Abstract

Chilean Academy Award–winning drama, Una mujer fantástica/A Fantastic Woman (dir. Sebastián Lelio, 2017), is a film that navigates past the superficiality of surface into a transgender interiority and imagination situated below and against dominant culture's demand for transgender display. Within the media mainstream, transgender legibility has been predicated on a hypervisibility tailor-made for cisgender consumption—via celebrated magazine covers and charged cinematic spectacles. A Fantastic Woman, however, frustrates this ideology of the visible and the knowable certainties it feigns. Prying the cisgender gaze from its perch of power—disrupting its ability to detect, define, and dominate the transgender body—the film incites the “transgender gaze,” as first advanced by Jack Halberstam. A Fantastic Woman ultimately forsakes specular relations altogether, enacting a “disappearing act” that moves audiences beyond the flesh and into the heart of the matter: the internal depths of transgender fantasy and feeling. Aesthetically articulated, this transcension progresses from the private visions of the film's protagonist, Marina, to an acute emphasis on sound as well as surface. Through its “art of disappearance,” A Fantastic Woman conjures an enticing horizon in which transgender surveillance and subjugation are provisionally contravened, proffering the possibility of sidestepping the disciplining, normalizing powers of the cisgender gaze.

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