Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Gender Pronoun Shock

One the trendy words you see when you visit media websites is the phrase "fast-turn around documentaries" these are, as the phrase suggests produced very quickly on subjects which have been big in the news and are fresh in the viewers minds and still of interest. In these they have either secured new footage, a interview with a protagonist or an expert given time to explore and explain a complex subject beyond the typical 3 minute news report. "The Pregnant Man" obtained an interview with Thomas Beatie, for example. However its often true that some footage is bought in at the right price edited, given a narration and Bobs your uncle, a programme is made.

 To me "Bodyshock - Age 8 and Wanting a Sex Change", broadcast on Channel 4 on the 19th October 2009 fits into the latter category. It looked like the production company bought a well regarded film made for the American National Geographic channel with the assistance of Trans Youth Family Allies. Removing the original narration, adding its own and making a few trims. (Correction 19/11/2009, it was a original film produced by Zig Zag for Channel 4).

The end result led to a lot of the programme wanting to follow the low rent tabloid style recently seen in the Sun. Instead of fully illuminating I felt very uneasy, Like the Sun there was a sense of the circus show 'Roll up roll up, come look at them' in it.

Like many commenter's on the programmes web page  I am troubled by incorrect use of gender pronouns used by the programmes narration which contradicted those used by the delightful children, their loving parents and those around the boys and girls featured. To make the mistake worse the programme featured comments from parents saying how upsetting and wrong using incorrect pronouns was.

I can only imagine how enraged those in original documentary feel about their appearance in this. Perhaps it might be a lesson that although the show you will feature on will be great and you have got a say in how it'll look etc It could be sold on edited, manipulated without your knowledge or consent. Something to consider and sort out beforehand if you wish to cooperate in any future projects.

7 comments:

  1. That had me shouting at the screen!

    One step forward two steps back!

    Caroline xx

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  2. Yes, it did grate with me. I watched it yesterday on the C4 website.

    OK, so we all make the odd error out of force of habit (I know I do, and I beat myself up over it), but this was either total ignorance OR totally gratuitous.
    I'll put in a complaint to C4.

    The documentary film itself was great. I was in tears about two minutes in.


    love
    chrissie
    xxxx

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  3. I've not seen the program yet but a friend did record it for me. I have a feeling I would be upset, based on what you say, Lucy.

    I can't change the world, but in a very small way, I do have some local influence such that I would hope not to see incorrect pronouns used in the media I am associated with.

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  4. I can't imagine doing the first program, signing all the releases then having someone edit it without it requiring new ones, yet I'm sure that's exactly how it works!

    alan

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  5. A lot of modern contracts are now future-proofed to cover new technologies and territories.

    It also failed to clear up a potential misunderstanding that hormone blockers are not available to children so young in the UK.

    Complaints have been made.

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  6. "To me "Bodyshock - Age 8 and Wanting a Sex Change", broadcast on Channel 4 on the 19th October 2009 fits into the latter category. It looked like the production company bought a well regarded film made for the American National Geographic channel with the assistance of Trans Youth Family Allies. Removing the original narration, adding its own and making a few trims."

    Just want to clear up some confusion here. The documentary you are referring to is NOT the same one done by National Geographic. It is entirely different and was produced by Zig Zag Production with families we provided. Had we know the voice over would be done as it was we would NEVER have consented to participating in this project. The film itself is fairly good but the promotion and voice over of the film has left us so disappointed that our organization isn't likely to every do another UK media project.

    Kim Pearson
    Executive Director
    TransYouth Family Allies
    www.imatyfa.org

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  7. Hello Kim, thank you. If you have not already you might wish to consider contacting Channel 4, Zig Zag and/or Ofcom.

    To me the information somehow makes me feel worse about the programme along with the fact it misrepresented the subjects in the narration. I can well understand your disappointment.

    Both BBC Radio 2 and the BBC World Service have included excellent and sympathetic items which would have accurately informed and educated those outside the tg area about the debate both particular to the UK and worldwide. This particular show did not do that.

    I've added a correction to the paragraph in italics.

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