and really thinking about their experience with insight and humor.

        The main thing is that this happens when minorities are given a voice and are allowed to say, “let me tell you what’s comic about the world from my point of view.” If you don’t have a trans voice, you run the risk of making a lot of assumptions about trans people that are less enlightening than perpetuations of cliches.

    • senna says:

      I do appreciate that the many people who are making judgments about what is and is not a relevant topic of discussion are commenters on a celebrity website, and I fully own my membership to this cohort. I mean, all of us, since we’re here, obviously have time to talk about fluffy topics along with the serious issues we all encounter in life. Telling someone their concerns are irrelevant because there are “real problems” in the world is derailing 101. You cannot convince me that perpetual infighting between Aniston and Jolie supporters, for example, is somehow a more worthy topic of discussion than how trans people are portrayed in the media.

    • Wilma says:

      Yes, I’m also reserving judgement until the movie is actually out, but when I saw the trailer I had the same concerns. I understand that people get offended more quickly these days, but in a way that’s also because people feel more empowered to speak up about issues that concern them. And because people sometimes are ridiculous, those issues will sometimes be ridiculous too. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t take the time to listen and think critically about our cultural expressions and whether these actually are offensive to people or in this case: whether our long history of transphobia hasn’t seeped into this character. I really hope this movie manages to walk the fine line.

    • Cee says:

      Every discussion is valuable. The other day I learned what Cis means by reading an article in The Guardian about Cumberbatch’s character. Instead of taking offence, we should discuss and learn, because societies and the world changes all the time, and the way the media portrays issues such as Charlie Sheen’s HIV Positive and the different terms for/of sexuality is important.

      I did not take offence, but I’m a cis, white woman. I don’t know how I would react if I were trans.

    • claire says:

      “Think about how it would feel to have your identity presented as a caricature for people to laugh at”

      Not hard to think about. This happens to all genders. Every day. In every comedy.

      • senna says:

        If you think comedy is equal-opportunity right now, I would like to live in your utopia.

      • claire says:

        So is your stance that transgendered people are the butt of all the jokes, and caricatures of cis-male or cis-female are not standard comedy tropes? You’ve got to be kidding.

      • senna says:

        @claire: caricatures of cis-male or cis-female persons are unlikely to drive said people to isolation, despair or suicide in the way they do too many trans people. It’s also unlikely that there will be more than one comedy role for a trans character this year, while for cis men and women, there will be dozens. So this one will stick in the public consciousness because it represents a little-heard point of view.

        If you’re unwilling to examine the difference between skewering a white man and skewering a minority I probably have nothing more to say to you.

    • Kim says:

      Thank you for this comment– I had already commented below before I read your eloquent explanation. You are so right in that the continual depiction of trans/non-binary people as ‘unsettling’ is problematic– it is exactly this point that makes the SNL Pat sketches transphobic. Trans people are continually ‘othered’, made to feel freakish and monstrous, and rarely depicted as whole, functional, three-dimensional people with thoughts, feelings, families and dreams. I know that’s a lot to expect from a Zoolander movie, but they aren’t helping when they are piling on yet another terrible stereotype.

      And frankly, cis people (and I am one of them) have no business telling trans people what does or does not offend them. If they are offended, they’re offended. Believe them, don’t just dismiss it!

  22. hermia says:

    I’m sure, like 100% sure, that if they had asked a real transgender person to play this role, people would have been offended at him/her having been objectified, manipulated and ridiculed in the movie.
    Sometimes you just can’t win.

    PS I’m also sure if an unknown actor had been cast instead of BC, nothing would have happened.

  23. jessia says:

    I thought they were mocking the whole idea of him Cumberbatch looking like an Alien.

  24. jc126 says:

    That protest description by Sarah Rose – how does anyone write that with a straight face?

  25. AceMom2 says:

    My eyes also rolled so far back they actually left my head…. this is an issue?? Seriously…. it’s a comedy movie and (newsflash) comedy movies sometimes make fun of people. I dont actually think they’re making fun of All – as someone else said above, she’s actually putting them down for being out of touch. Soon we won’t be able to say or do anything without ‘offending’ somebody.

    I really just came by to say that I couldn’t place what Cumby’s character reminded me of and it was bugging the crap out of me…. but it came to me this morning – he looks Damon Wayans in White Chicks! Lol ;)

  26. Vizia says:

    I’m waiting for the fashion industry/community at large to be offended by their portrayal in Zoolander, Devil Wears Prada etc.

  27. dbahr says:

    I’m sure these same people had a lot to say when Bruce Jenner unleashed his gross parody of womanhood upon the world. Oh wait…

  28. Ughhhhhh says:

    This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but yes it is definitely transphobic. They are making fun of trans people, as evidenced by the hot dog or bun line. I understand how it is also about Zoolander being out of touch but they are using jokes about trans people’s genitals to do so, which is rather a tired and old joke. The fact that this trans character is made to look freakish underscores the point: the character’s gender identity is the joke.

    I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal, nor do I think people care much beyond this Sarah Rose person. People have bigger things to worry about. But imo, this answer to the question of whether this character/joke is transphobic is clearly yes.

    • Sam says:

      I’m not sure I can agree. Trans people being involved in jokes, even distasteful ones, is not automatically transphobic. If the joke is on the ignorance of the person who does not understand, that’s a trans joke, but it’s not transphobic.

      Did you ever see It’s Pat on SNL? Kind of the same thing. It was basically a long-running gag about an androgynous person whose gender couldn’t be determined by sight and how uncomfortable it made everyone. But the joke wasn’t on Pat. Pat was clearly totally fine with their gender presentation and didn’t care about conforming – it was everybody else who had a problem with it. And that was really the genius of the skit. Simply because a joke includes offensive content does not make the joke itself offensive or bigoted. Is it possible that the joke is on the cis people who don’t get that gender identity is a separate thing from genitals? That’s the issue here, and I think that’s what people are pointing out.

      • Ughhhhhh says:

        ….It’s Pat is extremely transphobic.

      • Sam says:

        How so? Have you ever watched the Pat sketches or film? In each of them, Pat is not the problem. They are actually extremely secure in their presentation and never seem unhappy about it. The jokes are fully centered around how other people struggle to deal with an androgynous individual. But transphobia, as I have always understood it, is about knocking down trans people or suggesting they are less than. But Pat was never portrayed that way. So how does that constitute transphobia?

    • EN says:

      > The fact that this trans character is made to look freakish underscores the point

      It is your own prejudice at play here , though.
      Benny is beautiful in an alien way , just not conventionally so, why are you calling him freakish?

      • Birdix says:

        Well for one he doesn’t have any eyebrows. I wonder if there’s a term for people who are scared/put off by eyebrowless people?

      • EN says:

        > Well for one he doesn’t have any eyebrows. I wonder if there’s a term for people who are scared/put off by eyebrowless people?

        I am pretty sure I saw models / actresses who don’t have eyebrows and pencil them on. Wasn’t that practically the thing in the 70s?

        He looks like one of the elves in LOTR. Nothing scary just unusual, and I am guessing this is what they were going for.

      • Ughhhhhh says:

        My issue isn’t with Cumberbatch. This character he is playing is clearly made up to look freakish, with the eyebrows hair and weird name. It’s supposed to be a joke and the joke is about transgender people and how they are weird.

      • Pondering thoughts says:

        It is a comedy. And yes, part of art and comedy is to poke fun at all sorts of things.

        Just because Cumby looks freakish that doesn’t mean that transgender people are somehow trashed. Art deals in overexercising attributes. Owen Wilson’s blond character seems rather ridiculous, too, but does that mean that all men feel trashed or all blondes?

      • EN says:

        > This character he is playing is clearly made up to look freakish

        The character is made to look clearly gender fluid or ambiguous, not freakish or ugly.
        If the character looked like a regular woman nobody would’ve understood the situation.
        And it seems like this is where the bone of contention is. Some people feel like the character doesn’t represent a trans person accurately because a trans person would’ve looked just like a woman.
        Well, maybe it is because the character in the movie is not a trans? And having someone who looks like a regular woman in that scene wouldn’t have worked to begin with.

    • Marianne says:

      But is his character even trans?

    • Jwoolman says:

      I think Wilson’s line was to show he really had no idea what All was about. He and Zoolander didn’t know if All was male or female. I doubt that “trans” or androgeny were even options in his pretty little head. So it was a joke on his character not knowing much. In the trailer, All is just All… Doesn’t act like a freak, just a tad amused by the blond’s assumptions.

  29. lem says:

    i took this to be making a point about the industry, similar to robert downey jr.’s character in tropic thunder was making fun of hollywood’s insistence on using all white actors all the time.

  30. EN says:

    While talking about androgyny, identity and stuff I remembered one book that really impressed me 20 or so years back – “Steppenwolf” by Hesse. Anyone read it?

    That is a movie I want to be made. Dark and gutsy and makes you think and question what is and isn’t, including what is identity and gender. That would be an amazing movie and worthy of discussion.

  31. Izzy says:

    I’m sorry, but are people really asking for, or expecting political correctness from a Zoolander movie?


  32. Jaded says:

    Why don’t we save our offense dollars and spend them on things that really matter like giving impoverished girls in war-torn countries safe haven from rapists and kidnappers, provide education, ban female circumcision, etc. etc. etc.

  33. db says:

    I won’t be seeing the movie. Zoolander is demeaning to beautiful people.

  34. Carol says:

    That trailer made me laugh out loud…even at Penelope Cruz. I am so buying a ticket for this movie.

  35. Pondering thoughts says:

    It is a comedy. Of course they make jokes. And there is no evidence that the movie is glorifying transphobic attitudes, right? It could be that the movie merely points out that the fashion industry does positive discrimination to non-heterosexual people and that therefore some fashion people might be tempted to pretend to be non-heterosexual. And that is what the movie makes fun of. That at least is what I got from the trailer.

    Okay, I will listen to why people think this might be transphobic. But then I want to see that movie.

  36. Ann Carter says:

    Lighten up, I beg you.

  37. Marianne says:

    You see, when I first watched the trailer I didnt even think his character was trans. I think he was just meant to come across as androgynous. *shrugs*

  38. cd3 says:

    I feel like I missed the big sign in the trailer indicating BC’s character is trans? I thought the character was deliberately androgynous. Where is the confirmation that “All” is a trans person?

  39. Kim says:

    I am a longtime reader of Celebitchy but have never commented on a post before this– but I just have to chime in and say that I do think the portrayal of ‘All’ is mocking trans people and it made me feel very uncomfortable when I saw the trailer. I don’t think people should be so quick to dismiss the criticism as coming from people who ‘can’t take a joke.’ I like humour as much as the next person, but I also teach Gender Studies in a high school that has a lot of trans kids, many of whom are going through a really rough time sorting through their feelings, their body dysmorphia, weighing surgery and hormone options, coming out to parents, changing their names, finding a bathroom they can use– it goes on and on, and most of us have no idea what that experience is like. ‘All’ is a caricature, especially when non-binary people are often ridiculed for not ‘choosing a side’ and wanting it ‘all’ (get it?) Add to that the hot dog joke, which further calls attention to the obsession with trans people’s ‘parts’ (which is NOBODY’s business– how would cis people like it if they were asked what their genitals look like?) as well as the fact that a cis actor is once again playing the part of a trans person when there are so many trans actors out there trying to get work. You can say it’s a joke, you can say it’s satire, but representation is important. It matters. And when trans people see that (once again) they are being portrayed as caricatures onscreen with virtually no realistic depictions of trans lives on screen, it hurts. Name a television or movie that depicts a trans person in which their gender is NOT an ‘issue’, but just a part of their lives. I bet you can’t.

    • Lilacflowers says:

      Welcome, Kim, and thank you for your thoughtful posting.

    • EN says:

      A portrayal of a transgender person where the identification is not an issue?
      In that case how would we know that person is transgender?
      I can’t tell by looking at a person whether they are gay or transgender unless they tell me.
      But if it is not central to the story there is no reason to bring it up.

      For this reason I think this requirement is quite hard to meet even with best of intentions.

    • senna says:

      Thank you for this. “Name a television or movie that depicts a trans person in which their gender is NOT an ‘issue’, but just a part of their lives. I bet you can’t. ” Yes, when that cultural moment happens, perhaps we can move on from worrying about how this particular representation might affect the lives of trans people we care about. Your points about the issues trans youth face are well noted.

    • Kate says:

      All appears to be gender fluid, not trans. That’s why ‘All is all.’

      However, it’s been acceptable for models to model opposite of their gender identify or both genders despite being cis off the runway, so it’s possible All is in that box. Models, like actors, often take work however it comes.

      Essentially, we have no idea how this scene plays out because it’s clearly edited. This would have been done by someone at the studio marketing level with nil connection to the project who probably couldn’t care less, so everyone is jumping to firm judgments I can’t personally make off of 8 seconds of footage. I realize it’s Zoolander, but the first one did have social commentary driving its main plot line.

      Off topic, but if this is a cameo, it’s not really a role per se or suitable to break out anyone but meant for an established celeb the general public would recognize.

    • Miss Jupitero says:

      Thank you, Kim!

  40. MND says:

    Lighten up, take a joke etc. These are the same responses that initially greeted people who challenged racism and sexism.

  41. joe says:

    stupid butthurt trans weirdo crybabies

  42. Robin says:

    “Phobia” means fear. Too bad its meaning has been corrupted in an attempt to shut down civil discussion and shout down people who dare to have different opinions. And starting a petition on the basis of a few seconds of a movie trailer for a comedy film in which all sorts of people are mocked, is beyond ridiculous.

  43. Zooyork says:

    8000 signatures is not very much.