I understand that there are people out there who actually regarded their time in high school as the best years of their lives. I am absolutely not one of them, and I don’t know if I know anyone personally who does. Kids are at their absolute worst as teenagers, as parents and teachers across the world can attest with gusto. However, these are all generalizations. Not every teenager in every high school is evil, but it’s not a coincidence that there are so many movies and tv shows devoted to the drama of being a high school student — Heathers, Mean Girls, The Breakfast Club, Beverly Hills 90210, Riverdale, Euphoria, etc.
As much as being a teenager as a cis-gendered straight white person was for me and many others, imagine being someone other than that. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to go through the usual hell of teen angst on top of being transgender in today’s America. Daryen Ru & Lucas McGowan’s short film Denim addresses this topic that isn’t frequently visited in film.
Denim centers on Michala (Jazz Jennings), a bright, talented high school student. We see her and her nemesis Stacy square off through stares during art class. Michala has a crush on an older guy who was held back twice named Zack (his nickname is “held back Zack”). He tells Michala she is pretty after class, and Stacy looks extremely angry. After class, Michala goes to the bathroom. We see her in the stall, and a flash goes off. Stacy has taken a picture of Michala in the bathroom that will reveal to the school what we just found out that Michala is transgender.
“…would be an effective in-class tool to show students the seriousness of their actions in regards to how they treat people…”
While Denim is short, it is effective in showing us the other side of the “bathroom bill” frenzy and ultimately how ridiculous and harmful it is. Kids whose lives are already hard enough just by being teenagers are made exponentially worse through the taunting and harassment they face simply by being who they are. I personally think Denim would be an effective in-class tool to show students the seriousness of their actions in regards to how they treat people who are different from them. Before the credits, the film shows some grim statistics in relation to how badly transgender teens are treated.
Denim is an effective PSA on how to treat people outside of their own demographic, which is surprisingly something not only teenagers need to learn how to do. Daryen Ru & Lucas McGowan made a beautiful fun film about a subject that could be handled with strong gravitas, but that isn’t the language teenagers speak. Being young themselves, they’re the perfect people to help usher in a wave of tolerance for transgender people across the country. I can’t recommend Denim enough.
Denim screened at the 2019 NewFest.