Every once in a while, a movie or a TV show takes a real chance on tackling an issue that most people seem to be afraid of putting out there for others to see. And not just for ‘shock value’ or for some sensationalist dive into the public spotlight, but a truly heartfelt story, treated with maturity and grace…and most of all…respect.
This is exactly how I felt when I watched “Butterfly” for the first time.
The story about a young British boy who is starting high school for the first time, but is having some troubles expressing his true gender identity. To his parents, to his sister, to the other kids at school. While this series is only three, hour long, episodes in total (Possibly more, as a second season may already be in the planning stages)…the emotional impact of this story was amazing! Excellent acting performances all around, and some great writing, getting to the heart of what it must be like to experience this, firsthand.
Now, I can be as ‘informed’ and as sympathetic as anybody else on this issue, but I’ll never be a transgendered boy. I will never know what it’s like to feel how he feels. But, what I think this miniseries does well is actually showing us an experience that we can absorb and, hopefully, understand in a way that we might not have been able to before. (PLEASE don’t yell at me, hehehe, to my trans audience! I really liked this series, but I’m on the outside looking in here. I mean this in the most respectful way possible, k?)
The boy, ‘Max/Maxine’, is dealing with his parents splitting up and moving on in opposite directions, trying to navigate his way around bullies, just trying to express something real. In how she walks, how she talks, how she dresses…the young actor, Callum Booth-Ford, will definitely be one to watch in the future. He did an incredible job, bringing some serious dramatic weight to his role, and an innocence that you instantly realize needs protecting.
I remember, at one point, where Maxine was simply talking about using the public bathrooms at school…and she said, quite simply, “If I go in to use the bathroom, I want to feel like I belong there.” And, you know what? I totally get that. That makes perfect sense to me. How it doesn’t make sense to other people is a complete mystery to me, personally. But, that’s neither here nor there. The point is, “Butterfly”, if nothing else, has the ability to ignite the kind of conversation that I think society should be having right now concerning the trans community. Maybe both sides can learn to understand each other a little better.
The show also addresses the parent’s role in Maxine’s transition into discovering who she is, but it doesn’t necessarily ‘demonize’ them in the way that some LGBT dramas do. (Played superbly by Anna Friel and Emmett J Scanlan) There’s definitely some confusion and a few actions that may come off as ignorant and insensitive…but this story never loses the idea that both parents are really trying to do what’s best for their child. They simply weren’t prepared for this turn of events, and it takes an adjustment for them to fully grasp what’s going on. As a part of the audience, we get to learn the lessons along with them, and that only connects you even more to the family dynamic being portrayed here. A dynamic that, while slightly dysfunctional like MOST families…has got a sincere sense of unconditional love and caring at its very core.
I really liked that.
So, yeah! If any of you are looking for a really good, well acted, drama about growing up as a trans teen boy and all that goes along with that…then check out “Butterfly” on Hulu whenever you have a chance! I hope you enjoy it. And I hope it opens up a dialogue where all sides can talk about how this series made them feel.