The Danish Girl Book Cover The Danish Girl
2015
Tom Hooper
Lucinda Coxon
Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander

The Danish Girl is based on a 2000 novel by David Ebershoff and tells the story of real-life transgender woman Lili Elbe who was born Einar Wegener in the 1800s in Denmark. The film establishes Einar as a successful artist in a loving marriage with Gerda Wegener, a talented painter in her own right, and tracks the emotional and legal challenges as Einar begins her journey to transition, undergoing one of the earliest recorded sex-reassignment surgeries in history.

The telling of such a story comes at an apt time. Too long have trans experiences been marginalized and branded as too risqué or too perverse for mainstream consumption. There are powerful activists reigning the stage to raise awareness today, from Laverne Cox, a well-known cast member of Orange is the New Black to model Geena Rocero (watch her wonderful TED talk!), Hollywood has finally made the decision tell one of the many stories the community has to tell through its mainstream avenues.


The draft I read, marked the “final version”, clocked in at a mere 89 pages, considerably shorter than your average 110 pages, but I believe the length to be just right. I love the succinct structure and the cut-to-the-bone approach of storytelling. When you keep the fluff simple, the true complexities and richness of the inner conflicts come to the forefront. The set-up (“life before”) is short, but we are immediately given clues as to who Einar really is deep down inside and how much Einar and Lili love one another. The character list is contained mainly to these two at the forefront, though there are various pleasant appearances of a lad named Hans, Einar’s one-time friend and emotional support to Gerda. He serves as a dose of kindness, a breath of fresh air during an overwhelming quagmire.

Lucinda Coxon’s writing doesn’t rely on too many twists and turns, and instead leaves breathing room for the filmmaker to paint the canvas and the actors to breathe truth into her words. I finished the read feeling inspired and moved.

That is, until I dug a little deeper. Here’s a sobering eye-opener. It seems that none of the the filmmakers, writers, or actors are part of the transgender community. Red flag. The end product, though directed as a visual feast by Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”), reeks strongly of a perspective that hyper-sexualizes what it means to be a woman. I only think about this question from the perspective of a cisgendered, straight gal. Slap me for being so ignorant and brainwashed! Though this blog post is a commentary on the screenplay alone and not on the actual film that went on to star straight, cisgendered man Eddie Redmayne as Lili and Alicia Vikander as Gerda, I can’t help but kick myself in the behind for blindly falling in love with the script and only coming woke after reading this fantastic article on medium by Rani Baker (originally published on Harlot). I strongly encourage that you read the reactions coming from the transgender community. Going straight to the source is far more important and valuable to drive media into the direction of responsible representation. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: each community needs to be given their own platforms to tell their stories. So while The Danish Girl screenplay provided me with an entertaining and moving glimpse of the life of a historical transgender person, it only served as a catalyst to get me to research and dig a little bit deeper from more reputable sources. Too bad there had to be middle man. In fact, now I’m more inclined to watch Tangerine again. This flick was directed by my husband’s pal Sean Baker, who wisely cast real-life trans women and drew from their actual life experiences. It went on to become a major Sundance darling. I’d say that movie made the bigger leap by far.

In terms of writing craft Coxon wrote a formidable screenplay. I’d rate it a 5/5, but would give the political and cultural empowerment (is that even a thing?) rating a 2/5. Overall between a 3.5. 


Also published on Medium.

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