Brow Beat

Little Co-Writer Says She Didn’t Write the Movie’s Transphobic Joke

Issa Rae and Marsai Martin fist-bump while sitting on a bench.
Issa Rae and Marsai Martin in Little.
Universal Pictures

Little has some amazing cast chemistry and more than a few side-splitting scenes, including one in which Issa Rae and Marsai Martin—playing a 40-something, megalomaniac tech queen stuck in the body of a child—drunkenly sing “I’m Goin’ Down” into breadsticks in a crowded restaurant. But earlier in the movie, there’s a scene with a very different tone when that same 40-something, megalomaniac tech queen (Regina Hall) mistakes a young girl in the hallway of her building for a boy. When the child’s mother corrects her, Sanders snarks, “Oh, he’s transitioning?”

The moment is supposed to demonstrate the character’s cold-heartedness, her antipathy towards children, and the distance between her days as a hopeful youth and her current dragon-lady persona. But it also sticks out like a sore, transphobic thumb. Sure, it’s supposed to illustrate just how heinous of a person Hall’s character is, but there are endless ways to do that—and indeed the movie employs several others, such as screaming at a valet, throwing out perfectly good donuts, and physically abusing her employees—that don’t come at the expense of trans folks. So out of place was the “joke” that it was called out in multiple reviews of the movie, though, until Monday, no one involved in the making seemed to want to address it.

Tracy Oliver, who is listed as Little’s co-writer with director Tina Gordon, broke that silence by saying that she had nothing to do with the misplaced, mean-spirited moment, distancing herself from the joke in a series of tweets. “As a feature writer, when you hand your draft (s) into the studio, you have no control over what ends up on screen,” said Oliver, who also co-wrote Girls Trip. “Often, you’re elated. Other times, you’re disappointed. I did not write that particular joke and was disappointed to see it. It was insensitive and unnecessary.”

She added that she was shocked to see the joke included in the film and had been wrestling with whether or not speak up. Fans seemed grateful that she decided to set the record straight, though her disclosure raises the question of who, exactly, decided that a movie about #BlackGirlMagic needed to use trans kids in the audience for a cheap laugh.