‘Boys Don’t Cry’

I haven’t yet seen ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, but from all of the differing opinions about the film and the portrayal of the late Brandon Teena I have mixed feelings about what to expect. After reading this week’s readings–especially Michele Aaron’s “Pass/fail”–my main worry has already been addressed; because the film tells a story based on the life of Brandon Teena as he tries to pass as a man, its casting of cisgender woman Hilary Swank muddles further muddles this story for the audience. Hilary Swank is able to successfully pass as male, identify herself as masculine, and win an Oscar for Best Actress, whereas the real-life Brandon Teena was murdered in part to his “lack” of passing in his hometown. Additionally, some of the scenes that director Kimberly Peirce chooses to include promote this idea of merely “crossdressing” versus identifying and living everyday as a different gender; in scenes where Swank is made to expose her chest and blatantly point out her “female sex”, the audience loses the important distinction between image and truth. Swank performs masculinity, whereas Teena desperately needs to be seen wholly as male. There is a passage that best explains this gray line:

“Indeed, it was not so much Brandon’s as Swank’s passing as a man that was at stake in the reception of Boys, and she more than merely passed, she got gold. If her apparational femininity at the Academy Awards ceremony sniffed of mainstream recuperation (here finally was that ‘original’ identity the pre-disguise girl missing from the film’s start), it did, nevertheless, consolidate the breadth and ease of gender performativity.”



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