Boys Don’t Cry
Last night I watched Boys Don’t Cry with a couple of other interns who are working at Sun. I’d seen the movie before, but I was more intrigued with the reactions of the other people watching.
(For those who haven’t seen the movie, I’ve put the rest of my writing in the second part of the post. There aren’t any spoilers, but you should still consider watching the movie.)
Boys Don’t Cry is about the life and death of Brandon Teena, a transgendered youth from Nebraska. He falls in love with a girl from nowhere, Nebraska, is discovered as TG, assaulted, and killed. It’s a terribly challenging movie to watch. It makes me uncomfortable to view, and I would be troubled if I found watching it easy.
One person watching the movie first expressed revulsion: such issues and violence didn’t belong in a movie. But it’s not a particularly violent movie, at least not by the body-count-in-the-hundreds movies that kids watch all the time. Rather, it’s true, personal violence, in no way shrouded in fantasy, and based in the reality of a true story.
This reaction was extended into the following attitude: “there may be bad things out in the world, but if I can’t do anything about them, I don’t want to know about them.” While I respect someone’s right to have this outlook on life, it’s not one that I would want for myself.
The predominant feeling in the room was that movies were supposed to be enjoyable to watch, and this was in no way enjoyable. This was a movie that challenged the viewer, and simply put, some of the viewers didn’t want to be challenged. I think a good movie can be just as demanding and rewarding as a good book: it can inspire introspection. With movie-watching being a group activity, it can provoke discussion and debate. I don’t think movies should be limited to the formula of Spiderman with occasional bite-sized chunks of The Matrix philosophy thrown in to satisfy critics.
Whatever I think doesn’t matter, though, ‘cuz I don’t get to pick the movie next time we go to our local Blockbuster.
Comment by Patrick
Good on ya for choosing a real thought provoking movie with content. You are too lenient on those ostriches out there. I say its perfectly good to watch a mindless shoot’em up or silly movie, but every once and a while its good to challenge people.
Often times I think people aren’t revulsed so much because of what they are watching but because deep down they realize that under the right circumstances it could be them either playing the victim or the villain.
Comment by Meredi
I typically enjoy challenging (aka “arty”) movies, but this one was just too much for me. (That said, I think it was better the second time I watched it.) The “issues” it addressed were fine (others seemed disturbed by the homosexuality), but the violence overwhelmed me.
Specifically, I found the rape scene was disturbing. I don’t think it should have been omitted; it’s an important part of his story… but it just scares me too much. Is it really bad to not want to be subjected to something like that? Your post makes me feel like I’m weak and unintellectual for feeling uncomfortable with it.
Now I’m stuck. I don’t want to be close-minded (and I don’t think I am, as a rule), but I also can’t help how that movie made me feel. I guess I’ve been changed because of it and I’m glad, but arg, it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I’m not sure, now knowing (really, remembering — I forgot the details between my first and second viewings) what it’s about, that I would willingly put myself through it again.
Sigh, I fear for the day I become desensitized, but I guess I should continue pushing my own boundaries anyway.
I rented “Real Women Have Curves” last night and I have it for a week. I know it sounds like a chick flick, but it was actually a really enjoyable movie for all the girls and guys I watched it with (not as “deep” as Boys Don’t Cry, but far from sugary). If you want to borrow it from me and return it to BB after I leave you’re more than welcome to it — let me know.
Comment by Douglas
Thanks for your comment Meredith. You’re right – it’s not too much to not want to be subjected to the violence in the movie. It’s not weak and it’s not unintellectual. Being willing to discuss the movie now, that’s wise and brave. In my opinion, being open minded means accepting and integrating every idea you come across, rather it means being open to exposure to new ideas and the possibility that it will affect your own perspectives.
I think the most important thing about watching a movie like Boys Don’t Cry is discussing it afterwards, like we are now: that’s the real message of the film, in my opinion. And that’s related to what my main complaint in the post was about: that some people are unwilling to allow a movie to be a forum for intellectual issues, whether they’re expressed as in Boys Don’t Cry or as in Amelie. Maybe I need to be a little more open minded in how others view movies.
People talk a lot about desensitization to violence. Many people can watch movies with people getting stabbed and shot, heads getting sliced off or blown up, and it doesn’t cause a lot of problems. I think that’s because of the setting. When you watch James Bond, you know it’s a fictional, fantastical world. For me, at least, I know that it’s not real. But Boys Don’t Cry, that feels real (and was real). I would hope that one would never become desensitized to violence like that.
Comment by cyn
Having seen the movie about a year ago, it still really disturbs me. The only think I remember is the killing and the rape scene, I felt absoutely helpless. Movies like Boys Don’t Cry (and Traffic) is sort of why I do volunteer work, even if I can’t change everything I would at least like to something. I completely agree with your point that movies can be a forum for intellectual issues tho, action movies are sort of silly. Congrats for not being homeless btw. Isn’t california boring without me?
Comment by 0xdeadbeef
heh heh… “they’re shaggin!”
Comment by 0xdeadbeef
For me, it’s that oogabooga fear that I’m going to lose my way of zoning out for a few hours. Aaaah! The smart movies are invading!
No worries, I’m sure there will always be dumb enough movies for me What will stem the flow of movies casting WWF superstars?
To leave [on|with] a thank you note–I learned more things about life, and myself, hanging out at the Khanduri Palace this summer, then I ever thought I’d gain by coming down here. I realized there are some facets of my life that are specifically uncaring and callous, with longlasting regret. I’d have to go back a decade or so to find someone that’s changed the way I look at the world like this.
No book or movie has held such a precedent.
Comment by 0xdeadbeef
Sorry for the misnomer… I meant, “Khanduri Palace of Waiting”