- #DeleteFacebook gains momentum after the platform refused to remove doctored Nancy Pelosi videos 2 Years Ago
- ‘Game of Thrones’ failed women—and it’s a shame on its legacy Today 7:40 AM
- How to use Tor, the network that lets you browse the web anonymously Today 7:30 AM
- How to live stream Devin Haney vs. Antonio Moran on DAZN Today 7:00 AM
- Trump’s transphobic policies are disgusting—but they aren’t new Today 6:30 AM
- How to watch the Copa del Rey Final online for free Today 5:45 AM
- How to watch the DFB-Pokal final for free Today 5:30 AM
- Curvy Wife Guy drops music video for rap song ‘Chubby Sexy’ Friday 7:33 PM
- A ‘Black Mirror’-inspired miniseries is coming to YouTube via Netflix Latin America Friday 5:56 PM
- Kanye West appears on David Letterman’s Netflix show to talk Trump, TMZ, and Drake Friday 3:27 PM
- QAnon believers link small-town arrest to deep state conspiracy without evidence Friday 1:58 PM
- Instagram photos showing prison conditions spark massive protest Friday 1:33 PM
- ‘Gay rat wedding’ headline sparks amazing new meme Friday 1:03 PM
- ‘I read a gossip piece’ meme mocks Moby’s Instagram post Friday 12:39 PM
- Rotten Tomatoes wants to see your ticket stub to leave a verified review Friday 11:46 AM
Director David France’s film is a worthy tribute and a reminder that the fight continues.
“Time heals all wounds.” That’s how the saying goes. But what if one of your best friends had been found floating in the Hudson River, her death surrounded by suspicious circumstances, and 25 years later the case still wasn’t solved to your satisfaction? That’s the situation facing transgender activist Victoria Cruz in the new Netflix documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson. The film follows her efforts to goad, coax, and shame the authorities into reopening the investigation into the death of her friend, “the Rosa Parks of the LGBT movement,” whose 1992 death was ruled a suicide. Cruz, however, is convinced she was murdered.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson could just play out like a boilerplate true-crime drama. Johnson herself was a larger-than-life figure of historic importance to the LGBTQ community, and there are unanswered questions surrounding her death. Instead, however, director David France uses the film to explore the larger scope of Johnson’s life and impact on both the landscape of LGBTQ rights and those closest to her. This decision brings both good and bad with it. On the one hand, it gives more context and texture to the story of a gay rights pioneer many viewers may not be familiar with, but at times the film struggles to maintain a focus and seems like it may be trying to do too much in its slightly less than two-hour runtime.
Even without the questions surrounding her tragic death, Johnson would provide more than enough material to fuel a full-length documentary. One of the most charismatic and visible activists of her age, Johnson was involved in the Stonewall uprising in the late ‘60s. She modeled for Andy Warhol, worked as an AIDS activist as the disease ravaged the gay community in the 1980s, and co-founded both the Gay Liberation Front and the trans activism organization Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. She was out, proud, and loud during a time when it was often very dangerous to live your authentic self when that self didn’t fit in the neat boxes society insisted upon. In exploring both Johnson and her friends and fellow activists like Cruz, Randy Wicker, and Sylvia Rivera, director France presents a broad but effective look at some of the boldest personalities fighting for gay and trans rights in the second half of the 20th century.
That’s a sad truth that carries over through to the bittersweet end of the film. We won’t spoil things by revealing the disposition of Johnson’s case as the credits roll, but the film makes it clear that, even if justice is done by Marsha, there is a long line of transgender victims crying out for their own. In addition to Cruz’s investigation into Johnson’s death, the film also touches on a modern case where a trans woman was beaten to death by a straight man—a sad reminder of how far we have yet to go as a society to protect, accept, and destigmatize transgender people.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson might suffer from trying to tackle too many things at once, but if it fails in some aspects, it is at least a noble failure. Even with its flaws, the film is a worthy tribute and a reminder that the fight continues and the march goes on, built on the backs and sacrifices of people like Marsha P. Johnson.
Still not sure what to watch on Netflix? Here are our guides for the absolute best movies on Netflix, must-see Netflix original series and movies, and the comedy specials guaranteed to make you laugh.
David Wharton is a journalist and film critic with over 15 years of experience. His reviews for the Daily Dot focus on original movies and series produced by streaming entertainment services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. He lives in Texas, where he works as the online editor of DSNews.com