Hit & Miss

Abbott, Paul (Creator) and Sean Conway (Writer). 2012. Hit & Miss [Television miniseries]. United Kingdom: Sky Atlantic.

Front of the DVD case, showing Mia in a red dress pointing a handgun to the left of the viewer.

DVD cover image from the IU GLBT Library blog.

In this six-episode British miniseries, Mia, a transgender hitwoman, discovers that she has a son from a previous relationship and suddenly has custody of the entire family when her ex dies. Initially uninterested in family involvement, she is shocked by the news and travels to rural Yorkshire to meet her young son and his half-siblings.

After years of estrangement from her own family and self-isolation as she saves money for surgical transition, Mia is unused to emotional attachments and much of the show focuses on her learning to effectively and lovingly parent four children, each of whom has significant issues and also just lost their mother to cancer.

Mia struggles to form these new relationships while still needing to make money and placate her boss. She travels back and forth between the lush yet impoverished countryside with her new family and the cold world of impartial murder in the busy city.

The cinematography is simply gorgeous; the colors saturate the screen and the camera angles and cuts impart nuance and emotion to each scene. While there is a moderate amount of violence, it’s not overly sensationalized, and in fact seems downplayed much of the time—Mia is a professional, and a quiet and quick death without much fuss is preferable.

Mia is played by Chloë Sevigny, with an impressively authentic Northern Irish accent. All of the acting is superb, particularly the actors playing the four children. Hit & Miss was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Television Movie or Miniseries in 2013.

I have a lot of conflicting feelings about this one. First, I was bothered by the constant unveiling of Mia’s genitals. Her nude scenes are not pornographic, but I’m unsure why it was necessary to show her penis in every single episode. Did the director think the audience would forget that she is transgender? Or is this perhaps due to the obsessive fascination that many cisgender folks seem to have with transgender bodies? It felt vaguely prurient to me.

In addition, Mia’s portrayal as a contract killer seems a bit odd to me, considering trans women are murdered at an alarming rate. I realize that crime dramas are interesting and compelling in their own right, and tv killers are stereotyped, but I’m more than a little unnerved by the similarity to the “murderous cross-dresser” trope. Of course Mia is not a cross-dresser, but the majority of viewers probably do not grasp the differences between cross-dressing and transgender identity.

Finally, I’m disappointed that a cisgender actor was chosen to play the role of a transgender woman. At least a female actor was chosen, so we didn’t have to see another man in a dress butcher a transfeminine role. The executive producer stated in an interview with The Guardian that they considered casting a transgender actor, but “in the end we wanted the best actor.”

If they actually opened the casting call to trans actors and disseminated it in the trans community, and then chose the best actor, that’s great. But the careful wording in the interview makes me wonder if they actually considered any specific trans actors, or just considered the idea of a trans actor. That said, Chloë Sevigny does a marvelous job in the role. Her portrayal is nuanced and realistic; she prepared for the part by reading trans autobiographies and medical notes about transitioning.

Despite these problematic areas, I loved Hit & Miss. It’s an interesting and complex narrative and I enjoyed the development of each character. I really liked Mia’s personality and back story, and her plot arc all made sense even with improbable elements (grew up in the circus, kills people for money, etc). This could have easily been two different shows (and originally was going to be), but I think the “sudden family” aspect is fantastic and adds to Mia’s emotional journey and general likeability as a character.

About Charlie McNabb

Archivist, Folklorist, and Legend Tripper
This entry was posted in Film and Television and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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