Since its start three years ago, “Transparent” has always been an exploration of the boundaries we draw and the blurred lines that result — with gender, identity, the body and our relationships. In season four of the family drama, out Friday on Amazon, the whole Pfefferman clan travels to Israel, where literal borders and the politics of who gets to call the land home serve as a metaphor for the misfits of the show, who often feel like they don’t belong anywhere.
“It seemed kind of perfect to take these aspects of gender and trans-ness and laminate them onto politics,” creator Jill Soloway said at a roundtable. “What seems like it starts off as a fun family trip is a perfect way to send everybody into it.”
Soloway explained that boundaries help people feel safe, but often at the expense of who gets left out.
“The idea of male or female keeps people safe, but what’s the cost of that safety? It’s the same thing with Israel,” they said. “Jewish people look at Israel as a safe space for Jews, but what was the cost of Jewish people feeling safe?”
The same divisions are happening in our country today too, said Soloway.
“I think a lot of people who support Trump think he is putting in an appropriate boundary, and that’s what they like about him,” they said. “I mean, he’s putting up a wall, what's a more literal boundary than a wall?”
Although the election never comes up in this season, Soloway hopes that the show, by “creat[ing] an ecosystem where tolerance is prioritized,” can be an antidote to Trump and the bigotry he’s normalizing in our country right now.
“Every time somebody makes a show that doesn’t have a straight white man trying to accrue power at the center, they’re taking away from the narrative that Trump is selling, which says, ‘My power means I win,’” they said.
About Trump’s ban on trans people in the military, Soloway said, “he’s taking what is a very fundamentalist, religious belief about humans, which is that there is no gender besides males and females. Let’s remember, before there were trans people, there were intersex people. We have always had people who don’t fall into categories of male and female.”
Soloway, who identifies as gender non-binary, said that they relate to the characters in “Transparent,” who are each “exploring the questions of whether gender frees them, or it’s a prison.”
“I’m definitely going through that journey myself,” they said. “[I remember] two years ago, coming to this junket, spending two hours in my room getting ready, getting my hair curled, putting on a bunch of makeup. Why? Why do I have to wear makeup and you don’t? Because I’m a woman and you’re a man?
“I still have to wear makeup...today I asked for the Bradley Cooper," they continued. "It takes five minutes instead of two hours, and I spent that two hours doing rewrites on my book. For me, it’s a political issue. I’m trying to get my voice out. I don’t have two hours to have somebody put f—king false eyelashes on me.”