Back in February, 2019, an actress named Ellen Page appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Page had made a big splash in the 2007 film Juno. Page played a pregnant teen. Teen pregnancy among unmarried girls is usually a catastrophe for the mother, the child, and the wider community; see for example here, here, here, and here. Juno sold unmarried teen pregnancy as a warm and cozy laugh riot. Juno, the main character, is a sixteen-year-old who is more mature than the adults around her; she must be the adult in her interaction with Mark, a childlike adult man. Juno is Johnny Carson on Dexedrine: she makes with nonstop wisecracks and educates her elders. The worldly-wise child is a variation on the Noble Savage theme.
Juno was written by Diablo Cody, a stripper and phone sex worker. “I am here to make money,” Cody told the New York Times. “Everything is prostitution,” Cody told David Letterman.
A month before Page’s Late Show appearance, white supremacist Trump supporters had attacked beloved black, gay actor Jussie Smollett in downtown Chicago in the early hours of the morning on a polar vortex night of record low temperatures. They poured bleach on him, put a noose around his neck, and hurled racist and homophobic slurs. Page was on Colbert to add her nasal whine to the national cry of righteous outrage, inspired by what was obviously a race-mongering hoax.
Watching that YouTube clip, I noticed immediately how tiny Page was. She stands five feet one, and she appeared to weigh less than one hundred pounds. Her features are classically girlish: tiny nose, bee-stung lips, perfect teeth, clean jawline, large eyes, long, shiny hair. The only discordant note was a large forehead. Page looked 17 or 18, much younger than her 32 years. Page was clearly a favorite of men who like ’em barely legal.
Page didn’t appear to be wearing much makeup, and her baggy clothes were thrift-store casual. Page won the genetic lottery. She could roll out of bed, and be more attractive than many women after an hour at the salon. Thanks to those genes, she was an international star.
As soon as Page sat down, Colbert reached behind his desk and pulled out a large photo. This was Page and her wife, Emma Portner. Portner and Page look enough alike to be sisters; both even have a high forehead. The audience applauded wildly. The applause lasted almost as long as the marriage. Page and Portner were wife and wife between 2018 and 2021.
Colbert, an impresario of Woke, used Page to signal his own virtue. He engaged with no small talk. He brought up her same-sex marriage; he then asked her whether or not Hollywood is gay-friendly. Page laughed derisively. She hunched her shoulders, wrung her hands, threw her head back and thrust out her neck; the signature body language of an outraged teen. Hollywood is so bigoted, so unfair to gay people, Page declared, with the heft of Patrick Henry declaiming, “Give me liberty or give me death!” More audience applause. “Hollywood is so binary! So narrow in its ideas of who can tell stories and who can be in stories!”
Colbert then asked Page how to solve global warming. Page bemoaned how “environmental racism” disproportionately affects “people of color in Nova Scotia … By 2030 the world as we know it. That’s it. That’s it. We have a media that can debate whether what happened to Jussie Smollett is a hate crime. It’s absurd.” Wild applause.
“The vice president of the United States wishes I didn’t have the love I have with my wife.” Colbert again displayed the photo of Page and Portner. “I don’t know [Smollett] personally,” Page acknowledged. But, “I send all of my love.” Page sending “all of my love” to someone she didn’t know via a talk show was a Hollywood ritual.
Vice President Mike Pence, when governor of Indiana, signed Indiana Senate Bill 101, which protected business owners from frivolous lawsuits by homosexuals. Page delivered a melodramatic apostrophe to Pence. Page equated this bill with sadistic mass murder. Page attributed the alleged attack on Smollett to Pence. “You are in a position of power. You hate people. You wanna cause suffering to them. What do you think is gonna happen?” In fact it was Christians like Colorado baker Jack Phillips who had been repeatedly persecuted by anti-Christian lawsuits; this was the inspiration for the Indiana law.
Page choked up. “I have traveled the world and I have met the most marginalized people. This needs to f—ing stop.” Page lowered her head as if in prayerful mourning at a graveside. Colbert beamed. Grandpa Woke wanted a religious ritual, and he got one. The audience rose in a standing ovation. The ritual ended, as was inevitable, with Colbert urging his audience to watch The Umbrella Academy, a middling Netflix series about superhero siblings saving the world from “global apocalypse.” Page stars in the show.
Page owes the better part of her career to her looks, and how those looks please the powerful Hollywood producers she slams. She is part of the machinery she claims she’d like to take a hammer to. She is not an environmental activist or the savior of “people of color.” She’s an actress who leads a comparatively cushy professional life. She was exploiting others’ pain to increase her own cachet. She wasn’t there to promote an environmental initiative she had begun that would help the “people of color” harmed by “environmental racism” in Nova Scotia. She was there to green-wash and woke-wash her own reputation. Page created a “them,” lead by, of all people, Mike Pence, who are responsible for evil in the world. The audience, under direction of High Priest Colbert and vestal virgin Page, quaffed deeply of self-righteousness; they were nothing like Mike Pence. In fact, though, bigotry and environmental destruction, Page’s boogeymen, are universal sins. Page never asked her audience to divest themselves of any cash or to devote any time whatsoever to making the world a better place. All they had to do was applaud when she mentioned how bad Pence is and how much of a victim Smollett is.
Page’s joyless affect, her self-protective hunch, her condemnation of imaginary enemies who commit imaginary hate crimes, and her rapid tearing up over fantasized conflict, spoke of an inner lack of equilibrium.
In May, 2021, the actress now calling herself Elliot Page publicized a photo of herself post-double-mastectomy. Page had her healthy breasts removed in order to “transition” to identifying as a man. The unstated misogynist premise of Page’s photo is that a woman who has lost a breast to breast cancer, or who is flat-chested, is not a woman.
In the photo, Page, very much unlike Venus, is rising out of a swimming pool. Page reveals anorexic thinness. Her abdominal muscles are clearly defined; her abdominal area has a starvation profile. This BMI is not normal or healthy for a 34-year-old female.
Online chatter questioned whether Page had gotten “ab implants” – and, yes, “ab implants” are a real thing. Commentators noted that Page’s arms and legs, unlike her abdomen, remained stick thin and unmuscled. After the double mastectomy, her chest is flat; her detached and then re-attached “masculinized” nipples ride high. What is nipple masculinization, you ask? “The surgeon removes the nipples and makes them smaller and more oval shaped. Then they are reattached to the chest wall. After this surgery, there is no feeling in the nipples and areolas.”
Page may have also received facial masculinization surgery, including jawline implants. “Surgeons may use bones, implants or fat grafting to create a broader chin or sharper jawline. Fat grafting takes fat from one area of the body and deposits it in another.” Here we have the opposite of the mastectomy premise. A woman without breasts is not a woman. A man with a receding chin is not a man.
Ellen Page helped market a false image of unwed teen pregnancy in Juno. In her post-mastectomy photo, she was selling an even more poisonous product to even more vulnerable people. Girls and women yearn to be thin. We torture our bodies in usually futile efforts to attain that ideal. Page admits to anorexia. Her photo is just another push against women and girls to reject their own natural bodies and those bodies’ tendencies to be less muscular and more fat than men’s.
Women, and especially girls, have complicated relationships with their breasts. Many girls, at puberty’s onset, wish that their chests would retain their child-like flatness. Breasts mean unwanted attention from males, attention that many girls feel unable to fend off. Breasts require bras; bras irritate. Women joke about the relief at the end of the end of the day when the bra is tossed. Breasts are never what we want them to be. They are too big, too small, too misshapen, too saggy. Starvation-thin Page, flat-chested Page, smiling broadly after her mastectomies, extended a toxic lure to vulnerable girls.
On June 6, 2023, Flatiron Books released Pageboy: A Memoir by Elliot Page. Pageboy has received rapturous reviews. The Washington Post calls it “eloquent and enthralling … a remarkable alchemy … [it] nearly made me cry.” The New York Times calls it “brutally honest.” The Associated Press writes, “Now is an excellent time to read this humanizing and well-written memoir.”
My friend, if you ever doubt that an elite exists who lies to the masses, and who advances falsehoods for no other reason than to manipulate those masses, all you have to do is read flattering reviews of garbage books. Pageboy is literature in the same sense that Elliot Page is a man.
In a June, 2023 appearance on The View, Page reprised the martyr performance she gave on Colbert in 2019. A beaming Whoopi Goldberg praised Page’s book as “amazing.” Goldberg asked Page why she wrote now. Page, again assumed a solemn, lowered head posture. She had to publish now, she said, to counter transphobia. Again, wild audience applause. Urged on by a combative Joy Behar, who bashed Republicans, Page pushed “gender affirming care” for minors. Page lied while doing so, insisting, for example, that “gender affirming care” reduces suicide rates. It does not; see here, here, and here.
Elliot Page on The View appeared as anhedonic and on the verge of tears as Ellen Page on The Late Show. YouTube comments show that many viewers noted this, for example, “Absolutely dead behind the eyes;” “Something about him still seems profoundly sad;” “she is tormented by confusion. You can clearly see she not happy for the road she choose;” “She still seems very sad;” “What a basket case;” “She looks like the saddest person;” “Seeing the sadness and depression written all over her face, some choose to turn a blind eye and pretend she’s happy;” “Looks like she wants to kill herself. Also looks like shooting up testosterone is making her extra sickly looking.;” “I hope that he is doing okay, something feels off about the energy.”
Page attributes her chronic miserable affect to a bigoted, external world, not to anything going on inside of her. Page, urged on by cheerleaders like Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg, assumes a martyr role. The cross she carries is heavy, but she is noble enough to carry it, to “save lives,” as Sunny Hostin put it.
Page, as a self-identified trans man, suddenly has community and meaning. An interesting pronoun choice signals this, and I don’t mean the totalitarian dictate that we refer to a woman as “he.” Rather, Page frequently uses the pronouns “we, us, our, ours.” By this she refers to her chosen nation of trans persons, all of whom are united in love and peace, in contrast to the big, mean, wider world.
Pageboy reads like a teenage girl’s diary. The prose is staccato. Sentence structure and punctuation are ignored or abused. Nouns and verbs, full stops and coherence are weapons of the patriarchy. The book’s structure is not so much “stream of consciousness” as “spaghetti spilled on floor.” Page is sometimes a female named Ellen and sometimes a male named Elliot. Anyone looking to Pageboy for a coherent case for mastectomy and phalloplasty will be disappointed. Page is pushing an agenda she can’t bring herself to name, never mind defend. Some of the best features of the book are its brief length, its small size, and the many blank pages inserted as padding.
The better part of Pageboy consists of brief sketches of Page’s sexual encounters. In school, she and a boy ask permission to leave French class for the bathroom; there, Page fellates the boy. Page has just finished shooting Juno; a crew member accompanies young, tiny Page to her apartment and performs cunnilingus on her. Page doesn’t want this to happen, but she doesn’t know how to say no. Other Hollywood professionals attempt to, or successfully, take advantage of Page. “I’d sit on her lap and not know why,” Page says about one older crew member who repeatedly had sex with Page, though Page didn’t want it. Page would “freeze.” “That freezing coming over me again … I did not say no, I did not resist, I just stiffened.” Page picks up a stranger who chokes her during sex. Page meets actress Kate Mara, who is in a relationship with a man, and begins an affair, only to have her heart broken when Mara inevitably returns to her boyfriend.
Page smokes tobacco and marijuana, drinks tequila and vodka, and takes hallucinogenic mushrooms. Parties with “friends” are the closest the book comes to describing happiness, meaning, or religion. The friends are all amazing, funny, compassionate, and, oh, yes, amazing. The party was great. If only the world were not so racist, sexist, homophobic, white supremacist, genocidal, transphobic, and patriarchal, and every day could be like this party.
When I was in my early twenties, I had moments like that. You’re with friends, everyone is young and beautiful and bursting with potential, no real challenges have put the “amazing” friends to the test, the music is just right, and you are dancing the night away. But you mature. You get it that that party can’t last forever, and you require deeper satisfactions. You come to realize that the flaws of the wider world are your and your friends’ flaws, as well. You realize that the real enemies, like death, can never be defeated. You realize, too, that there is something out there that is bigger than your comprehension, and you want to get as close to that something as you can, and you practice discipline and self-denial in pursuit of that larger, numinous, something. Those awarenesses never hit in Pageboy.
Page has parents, of a sort. She refers to her parents as Dennis and Martha rather than mom and dad. Dennis left Martha and Ellen for Linda, a co-worker. Page describes her stepmother Linda as verbally and emotionally abusive. Linda referred to Page as “Skid Mark,” a reference to feces-stained underwear. “My father did nothing. No protection.” Linda was jealous of Ellen and tried to push Ellen and Dennis apart. “‘You are manipulating your father,’ she spat once,” Page writes.
Page spent the first two weeks of the month with her mother and the second with her father and Linda. She asked to live exclusively with her mother. Page describes her father, Dennis, “sobbing” and “bawling.” “Don’t you love me?” he asks, pathetically. Page felt that Dennis was placing emotional expectations that a man would usually apply to his wife onto his child, Ellen.
Dennis Page did nothing to enter the public eye. He was, like any other, an imperfect father, but he wasn’t overtly abusive. Page quotes him as saying that he fought with Linda over Linda’s abuse of Page. He tried to soothe his daughter’s hurt feelings. In her description of her father sobbing at the idea that she might live only with her mother, Page publicly humiliates her father while making no larger point. She says she hasn’t spoken to her father in five years.
It’s only in reading Pageboy that I realized how filmmakers exploited Page’s childlike appearance in sexually titillating fare. In Juno her tiny body is hugely pregnant. In Hard Candy, Page plays a 14-year-old who, utterly implausibly, single-handedly sexually entraps and kills two pedophile rapists and murderers. In Mouth to Mouth, Page plays a homeless teenager sexually abused and nearly killed by a cult leader twice her age. In An American Crime, Page plays Sylvia Likens. Likens, a real person, was victim of a sadistic and sexual torture-murder. Page preens as a member of the righteous elite who cares about people of color and environmental pollution, while she made films that feed the craving for disturbing, sexual and violent images of underage girls. Yes, she was young and no, she probably wasn’t fully aware. But now she’s 36.
The antagonist of Page’s tome is an expansion of the evil Mike Pence of the Colbert clip, with his sadistic desires to commit a genocide, beginning with Page. People are homophobic, transphobic, and mean. If only they weren’t. Then we could all live like we did at that party where we did mushrooms and danced. Every problem Page ever had she attributes to being trans. Her case is unconvincing. The problems Page describes include panic attacks, social anxiety, anorexia, a sex life she could not control, excessive tobacco, drug, and alcohol use, and self harm, including beating herself so intensely that she had to hide bruises with make-up. She cut herself. She hit her head with a hair brush, and tried to impale herself on a bed post. “A soft touch on the shoulder could make me cower.” At times she could not speak. Lonely, she engaged in an internet exchange with an older man who became a stalker who threatened to kill her. Her father said he was going to “kick your ass” when he learned of the stalker. “When his kid needed safety, when his kid needed love, when his kid needed protection, he threatened violence.”
As I read of these issues, I didn’t think, “This is all happening because you are a man trapped in a woman’s body.” Rather, I thought, “Where are your parents? Where is your community? What are your values? What belief system do you rely on when things get messy?” When making An American Crime, 20-year-old Page felt stressed by playing a 16-year-old girl who was tortured to death. The solution offered by her 48-year-old co-star, Catherine Keener, was to drink Tequila and dance around a fire. That approach is inadequate. Page, like every other child, needed structure. As an adult, she needs a belief system. “I’m trans. That’s why I’m in pain. The world is mean and prejudiced.” That is an inadequate belief system.
Page’s focus is very narcissistically narrow. Her book opens with an account of a month-long backpacking trip in Eastern Europe. In this account, there is no Lidice, no Sukiennice, no Auschwitz, no Velvet Revolution, no Moldau, no slivovice, no poppy seed cake, no Dracula, no Plitvice Lakes. Rather, Page describes sitting in a hotel room Jacuzzi with a male friend as they watch a “porno.” She mentions that she is from Nova Scotia. “The Mi’kmaq have lived here for over ten thousand years.” The Mi’kmaq play no further role in the rest of the book; no doubt they are grateful. Page bemoans white Canadians’ “genocidal roots, systemic racism” and “segregation.” That brief mention also goes nowhere. The rest of the universe, and all its people and promise, exist to play a role in Page’s trans drama.
“Writing clearly is thinking clearly.” Traditional, rules-based, coherent speech tears down obfuscating fantasies. That kind of speech can be historic, as when Khrushchev said, in 1956, “Stalin abused his power.” Khrushchev used the active voice. He didn’t say “Power was abused.” He said “Stalin abused his power.” Noun verb noun. Coherent speech can change personal history, as when a person says, out loud, “I abused my child,” or “A man raped me,” or “I donate blood.”
Page could have written a coherent past-present-future narrative. She could have left out the adolescent hyperbole about how amazing her friends are and how amazing it is to be trans. The rigor that such language demands would have brought her closer to truths. “I was a privileged kid from a comfortable background, but my parents didn’t guide me enough. I began to act before I was ready to live on my own. Adults, filmmakers, and audiences exploited me sexually. I became terrified, which is normal for a tiny little girl asked to do things beyond her maturity level. I developed mental health issues. I never recovered. I now require therapy.” Page dances around this narrative, but never fully confronts it. She dresses it up in airy fairy sentence fragments and tries to add meaning by making it part of some timeless trans saga that does not exist outside of her own head.
“We are all micro specks, almost nothing in the grand scheme,” she pontificates. And then there is this “amazing” passage: “Possibilities. Perhaps that is one of the main components of life lost to lack of representation. Options erased from the imagination. Narratives indoctrinated that we spend an eternity attempting to break.” Page spins into existence a fantasy enemy Page must constantly battle. “It all felt too big – the thought of going through this publicly, in a culture that is so rife with transphobia and people with enormous power and platforms actively attacking the community … It is not trans people who suffer from a sickness, but the society that fosters such hate.”
Any honest editor or publisher would demand of Page,”Oh, really? All of society is against you? And yet you are rich and privileged and fully employed as an actress. Beloved, veteran teachers are fired for using accurate pronouns. A world-class scholar was kicked off of social media for referring to you as ‘she.’ Billionaires like Jennifer Pritzker and Martine Rothblatt manipulate school curricula in order to indoctrinate children into trans extremism. Victims of trans extremism like Chloe Cole reveal the unfathomable regret of having had one’s breasts or testicles removed when one is a minor, the forfeit of the ability to parent a child, breast feed, or have an orgasm. Female athletes who have sacrificed everything to place in sports are knocked out of earned scholarships, sponsorships, and titles by men. A parent is jailed for using a correct pronoun to refer to his own daughter. Parents lose children to ideology and even suicide after the child is treated with ‘gender affirming care.’ And yet you, Elliot Page, are the victim in all this? Can you give me some facts to back that up?”
Page devotes very few pages to her attempts to become a man. The account is in gauzy prose. “Even in my lowest moments, a piece of me, ever so small, becomes clearer and clearer. An opening, fragile and elusive. Instantly, it comes flooding in. It’s fleeting. Seize it. A whisper that sits waiting. Close your eyes and step through.” That gauzy prose rips into shreds when asked to carry the weight of the society-dividing hate and individual trauma Page is peddling.
Page departs from her usual anhedonia in her final chapter. In her conclusion, Page is again Ellen, not Elliot. She attends a concert by Peaches. Peaches is a Canadian performer who emphasizes exaggerated dildos, fake breasts, and transgenderism in her shows, and obscene words in her lyrics. In the video for her song “Vaginoplasty,” Peaches dances between two men dressed as giant vaginas; they simulate masturbating their costumes. Two other men wear exaggerated blonde wigs and unicorn masks. Peaches wears large, false nipples similar to toilet plungers. She sings about her vagina as she and back-up dancers bump and grind. “Vaginoplasty. I keep it nasty,” are the lyrics.
In her final chapter, Page, who seems to have trouble enjoying anything, is transported by a Peaches performance. “There were dildos swinging, protruding out of the backup dancers’ crotches as ‘Shake Yer Dix’ began. Spicy, gyrating, queerness all around. Sweat, smoke machines, cocks and tits.” Later, Peaches “projectile vomited blood.” When she was leaving the performance, Page “stared at” the fake blood smeared on her arm, “relishing the artifact.” “She was still with us … I would cherish the relic. I showered with my arm sticking out through the side of the curtain … I kept it for almost two weeks … I wanted … to pocket the joy, the fleeting moments of self-love … I sensed I was heading n the right direction” because a minor celebrity trafficking in latrinalia vomited fake blood on her arm.
Page is describing a Pagan ritual. Lots of sex, lots of exaggerated body parts, lots of shock and awe. Peaches performances and others like it are jackhammers on our neurons. They drown out the still, small voice that Page needed so badly.
Reading Pageboy, any normal person would feel pity for Elliot Page. At the same time, one can’t help but notice Page’s hostility and arrogance, and the harm she is willing to do to those vulnerable youths who fall under her spell. Finally, one hopes that Page, at some point, gets the help she needs.
Danusha Goska is the author of God Through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery.