This is Marianne's pal Dena, still wandering around in the 1970s whilst Marianne battles the flu. I am hoping very much that she will feel better soon, but in the meantime I will sneak in here every now and then and throw you a Dena-bone. I hope that's okay with you, not that you have any damn choice.

One of the best things about being old in these millennial times is that Netflix never ceases to seem like a miracle that makes me want to exclaim, "LOOKY HERE, JEB, I CAN BEAM ALL OF THESE MOVIES RIGHT INTO MY LIVING ROOM AND MY INTERNET MACHINE! BOB IS GOOD!" I don't even know anybody named Jeb, but when I find out a first-rate documentary like Beautiful Darling is available for me to watch on Netflix, I am genuinely grateful. I am also genuinely grateful to have the opportunity to recommend this film to Popthomology readers, because it provides not only the expected entertainment in the form of clips of the Warhol Superstar in her prime and many interviews with her flamboyant bohemian contemporaries, but also quite a few unexpectedly poignant insights into the obstacles and prejudices that confront transgender people, even the superstars.

Directed by James Rasin, Beautiful Darling skillfully weaves together film clips, past and present interview footage of Darling and her fabulous friends, and scenes that depict Jeremiah Newton managing Darling's estate and arranging her interment. Newton, who produced the film and narrates, was Candy Darling's best friend and greatest admirer. Shown in old footage as a slender young man with long hair who must have fit right in at the Warhol Factory, Newton is now stocky and walks with a cane. He has devoted himself to preserving Candy Darling's legacy, at least as much of it as he could protect from being destroyed by her trans-phobic mother. For that alone, we should thank him.

Beautiful Darling would be worth watching for the Warhol-era film clips of Darling alone, and there are quite an abundance of them. What distinguished Candy Darling from her co-Superstars Jackie Cooper and Holly Woodlawn was that she presented herself so convincingly as female that some people just assumed she was born to the gender and others found it physically uncomfortable to be around her. Her attorney admits that after he saw Darling removing her makeup he went outside and vomited, but at least he has enough sense to seem sheepish about this. Appearing early in the film, the anecdote serves as a brutally honest reminder of just how hard it it still is for so many transgender people to just be accepted for themselves.

There are theoretically almost as many ways to manifest gender as there are human beings, and yet someone like Candy Darling who chose not to have gender reassignment surgery but who presented as female is unlikely to have achieved even so much as her scant fifteen minutes of stardom without her brief tenure as Andy Warhol's muse and her performances in such films as Flesh and Women in Revolt. Since Warhol liked to let his Superstars do most of the talking for him, this meant Candy got a lot of exposure and the occasional meal for her efforts. Stardust won't pay your rent, however, and Candy Darling never rose above poverty despite her obvious talent and screen presence. It is no surprise that Andy Warhol never gave Darling or any other of his Superstars more than a pittance for their work, but it is still sad and disappointing to hear how Warhol dropped her like a hot potato when he decided "chicks with dicks" were last year's model.

Beautiful Darling places Candy Darling's Warhol years in context, a brief flash of fame bookended by rejection in her childhood and teen years on one end and early death from (possibly estrogen-induced) lymphoma on the other. By telling her full story and allowing Candy Darling to speak for herself via letters and diary entries that reveal her as more perceptive and intelligent than the people who rejected and exploited her, James Rasin and Jeremiah Newton have done her a far greater credit than if they had simply collected her best clips. That film would have entertained, but this one both illuminates Candy Darling as an individual of exceptional star quality and charisma and challenges the viewer to give more thought to what it means to live as a transgender person in a binary world.