- YEAR: 2014
- DIRECTOR: Eric Schaeffer
- KEY ACTORS: Michael Welch, Michelle Hensley
- CERTIFICATE: unrated in UK, R in USA
- IMDB SCORE: 7.1
- ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 88%
I’m so excited to be hosting this guest post! Quinn Rhodes (ze/hir) is an absolutely incredible trans blogger who writes really excellent and passionate posts about hir explorations with gender, kink and hir sexuality. Hir erotica is also smoking hot!! I asked Quinn to chose a movie that contains a trans character or was about trans themes, and ze surpassed my expectations by picking a perfect film – one that is new to me and one that shows a much more positive trans experience than most. Boy Meets Girl is fantastic and I am so pleased that ze introduced me to it. Find Quinn on Twitter @OnQueerStreet
SEX SCORE: 5/5
✔️ It does pass the Bechdel Test! There are several conversations where there are only women on screen and they’re talking about themselves…though a lot of the time they are rather obsessed with the main character’s junk.
✔️ It is rewatchable! Admittedly, this was the first time I’ve watched Boy Meets Girl and even in the six years since it came out it hasn’t aged especially well in some aspects (more on that later), but it’s definitely a film I’ll be going back to.
✔️ Of course I want to fuck the cast! Michelle Hensley is incredibly hot and I forgive the unrealistic sex scenes (when they start fucking outside by a river in the middle of the night and then we cut to them in a bed the next morning) because she is so fucking sexy in them.
✔️ It also inspires fantasies! I am definitely going to have to spend more time thinking about the sex that the film obviously doesn’t show us, lest it be cast as porn, and trying to work out what some of the things the characters whisper to each other before they fuck could be.
✔️ I’d also say that it was sex positive! I think any film that shows two women having “the talk” before they have sex about previous partners and safe sex practices definitely can be counted as extremely sex positive, even if I would never describe talking about those things in that way.
As always, this contains spoilers so watch the film before you read on…
STREAMING: Amazon Prime (free with subscription, or rent for £2.99, buy £6.99). For a full list of streaming options, check out JustWatch.com
I’m not sure if Livvy is going to introduce me so hi, I’m Quinn Rhodes, my pronouns are ze/hir and I’m a queer, trans, disabled sex writer. It feels absurd that I’m writing a movie review – as absurd as I’d have found it if you told me three years ago that I’d get sent sex toys for free so I could review them. I know nothing about cinematography and have watched approximately no “classic” movies, but I’m bringing my transness, snark, and tenancy to be politically correct to the point where it pisses everyone off to this movie review. Strap in.
First off, content warnings! Boy Meets Girl includes transphobia, transphobic and homophobic slurs, threatened violence, and mentions of anorexia, self-harm, and suicide. There is hate speech and misgendering, which is something I should have expected but went into watching this film happily oblivious of, and because the film touches on all of these things, my review will too. My review also mentions my junk and my sex life, because those things are sometimes relevant to my thoughts on the film.
To summarise, Boy Meets Girl – for folks who haven’t watched it but are reading this spoiler-filled review anyway, or for folks who have watched it but forgotten the plot – is a 2014 film about a transgender woman, Ricky Jones (Michelle Hendley), who dreams of studying fashion design in New York but is currently stuck as a barista in a small town. By the 21-year-old’s side is her best friend, Robby Riley (Michael Welch), who encourages her to pursue a relationship with her new friend Francesca Duval (Alexandra Turshen), who it turns out is engaged. After they have sex, Francesca’s fiancé David (Michael Galante) returns from Afghanistan and is horrified to find out that Francesca is friends with Ricky, until – plot twist! – it is revealed that actually David was the first person that Ricky had sex with. Naturally Ricky spends the whole film getting told that Robby is in love with her, and after a huge, dramatic fight he races to find her and tells her that he’s in love with her, and they end up together.
If I sound unenthused, it’s because I wish that perhaps the biggest plot point hadn’t been “this guy is saying all sorts of transphobic things about Ricky to hide the fact that he slept with her and really cares about her!” – but more on that later.
There’s a reason I asked Livvy if I could review Boy Meets Girl when she approached me to ask if I was up for writing a review for her. I hadn’t even heard of Boy Meets Girl until I watched Rowan Ellis’ “comforting lgbtq+ movies for difficult times” YouTube video. I was intrigued when she said that not only did Boy Meets Girl feature a trans woman playing a trans woman, which is incredibly rare in itself, but that it also had a happy ending. And it does, and we need more stories with like this, where queer characters aren’t a redemption arc, a tragic story or the punchline. We desperately need them.
Now, I’m not going to have the argument about whether cis actors playing trans characters so the films about trans people actually get made at all is a good thing (it’s not), but this was the first film I’ve ever seen where a trans character is played by a trans actor – which was kind of amazing. Hendley was specifically cast for this role because Schaefer wanted a trans woman to play the trans character in his film. I’d give him ally cookies, but this is one of those times when the bar is so low that cis people end up getting praised for doing the bare minimum.
That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t grinning while I watched it, and a big part of why I love it so much is that the characters talk about sex. They don’t always use language that I like, but they do talk about it, which is incredibly important to see. Sex isn’t set up as this magical thing that can only happen between two people who are in love – in fact we find out that neither of the engaged couple who are waiting until marriage to have sex for the first time have actually waited, and that’s not seen as a bad thing!
But let’s start with the less fun bit: the aspects of the plot that made me feel uncomfortable as a trans person.
For example, after Ricky flirts with Francesca at the coffee shop, Robby encourages her to tell Francesca that she’s trans. Ricky counters that she doesn’t like to spring that on people (for a good reason – the gay and trans panic defense is still legal in 40 US states) but when Francesca mysteriously turns up at the river where the two best friends are swimming together, he still pushes her to come out to Francesca. Boo for saying things in front of a trans person’s new friend that means they either need to lie or come out as trans!
The actual conversation between Ricky and Francesca is quite cute though – Ricky decides she can’t say the words to her new friend who she’s definitely crushing on, so she asks for her phone number and texts it to her while they’re sitting next to each other. But the way she answers Francesca’s follow up questions? She uses language that I suppose a trans person might use to talk to a cis person about their junk, but that neither I nor any trans person I know would use. Maybe I live in a brilliant sex positive bubble, but I felt like the conversation was distilled so it could be understood by a cis audience and I am really tired of cis people expecting us to “dumb down” terms like ‘assigned male at birth’ to ‘biologically I was born a boy’.
Yes, some of the language of that trans and non-binary folx use to talk about gender can be confusing to cis people at first. No, I do not think that means that Boy Meets Girl gets a pass on not doing more to educate people on the language that they should be using. It would be easy for Francesca to use that language and for Ricky to introduce her to words that are more inclusive.
A few minutes later in that conversation, Ricky also says that she wishes she had been born “genetically a girl” which is not language I would ever use. I’m not saying that other trans folx wouldn’t phrase it that way – especially six years ago when the discussion around trans rights was far more binary – but it’s an instance where it really feels like the film was written by a cis person. Maybe that’s just my gender-queerness talking though: I am disappointed by the way that the film continually dismisses non-binary people. I admit that my understanding of non-binary identities was much less expansive six years ago, but surely if you’re writing a film about transness then you should also acknowledge that there are more than two genders?
This binary is enforced by another theme running through the film, of 14-year-old Ricky having made a video about her experiences with suicide, self-harm, and the fact that her mother had left because she struggled with Ricky’s transness. Throughout the film we see Ricky’s dad (who is brilliantly supportive) telling her that she’s not remembering things right and that’s her mother did try to love her – which really annoyed me, to be honest. I’m so not here for queer and trans folx being told to forgive parents who they needed more support from. At the end of the video she made seven years ago, Ricky tells people (through cards, Easy A style) to reach out when they’re suicidal or thinking of self-harm and she’ll remind them “that you are perfect in every way sweet boy!”, which is something her mother used to say to her and we see her say to her brother. Of course, her next card in the video is “Or girl!” which is kinda sweet, but also completely erases non-binary folks.
I’m also not here for non-binary erasure.
While Ricky hid her suicidal ideation from the people she loves and has put on a smile for the last seven years, this video shows the very real struggle of being a trans person. While Ricky is out to everyone in her town and Francesca follows up finding out that her new friend is trans by kissing her the next time they hang out together, Boy Meets Girl is not set in a magic fairytale land where transphobia doesn’t exist. There’s a lot of transphobic language and hate speech thrown around, most of it coming from David when he realizes who Francesca’s new friend is. Did they really have to hammer home the point that David hates Ricky so hard? Is it only me who wishes that cis people could see us as human without having to be shown how much pain their words can bring? I also wonder if Hensley was OK with that t-slur being used around her – I certainly wouldn’t be OK with the word ‘faggot’ being used by a straight person around me, though I’m so here for queer folks (including bisexual, just FYI) using it.
You know what’s not ok? Referring to a trans person as ‘it’, which was an unexpected punch to the stomach for me. You know what’s not a “dirty word”? Bisexual. Why oh why are people comfortable with saying that they might be bi-curious when they’ve just slept with a woman? Sure, the people you fuck don’t always relate to your sexuality, but I found it incredibly frustrating that Francesca wondered if she was bi-curious after she had sex with Ricky but the word bisexual wasn’t said once. Francesca also asks “does this make me gay?”, which had me screaming YES because I felt that there was an implication there that being into a trans woman (as opposed to a cis woman) means that you’re still straight. You’re not.
But we’ve reached the point in this review where I’m about to start talking about sex – and talking about the characters talking about sex.
You know what else I do want more of in films, apart from trans characters being played by trans actors? I want friends talking about sex. Before Ricky sleeps with Francesca for the first time she asks Robbie what sex with a woman is like. The line “is it tight like an asshole?” made me laugh aloud. I don’t agree with all of the ways that they talk about sex – for example, not all sex with a penis going into a vagina is straight sex, no matter what Robby argues. I do like how Ricky uses his own logic against him and asks him what that makes sex where a girl has stuck a finger (or, more specifically, two) up his ass while they were fucking. Which he definitely gets flustered as he tries to answer, which is kind of fun… though the scene also includes them both using ‘sex’ when they mean ‘gender’
I like to think that Robby’s instance that he’s straight is so we are clear that Robby sees Ricky as a woman – despite what he almost says in their big fight – but something about his complete aversion to having a dick in his ass doesn’t fit right with me, even though he clearly is into Ricky. But when she asks him, before they fuck, if he’s ok with her dick, he is quick to reassure her that he is fine with every part of her.
We also get partners talking about sex. We see Ricky and Francesca pause sex to discuss their safer sex practices, and we see Ricky and Robby’s sex start by him asking “What do you want me to do?”. It’s brilliant, and while I think there should be slightly less emphasis placed on how many people both Ricky and Francesca have slept with (that there really isn’t on Robby) I can see how there is a semi-justification for this in the plot. Ricky and Francesca discuss whether Francesca could get pregnant if they fuck, which is cool and a really good place where they talked about trans things because it was relevant to the plot. And we see Ricky and Robby in bed together after they had sex talking about the fact that they fucked and complimenting one another!
I also loved how we saw Ricky taking estrogen pills and talking about how she hopes her tits will grow bigger – those things made my little trans heart happy. Other good things include how Francesca stands up for Ricky and argues with David when he misgenders her deliberately. That is what an ally does, just FYI. I also love how David and Francesca’s plotline ends with them actually have a conversation about their relationship and deciding that they’re going to postpone the wedding to see if they’re still in a place where they want to spend their lives together after they connect again – more honestly this time, with no illusions about either of them saving themselves for each other.
It’s maybe more controversial to say that I love the scene where David is on top of Ricky, threatening to “fucking kill her” if she had slept with his fiancé. With a stone-cold face, Ricky asks David if he likes to be on top, reminding him how much he enjoyed being on the bottom before. I think there’s something powerful about women using sex and sexuality as a weapon to protect themselves from violence and misogyny, and I think that this is what Ricky does in this scene. I’m not going to lie, I also used that scene to imagine what their sex would have been like when they did sleep together, which I’m more into than imagining what Ricky and Robby’s sex would look like.
I’m not sure how I feel about the film’s climax. I love that it doesn’t put the emphasis on the argument and subsequent “of course I love you” sex with Robby, but rather on Ricky’s friends supporting her to get the money she needs to go to New York. What I love less is the fact that it does end with the ending of Ricky’s video from seven years ago being shared and people watching it – non-binary erasure, and also a trans person have to perform their pain for other people to see them as human. But the very last frame is a ten second clip of Ricky and Robby, driving off to New York together, and she grabs him – even though he’s driving – for an incredibly hot kiss, and I’m a feminist but “I’m so hot for you right now that I can’t not kiss you” kisses will almost always win me over.
There are great things and less great things about Boy Meets Girl, especially looking at it from a trans perspective. If I’ve focused more on one than the other within this review, it’s because I’m aware that most of the folks reading this will be cis and I wanted to give you my unfiltered Angry Trans Feminist take on some of the ways Boy Meets Girl handled both transness and sex. I would definitely recommend you watch it, especially if you’re cis and have never seen a trans actor portray a trans character before! And media representation might be a small thing compared to trans folx being killed and having our rights rolled back every day, but honestly it’s been fun to rant about something with less consequences than Liz Truss’ questionable takes on how cis women are threatened by trans women.
NEXT WEEK: Moulin Rouge!
AND…if you want to write me a guest post, check out the instructions here!