Against Me's Laura Jane Grace has heavily criticised Arcade Fire for "inaccurately playing on and perpetuating" transgender stereotypes in their video for "We Exist". The singer/guitarist, who is herself transgender, was outraged that the band and directors opted to use Andrew Garfield, famous for his role as Spider-Man, as a young person struggling with gender identity, rather than a genuine transgender actor. Grace is frustrated what she perceives to be a consistent typecasting of transgender people as lonely, freakish types. As Bustle's Kat Haché wrote: "This becomes particularly problematic when you’re casting a video for a song entitled 'We Exist'. If so, where?"
In "We Exist", Garfield/Spider-Man plays a lonely outsider character who likes dressing up in girls clothes. In the video he confronts his own identity in awkward fashion, dancing with threatening men in a saloon bar, before eventually ending up onstage with Arcade Fire and lapping up the adoration of a large crowd while the band, dressed in white suits, welcome their emerging hero.
Against Me's latest album Transgender Dysphoria Blues, as its title suggests, has a consistent theme of dealing with being transgender. The single "True Trans Soul Rebel" describes the anxiety and fears that come with acknowledging gender issues.
In 2011, back when she was still physically a man, Grace gave an in-depth interview with Rolling Stone about her struggles, saying: "The cliché is that you're a woman trapped in a man's body, but it's not that simple. It's a feeling of detachment from your body and from yourself. And it's shitty, man. It's really fucking shitty."
The Arcade Fire video that Grace took exception to is below. Should Arcade Fire have used a transgender actor for the role?
Follow Thomas Gorton on Twitter here @angstromhoot