Film Review: Boys Don’t Cry
Boys Don’t Cry is a movie examining the life of the late Teena Brandon. It is an intense movie that follows her journey to self-discovery and essentially her passing. Boys Don’t Cry not only explores how difficult it is to be queer but also what it means to have a sexual identity crisis (as Brandon puts it).
Brandon goes through so much to cover his true identity and in the end nothing is enough. This adaptation of a true story engages and walks the watcher through the difficulties transgender people have in life.The opening scene of Boys Don’t Cry lets the audience know that Teena Brandon has now become Brandon Teena.
Following the lines of New Queer Cinema this film gives the outside world a new way to look at transgender individuals. This film breaks new ground by showing “true crime material through the prism of New Queer Cinema” (Brooks, 2000) The fact that what happened to Brandon was true makes this movie all the more important. Both straights and queers can watch this movie in disgust and learn something from it also.Discrimination (any type and in this case especially sexual) should be stopped. Examining this movie more in depth the audience gets a look not only in the life of Brandon but of the people he surrounds himself with. In the Film Journal article Driving into the ‘Dustless Highway’ of Queer Cinema By Daniel Mudie Cunningham he gives background information about Falls City, Nebraska. Being a native San Franciscan myself it helped to know what Falls City was all about because of the obvious contrast between California and Nebraska.
Cunningham describes the “wall people” in his article.The “wall people” in Falls City are “bored kids who congregate against the wall at the Qwik Stop convenience store all night long. ” This is actually a subculture in Falls City. The activities that Brandon and his friends do in the film are what actually happen there. Karaoke and whip-its are the thing to do for fun in a place life Falls City. An interesting point that Cunningham brings up is that the lives the “wall people” live and essential the life Brandon wants to be in entraps them more to the rural un-open minded kind of life style.Brandon doesn’t see that moving from Lincoln to a more rural town like Falls City is a bad idea.
I find it interesting that for the people in Falls City they probably would have done anything to get out of there but Brandon found refuge and called it his home. Even his love, Lana, wanted to get out of Falls City and go as far as Memphis. In actuality no one got to leave and if time could be turned back Brandon and Lana should have made their escape from the beginning. The reasons Brandon didn’t want to leave Falls City was because he thought that he had finally been accepted and he had found what he was looking for his whole life.Through out the movie we see Brandon searching for the perfect girl. His cousin, Lonnie, even says on the phone call back home from Falls City “no more girls” The romantic aspect of this film re-examines what romantic movies are really about. In this film Brandon is the apidemy of hot for a girl living in Nebraska.
And even though Brandon has a secret no one cares because the way he talks and treats girls in interpreted as cute and loving so the lie doesn’t matter. When transforming from Teena to Brandon she/he chooses the sweetheart cowboy to be her male persona.With a cowboy hat and a little bit of a twang Brandon is able to sweep girls of their feet. Even with the first girl in the opening scene, Nicole, she points out that Brandon isn’t from around here and when asked where he is from she replies “somewhere beautiful. ” Brandon’s boyish/girlish good looks and cowboy “I’m here to save you” charm wins everyone over. Enough so that his small physique and high voice gets left unnoticed. However no matter where Brandon would have went his identity could not be left behind.
Brandon through out the whole movie was trying to be someone he wasn’t. Hiding his identity got him in all kinds of trouble. The reason he was found out was because of the petty crimes he committed trying to prove himself as a man. The beginning of Brandon’s undoing was when the gang and him were driving down the highway evading the police. Cunningham once again noted that this scene was an escape for Brandon but can also be seen as his downfall. Brandon’s life begins to swirl down the drain when little bits of is identity came out, from the ticket to the check written by Teena Brandon. As the events go by it is interesting that when Brandon finally gets some action form Lana she doesn’t freak out when she discovers he is a she.
Brandon doesn’t exactly tell her but in the scene where they are first making love Lana sees Brandon’s cleavage. In the article written by Xan Brooks for Sight and Sound Lana’s trust in Brandon is seen as commendable and endearing. To the very end Lana believed whatever Brandon believed and that was that he is a man.To bad for Brandon not all of his compadres were that trusting. The end of Boys Don’t Cry can definitely make one cry. The gut-wrenching finale is hard to take. When all is found out Brandon’s friends, especially John and Tom, turn against him and break him down in the worst way possible.
The rape scene is crude and shows the destruction of Brandon’s life. Instantly he is turned back into Teena and is striped of all dignity and courage. All the characters worst personality traits prevail here except for Lana’s.Every one turns on Brandon including Lana’s mother who at one point was completely in love with him calling him a “movie star”. After the rape when Brandon was reporting it to the police the way the police treated him was horrible. The questions about his sexuality were not pertinent to the rape and were said almost to humiliate him and insinuate that it was brought on because of his lie. A rape victim in Brandon’s case or in any other case has historically been led to believe that she brought it on herself for being sexy or for the clothes she wears.
Movies like this can be used to open the doors to show the public how disgusting and unforgivable rape can be, especially when done out of the need for control by men. In the case of Brandon John and Tom had be threatened by Brandon’s cordial manner from the beginning. Brandon “who knew exactly how to please women, both carnally and emotionally” (Brooks, 2000) was more masculine in the way he treated women that when it was found out he was a she John and Tom finally found their chance to be superior and raped her. After rape death can be the worst thing to happen to a woman.After Brandon’s dignity was taken from him his life was also taken. After a beautiful scene when Lana and Brandon fully make love John and Tom find Brandon hiding out at Candice’s house and come for him. John purposefully takes Lana with them so she can witness the death of her lover.
This ending scene is not typical however for a suspense movie. Brandon is killed instantly after some screaming and comes as a blunt shock to the audience. The death of Candice happens the same, very blunt and unexpected, with her child right beside her.Boys Don’t Cry was almost too much to absorb. Brandon’s intense death goes to show how closed-minded people can be. Brandon did nothing in his life but be the person he wanted to be and yet because that didn’t fit into the norm other people held he was murdered. The life and death of Brandon can be seen as a learning tool and a way to see how discrimination can only lead to bad things happening.
Everyone should be left to their own devices and should be able to be whoever they want to be.