American Reflexxx Alli Coates & Signe Pierce

Alli Coates & Signe Pierce Photo: Alli Coates & Signe Pierce

Trigger warning: this video contains violence, transmisogyny and heterosexism.

American Reflexxx is a short film documenting a social experiment that took place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Director Alli Coates and performer Signe Pierce draw from the hyper-sexualised “ideal girls” we see on TV, online, or in porn (blonde, sexy and silent without self-determined purpose or identity - other than to be observed). Coates’s collaborator Signe Pierce, performs as this “ideal girl” non-identity, strutting down a busy oceanside street in stripper garb and a reflective mask. The site of Myrtle Beach is one of the most radically conservative places in America - interesting to the collaborators because of the duality between churches and strip clubs that seem to appear on every street corner. There is a tension between the dynamic nature of the seaside vacation town, which seems to draw people from all walks of life whilst simultaneously reinforcing fierce heteronormative and patriarchal values.

The pair agreed to communicate when the experiment was completed but never anticipated the horror that would unfold in under an hour - horror reflected in Pierce’s mirrored mask and in surrounding smartphones and cameras. The result is a heart-wrenching technicolor spectacle: raising questions about gender perception, mob mentality and violence in America. Coates did not set out to create a work about dehumanisation - and further than this, hopes that it is not what one draws from it. Instead, they seek to inspire action, seeing this moment of adversity as a place to use their voices and stand up for what’s right, hoping others will do the same. The work becomes a place to create further discourse - around breaking from the herd and maintaining unflinching confidence in being who you are, regardless of expectations.

Pierce states: “I knew that there was no way that I was going to let them have the satisfaction of getting me to unmask. It didn’t matter if, behind the mask, I was a man/woman/trans/ugly/pretty, and I didn’t want them to feel like they were any less justified in hurting me if they realised I was a cis woman after hurling all these hateful slurs and transphobic remarks my way.”

Directed by: Alli Coates
Starring: Signe Pierce
Filmed on location in Myrtle Beach, SC