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Boys Don’t Cry – Mainstream Success but Frustrating Trans Representation

The film Boys Don’t Cry is based on the real story of Brandon Teena, who lived as transmasculine identity (a transgender person who is assigned female at birth but identifies with masculinity more than with femininity). The setting of the film is 1993 Nebraska. Gender was binary in the conventional era; in other words, society could be ruthless to anyone who didn't fit in the heteronormativity.  (heterosexuality is served as the only norm) However, Brandon Teena is a brisk protagonist: he would check up his short haircut, and his cool denim jacket in the mirror, with his eyes lighting up with satisfaction and confidence. Or when Brandon was hitting on girls at bars, he said with joy, “Girls all said that I am the best boyfriend they have ever had.”  His confidence and uniqueness brought him love from his girlfriend, Lana, but simultaneously, jealousy and hate from others. The second half of the film is heartbreaking and the reason why it is condemned by the LGBTQ+ (abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer​) society.

  • Boys Don’t Cry not only depicts the verbal assaults, but also the physical, violent ones. It is distressing to watch such an excessive amount of hate crime. The intercut of the police interrogation with Brandon and the brutal rape scene deliberately forces the audience to watch two forms of assault on a trans person simultaneously. The violent scenes were overdone, which prompts the audience to question the true intentions of the film. If it is for LGBTQ+, then why did the protagonist have to be victimized so tragically?

  • Continuing the first argument, the film is regarded as "for cisgender people" by a lot of transgender people nowadays. They cannot feel proud of their gender identity but only anguished when watching the film. It is understandable that the director, Peirce, intended to raise the awareness of hate crimes. Nonetheless, the dignity of LGBTQ+ is significant as well. 

  • Hilary Swank, a cisgender woman, won an Oscar for Best Actress for playing Brandon Teena. Undoubtedly, Swank's performance is amazing, and it touches the hearts of the audience. Yet, "brave", "courageous" — giving these kinds of comments to a cisgender actress have shifted the attention away from Brandon Teena, the slain transgender man. 

Boys Don't Cry was perceived as a landmark in trans movies back in the 1990s. However, LGBTQ+ now is looking forward to seeing the narratives that are motivating and raising self-love as the culture has evolved. On top of that, the voice of having a real transgender actor/actress to play the protagonist of a trans movie is raising in the meantime. 

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