Alone Together: A Virtual Screening of A24's Boys State

Having access to an exclusive screening is usually something that UGA students would be able to experience sitting in the Tate Theater, presented by University Union. Because of 2020, however, the exclusive screening of Boys State was a virtual event presented by A24 and promoted by University Union, yes, but also other organizations like the film club and our very own Her Campus chapter. While we all watched in our separate locations, 75 screens tuned in to watch the film. Of course, none of the audience members knew how many people were watching “with” them, but the fact that others were watching was comforting all the same.

A movie like Boys State resonates differently during this particular moment in history for multiple reasons. Seeing massive groups of teenage boys gathered together, even from my laptop screen, makes me a little uncomfortable as I think about how long it’s been since I’ve been in a crowd. More than that, watching the young protagonists (or are they antagonists?) immediately jump into intense partisanship and division is a sad reflection of the realities of our two-party system that we’re seeing played out on a massive stage in reality. Since the idea behind this annual event for teens operates within the bounds of Texas’ already-existing state government practices, there’s not room for anything else.

For the majority of the film, I sat in my room, eating microwave popcorn and listening to the faint sound of my upstairs neighbors’ playlist. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the flexibility of starting and pausing the movie on my own timeline (within the screening window, of course) and being in the comfort of my own apartment. As time went on, I started thinking about the best parts of going to the movies and watching the newest release. 

In the communal setting of a movie theater, hearing how others react, whether it’s appropriate for the scene or not, always influences how I interact with the movie as well. I have vivid memories of the feelings of camaraderie among audience members as we watched a midnight premiere of Avengers: Endgame, when we gasped, laughed, and sometimes cried together. While this film is obviously very different, I imagine that watching this movie in small-town Texas would be an incredibly different experience compared to watching it in our local independent theater, Ciné. That’s part of what makes going to the movies so special. Another is one that thankfully can be replicated at home, albeit in a different manner.

Being able to discuss movies on the ride home is the best time to see how friends and family reacted—the movie is fresh on everyone’s minds, and you can think of scenes from different perspectives. I was lucky enough to have a group text of friends all watching the movie together, and we were able to discuss what was happening even more freely than we would have had we been in a theater. In all honesty, it made me feel less alone.

Until we can safely be together again in theaters, this screening was a nice taste of COVID-adjusted normalcy. It sparked good discussions between my friends and I about different policy issues, the dangerous bubble that exists when people only hear voices from their established ideology, as well as the inner politician that came out in many of the boys.

In the end, that’s all they are—boys.