American Beauty
Boys Don't Cry
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It would be an otherwise eventless Saturday evening, eventless in a way because of my underestimation of D.C. ‘s arthouse traffic. Both "Being John Malkovich" and "Rosetta" had "soldout" signs hanging high above their respective ticket offices. And there I was, disappointed and listless, at the center of D.C.’s nightlife, the trendy Dupont Circle. And very quickly I decided to escalate myself down into the monotonous metro tunnel. I was on my way back. As if the world was echoing my mood at that moment, the Red Line train I embarked upon was as lethargic as I was, with passengers lolling on the lifeless vinyl seats. But the coma was broken cheerfully in no time by probably the most cliché but entrancing moment in human life: a kiss, a hug, a smile. And there they are, the couple sitting right in front of me, the couple radiating warmth if not sizzling heat to the otherwise bleak milieu, the couple in love. As if holiness always goes hand in hand with blasphemy, a muffled curse drifted its way from the other side of the aisle, from a swarthy looking guy. "Faggots!" Oh, my God! (I know I never told you that it was a gay couple in my narration, but do I have to?) The train soon hit the platform of the next station. The swarthy guy was on his way out. He got out and turned around and stared at the couple through the window while walking back toward the other end of the train. And what came next from him was happening so fast and so smooth without any trace of staccato. It was a swing, a swing of loosely clenched fist going straight in the direction of the couple on the train. The window the couple sitting next to sent off a muffled cry as soon as the fist touched the glass. I was sitting right behind them and could feel the window vibrating from the strike. I was truly truly dumbfounded, looking at the guy with my inexperienced incredulity. Hatred, disgust, and vengeance were the fire in his eyes and right at that moment the train was pulling out of the station…
To call "Boys Don’t Cry" a gay or lesbian movie will undoubtedly do a horrendous disservice to the real story the movie is based upon. Brandon Teena (or Teena Brandon), the main character in the movie, never looks at herself as a lesbian. The fact the she dates only girls instead of guys comes naturally from her belief that she is simply doing so not because she loves girls but because HE loves girls. So here HE is, an otherwise ordinary Nebraska girl, who has never had the faintest doubt that despite her female body she is man, a real man. So HE changed HIS name from Teena Brandon to Brandon Teena; so HE flattens her breasts with cloth, wears short hair, and puts on a cowboy hat ; so he hangs out with guys in the bars, drinking beer and chasing girls. He is a handsome young man and knows how to treat a woman… What happened next has long become public knowledge due to the bona fide nature of the story. There is this day when Brandon’s "true" identity is discovered by HIS buddies. Then HE is raped, beaten, and finally murdered in cold blood.
The trauma I witnessed on Metro and the life/death Brandon went through, though seemingly unrelated to each other, are sharing the same origin: the deep rooted hatred against those who choose to live a different life. Such hatred is oftentimes so entrenched that the only way to discharge it is through violence, no matter whether it is in the form of a swing on the glass of a train or a gunshot on the body of a life. But who the hell give us/them the right to hurt or harm a person simply because his/her romantic bliss and sexual ecstasy are lodged in making love to the same gender or in Brandon’s case because he believes that his sexual organ cannot deny his true identity? Being straight and being part of the majority certainly do not give us/them the insolence to abuse. For God’s sake we are not even talking about criminals, but people whose goal of life is no different from anyone of us: to pursue happiness as much as they can. After all, they probably have all the more right to stand up and seek vengeance upon us. It is us who turn our heads away from them with disgust, who claim they are not normal even though normality is defined by those who launch the accusation, who feel our identity so threatened by the existence of difference that the only way to eradicate the uneasiness is to eradicate the difference, who make their life as miserable and impossible to live in this demagogic democracy, who treat them as pieces of shit instead of human beings. But the gay couple I met on Metro the other night, they looked at the swarthy guy while his fist was hitting the glass. They just looked at him without any inkling of hatred. They just looked at him and then turned their faces toward each other. They smiled, kissed, held each other tighter as if their hug is their bulletproof sanctuary that nothing abusive can penetrate. The train was on its way to the next station…
Hilary Swank was nominated for the Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) and Chloe Sevign the Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Drama) in Golden Globe (2000).
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Boys Don't Cry