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Culture > Entertainment

A Review On “Boys State” – And Why I Think You Should Watch It

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

“Boys State” is a 2020 Sundance Film Festival awarded documentary film that follows a thousand high school boys attending the Texas Boys State, a program whose objective is to simulate a government, building it from the ground up. It examines the U.S. politics and reveals the harsh reality that Americans face. You can stream it on Apple TV+.

Filmmakers Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss were attracted to the Texas Boys State because, in the 2017 edition, the boys voted to secede from the union, only one year after the chaos of the 2016 presidential election, which elected Trump as president. So, in 2018, the team decided to do the documentary to investigate the American political division and whether the younger generation is able to properly talk to each other.

The 4 main boys featured are the core of the movie. Ben Feinstein is a Republican and an amputee, however he doesn’t let his disabilities get in the way of his success, and he’ll do anything to get it. Steven Garza is the son of a Mexican immigrant and is a Democrat, he’s initially the underdog and believes in the power of dialogue and understanding each other. Robert MacDougall is white, has a very frat-guy-like persona, and his charisma attracts friends and voters, but you may be surprised to find that he is much more complex than that. Lastly, René Otero is a black Democrat and a debate contest winner that has his facts straight and can persuade anyone.

When the boys get to Boys State they are randomly selected to be a part of either the Nationalists, which René runs, or the Federalists, which Ben runs, and then they have to build the party from scratch in hopes to achieve the ultimate goal: having one of their members be elected governor. Both Robert and Steven are candidates to governor running for the Nationalists.

The events that occur are absolutely shocking. From wanting to impeach the party president, spreading fake news and rumors, discussing gun rights and abortion, making memes as a campaign, to a racist post online, “Boys State” shows exactly how dirty politics can get. As René said “I think he’s a fantastic politician, but I don’t think a fantastic politician is a compliment either”. It gets you really invested in the characters you would and wouldn’t vote for, you may even clap after their speeches. 

The movie also gets into how a crowd can pressure people to lie and change their views to be accepted, or in this case elected. It also explores toxic masculinity, a thousand 17 year old boys together for a week trying to fit in will say pretty much all sorts of sexist and childish nonsense and, a lot of the time, be praised for it. The filmmakers have already declared to be very interested in making a film about Girls State, the same program but with all girls instead. It would be fascinating to see how the dynamic is different when it comes to the girl world, so hopefully it gets made after the pandemic is over.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. While there are young men that are intolerant and not open to dialogue, René and Steven advocate in favor of that throughout the whole documentary.

Here are some of their inspiring quotes:

“My grandmother taught me a few things, you have to have faith, hope and a bit of a pissed off attitude. I wanna be civil and represent a whole working body and we’re gonna take the example of a plane body. It has two wings, a left one and a right one. We’re not gonna pick one. We’re gonna stay in the middle because we are not an intolerable party, we are one that is palatable to all.”

– René Ottero.

“A little bit about myself, I come from a very modest family and my passion has been politics. The way I wanted to run my campaign was very different from most. I wanted to know what’s on your minds and ask what issues matter to you. I didn’t wanna run a campaign to represent y’all if I didn’t know who I was gonna represent.”

– Steven Garza.

“Not too long ago, Santa Fe High School was shot not far from where I live, and that, it hurts man. You know? Seeing those people, these kids who shouldn’t go through these things. We can do something about it. Because we don’t agree on everything, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t come to the table and talk to each other.”

– Steven Garza.

Steven Garza was the main breakout star of the documentary and he perfectly embodies what “Boys State” really is about. The world will always have people that only see black and white, but we must be able to see all shades of gray. We must share experiences and be open to other points of view. If the youth of today is able to have integrity and compassion, we will be able to decrease the polarization and make smarter choices for a better future. That’s the only way to save current politics. 

Rating: 10/10 – if you are interested in American politics you HAVE to watch it.


This article was edited by Anna Bastos.

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Lara Martins

Casper Libero '23

Curious PR student in love with all art and communication forms. http://linkedin.com/in/lara-martins-9214a91b0 https://www.instagram.com/lara__martins/