To start off class Bruno began the discussion by focusing around Aileen Wuornos, a female serial killer who had become famous through the news media, as well as through movies. Before we discussed the relevance this had to our lecture the previous night, Bruno showed a clip from a Nick Broomfield documentary on Wuornos. After watching the short clip Bruno raised the question, “how does this connect with what we are learning about, as well as it’s relation to Boys Don’t Cry?” Wuornos is known as the first female serial killer, which was important for this discussion. One of the key ideas we raised on this topic was the way the media portrayed Wuornos, and the use of that media in the documentary. Why Wuornos’ claims that her killings were for self defense wasn’t even considered by the media was also something to note. The fact that she was a lesbian created all sorts of different views about the subject matter. Because of the heteronormativity, Wuornos was viewed differently than most cases, and this was all very present through the media. Our connection with this and Boys Don’t Cry(1999) was this very fact; Brandon Teena was treated and portrayed differently because of her female masculinity.
The next question that was raised by Bruno was what makes, or qualifies as an independent film? After a short silence, the first and most simple answer was that it was not made by a major company. Bruno then asked, can we tell by watching the film that it is independent? The discussion that was brought through this question dealt strongly around the plots of independent films. How character driven the films are is important, not necessarily big explosions and car crashes. Nothing too expensive. The theaters the films appear in can also be a sign for an independent film, whether it be IFC, or even a city film festival. We got into discussion about King’s article here, and how he notes that indie cinema has a very niche audience. Independent cinema is a separate market, which is actually fueled by a large group of people. With that in mind, King says that the film makers need to make some compromises, whether it be with politics or whatever. They are still depending on a market, and are not quite as free as some may believe.
Bruno then showed us a clip from a Todd Solondz film, Happiness(1998). The scene was an uncomfortable, yet comedy driven one. This brought up the idea that independent films can do things that aren’t completely appropriate, where blockbusters may shy away, hoping not to lose the general audience.
We then had a presentation from a student on the Cooper article focusing on Boys Don’t Cry. The presentation focused on the main points of the article; discussing predominantly female masculinity. There was also talk about how Nebraska was depicted in the film. It is referred to as the heartland, and is trying to maintains its image of all American. The film however depicts this heartland in quite a messed up way. Many of the men in the film are flawed, making Brandon Teena the most sane person in Nebraska. The presentation ended by talking about how the lines of female masculinity were blurred in the film, and Hilary Swank’s role in helping get that done.
The class then got into a short discussion on the short film, Girl Power, that we watched the day before. No one in the class seemed to like the film, commenting on its impersonal feel, and difficult to watch visuals.
After this, we began our discussion around the main screening from the night before, Boys Don’t Cry, directed by Kimberly Peirce. The discussion of the film began with the idea of how we relate to Brandon Teena when watching the film. Hilary Swank’s performance and demeanor adds to this. We know Swank is a girl, but her believable performance as a boy, as well as Brandon Teena’s gender ambiguity, create for somewhat of a difficult understanding of the sexual identities in the film.
Bruno then wanted to dive back into discussion on the Cooper article, and try to cover the four main points brought up. This lead into talks about the myths of the heartland, and how it strives to be depicted as an American, and family place. It is supposed to be the heart of the American dream, where anything is possible, yet this is not exactly true in the film. The men in the film are the ones that are depicted as awful, and somewhat evil. There are no characters in the film that you as a viewer are able to connect with, which makes the end of the film so difficult. However, the fact that when Brandon Teena and Lana Tisdel make love, they do so as both females, is very important. You can’t define him, and it begs the question, do we need to determine sexual orientation? When Tisdel refuses to watch as the men rip Teena’s clothes off shows that she doesn’t need to see, it doesn’t matter what is under the pants.
The other main discussion brought up with the Cooper article was this depiction of masculinity as being violent. The two biker guys are always drunk, always living on edge, and always violent. The film also blurs the lines of female masculinity by adding scenes such as when Teena comes out of the shower in his towel, as well as the period scene. All of this blurs a line that is not usually brought up, or discussed in movies. Formally in the film, the use of word choice is very important. The word transgender is never used throughout, and when Teena is called a dike he outright rejects it.
While still discussing Boys Don’t Cry, Bruno showed the clip of Teena being put into jail. The use of voice over in this scene is crucial, and can be linked to the doubleness of Teena’s character. This doubleness is similar to the end of the film, where it is almost like the boy Brandon has to watch the girl Teena be undressed in front of everyone. The subjectivity and personal feel by adding a voice over drives the audience to connect with Teena here. All the four points touched on by the Cooper article illuminate how Boys Don’t Cry manages to blur the bounds of female masculinity through a powerful sense of media.