A “Purveyor of Fantasy” in Kimberly Pierce’s Boys Don’t Cry

Brittany Chevalier is completing her first year as a MA candidate in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence. She graduated from Wellesley College and has a special interest in the history of New York City. The following is excerpted from her review of the film, “Boys Don’t Cry,” directed by Kimberly Pierce.

Boys Don’t Cry is Kimberly Pierce’s 1999 film based on a true story about Brandon Teena, a girl in rural Nebraska who wants to be a boy because she relates to the male identity. As a young female-to-male non-operative transgender man, she cuts her hair, bounds her breasts and uses a sock in her pants to give herself the look of a man. Through Brandon’s point of view the audience sees a different fantasy world opposed to the true gritty reality of Falls City, Nebraska, a city that “isn’t even on the map.” Although Brandon always seems to be optimistic about life and the reality around him, when Lana enters his world everything surrounding her existence becomes fantasy, as if the way Brandon sees her changes the whole perception of the film. In other scenes where Brandon is just “hanging out” with John and Tom, the perspective is seeped in the harsh reality of small-town middle America, unlike the scenes where Lana is present. Peirce uses different techniques of lighting and camera shots for thematic purposes that exude a tinge of “otherworldliness” to demonstrate that Lana is the true purveyor of fantasy in Brandon’s life.

-Brittany Chevalier

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