‘The Crying Game’ – ’92 Cinema Revue

The Crying Game – UK Release Date Oct. 30, 1992

All-Time Domestic & Worldwide $62,548,947

The Crying Game is so much more than its well-known scene, with a dramatic exploration of one’s political and sexual identity as an important (for better or worse) benchmark of queer cinema.

Everyone knows the twist in Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game. Those not in the know will understand the infamous scene by proxy. They will know it from the barrage of transphobic jokes that soon followed in parodies and jokes on Oscar night. Spoilers for a 30-year-old film: the character of Dil, played by Jaye Davidson, is revealed to be a trans woman during an intimate moment. Fergus, played by Stephen area, smacks her down and vomits in the bathroom. Dil says to him, “Well, you did know, didn’t you?” To say I’ve been nervous to watch this movie, given its reputation, is putting it mildly. I have no time for transphobia, so I was worried this film would handle that aspect horrifically. Yet, the film is more than that one scene that eclipses the entire premise; it is about something much more that has been overshadowed in the 30 years of release.

Fergus (Rea) is a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and has kidnapped a British soldier named Jody (Forest Whitaker) as they call for the release of a head member of the IRA. While in captivity, Fergus and Jody form a close bond to the point that Jody calls for Fergus to take care of his love Dil (Davidson). Some time passes, and Fergus finds Dil under his new guise of Jimmy to form a relationship while hiding his IRA roots. What follows is an exploration of indenting, both in political ideology and sexuality.

The Crying Game delves into the exploration of one’s identity in multiple ways with maturity, if a bit dated at times, with a modern lens. The main one introduced in the film is Fergus having to combat his past affiliation with the IRA by trying his best to leave that life behind. When Jody tells him the tales of “The Scorpion and the Frog,” he lets him in that he will probably be the one to take the shot because “It’s in his nature.” 

Dil (Jaye Davidson) and Fergus (Stephen Rea) hang out at The Metro together for a drink.
Source: Miramax

Fergus spends the rest of the film trying to realize his true nature. In the time we spent with Fergus and Jody, he seems to be a good man with a kind heart, joking and getting to know Jody. Their relationship is grand, with Rea and Whitaker capturing the quick friendship with realism. But, spoilers once again, Jody’s death while assigned to kill him, he begins to make amends with himself and his past by respecting Jody’s wishes and taking care of Dil. Here we see that he is a man of his word, which the other IRA members take advantage of to use Fergus for their actions.

Fergus grows in that department, realizing he can be a better man and escape his misguided intentions. Yet another layer to him is his own sexual identity. Fergus, for, all things considered, is a straight man and makes that quite clear. His chemistry with Dil is palpable, though, getting to know her and who she is about. There is a sensuality to it, and both seem to be very much into each other. After revealing that Dil is trans, Fergus is reluctant to accept her as herself. Yet, he never calls her derogatory slang though he does call her a “man” at one point. Fergus still cares and adores her up until the end of the movie, even if he feels weird about her calling him “hun” or “sweet.” Fergus is very much still a straight cis man at the end of the day and is attracted to women, trans or not. It’s interesting to see that in a film from ’92. 

Dil herself is portrayed as an actual person with actual thoughts and emotions, not a caricature or dismissed as someone lesser. Comments do linger about, but for the most part. Dil is comfortable in herself, and her femininity is strong-willed and is quite the charmer. Davidson plays her beautifully, helping to weave a character that is more than just what their genitalia is. Davidson himself is a gay man who would retire soon after from acting due to hating fame. Good for him for walking away because he left with a marvelous performance for people to discover beyond the twist. Dil is not just a great trans character but a great character in general.

Dil (Jaye Davidson) croons to the title song, “The Crying Game,” at The Metro.
Source: Miramax

I’m not trans, as I’m a bisexual, cis male. However, for more on the trans perspective of the film, I wish to direct you to Natasha troop’s excellent Medium article “A Trans Perspective on the Crying Game,” which explores the damage created by the release of The Crying Game and the reactions. I also want to direct you to the excellent Netflix documentary Disclosure about trans depictions in cinema and television. Last but not least, writer Peter Piatkowski has a remarkable piece for Bright Light/Dark Room, “The Crying Game and That Scene,” going into how the reveal scene clouds the film’s history and well as how the film used it as a “shock factor” to garner an audience.

As stated in the introduction, I cannot stand for transphobia. That goes for racism, misogyny, and homophobia. The reactions to this film after its release are absolutely wild and outlandish. Constantly calling Dil a man and taking away the agency of that character is abysmal. Making everyone in the audience see the film based on one part and making a spectacle of the character’s identity is grossly misguided. Here’s an excerpt from the Piatkowski article above:

“In framing Dil’s trans identity as a shocking revelation, Jordan tips the film into Jerry Springer/Jenny Jones territory, refashioned as a classy, stylish thriller. The revelation that a character is trans is presented as a mind fuck, but it shouldn’t be. And what I learned from my repeated views of The Crying Game is just how destructive that plot twist is. The big reveal of Dil’s penis reduces her story to an Oh My God moment—and even if Neil Jordan didn’t intend to exploit, he is banking on his audience to view a cis straight man’s relationship with a trans woman as taboo and unconventional.”

Peter Piakowski, “The Crying Game and That Scene,” Bright Light/Dark Room

I agree with this quote because it takes something away from the relationship and the story and muddles it all down to this moment. Cis straight relationships with trans women should not be taboo. Trans women are women, plain and simple. Using this as a twist does do more harm than good, no matter how great I think the character is. It does not make up for the fact that her identity was used to elicit shocked reactions and grumbles from the audience.

The Crying Game is more than one infamous moment in time with a rich story delving into one person’s identity struggles. While the third act is a bit long in the tooth for my taste, the rest of the film makes up for it with two fantastic leads in Rea and Davidson. It goes beyond being another IRA drama into something with more to say.

Revue Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Next time, what if Die Hard was on a plane? No, Die Hard 2 was in an airport. I mean a real plane. Wesley Snipes lets us know to “always bet on black” with Passenger 57

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