Sunday, November 22, 2009

Boys Don't Cry

Since yesterday, November 21st, was transgender remembrance day, I decided to review a film that was directly related and relevant to transgender issues. The film Boys Don't cry is a powerful and true story about Brandon Teena, a female-to-male transsexual living in a small Nebraska town. The movie follows Brandon as he tries his hardest to fit in as one of the guys and also pursue love. Masculinity and manhood are very prevalent themes throughout the movie. The movie also includes abuse, rape, alcoholism, and transphobia.

Brandon successfully convinces everyone of his male identity through breast binding and pants stuffing. In order to fully become what he sees as a real man, Brandon constantly engages in risky and often times dangerous behavior. For example, he is talked into bumper skiing, a pastime in Nebraska where people ride on the tailgate of a pickup truck, holding onto a rope for as long as possible. When Lana, the love interest of Brandon, asks why he did this dangerous sport, he replied "that’s what guys do around here". This drive to prove his manhood to the world often gets Brandon into bad situations, such as bar fights, theft, and even jail time. This negative and often times erratic behavior is only escalated by peer pressure from John Lotter and Tom Nissen, two dangerous men with alcohol addictions and very short tempers. With the influence of John and Tom, Brandon runs into trouble with the law and even John himself.

Abuse and violence are also very prevalent in Brandon’s life. Practically every episode of violence is fueled by alcohol or some sort of illegal drug. Alcohol plays an important role in the movie, not only because its use as a catalyst in important events in the movie, but because its close ties to manhood and masculinity. John and Tom are pretty much intoxicated or under the influence in every scene and this eventually lead to the movie’s climax and ending. What is important to note is that all the female characters are either physically or mentally abused by John. His dominance and control over everyone creates a reign of terror that dictates all the character’s lives. His hyper masculine persona ends up tearing apart everything in Brandon’s life.

Brandon is eventually confronted about his gender identity and orientation in a very dramatic scene. John and Tom are completely ignorant and irate when they are confronted with something they don’t understand. They refer to Bandon as having a “sickness” and are unable to comprehend anything other than the traditional gender binary. It’s sickening the insults and abuse that Brandon endures. It’s as if Tom and John’s masculinity is threatened by Brandon’s identity and they are unable to deal with their anger. Their uncontrollable anger results in a terrifying and tragic event that eventually leads to them raping Brandon. Not only does Brandon have to endure the sexual assault, but while being questioned by the police, he is victim blamed and subjected to the judgment of everyone. The police man questioning him asks “Why do you run around with guys being a girl yourself.” The entire situation is incredibly degrading and traumatizing to Brandon.

Overall, the climax of the movie ends in a way that will leave you in shock due to the overwhelming cruelty of John and Tom. This movie is particularly unnerving because it is based on true events. With transphobia and hate crimes still prevalent today, it is important to never forget what has happened to individuals in the past, and to have an open mind and accepting of anyone regardless of anything.

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