Torrey Pines and the Transgender Time Traveler
by Evelyn Deshane — Waterloo University
March 27, 2017 – 17:04
The film trailer for Torrey Pines sets up the story about a young girl who goes on the road with her mother who—as the song in the background says—"goes crazy." The film by Clyde Peterson is an autobiographical narrative about coming of age in 1993 and dealing with a dysfunctional family, told through stop-animation style which evokes a tenuous grasp on the difference between fantasy/reality. But I also think it’s a time travel movie, mostly because it deals explicitly with the figure of a transgender time traveler: someone who, since transitioning, must now look back on their life through another identity and deal with all the temporal disruptions that occur because of it. The idea of memory disrupting linear time has been documented since Marcel Proust first took a bite of the madeline cookie in In Search of Lost Time. Many people experience a similar temporal disruption when they’re around particular scents. For some transgender people, when they become surrounded by specific objects—such as a younger photograph or a childhood toy—their disruption of linear time through memory also provides a disruption of the gendered self. Because of this, they can become two different people in two different time periods, simultaneously inhabiting both identities at once. When the trailer for Torrey Pines flashes the sign ‘age 12’, it is not just the age of the film’s protagonist; the age on the screen also acts in a similar manner as time travel scenarios where it is the year the person is travelling to. For Clyde Peterson, a trans person, ‘age 12’ is where he will get off and inhabit a new world of memory for the hour and a half that the movie runs. When he’s in Torrey Pines, he’s a girl with blonde hair and stuck inside the car with his mother—while he’s also a trans person in the present moment, creating and reliving this world. The white rabbit that lurks in the background of the film becomes another demarcation of the transgender time-traveler by presenting the idea that his younger self, the girl who resembles Alice in Wonderland, is running late because Clyde is still a girl in this world. Even as the film ends in 1993, Clyde’s journey to become who he is now is still far from over.