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Boys Don’t Cry Essay

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Updated: Dec 9th, 2018


Boys Don’t Cry is a movie released in 1999; it encompasses romantic drama involving a true story of Brandon Teena. Though born biologically as a female, Brandon identifies as intersexual as well as a male. She engages in a relationship with a young woman; upon discovering that she has biological features of a man, her male counterparts beat and rape her. The men who beat and rape also kill her.

The main themes explored in the film include courage, empowerment, identity, and gender. The purpose of this essay is to review Boys Don’t Cry movie. The essay will discuss themes that recur in the movie, especially with regard to gender. In addition, the essay will discuss how the movie helps to uphold or challenge cultural rituals and norms and how it influences the exposure of norms and rituals that may be taken-for-granted (Herz 5-12).


The theme of gender seems to be recurrent throughout the film; the characters in the film represent behavior that is based on gender. Brandon contradicts the understanding of gender in the film. In the town where the movie is set, there tends to be vast gender stereotypes, as well as expectations based on gender.

In order to prove that he is a man, Brandon engages in masculine behavior. For example, she indulges in excessive drinking and smoking and engages in fights while drinking. She behaves this way so that people can see him as manly and tough since the male gender can be associated with violence. The gender role performed by Brandon is meant to make her appear as a man. To prove themselves as men, the rest of the characters rape Brandon in order to portray masculinity associated with the male gender (Carroll 298-310).

The theme of gender is also presented in the movie since Brandon is in search of identity; she wants to identify with the male gender. The search for identity that Brandon portrays can be associated with the need for sexual fulfillment that may be portrayed by adolescents. She is looking for an opportunity to have sex, and this can be exemplified by the fact that she is searching for women.

Her belief is that it can be easy to get a woman, especially if the person pursuing the woman is a man. The identity problem portrayed by Brandon can be linked with feelings of inferiority, which may emanate from being a woman. As a result, she believes that it would be better for her to pretend to be a man rather than reveal that she is a woman (Herz 5-12).

The theme of gender is also widely presented in the film through the behavior patterns that Brandon adopts when she leaves Nebraska and goes to Falls City. In order for people to see her as a man, Brandon becomes much tougher, wears masculine boots, and adopts a new hairstyle, which is exemplified by a haircut. This shows her desire to identify with men. Her behavior is influenced by the perception people in her community have about men.

People in her community perceive men as tough, rough, rugged, and as people who do not have fear pain. As such, she starts portraying characteristics, which can be regarded as masculine. Brandon goes to the extent of changing the order of her names; she calls herself Brandon Teena while she was initially called Teena Brandon. This can be regarded as an effort to have changes in her gender identity (Carroll 298-310).

The circumstance that Brandon is in indicates sex discordance with gender; this is a situation that encompasses conflict between identity in terms of gender and sex as defined by biology. The discordance that Brandon portrays can be said to be confusing. The attempt by Brandon to display manly behavior is not successful because she is biologically a female. However, despite her experiences of sexual confusion and conflict, she succeeds in becoming a man that ladies pursue.

A gender contradiction comes in as she cannot be able to meet the expectations placed on the male gender. For example, there is a scene where Tom tells Brandon that John and he will cut themselves in order to show that they are men. This identifies both John and Tom as belonging to the male gender (Carroll 298-310).

The movie helps to uphold as well as challenge cultural norms in various ways. First, the truth regarding the true identity of Brandon as female leaks out quickly. Brandon’s counterparts (Tom and John) are angered by the actions of Brandon. When they discover that Brandon and Lana are in love, they are not happy since this goes against acceptable norms of behavior.

This emanates from the fact that their cultural beliefs do not approve a relationship between two women. This is influenced by their upbringing, which emphasized the importance of living life naturally (Herz 5-12).

When they discover the true sexuality of Brandon, two of Lana’s male friends rape her. John and Tom can hardly accept that Brandon has engaged in a homosexual relationship. This is a clear indication that they are against any forms of behavior that tend to be different from norms of society.

The movie also helps to uphold cultural norms in the scene where the police portray sympathy when they learn about the rape and assault by Tom and John. This shows that they do not approve of the behavior portrayed by Brandon since it against the expectations of society. The injustices against Brandon can be termed as an indication that the Falls City community always strived to uphold their cultural norms (Herz 5-12).

The movie also helps in exposing cultural norms or rituals, which people may take for-granted. For example, the issue of male masculinity presents itself in the movie, where men tend to disregard women in society. Moreover, the movie exposes the societal norms, which should not be challenged at all; instead, they should be upheld at all times.

For instance, norms regarding gender orientation should not be challenged. Men should not assume female roles while women should not assume male roles. The movie also exposes gender related roles, which the society takes for-granted by assuming that such roles should remain static (Herz 5-12).

While concluding this essay, it is worth noting that the central theme in Boys Don’t cry movie is that of gender. The movie portrays the superiority associated with the male gender. It is the desire to be superior like a man that makes Brandon to behave like a man. She seems to admire the behavior and the life lived by men; she sees being male as more advantageous than being a female.

Works Cited

Carroll, Janell. Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity. London: Cengage Learning, 2009. Print.

Herz, Katherin. The Pressure to Conform to the “correct” Gender in ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain.‘ Berlin: GRIN Verlag, 2007. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2018, December 9). Boys Don’t Cry. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/boys-dont-cry-movie-review/

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"Boys Don’t Cry." IvyPanda, 9 Dec. 2018, ivypanda.com/essays/boys-dont-cry-movie-review/.

1. IvyPanda. "Boys Don’t Cry." December 9, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/boys-dont-cry-movie-review/.


IvyPanda. "Boys Don’t Cry." December 9, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/boys-dont-cry-movie-review/.


IvyPanda. 2018. "Boys Don’t Cry." December 9, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/boys-dont-cry-movie-review/.


IvyPanda. (2018) 'Boys Don’t Cry'. 9 December.

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