Free Guy—A Trans Take

In Which Fantasy Transforms Reality

Free Guy (& Gal) from Twentieth Century Films

Fantasy not only asks “What if things didn’t go on just as they do?” but demonstrates what they might be like if they went otherwise—thus gnawing at the very foundation of the belief that things have to be the way they are. Ursula K. Le Guin


Trans folk are told by religious fundamentalists and TERFs that we engage in fantasy.


Guilty as charged.

I'm not saying that all fantasies are inherently trans but that trans experience and fantasy are, as Le Guin notes, inherently and redeemingly subversive

Fantasy is not a denial of reality but an indictment of it, as Free Guy aptly demonstrates. Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a non-playable character (NPC) who ends up being the player of his game-world, simultaneously freeing its creator, Millie (Jodie Comer), to reclaim her creative work and to see the love of her life who's always been with her.


The Point of Fantasy

In my epic fantasy, Mirrororrim, getting people from our world into another realm is just the starting premise. The real action flows from who they dare to be once they get there and how they challenge Mirrororrim's denizens to be who they truly are. Mirrororrim is our world. To see it, though, we have to, like the story's protagonists, go out of our world for a time. But while we’re there, we face the heroic dilemma of being ourselves in a world hostile to our presence.


This is the trans story in a nutshell.


Fantasy—Necessarily Subversive

I'm not saying that all fantasies are inherently trans but that trans experience and fantasy are, as Le Guin notes, inherently and redeemingly subversive:


"Why are things as they are? Must they be as they are? What might they be like if they were otherwise?” To ask these questions is to admit the contingency of reality, or at least to allow that our perception of reality may be incomplete, our interpretation of it arbitrary or mistaken … The question—"Do things have to be the way they are/the way I’ve been told they are?"—may be an important one. To open a door that has been kept closed is an important act.


Escape and Freedom

If, as Le Guin says, "the direction of escape is toward freedom," then Guy and Millie—as well as trans persons who claim their true selves—illustrate the path to freedom for all of us. NPC that he is, Guy dreams of meeting the girl who will complete his life. Real-life Millie's code has been stolen by a game mogul who makes riches off her work. She's on the female heroic quest not to find home, treasure, or superpowers but to stand for what has always been rightfully hers.

This fantasy of 0s and 1s decides reality even as Guy realizes he's no more than 0s and 1s.

To find her code, Millie mines the game by playing it as a character and unwittingly triggers a hidden AI capacity in Guy, who blossoms at her touch. Guy goes from seeing only the way things are to saving his world from destruction. His AI ramps up his ability to change his world and those around him, but it's not limited to his digital realm. He changes Millie and the corporate forces threatening to destroy his world. In short, this fantasy of 0s and 1s decides reality even as Guy realizes he's no more than 0s and 1s.


Yet, he is no less.


Redeemingly Subversive

That realization mirrors the trans journey. We live in a world that insists our true selves are merely a fantastical escape from the "reality" of our "biology," and that our attempt to claim who we rightfully are is "an abomination of nature" and no more than a dream.


And it is no less.

Don't mistake trans persons for "playing." In being our true selves, we also help the world claim its own birthright.

As Guy transforms himself and Millie, so our transitions not only change us but revamp the world. We are an icon and archetype of world-rebuilding because we reclaim our rightful identity from the grip of a hellbent-on-destruction world.


Don't mistake trans persons for "playing." In being our true selves, we also help the world claim its own birthright. In seeing the selves who have always been with us, we help the world see and love itself.



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