Open Letter to Tropfest 2013 & Matt Hardie

Dear Tropfest Team and  Matt Hardie,

It is with both sadness and national embarrassment that I write to you regarding your appraisal of the film Bamboozled- which won Tropfest this year. While I would like to congratulate you – instead I am writing to express my disappointment and despair.

As a sex therapist and public sexuality educator I see first-hand possibly more than a lot of other health professionals and lay people the impact that shaming of sexuality has on the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of ordinary Australians. And by ordinary I mean- all Australians- regardless of their gender or orientation.

While I am a firm believer in freedom of speech and creative expression (it is not that this film violates my values in this area) but rather how naively the film itself and its latest accolade examine and reinforce the sexual adolescence this country is living when it comes to human sexuality.

I appreciate humour as much as ‘the average Aussie’- but when it comes at the expense of the mental, emotional and sexual wellbeing of our citizens- I will most definitely draw the line- and also defend those who may not feel they have a voice.

Who are these people I am speaking for? The people who feel terrified to express their sexuality for fear of vilification. The people whose shame riddles them daily because of their sexuality or desires. The people whose sexuality sits outside the mainstream (and I’d say that’s a whole lot more than you realise, you just never hear about it.) The people who just like you- have had an experience with sexuality that has challenged their boundaries or left them a little at odds with their feelings. People whose self inquiry has been thwarted in favour of toeing the line, for fear of being caught out and shamed. You know those people. It’s likely you are one of them. Because we are everywhere.

Why don’t we hear about it? Because in this country- sex is for the backwaters and the recesses of the emotions. When it does surface in the mainstream, it’s represented in the context of shame and ridicule. Just like depictions in this film. I would be interested to hear what the creators of this film had in mind when they conceptualised it. Fear, naivety, misunderstanding and dishonour are at the core of a film that could have so easily transformed the cultural dominant narrative into one of learning, rather than cheap jokes at the expense of the vulnerable and the unheard.

While the targets of this film are ostensibly the Queer and Trans communities- what I also see in this is an overarching contempt for sex and its expression. In a moment of ‘weakness’ a man is destroyed at the hands of a vengeful woman whose motivation was also her own sexual shaming. Remind me what’s funny here? This happens every day!

In a country where ‘’Men are real Men’’ and ‘’Women are vengeful’’ we wonder why we’re riddled with anxiety. Dare to think for yourself or experiment with sexual pleasure and you deserve to be torn apart and publicly shamed. Step outside the square and you’ll get your cumuppance. As long as the archetypal “Larrikin’’ is rewarded over the “Investigator” in the Australian cultural psyche, I fear we will be shackled in emotional adolescence for eternity.

Without attending the event this year, nor seeing the other entries, I am saddened if this is indeed the best Australia has to offer. It seems we have a long, long, LONG way to go.


Cyndi Darnell

My response on the petition: December 10 2013

I would like to see artists using their craft to enhance the collective well being & facilitate inquiry rather than shaming and destabilising communities who are already marginalised. Furthermore, I would like to see further exploration into dissecting what heterosexuality is, how it works and how it could be used as a tool for growth rather than shame. In this I feel the Tropfest team in particular have an ethical responsibility to facilitate inquiry through art rather than defending and reinforcing the rough-and-tumble  mediocrity that is already so prevalent in our collectively dysfunctional sexual culture. If this film is the pus that rises to the top – it indicates we are ready for a  lancing of the national erotic boil that has kept us obscured and in pain for far too long