Orphan Black Tackles Gender with Addition of Trans Clone
Meet the latest clone in Orphan Black. Tony Zwickey is a trans man, and he does everything from taking testosterone injections to initiating a romance with another male character.
Orphan Black is a sci-fi thriller starring Canadian actress Tatiana Maslanay as several "identical" characters who are clones of each other. The series focuses on Sarah Manning, a woman who assumes the identity of one of her clones (this one named Elizabeth Childs), after witnessing Childs's suicide. The show explores the ethical implications of human cloning, as well as the implications for personal identity. And, unlike most sci-fi movies, Orphan Black takes place in a modern-day, real-world setting aside from its sole science fictional aspect, which creates an excellent platform on which to examine timely social issues.
Trans issues have been front and center in popular culture recently; first, the casting of Jared Leto, a heterosexual man, as a trans woman in "Dallas Buyers Club," sparked some controversy, with The Independent pithily writing, "Why can't we cast trans people in trans roles?" Even more recently, "Orange is the New Black" star Laverne Cox, a transgender woman, became the first trans person to be featured on the cover of Time magazine. Then, a Chicago Sun-Times editorial claimed, "Laverne Cox is not a woman," inciting so much outrage that the editorial was quickly retracted. Since "Orphan Black" is primarily exploring issues of identity, as well as what it means to be human, adding a transgender clone allows for the writers to sensitively question our assumptions surrounding gender.
Although the decision to add a transgender character has been treated as a controversial one, co-creator Greame Manson says, "I don't think we ever looked at it as risk. We looked at it as, okay, if we're going to do this, we're going to do it from exactly the right place creatively and story-telling wise and we're going to commit 100%. Throw the character in and treat the character exactly like you'd treat anyone else, and give them dignity and respect."
Creators claim that there's a good chance that Tony will show up again - so keep watching Orphan Black on BBC America.