Most partisan documentaries let like-minded folks have their say. Or, they give opponents a chance to speak but with little screen time to get the job done.
“What Is a Woman?” turns that dynamic on its head.
The film follows Daily Wire podcaster and author Matt Walsh as he asks one of society’s most simple questions, one suddenly fraught with cultural complications.
Even the newest Supreme Court justice got tripped up over it. But why?
To find the answer, Walsh travels across the globe asking trans activists and feminists alike that titular question.
Most can’t give an answer or refuse to consider it. They stumble, and stammer, before changing the topic or ending the conversation.
Those responses speak volumes, of course.
Walsh famously disdains the transgender movement. He’s a Christian conservative with little time for gender derivations. He still approaches the subject in a neutral fashion for much of the documentary.
No snark. No lectures or finger wagging. Just calm, reasonable questioning. The answers, when they finally arrive, can be startling.
Director Justin Folk (“No Safe Spaces”) keeps the tone jaunty, even darkly comic. Walsh lacks the charisma of a born entertainer, so Folk frames him in a different light. He’s the Everyman, someone willing to ask the questions most won’t utter.
It’s a wise approach. It also heightens the stakes in play. And yes, there are considerable stakes afoot from a cultural perspective.
Some won’t accept the documentary’s premise at face value. Others will rage at Walsh’s staid demeanor, knowing the true feelings lurking beneath his mild-mannered style.
What we should all agree on is simple.
It can’t be off bounds to dig deeper into the trans conversation. Our children are in play, for starters. The film aggressively pursues this angle, and we see specialists giddy at helping young children begin their “transition.”
A segment on trans sports lets two female athletes criticize Lia Thomas, the University of Pennsylvania swimmer who transitioned to female and now dominates the field.
EXCLUSIVE: “Trans people don’t transition for athletics. We transition to be happy and authentic and our true selves.”
— Good Morning America (@GMA) May 31, 2022
One fellow athlete appears on screen to share her frustrations at losing out to a biological male identifying as female.
“I missed out on so much throughout my high school career,” she laments.
Another is seen in the shadows, her voice modified to shield her identity.
“If you speak up about it … your life will be over in some way,” she says. Defy the trans groupthink and face profound consequences.
Just ask author J.K. Rowling, one of the most canceled celebrities in Western culture.
Debra Soh, author of “The End of Gender,” shares how she fled academia when she realized university research is often compromised in areas like trans issues. She said you have to pre-determine what your studies will reveal “so you don’t upset activists.”
Is that any way to run a university, let alone find the truth? Of course not. So why can’t we talk about it?
Walsh’s trip to a women’s march is particularly enlightening. Of course no one on camera can say what a woman is, leading to more unintentional laughs.
Walsh is bumped, called an expletive, shouted down and treated like a supervillain. Yet he’s polite, doesn’t raise his voice and keeps his tone docile.
The “a**hole” chant meant to chase him away isn’t so kind.
“What Is a Woman?” veers into black comedy on a few occasions, but not by choice. Walsh’s long-ranging interview with a gender studies professor finds the star drilling down on a basic principle.
“When you use that terminology you’re being malignant and harmful,” the professor says. One therapist asks, with a straight face, “whose truth are we talking about?”
Welcome to 2022.
RELATED: Gervais Laps Chappelle in Trans Jokes with “SuperNature’
Democratic Rep. Mark Takano of California patiently answers some of Walsh’s queries before abruptly ending the interview. I just wanted to know what a woman is, Walsh says to the fleeing congressman.
“And you’re not gonna find out,” an off-screen voice barks, presumably part of Takano’s press team. Imagine thinking that’s a burn, not an admission of some kind.
What’s lingers about the compulsively watchable film is that Americans are terrified of speaking on the subject for fear of saying the wrong thing. It leads to silence, befuddled looks and abject fear.
It’s woke, Cancel Culture and societal groupthink all rolled into one oppressive, anti-American stew.
And how can self-described feminists go to sleep at night knowing they can’t define what a woman actually is?
At times, “What Is a Woman?” carries a Michael Moore-like motif, or so it would appear. We learn about “Johnny the Walrus,” Walsh’s best-selling book about a lad who’s convinced he’s a long-toothed critter.
Except the documentary reveals how a major bookseller took the tome off the shelves.
More consequentially, we watch Walsh’s appearance on “The Dr. Phil Show” debating trans individuals. The episode in question, which allowed a free flow of ideas without anyone storming off, got yanked by both CBS and Hulu.
Shut up. Accept the new narrative. And, if you didn’t hear us the first time, we said, ‘shut up.’
The film could use some hard data, along with more experts, to back up Walsh’s arguments. Even more necessary? Empathy for those who believe with all of their hearts they ended up in the wrong body.
It doesn’t matter where viewers stand on the issues explored in “What Is a Woman?” If we can’t talk about the subjects, if just doing so puts us at some kind of risk, that’s a problem.
HiT or Miss: “What Is a Woman?” will trigger a considerable part of the viewing audience. That alone is reason enough to watch this smartly packaged editorial.