In Bruce LaBruce’s latest film, The Misandrists, gender politics are taking center stage. Set in 1990s Germany, the film gives a satire spin to the conversation of gender, with LaBruce’s signature sex-positivity weaved throughout. In the film, LaBruce showcases women who are fed up with being seen as the “fairer sex,” and in typical LaBruce fashion, he incorporates commentary on socially conscious topics, such as feminism and transgender identity, along with stunning visuals to create a multifaceted piece of media.

In an exclusive interview, LaBruce describes inspiration for the film, its themes, and the importance of unapologetic queerness within films with such strong cultural messaging.

What were some of the inspirations for the film?

[Books included] Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, Ulrike Meinhof’s Some People Talk About the Weather, We Don’t, Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.

There were also films that served as inspiration, which included: Ulrike Meinhof’s Bambule, Ida Lupino’s The Trouble with Angels, Don Siegel’s The Beguiled, Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen, Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey’s Women in Revolt and Flesh for Frankenstein, John Waters’ Desperate Living.

Genres: Nunsploitation, Seventies Softcore Sexploitation, B-Movie Horror, Reform School Girl Films…

Courtesy Cartilage Films

From left: Caprice Crawford, Viva Ruiz, Susanne Sachsse, Kembra Pfahler, and Grete Gehrke

The film makes big statements about gender, sexuality, and the status quo. What was the thought process behind including this within a film while embracing satire rather than existing strictly as drama?

Like most of my films, The Misandrists has both a punk and a camp sensibility. Being punk is about provocation, radicalism, ambiguity, and ambivalence; being camp is about artifice, theatricality, melodrama, and political queer consciousness. Camp is best played “straight-faced,” so the actors play their roles seriously and with conviction, not really acknowledging that the whole scenario of the film is absurd and over-the-top, even occasionally surreal. The left has a tendency these days to treat issues of gender and sexuality with the utmost seriousness in a politically correct manner. Satire and black comedy are good ways to cut through some of the self-righteous bullshit and humorlessness of the contemporary left, and to provoke discussion about certain issues that are often dealt with in a doctrinaire fashion, or to uproot entrenched ideologies that need to be reexamined and reconfigured. The left needs to be considerably more nimble and precocious to fight the new politically incorrect right!

One of the things that stands out is the role that pleasure played, especially at the climax of the film. What significance did pleasure hold for you while creating the film?

The aesthetic dimension is always central for me. Meaning is expressed through style, and it’s also a great source of pleasure. I wanted the film to look romantic and visually pleasing to mirror the project of the Female Liberation Army: a very sexualized lesbian revolution that includes free love and pleasure as one of its main strategies. Big Mother sees pornography itself as a powerful tool of indoctrination and propaganda, but she also genuinely encourages free love and sex as a way to foster bonding and solidarity between the girls. But she genuinely believes in sexual revolution and in the revolutionary potential of pornography.

As a director, it was a great pleasure to work with an almost all-female cast, which is something quite rare. I also tried to have as many women behind the scenes as possible, including the music composers, the costume designer, the editor, the sound recordist and editor, and of course, two of the producers. So just having the opportunity to spend time and work with so many amazing women was a great pleasure.

Courtesy Cartilage Films

From left: Barb Ara, Sam Dye, Serenity Rosa, Olivia Kundisch, Lo-Fi Cherry, Victoire Laly, and Lina Bembe

The film also doesn’t shy away from graphic imagery to remind the audience of particular themes, in a way that never comes across as gratuitous. How do you see this also reflecting or connecting to your thoughts on pleasure?

I’ve been making short films for a couple of porn companies lately, Cockyboys and Erika Lust, and the work I’ve been doing for them is very narrative and/or conceptual, with an emphasis on aesthetics and ideas, more like porn from the ‘70s. It’s about putting the explicit sex in a context, which makes it sexier and more relatable on an emotional level. Don’t get me wrong, I like mindless porn also, but it shouldn’t be the only game in town. So when I make a movie like The Raspberry Reich or The Misandrists, which are partly about sexual revolution and making porn for revolutionary purposes, it only makes sense to use explicit sex in the films. It makes the films more authentic, and ultimately more pleasurable.

Courtesy Cartilage Films

From left: Victoire Laly, Kita Updike, and Serenity Rosa

One of the film’s main messages is a critique of gender essentialism, or the idea that gender roles come from biological differences between men and women that cannot be changed. How do you see these ideas existing alongside how many people understand feminism today? And what responsibility do you think that media has to address these themes?

I use to hang out with lesbian separatists in the ‘80s, and also with certain gay male extremists who lived in completely male environments. I could understand the urge, after so many years of oppression, and the forced repression of their homosexuality, to go to these extremes. But I was a part of a queer punk movement that was much more into inclusion and solidarity between fags, dykes, and transgender people fighting against the status quo and conventional society. I think the film is somewhat sympathetic to feminist essentialists inasmuch as they are depicted as hardcore, take-no-prisoners extremists (well, take-prisoners, actually!), which is something that always fascinates me. But the problem is that their beliefs correspond all too conveniently with conservative and reactionary ideas about sex and gender, the religious right, etc. (Anti-porn feminists have always been a bit too cosy with the religious right.) We all have masculine and feminine traits, and we all perform gender to some degree, which is a very threatening concept for some people because it opens up all sorts of possibilities that challenge the dominant order. But for me, transgender people who identify as female would seem to me to be natural allies with cisgender women as they have historically both been subject to the same kind of violence and discrimination. And in a post-human, gender-fluid world, essentialism does seem just a little bit old-fashioned.

Anything else that you would like to add?

Freedom for Female People!

Writer for NewNowNext, Refinery29, Wear Your Voice, BitchMedia, etc. Budding sex educator. @NerdsOfPreycast cohort. She/Her.