The Myth of Diggy: How Dope Got The Queer Experience Wrong8/20/2015
by Jasmine Alvarez About two months ago my boo and I decided to go see the movie Dope . As Black q...
by Jasmine Alvarez
About two months ago my boo and I decided to go see the movie Dope. As Black queer women, we were excited to see a movie with an all Black cast, an authentically Black storyline, and of course A QUEER BLACK GIRL CHARACTER. How could this movie not be freaking amazing?????? Welp, unfortunately there was something that really ruined the entire film for me, and yes it has everything to do with the queer character, Diggy. (Warning: major spoiler alert ahead.)
From what I gathered Diggy (portrayed by Kiersey Clemons) is what some would call a boi, masculine of center, or maybe a stud. For all of you unfamiliar with these terms, Diggy might be considered a tomboy. She wears snapbacks and baggy jeans, and in some scenes she looks more masculine than in other scenes. However, it is safe to say she is recognizably a girl throughout the entire movie. Nonetheless, the writers of the film (maybe it was the director's creative choice but it's still offensive as fuck) decided it was absolutely necessary to make an offensive joke about the experience of butch/boi/masculine of center lesbians and trans men.
In this particular scene, the trio attempts to get into a nightclub without ID. The bouncer decides to give them a hard time because he assumes they are all boys. (Go figure!) The two male characters respond in confusion and explain that Diggy is indeed a girl, but the bouncer ain't buying it, which results in Diggy lifting her shirt and exposing her breast. The bouncer replies (this is not verbatim) with an OH SHIT! THAT IS A GIRL! LIKE SOME TEENA BRANDON BOYS DON'T CRY SHIT. Immediately, bae and I had a knee jerk reaction looking at each other in utter shock and disbelief. How could the writers put in such a distasteful joke? Were they not aware of how tragic the Brandon Teena story is?
Quite frankly, the only people who would find this sadly homophobic joke funny are heterosexual people, if they actually know who Brandon Teena was. Brandon Teena was actually a trans man, that was brutally raped and murdered in 1993. There was a movie made about him, in which he was played by Hilary Swank called Boys Don't Cry. See, the problem is that there is absolutely nothing funny or satirical about the rape and murder of a trans man, and Rick Famuyiwa, who wrote and produced Dope, should have known better than to include this in the dialogue. It is in no way shape or form conducive to the plot, and it totally negates the positive impact Diggy's character could have had.
While the interaction between the bouncer and Diggy is totally plausible, it is not believable that a bouncer would even say anything like that. Secondly, I'm not sure I know any masculine of center women who would quickly show their breast to get into a club. Thus, this whole mess of a scene is unimaginable, unnecessary, and insulting. Masculine of center Black women are barely represented in film and Dope missed its opportunity to make them visible.
I can count on one hand the movies/television shows in which masculine of center Black women are displayed accurately: Cleo played by Queen Latifah in Set It Off, Laura played by Pernell Walker in Pariah, JJ played by T'Nia Miller in Stud Life, Snoop played by Felicia Pearson in The Wire, and Tasha played by Rose Rollins in The L Word. That may seem like a lot because let’s face it, Black LGBTQ characters aren't really showing up anywhere so we should be grateful that anyone is including us right? WRONG! We should not be okay with people who are not Black and queer or Black and trans writing our stories inaccurately invalidating who we are. We must refuse to settle for the stereotypical depictions of Black queer and trans characters on television and film, holding the directors and writers responsible for the damage they cause when they make fun of our painful experiences for cheap laughs.
As we were walking home my partner and I continued to discuss our disappointment with Diggy’s character. We were conflicted because we enjoyed the movie for its celebration of blackness and the somewhat multifaceted representation of Black youth. We enjoyed seeing Diggy make jokes and get more play from women than her male counterparts, but it was overshadowed by the crude humor in the beginning of the film. While Dope attempted to represent a diverse Black experience with a queer female character, they used an often used stereotype to ridicule us rather than uplift us.
With the abundant lynching of Black trans women and the rarely discussed violence against Black masculine of center women and trans men, ie. the New Jersey Four and Ky Peterson, there is no room for the improper use of satire. The Black queer experience is not the same as the Black trans experience and we are not a monolith. Even for masculine women, there is a spectrum to be explored which Dope should have done instead of making fun of the characters gender expression by correlating it to the tragic story of Brandon Teena. While Black queer people encounter these situations daily, we do not want to be reminded of these incidents. We too want to laugh until tears come rolling down our cheeks without being the butt of the joke.
My partner is masculine of center, and like Diggy her gender expression varies which often leads to her being sometimes called sir instead of miss, like Diggy. The look of shock and pain in her face hurt me as we watched that scene. Brandon Teena resonated with her but not in the way the writer intended, triggering trauma not comedic relief for both of us. The first time I saw Boys Don't Cry, I was about ten years old, and I vividly remember the nightmares I had for weeks after watching the rape scene, and ain't nothing Dope about that.
Photo: Sundance Institute
Jasmine Alvarez is just a young Black queer woman with a lot of unpopular opinions. She enjoy writing poetry and rants about politics, queer issues, and pop culture on her Tumblr page.