Alexis Meade and the art of the transsexual revenge fantasy

can a GirlBoss really have it all??

CN: talk of Transphobia, Misgendering, Abusive Families

At the start of the first lockdown i started watching szn 1 of ugly betty. I was having a shitty time and i longed for the plucky determination and earnestness of Betty Suarez, but as i watched more feelings arose from remembering Alexis Meade and watching her return to my life on this small screen.

In 2006/2007 when it was coming out so was also exploring my feelings on my sexuality (altho now i realise it was more on gender) and Alexis Meade was one of the first trans characters i was consciously aware of and i remember being so drawn to her. Like fuck me i wanted to be her so much and i couldn’t understand why, now of course i can easily point to why i might have wanted to be the glamorous transgender magazine editor, but those early trans feelings aren’t the only ones that came back, a whole other one came with it.

In 2019 Cass Ball wrote this article for The Niche and while i agree she doesn’t have much characterisation outside of being the trans plot twist, as a working class trans person in the north of england ofc i don’t feel the rich beautiful trans woman vying for control of a fashion magazine represents me and nor do i want to project my transness on to cis woman and camp icon Wilhelmina Slater. i’m not watching Alexis for trans representation, I’m watching her for revenge. 

Alexis Meade starts half the 1st szn under bandages concealing her identity until its time to make the reveal to the audience and then eventually to the in-show world. She comes from a family that is screwy at best and when she’s told by her father he’d rather see her dead than transition she fakes her own death to disappear and transition in secret. While taking that time to become who she truly wants to be she hatches a plan for revenge against her family and to take her father’s publishing empire and life’s work from him by framing him for the death of his lover and editor-in-chief of MODE Faye Sommers, only for this plan to backfire and for her to start szn 2 in a coma and wake up to not even remember the one bit of personality the writers gave her. She eventually regains her memory and after her fathers very timely death she takes over the company (after being the victor of a paintball war), then tries to murder the seamstress and surrogate for Wilhelmina’s baby but manages to avoid jail with Wilhelmina’s help and runs off to Paris with a child that turns out is hers and renounces her claim to the company splitting her shares between Daniel and Wilhelmina. The Drama!

When she appears and joins the cast fully she is treated like shit. Misgendered and deadnamed regularly (by everyone except her alcoholic mother) depending on if she has been a Good Girl or Bad Tranny that week and Betty even shouts at Daniel to ‘pick a pronoun’ and decide whether he is just gonna misgender her or not and stop doing it as and when. i actually like that the show does this little remark, like the rest of it is still shit and Betty is by no means saying Trans Rights in 2007 but like just pick a lane hon.

Her transness really is her only story arc and she really does only exist as a plot twist and to have a freak to demonise but i’m not against it.

Alexis is a campy over-dramatic version of cis ppls fantasy of what trans women will do to the world should we get the chance to treat cis ppl like they’ve treated us. And I love it. She plays into every stereotype going in a Transsexual Camp way - Ball’s The Niche article states that trans people don’t talk like this - well I do. I make jokes about my transness and make jokes about how i used to be a man in ways that if a cis person does it we’d flip out, altho numerous other trans folks still do when i do it. I mean, why the fuck not reclaim the horrible Cis Gaze cuz if ur gonna see that shit it might as well be on my terms and my way. Anywayyyy...

For me, Alexis fits into the stereotype of the Trans Villainess. In Defence Of The Trans Villainess by Sessi Kuwabara Blanchard is still one of my fav articles on this. She doesn’t fit the queer hyper femme beyond camp examples that Blanchard suggests here and i would hardly suggest she’s queer as in fuck the system, but then again i don’t want her to be. I want her to play the game, i want her to be part of the system, i want her to destroy it from within. Alexis isn’t really evil, just chaotic cuz the writers didn’t give her a personality beyond trans plot twist and revenge story arc so that when she finally topples the head of the publishing empire she just sits at a desk in a Well What Now Then moment (which is both lazy writing and brilliant comment on the flaws in a character that only exists for that one purpose, but lets not give the writers too much credit here).

Alexis isn’t even a brick, she’s played by Rebecca Romjin (a cis woman which is weirdly progressive given that much less than a decade later we’d be back to cis men playing us) who, as every nerdy fag knows, played Mystique in the 00s x-men movies, so having this tall model who was a villain in x-men thats just really the cherry on top for me.

Like Alexis I come from a family that was screwy at best and downright abusive a good chunk of the time and definitely weren’t as accepting no matter how much they parroted that they were. I was made homeless and thru various channels nearly a decade later found out that my parents erased any trace i existed so much so that its was a shock to my brother’s fiancé to find out i existed. However none of them know that i am trans still. The perfect set up for my very own transsexual plot twist! 

I’m tired of the thought of revenge being righteous as a marginalised person. I don’t want to feel righteous and i don’t really want a trans day of revenge (i do love a bit of G.L.O.S.S tho). Alexis Meade isn’t good representation and nor should she be - bollocks to trans characters NEEDING to be good representation to make The Community look good. She isn’t playing the Good Transgender, she’s here to be the Chaotic Transsexual and get her revenge, even if she eventually realises it isn’t as fulfilling as she thought it would be cuz can a GirlBoss really have it all??

I’m never going to get revenge against my abusive family. I’ll sit here and deny such thoughts if ever I am asked and I will fully pretend I am above such things, but Alexis allows me to live out that and feel what small catharsis i can as i snap my carefully painted fingers at the screen happily watching her strut about that runway and announcing herself with “Hi Daddy, I’m back” and then posing in a beautiful fuckin gown that shows off everything a transsexual plot twist gown should!