A Contemporary Film on the Concept of Autocritique


The purpose of an adaptation of an older work is to convey ideas and/or themes of the previous work towards a different audience in a more contemporary setting. I chose to adapt Ursula Le Guin’s essay, Is Gender Necessary? Redux, into a film in order to express the concept of autocritique in a way that would resonate with a younger audience in today’s society.

I chose film as my medium because I believed that it was a great way to get the audience more emotionally invested with the story if they could process the message visually and aurally as opposed to just reading off of text. Similarly, using film as a medium would appeal to a broader audience as more people today tend to watch in the form of film or TV rather than reading textual sources like books or essays. I decided against using TV as a medium because just as Le Guin’s essay was relatively brief and succinct, the adaptation should be as well. Having a prolonged TV series would also pose a risk of having viewers tune out of watching a serial production, whereas a movie or film can be digested within one setting.

Furthermore, I would change certain elements from the original essay in my film adaptation to make it more relevant to today’s society. One way in which I would change the original script is to have the main character’s point of view be that of a teenager in high school, instead of a POV from someone older like Ursula Le Guin. Doing so would also make the film more relatable to a younger audience, which is what I intend to focus my film around. I chose to appeal to a younger audience because I believe that they are more impressionable and are the future of the world. If I can convince them to embrace the process of autocritique and being able to keep an open mind, then my hope for a brighter, more inclusive future is that much more attainable. Another change would be to incorporate a more digital culture in the story; chiefly the concept of online anonymity and the ability to freely express opinions or beliefs with less apprehension towards an immediate consequence. In my film, the act of hiding behind a computer monitor is brought into question when the main character experiences a traumatic event which forces him to reflect and reanalyze his actions – essentially a form of autocritique. Finally, I intend to incorporate the current political/cultural atmosphere of today in which arguments are becoming more and more polarized to the point where neither side is listening to each other. A key element in my film that drives the main character down the path he takes involves the pack mentality that envelops both opposing viewpoints on a point of contention – the treatment of people that identify as LGBTQ+. While I believe that these changes are necessary to an adaptation of Le Guin’s essay, there are also some features that I would maintain.

The most important aspect of Le Guin’s essay that I would maintain is the main character’s journey in the process of autocritique itself. In Le Guin’s essay prior to the redux, Le Guin defended the choices she made in her novel The Left Hand of Darkness. She was heavily criticized for a variety of choices, from having used a male pronoun to describe the androgynous characters to ignoring the possibility of homosexual relations between people in kemmer and instead only showing heteronormative relationships. In response, Le Guin defended her choices in creating the novel and offered statements such as, “I call Gethenians ‘he’ because I utterly refuse to mangle English by inventing a pronoun for ‘he/she,’” or that the sexual setup was a “thought-experiment” rather than a projection of her personal beliefs. It wasn’t until the redux of her original essay that she went back and corrected her stance on the matters. The important lesson to take away from Le Guin’s autocritique was that it exemplified how a person could be open to criticism from an opposing POV and use that vulnerability to spark discussion and change. In order to keep my film true to the nature of Le Guin’s original essay, I would structure the plot of the film to take after a similar series of events with the main character.

The general structure of my film would follow the POV of Mike, a teenage boy living in the southern United States set in 2018. Growing up in the South, Mike had very traditional views of sexuality and gender believing that anything outside of the established norm was no different than a mental illness of some sort. One day, Mike decides to make an anonymous online post about his beliefs on sexuality and gender. His post receives both criticism and praise from the online community. He personally receives scathing remarks and threats from various people online telling him to take down the offensive post. His supporters tell him not to delete the post and to ignore the “snowflakes” telling him otherwise. Angered by his critics, Mike decides to post again, this time with even more vitriolic speech in his response to the people that opposed his views. Sometime later, Mike finds out that one of his closest childhood friends committed suicide for an unknown reason. Upon further investigation, it turns out that his friend was a closeted gay who saw Mike’s post and decided that it was the tipping point for him and committed suicide. Upon finding this out, Mike is fraught with grief knowing that he was the cause of his friend’s suicide. Mike realizes his wrongdoings and tries to make amends by deleting his old posts. Knowing that he will never be able to make full reparations, Mike becomes devoted to facilitating civil discourse between his peers on various topics, such as gender and sexuality, all the while keeping an open mind to viewpoints different than his.