Seeing Chloë Sevigny’s face occupy the title card for Hit & Miss in my Netflix queue pushed the series to the top of my list very quickly. And then I read the show’s description: a pre op transgendered hired assassin finds out from her dying ex that she’s a father. Could my indie actress love really be portraying such a progressive and powerful role on a show so accessible to me? Yes. It was true. I dropped everything (the cat, the cookie, my jaw…) and pressed play.
Anyone who’s familiar with Sevigny’s work knows she is associated with racy, contemporary, art house-esque and often under-represented characters that bring diverse and hearty stories to any cinema-obsessed soul. I enjoyed and devoured Big Love, an HBO show about a polygamist family in Utah. Other underrepresented characters come from her Oscar-nominated role in Boys Don’t Cry (1999), and films like Kids (1995) and Party Monster (2003). Sevigny is one who’s known for not playing it safe and this is a good thing.
Fully aware of this, Hit & Miss still shocked me. It’s ruthless and raw, intense and unwavering. I don’t tend to watch crime-based series, either, but I found this one gripping and was surprised to hear that Sevigny “cried every day” while shooting the series.
Mia (Sevigny) brings us into the heart and soul of an emotional experience. The show is exploratory. It’s not gratuitous and there isn’t a spotlight on Mia’s penis. Hit & Miss pushes boundaries by bringing us a marginalized character and, once we’re with her, we’re on her side. The show quickly becomes more about an emotional dance with death, sex and rape, protection, displacement, abandonment, and family, rather than Mia being transsexual. People fear what they are unfamiliar with and a show like Hit & Miss is important because it brings an important perspective to a broader audience.
The show is hard to watch because of the sexual violence and crime-related deaths, not because of Mia’s identity. While this is good, I would like to assume that Sevigny’s trouble with portraying Mia was directly related to very raw and emotional feelings of identification that we, and especially those in minority communities, all grapple with as we come into our own. The show allows us an envisioning of the aforementioned emotional and very internal turmoil one experiences as an outsider, not only on the sex and gender front, but also the career and familial fronts. The relationships are intense, and their interactions are full of stubborn truths. Mix that with an aggressive and fearless look into a criminal world, and we have a series that still manages to remain somehow humanistic. And who better to play such a complicated role than Sevigny?
Well, a transgendered woman, you might say. Someone who knows the struggles, the truths, and the triumphs first hand should have played Mia. It’s important for the trans community to feel like they are given the chance to represent themselves on screen and a big part of me wishes this show had done exactly that. The argument could also be made, however, that acting is just so, and Sevigny did well in her role. In my research I happily found Sevigny tell The Guardian, “I was wondering why they didn’t want to cast a man or a real transgender person and I guess they’d met with a lot of people and it didn’t work out. And I was afraid of the pressure from the gay community or the transgender community and how they would feel, and wanting to be respectful.”
Because audiences aren’t given the opportunity to see trans characters regularly, having a trans protagonist demands a great deal of responsibility from a show like Hit & Miss. I found Mia’s character being plugged as a “pre op trans” woman, over, and over, and over, and began to consider the implications.
It’s important to note that gender reassignment surgery is not the end goal for every trans individual and defining Mia as “pre op” suggests to readers that surgery is a trans person’s ultimate goal. Gender reassignment surgery does define one’s gender identity which means a woman born as a man can still identify and live their life as a woman, even without the surgery.
What compelled me to write about Hit & Miss is, at the base, an excitement about awareness. As a human rights advocate, seeing a BBC series that actively portrays experiences so often suppressed in our daily news and culture makes me hopeful for the future. It’s important to give a voice to every entity that occupies this world and I’m glad to witness growth and awareness as open-minded readers, writers, watchers, and doers.