Concept of Gender Roles in “Boys Don’t Cry”

The concepts of gender roles, gender identity stereotypes, biases, sexual conflict, sexual behavior and characteristics of happy vs. unhappy, are widely used in movies. In addition, movies tend to employ some aspects such as adolescence and changes in sexuality with the ultimate aim of spreading some message. The purpose of this paper is to analyze a movie in relation to the use of these concepts. The paper will provide an analysis of the movie known as “Boys Don’t Cry” based on the concepts of gender, stereotypes, as well as biases and sexuality, among other concepts.

Boys Don’t Cry is a movie released in 1999 and gives an account of Teena Brandon, a young lady who faces identify crisis with regard to her sexuality. Brandon assumes the role of a man and strives to appear as a man. She wishes she were a man and this can be exemplified by the fact that she dresses in manly clothes and also cuts her hair. When she meets a group of men in a bar, they accept her as a man. Eventually, she starts a love affair with Lana who thinks that Brandon is a man and not a woman. As the story ends, it turns out that Brandon is not a man as initially thought by her friends. Throughout the movie, Brandon portrays a search for gender identity. Brandon desires to be accorded the respect that the male gender receives from the society (Herz 4).

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In the movie, the concept prejudice is evidently portrayed in a number of ways. For instance, when the male counterparts of Brandon realize that she is indeed a woman, they express their dissatisfaction with her because they have fear, which emanates from their prejudices. They fear her since they consider her a threat to how they perceived themselves. They develop hatred towards her since they cannot stand the fact that she lied to them all along, given that they initially fell in love with her. Brandon represents a woman who strives to live a happy life in a society full of prejudices and stereotypes, which portray the female gender as weaker than the male gender. Brandon tries to live a transsexual life, but she realizes that this is a complicated life to live since it is not easy to become a member of the opposite gender (Herz 6).

The movie portrays a conflict of the gender roles; this is because Brandon tries to exhibit behaviors, which can be regarded as typical of the male gender. However, it is evident that the society around her does not tolerate such behavior since this is considered as a disorder. From the movie, it is evident that the society equates gender identity to the presence of either male or female genitalia. As such, the expression of gender identity that does not relate to a person’s biological sex is considered cunning. This explains why Brandon is branded a cunning person when it is realized that he is indeed a woman and not a man as she portrayed herself. Bias is also evident in the movie as depicted by male masculinity. The society seems biased and favors men while women are viewed as sexual objects. For example, the male colleagues of Brandon rape her with the ultimate aim of punishing her for portraying herself as a man while she was indeed a woman (Herz 7).

The death of Brandon is seen to have emanated from her behavior of depicting herself as a man. Her friends express distrust in her since she did not tell the truth about her gender. Bias can also be evidenced from the numerous newspaper reports and publications, which ran stories about the murder of Brandon Teena. Most of the stories published about her death referred to her as a tomboy. The sexual behaviors portrayed in the film serve to reinforce aspects of masculinity that can be evidenced by the movie. Masculinity is depicted by the violence against women as seen when Brandon is raped, as well as the dissatisfaction with the gender behaviors that she portrays (Blackman 12).

In the movie, men express their willingness to mistreat members of the female gender as exemplified by the exposure of Brandon’s body. Lotter and Nissen portray the extent to which they are inhuman by exposing the body of Brandon so that other people can see. Exposing the body of Teena gives them some form of sexual satisfaction. After they beat and rape her, they used the surface of Brandon’s body to curve their initials. This portrays male brutality and expresses a desire to exercise excessive power while dealing with the opposite sex. The actions of the perpetrators can also be regarded as an expression of male dominance. There is an expression of power and authority, which men tend to portray when dealing with members of the opposite sex. According to some of the characters in the movie, gender identity can be defined with regard to either possessing the male or female genitalia. Nissen and Lotter think that the true gender identity of Brandon can only be seen when they expose her body (Blackman 14).

Different changes in sexuality can be seen when Brandon makes an attempt to portray herself as a man. As she undergoes the transition from adolescence to adulthood, Brandon comes to the realization that the society differentiates between the male and the female gender. The men seem to express their anger towards Brandon since she rejects binary sexual differences. The men in the movie also express patriarchy and the extent to which they disregard the female gender. Based on the actions of Brandon’s male friends, it is considered a taboo to challenge the sexual status quo in society. Brandon cannot be tolerated since she attempts to behave like a man. The gender identity portrayed by Brandon is viewed as disgusting; as such, her male friends decide to teach her a lesson for imitating men. One of her friends (John) refuses to admit that he took part in raping Brandon. He asserts that  he could not have raped a man; this is because Brandon’s character and behavior was masculine (Blackman 15). 

Boys Don’t Cry also portrays some form of obsession; Brandon is obsessed with the male gender. As a result, she takes the risk of behaving like a man and taking up the role of a man. She does not do this because of the courage she has, but because she is obsessed to have an understanding of the male gender. In the movie, obsession can be seen as a cause of either death or fame. Brandon died out of her obsession, and she became famous upon her death since it seemed extraordinary to have behaved like a man while she was indeed a woman (Herz 8).

In conclusion, Boys Don’t Cry is an indication of the struggle for gender identity and the perils, which a person can take while facing an identity crisis. Throughout the movie, Brandon works hard in order to portray himself as a man. She is aware of the risks that her behavior poses, but she goes ahead and assumes the role of the male gender. In the movie, there are biases and stereotypes that can be evidenced by how Brandon is treated by her male counterparts when they discover that she is a woman.

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