Media Analyzed: Hurricane Bianca
There is a lot happening in the world. A lot of things many of us would rather not have happening. It is with a heavy heart that I wake up each morning and flip my alarm off because the morning talk shows where I used to get my news are now filled with too much horror, too much bigotry and too much anxiety for me to take that early in the day. Many of us have been asking, what do we do? How do we face this new world that seems to be reveling in hatred we thought had been left behind?
I have no answers for you. Truthfully, I ask these questions every day in vain. There is only one thing I can say for certain, there are things out there we should be paying attention to, every single one of us. Hurricane Bianca, a film by Matt Kugelmann, is one of those things the world should be paying attention to.
The simple enough story of a gay man (Bianca Del Rio/Roy Haylock) who accepts a teaching job in Texas where he is quickly fired once his sexuality is disclosed. This is, of course, completely legal. The movie points out that it is legal to fire people based on their sexuality in 29 states. That's not even counting the states that consider themselves "at will" employment states like my own stomping ground of Oregon. Until recently I worked in HR and I watched my employer fire many people for reasons that would be considered less than ethical on an almost daily basis. It wore on me, and rightfully filled me with rage. The employers here do not have to provide any reason whatsoever for firing people, and after viewing the election map of Oregon, I guarantee you that many people here are fired based solely on their sexuality.
With impeccably timed comedy, Bianca Del Rio (RuPaul's Drag Race) and Rachel Dratch square off when Richard returns in the guise of Bianca, a funny, fierce and ferocious lady who is there to turn the bigoted student body on their heads. When bullies bite, she bites back. When a young gay man is being beaten by classmates, she teaches him to hold his keys in his fist and hit back. By the end of the movie Bianca is the most beloved teacher in the school, giving the backwards students pause to think, "why is my school racist against gay people?"
Woven into the main plot is a touching story about Karma (Bianca Leigh), a kind and charismatic radio host who takes Richard in after he's fired. She confides in him that she was not born a woman. Under her guidance and inspiration, timid school teacher Richard becomes the fiery Bianca Del Rio. Karma tells Richard that she hasn't spoken to her family in decades for fear of their reaction to her transition. Serendipitously, the womanizing, football coaching P.E. teacher is Karma's long lost little brother. In moments of vulnerability, he expresses to Bianca the regret he feels that his brother had been bullied, and how badly he wants to know he's ok.
After a short fall out between Bianca and Karma over the subject, Karma gives in and calls her mother, which leads to a happy and heartfelt reunion between Karma and her family. As her mother takes her in her arms and whispers, "you're so beautiful," I broke down into tears of heartfelt joy.
The temptation for most film critics upon reviewing Hurricane Bianca would be to write it off as a cute, small darling, perhaps some would even be tempted to call it bad. With a world of movies available at our finger tips, it is far too easy to forget that artistry does not only lie in the old canons. It does not only lie in dark, moody light filters and ambiguous plots. Artistry also lies in honesty, comedy, kindness, and beauty. The artistry in Hurricane Bianca lies in its interesting shot compositions like the shopping scenes with Willam Belli and Shangela. Its artistry lies in the comedic duo of Bianca Del Rio and Rachel Dratch. Most importantly, this artistry lies in calling society to task in no uncertain terms. It's not afraid to stand up and say "this, this thing here is wrong," and that, my friends, is exactly why we should ALL be watching Hurricane Bianca.
Hurricane Bianca is now streaming on Netflix.