Dirty Waters: Urine, Waste, and the Shimmering Trans Body in Nånting måste gå sönder or Something Must Break (2014)


  • Casey Ann McKinney




This article examines genderqueer writer/director Ester Martin Bergsmark’s film Something Must Break (2014) and the trans gaze created through the film’s disjunctive imagery. I argue the film’s aestheticization of polluted environments and trans bodies posits a queer alliance between transness and trash. Similarly, Something Must Break’s repeated imagery of urination and body fluids representationally relates transness, waste, and transgressive sexuality to a politics of marginality, which Bergsmark employs in Something Must Break to express these relationalities as sites for creative difference and possibilities of being that exist outside of heterosexual norms. I use post-structuralist and queer interpretations of perversion to reimagine the film’s polluted environments and abject fluids as sites/sights of creation and liveability for trans bodies. I find in the refractions of polluted waters, blood, saliva, and urine in Something Must Break the same cinematic fissures that Eliza Steinbock argues allows for a uniquely trans gaze in their theory of shimmering. In considering a cinematic transgender gaze, Steinbock describes a cinema that eschews the visual reveal and instead portrays a lived trans experience not defined by dualities, but by disjunctions; thus, the unsettled, the (un)becoming, the “shimmering” aesthetics of trans embodiment. I argue Bergsmark achieves a cinematic trans gaze in their imagining of a queer space where pollution, trash, urine, and blood are not symbols of abjection and shame, but embody an opening-up, a vulnerability: a becoming that molds new forms of relationships, new forms of love, and new forms of creation.




How to Cite

McKinney, Casey Ann. 2023. “Dirty Waters: Urine, Waste, and the Shimmering Trans Body in Nånting måste Gå sönder or Something Must Break (2014)”. FORUM: University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture & The Arts 34 (1). https://doi.org/10.2218/forum.1.9151.



Transgressive Bodies