A documentary about trans women and the men who love them called Sex Diaries: Trans Lovers aired on the U.K.’s Channel 4 last night. It was a regularly fascinating glimpse into a subject that’s still so taboo, host/director Charlie Russell reported early on that finding men to talk about their relationships with trans women wasn’t easy.
I can’t imagine the clip above making sense to anyone who hasn’t seen the Maysles brothers’ iconic 1975 documentary Grey Gardens, but those who have will likely appreciate Bill Hader and Fred Armisen’s attention to detail in their sendup of Big and Little Edie Bouvier Beale (here they’re called Big and Little Vivvy and the name shared by their crumbling estate and the pseudo-documentary is Sandy Passage). This is from last night’s series premiere of IFC’s Documentary Now!, a half-hour series created by Hader, Armisen, and Seth Meyers that will satirize a new doc in each weekly episode (riffs on The Thin Blue Line, Nanook of the North, History of the Eagles, and HBO’s Vice series are planned).
Jose Antonio Vargas’s one-hour doc White People premiered on MTV yesterday. Controversial upon its announcement, the special attempted to put the onus of grappling with race on whites, as opposed to the people oppressed by racism who already grapple as part of their daily lives. While in practice, the special may have come off as too breezy and inconclusive, its m.o. is logical: One of the clearest effects of white privilege is whites’ ability to ignore race and racism while chalking it up to “not my problem,” if it’s considered at all.
This is simultaneously heartwarming and harrowing. Alex is a trans teen boy who was featured in the sensitive and layered Frontline doc Growing Up Trans, which aired on PBS last night. Alex befriended a group of cis boys that he idolized. They accepted him, regardless of what other people thought. That’s nice! They also have given Alex some tips on “being a guy” (i.e. how to pass better) and they are not as nice! In fact, they get worse as they go on:
In 1975, a county clerk in Boulder, Colorado, did what no person had done before: she granted a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Clela Rorex says when Dave McCord and Dave Zamora asked for a marriage license, she was “faced with a very profound type of moral issue”: “Would I discriminate against two people of the same sex when I had been so involved for the last few years of my life of fighting discrimination against women?”
Kurt Cobain and Whitney Houston have always had a lot in common, but it was never more apparent than in Brett Morgen’s documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, which premiered on HBO last night. Both Cobain and Houston were addicts who died too young, yes, but through Morgen’s deep dive into Cobain’s private life, that same love/hate relationship both artists had with fame was made clear. Cobain and Houston courted fame, they complained about it, they checked out at key points in their careers only to return later for more. They are both definitive proof that human beings can get used to anything, including worldwide acclaim for their virtuosic talent. Fame is a drug, and that’s never more apparent than when it’s in the hands of addicts.
Last night, HBO premiered Alex Gibney's documentary exposé Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. How fucked up, dangerous, intimidating, and crooked is Scientology? Let Gibney count the ways. The doc was undoubtedly full of revelations for those who haven't read Lawrence Wright's 2011 New Yorker piece "The Apostate," or its 2013 expansion into book form that gave Gibney's movie its name, Going Clear.
Last night, MTV aired a follow-up to its 2010 documentary Nicki Minaj: My Time Now, best known for its Minajalogue on bossing up and being a successful woman in a sexist industry. Nicki Minaj: My Time Again didn't feature any pontificating so impassioned, but it did feature an excellent scene in which Nicki returned to the Queens neighborhood in which she grew up. I've never seen a depiction of Nicki existing so casually without a shred of pop-star bravado.