3.5 out of 5
No, this is not Lana Turner’s dark and twisted Madame X. This is an Indonesian cult film about a transvestite superheroine fighting for justice. As an Indonesian living abroad, it took me a while to finally able to watch this film and I was happy I did. Looking back there were so many misunderstandings about my country. What the outsiders imagine about Indonesia often goes against the reality that happens there. Is Indonesia a conservative country? I don’t think so. But for sure it’s bathing in hypocrisy. There is no way that Indonesia is a conservative country but at the same time have a female president, dangdut music, burgeoning fashion and art world, aggressive student movements, and loads of good writers. What we are is we pretend to be something so shrouded, as many hope this shroud will make the nation appear pure and innocent. But what happen is that we appear backward instead, worse of all none of us even bother to correct the facts. Both insiders and outsiders.
Amidst this grey and confuse time Lucky Kuswandi presented us with Madame X. A story of a transvestite hairdresser who stumbled on a bad luck, being beaten and ditched by Bogem Party (definitely based on the notorious FPI or Islamic Defender Front). Adam soon found himself under the care of Tante Yantje and Om Rudi, a gay couple who were formerly vigilantes but then retired to the countryside. It didn’t take the couple a long time to realise that Adam was the answer they were looking for: a fresh new blood of superheroine. Soon Adam endured various trainings that turned him into a superheroine under the moniker of Madame X. With his newly found ability Madame X sought revenge upon Kanjeng Badai (The Thunderstorm), leader of Bogem Party, and his three super-powered wives who were not only abused the minorities such as the queer community but also involved in human trafficking.
This is Indonesia’s first pure queer film and it’s entertaining as hell. The dialogues are purely spoken in gay lingo, so perhaps not many people would understand what the characters are talking about. The special effect is very bad, but it is meant to look cheap and tacky as it is one of the parts where the humour lies. But aside from the glittery gimmick, this film unashamedly focuses on the world that exists but is ignored: the world of drag queens or queer community in general. Somehow everybody realises that the drag queens are part of society, but pretend that they do not really exist. In some way it works as a protection for the drag queens themselves, as if people ignore them then everybody would mind their own business. What Madame X shows us is that by ignoring them, society actually refuses one of their limbs. Abuse happens all the time. We may not have hate crime where someone beats another just because he is gay, but we have worse; abuse by manipulating the name of God. Religious groups that attack the minorities such as the queer community and believing that they are doing that for God. This type of abuse falls unnoticed on our justice system, what actually happen is they simply don’t care. That’s how bad the situation is. Are you still thinking that we are a conservative society?
As I mentioned in my previous writing is that Indonesia is unfortunately a discriminative society, and we do it toward ourselves.