It turns out that claiming something is anti-trans humor stirs up people, and brings them out of the woodwork to tell you why you have no sense of humor. So it has gone with the two posts at Metro Weekly's Poliglot about The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson.
As the Superbowl gets under way and other questionable examples of anti-trans humor appear on commercials, I wanted to take a minute to break down the reasons that I see for concerns being legitimately raised about the intent of the Peg Blerguson sketch (using shorthand to call it that, whether scripted or not) that ran on Feb. 4.
Despite the many commenters at Metro Weekly and elsewhere online this weekend claiming that Peg is a woman played by a man simply to reflect her mannish nature, that Peg is played by the same man who plays "Craig" when Craig plays other characters in sketches, and that the "half-sister" is a simply reference to Oprah Winfrey's half-sister discovery -- and not a trans-related "gag" -- the bottom line is that the sketch repeatedly plays off the fact that "Peg" is a female played by a man with male genitalia.
A mannish woman (though, likely, creating humor with its own attendant issues), a Craig-mocking woman or an Oprah-mocking woman would not play for laughs on that point because such laugh lines would make no sense.
It is the sex "confusion"/"repulsion" that is played for laughs -- repeatedly -- which is why it is anti-trans and why -- despite the claims -- this is a mockery of a trans character.
Here are five key moments (with explanation) displaying this in the sketch:
Peg has "balls," per the robot.
(If Peg is supposed to be simply a "mannish" woman (with its attendant own issues) and not a man, then this joke would not be funny (or possible).)
Peg, after attempting to cross her legs: I smooshed the lady parts.
(Again, the "joke" is that she actually "smooshed" her man parts, despite being dressed in female clothes and protraying a female character.)
Craig: Have you ever been to Phoenix, Arizona?
Peg: I've never been to Phoenix, Arizona.
Craig: It's a lovely town, full of transvestites.
Peg: I'm adding that to the agenda.
(This is, to me, the most clear point to show that the joke is premised on "Peg" and Craig's awareness -- and the audience's -- that they are playing this for trans-related laughs.)
Craig: If CBS offers to let you do a CBS Cares spot, what would it be?
Peg: Don't be me.
(While, potentially, just a joke about Peg being an ugly woman (again, with its own attendant issues), the earlier "transvestite" reference makes this joke perhaps the most cutting and potentially anti-trans.)
Peg makes a "he-she" reference.
Craig: Man, you really creep me out.
(This is a direct response to a "he-she" comment, which appears to be a direct refutation of any claim that this is not anti-trans humor.)
Craig Ferguson may be a wonderful person, he may have gay guests on regularly -- as he did later on the Feb. 4 show -- and he may be a liberal who loves trans people, but on Feb. 4, the "Peg Blerguson" sketch (whether scripted or not) was played for anti-trans laughs later in the same day that a report from the the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality reported that anti-transgender discrimination is all too prevalent in America.