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Film / Boys Don't Cry

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Directed by Kimberly Peirce and released in 1999, Boys Don't Cry is the story of the life and death of a young trans man named Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank). His legal name was Teena Brandon, but that was unknown to the gang of bigoted rednecks he joined.

They accepted him as one of the guys, and he even started dating the sister of one of these new friends. Of course, when they "discovered" that he was "female", they considered him to be a lesbian. Transphobic hate crimes ensued.

Not to be confused with Men Don't Cry or Boys Who Cry, the boy band from SpongeBob SquarePants.

Provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Real life Lisa Lambert is named Candace in the movie.
  • Adapted Out: Phillip Devine, who was murdered at the same time as Brandon and Candace / Lisa. His girlfriend Leslie, who was also Lana's sister, was left out.
  • Artistic Licence History:
    • Lana Tisdel claims that she didn't continue a relationship with Brandon once she discovered him. The movie depicts them having sex at least once afterwards.
    • She also wasn't there at the scene of the murder, which the movie shows happening right in front of her.
  • Big "NO!"!: Lana does one after Brandon is shot.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Brandon makes up a ton of lies besides the obvious, like having a kid of his own, a model for a sister and having traveled the world. Also, prior to landing the role, Hilary Swank lied both about her age and about her origins. When called out for it, she said she lied because that's what Brandon would do.
    • Lana lies about quitting her job.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Blonde Candace, brunette Kate and reddish blonde Lana.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Not even a drop after Candace is shot, and a little splash, despite Brandon getting it in the throat (right at the carotid artery).
  • Brainless Beauty: Brandon. "I'm going to Memphis, Graceland, and Tennessee."
  • Broken Aesop: The movie's tagline talks about "having the courage to be yourself" when the film's protagonist is a compulsive liar (claiming to have a kid, traveling the world, etc.), and when he does "be himself," he ends up getting raped and murdered.
  • The Casanova: Brandon is this - every time he goes out, he tries to pick up women, and is often successful. If anything, the movie is rather restrained in depicting just how much of a Casanova he was.
  • Covered in Scars: Tom likes to burn and cut himself for fun, and is covered in scars as a result. This foreshadows his later violent behavior.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "Graceland, Memphis, and Tennessee", something Brandon is playfully mocked for by Lana.
  • Disappeared Dad: Lana's father is nowhere to be found and neither is the father of Candace's baby. Brandon's family is absent—he lies about it, then later says his father died when Brandon was very young.
  • Downer Ending: Both Brandon and Candace are shot dead, and the only glimmer of hope is Lana leaving town to see the world.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The movie is based on the last days of a famous murder victim.
  • Foreshadowing: After John kicks everyone but Lana out of the car and drives away, Tom comments that John has no impulse control.
    • The movie starts with Brandon receiving death threats from a group of young men once they find out he's trans.
  • Gag Penis: The fake "gear" that Brandon is packing is impossible.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Lana and her mother. The real Lana took exception to this depiction.
  • The Hero Dies: Brandon himself at the end. A Foregone Conclusion since this is based on a famous murder case.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Brandon's friends take this path when they find out his assigned sex. Also the mob that chases Brandon in the first scene.
  • Homophobic Hate Crime: Narrowly averted in the beginning of the movie, when a group of young men chase Brandon down for sleeping with someone's sister, calling him a dyke and threatening to get his "faggot cousin" as well. Brandon finds it hilarious, his cousin Lonny not so much. Played tragically straight in the end. Once he's outed as trans, he's raped and murdered by his former friends.
  • Hope Spot: The first half of the movie is essentially one big, awful hope spot for Brandon. Troubled and aimless, he suddenly finds himself surrounded by friends, head over heels in love, and able to see a happy future for himself. And then it all goes horribly wrong.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Lana still loves Brandon after learning he's trans.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Candace's young son is left alive while she and Brandon are shot by Tom and John.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Mom refers to Brandon as "It" after they discover the truth.
  • Karaoke Bonding Scene: Lana and her friends awkwardly sing "The Bluest Eyes in Texas" at karaoke, which is a romantic interaction between Lana and Brandon (in the audience) as they make eye contact during the performance.
  • Karma Houdini: Charles Laux, the sheriff who asked Brandon invasive, demeaning questions about his rape and essentially signed his death warrant by refusing to arrest his killers, never faces any real consequences. In real life, he went on to lead a long, comfortable career before retiring as a school bus driver.
  • Loveable Rogue: Brandon steals, skirts the law, and lies (to plump up his image, in addition to the obvious ones meant to protect himself). However, he's also a genuinely nice guy who doesn't really want to hurt anyone.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Brandon walks Lana home and she's embarrassed about her house, he says "You're so pretty." Near the end of the film, when Brandon is hiding out in the barn after being raped, Lana says "You're so pretty," and kisses him.
  • The Medic: The kind nurse that patches Brandon up serves this purpose. Although she has no "powers" in the specific sense, she nonetheless helps Brandon, in contrast to the police.
  • Missing Mom: The mother of John's daughter April is out of the picture.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: It's implied that John is interested in/obsessed with Lana, and this is part of his motivation (aside from transphobia and poor impulse control).
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Along with a large dose of Obfuscating Stupidity, the bonehead sheriff who keeps asking rude and inflammatory questions.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Lana's mom is only called "Mom" in the film, and the character name is...Lana's Mom.
  • Outfit-Rip Sex Check: When trans man Brandon's friends become suspicious about his sex, they corner him and yank down his pants and underwear to reveal his genitals.
  • Oscar Bait: Based on a True Story, featuring an LGBT character and an actress undergoing Beauty Inversion though the film is slightly grittier than most examples. Swank won the Academy Award for Best Actress. In addition, Chloe Sevigny was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and the film won several other awards.
  • Police Are Useless: Not only do they not believe Brandon, they seem to think he deserved what he got.
  • Rape as Drama: Brandon is brutally raped by both Tom and John once they discover the truth.
  • Right Through His Pants: Brandon doesn't take off his clothes when he has sex with Lana. Justified, in this case, as he doesn't want to reveal his secret yet.
  • Shower of Angst: Brandon takes a shower after he has been raped by men who discovered his secret, with the camera lingering on shots of his body. Subverted in the previous scene when John and Tom try to force him to have a shower after they beat and rape him, in order to Destroy the Evidence. Brandon escapes through the bathroom window.
  • Sobriquet Sex Switch: "Brandon Teena" is just his birth name with the parts switched around.
  • Titled After the Song: In this case, the classic song by The Cure; a Cover Version by Nathan Larson appears on the soundtrack.
  • Trans Equals Gay: When people discover Brandon Teena's secret, they first assume he is a butch lesbian instead of a straight transgender man. He bursts into tears when called a "dyke" by his friend.
  • Trans Tribulations: Trans man Brandon Teena is outed after living in Falls City, Nebraska for a while. His former friends rape and murder him when they discover it. There's also a hard scene where Brandon has to get a medical examination from a doctor that misgenders him. After he's outed, he also gets called various slurs plus "it", with many (including of course his future murderers) expressing their disgust or hostility to him.
  • Triumphant Reprise: The girls sing the song "The Bluest Eyes in Texas" by Restless Heart in the bar where Brandon first meets Lana. At the end of the film when Lana is finally leaving Falls City, the cover by Nina Persson plays over it.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Seems like a number of facts about the events portrayed in the movie were omitted and others outright fabricated. The real Lana Tisdel disliked how she was portrayed and described the movie as "The second murder of Brandon Teena."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Kate disappears after Brandon is exposed in front of everyone and we never hear what happened to her. Also, Candace's baby is last seen walking back into the bedroom after she's been shot, and it's not said what happened to him (in real life, Mom took the baby). Ditto for John's daughter April. John states early in the movie that April's mother gave him to her for "a few days," so it's a fair assumption the child went back to her mom.