I found Mr. Angel on Netflix and thought I'd give it a shot as I consider myself an open minded person. It's not like watching a little documentary put together by a porn star would shatter my world view if I disagreed with him.
Indeed, what was inside was not what I expected. I never heard of Buck Angel before viewing this, and even though I do watch porn from time to time (and could identify some of the "regular performers" who are in this documentary such as Sasha Gray), he was just not a person that really came past my desk so to speak. It takes the film sometime to reveal that he grew up as a girl, then through some procedures, testosterone injections, working out, etc. was able to change into a man. This is the most fascinating part of the documentary, because on the surface he is all man. He doesn't even look grotesque or like a transsexual who seems to have tried and failed. It is all natural, and while on the surface also a bit absurd in that his existence as a "man without a penis" is certainly unusual or different from what is normally expected, but this is the real draw to this documentary for me and personal account given predominately by Mr. Angel himself.
I'm sure some people will check this out like it is a carnival sideshow, for the same reason I imagine some check out his pornography. It's something somewhat addressed in the film and important to think about while you watch. Buck makes the point to say that he is "normal" and "not an oddity," and while in some senses I want to agree so heavily, he is different from our current social state. He is abnormal in most capacities, and this serves as another large draw for me.
He is a man, but has a rather effeminate air about him. Maybe it is his down to Earth personality paired with the sense of overwhelming kindness. Yet he is physical and very sexual. He throws caution to the wind and puts much of his life on display in this documentary. Some things come across a bit to heavy handed for me. Hearing people talk about their own self-abuses almost always feels somewhat manufactured to me, even if I believe them and have my own experiences with self-abuse.
But, fundamentally, this movie isn't about abuse but about seeing our differences. It starts with the physical here. There is a guy with a vagina on full display, and the film actually shows it; and it is strange. But the real meat doesn't lie in the outward appearances. If all of our judgments of others are dependent simply on physical appearance, then we are doomed as society. Perhaps we already are, with an industry such as porn which emphasizes so heavily the physical appearance. The appearance and size of our genitals. The amount of muscle we have. The clean complexions. And so on.
This is ultimately where the documentary lost me for a little while. In some senses as shown in the film, porn is valuable. For Mr. Angel, it helped him express his sexuality in a world where it was virtually impossible to do so in "real life." But, when it hits my mind as a fairly average guy with bisexual tendencies (and a penis), I'm not overly impressed by this notion that we need to move towards a world that is more accepting of our bodies, sexualities, etc. when, again, on display in porn is a grotesque overstatement of what should be expected in our normal day-to-day romantic relationships.
I think viewing this offers a lot, and comes with flaws; but that is human nature and I enjoy it nonetheless.