Damn These Heels 2019: Bit

By Matthew Buxton

This year the LGBTQ+ film festival in downtown SLC, Damn These Heels, featured a movie on its opening night that was sure to drop some jaws. Whether it be from the gory details, to the raging feminist vampire cult, or just the fact that is was so plainly inclusive of everyone, Bit laid a new foundation for what mainstream teen fiction movies should look like in the future. It tells the story of a young transgender woman, Laurel, who has just graduated high school and fled her suburban hometown to LA to live with her older brother. The first night of her new life takes a menacing turn however when she is lured to the residence of an exclusively female group of vampires and is bit and thrown off the building to her eminent death. 

As shocked as everyone in the audience, Laurel wakes up in a Los Angeles dumpster surprised to be alive and mortally confused about what had happened the night before. The next few days her fears become reality as she starts to grow fangs and sleep only when the sun’s out–she’s a vampire now. Wholeheartedly welcomed into the vampire cult by its edgy hardcore leader, she can do whatever she pleases as long as she follows three simple rules: 1. Never control another vampire’s mind with your powers, 2. Kill what you eat, and most importantly 3. No boys allowed. Men have a way of taking advantage of power they’ve been given. Laurel having just recently grown confident in her new skin as a woman is uneasy about the last rule and asks, “well what about me?” To which our badass vampire queen unflinchingly says, “it never once crossed my mind.” Bit is a film about inclusivity, pure acceptance and, yes, vampires. 

Strewn about with ridiculously bloody scenes, cheesy disco music, and a plot line that definitely was trying its best not to bleed out before the 90 minutes were up, Bit was an incredibly corny film that I don’t believe was made to necessarily be good but, rather, fun. And although at times it feels like the film bit off a little more than it could chew, the overall statement of the movie rang clear regardless–not every movie with LGBTQ+ representation has to be a call to action. The reason why I found Bit to be a success was because it was just as adolescent and clumsy as any other teen fiction movie you would see on the big screen. It was light-hearted, full of fantastic shocks, and a pleasant escape from the overpowering heaviness that most LGBTQ+ films are saturated in. But the defining difference between Bit and any other teen fiction, was that for once it was dripping in representation that has never been shown in a blockbuster before–and it was just normal.

Throughout the entire film the word “transgender” was not mentioned once. In a single swoop, Bit was able to completely normalize and redefine what teen fiction should look like by including individuals with all different gender identities and sexual preferences. A genre that was made to help teenagers feel heard and recognized has for so long failed to see that the most lost teens are being drowned out by countless tales of hyper binary protagonists desperately deciding whether to pick the sexy vampire or the hot werewolf! In the end, such a choice was never made as Laurel chooses herself and the people she loves the most. In the oddest of ways, Bit is a film about people truly coming to terms with their identity–not just embracing the good and the bad wholeheartedly but being fearless enough to share it with the world no matter the consequences. 

What I gained the most from this film was just how realistic and honest it was. The world is not a cookie cutter collection of perfectly straight and moral individuals fighting the “bad guys” as is shown so often in media and especially in teen fiction. But it is a heterogenous compilation of uniqueness and diversity that should be celebrated for its strengths and weaknesses–there isn’t really a distinct line between good and evil. You don’t necessarily have to be that idealized picture perfect person to be a protagonist–I mean, all they did was manipulate and eat people the whole movie, for crying out loud. But what you do have to do is love and accept everyone around you no matter your differences. You need to tear down your walls of pride and discrimination. Ironically, in the end, Laurel goes against the most important rule and turns her straight white brother because she doesn’t believe that all men could be bad. She says to “control your god damn behavior and we’ll be fine.” If everyone could put that simple idea into practice in our own world, I’m sure we would have many less monsters in real life. 

Matthew Buxton is a Cum Laude graduate from the Waterford School who plans on attending Emory University in Atlanta this fall.

This article was originally published on July 17, 2019.