March 31

Week 12- TRANSidentities

 

FOR TODAY WATCH Boys Don’t Cry Boys Don’t Cry (dir. Kimberly Peirce, 1999, 118min. AND The Brandon Teena Story

– RJ: Respond to Halberstam’s and Eilerass’s analysis with your own analysis of the two film. Do fiction and nonfiction films hold different potentials for transgender cinema? How do the two texts compare?

– READ: Unclosing Brandon Halberstam

  • Discussion of Halberstam lead by __________

And “The Brandon Teena Story: Rethinking The Body, Gender Identity and Violence Against Women” by  Karina Eileraas

– In Class: Where do “identity politics” reinsert themselves into debates over queer cinema?

And The Trouble When Jane Becomes Jack by Paul Vitello

 

  • Selections chosen by __________who will lead a discussion of the differences in representing FTM issues vs. MTF issues.

– In Class Discuss: How queer theory and queer cinema accommodate transgender lives?

– In class: Watch sections of Ma Vie En Rose (dir. Alain Berliner, 1997, 88 min)

MAYBE: Selections from Shinjuku Boys (dir. Kim Longinotto, Jano Williams, 1995, 53 min)


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16 Responses to March 31

  1. Elyse Kraft says:

    Halberstam’s analysis of the biographical depictions of Brandon Teena notes that the females in Brandon’s life felt that he was the best boyfriend that they could ever have. Halberstam states that Brandon “excelled in the performance of masculinity that we most often associate with middle-class values of self-restraint and courtliness.” (65). While viewing The Brandon Teena Story, I was very aware of these statements by Brandon’s ex-girlfriends and felt like they provided an additional example of how Brandon was doing what was right for Brandon. Halnberstam argues that when Brandon “did not measure up to the physical test of manhood” he was sodomized and raped. Halberstram then notes that Sherfiif Laux implies that Brandon deserved this punishment because he did not conform to gender roles. Many of the people interviewed in the film described Brandon as a “liar” because he did not share that he was genetically female. Each time this sentiment was expressed, I felt that the people being interviewed were actually responding to Brandon’s nonconforming gender identity. The justification for Brandon’s rape and murder was repeatedly said to be because Brandon lied. When asked whether he believed Brandon was treated fairly by Police, Lisa Lambert’s father remarked that the treatment would have been rotten if Brandon hadn’t lied. This further reinforces the trend that people believed Brandon’s cross-dressing was grounds for his punishment.

    In Eileraas’ discussion, she notes the various ways that individuals might interpret the fact that Brandon was a genetic female that dressed like a male. Eileraas describes feminist theorists that would say Brandon dressed like a male to gain the privileges of masculinity and loving women in a homophobic society. She goes on to note that other feminist theorists would that Brando Teena and people like her “reinscribe essentialist conceptions of gender identity” that is problematic because Brandon was continuing to perpetuate male gender roles. Eileraas also presents the view that would argue Brandon was a “repressed homophobic lesbian”, leading to questions about the interest of the LGBTQ community in Brandon’s case. I found the discussion of the medical view of Bradon’s gender identity valuable because it aligns most directly with my awareness of discussions of transgendered individuals. When watching The Brandon Teena Story, I found myself wishing for some recognition of Brandon’s gender identity disorder by the people being interviewed. I was so shocked by the focus on Brandon’s” deception” and the lack of understanding and empathy displayed in the interviews, that I latched on to the idea that these people must not understand that there is a reason that Brandon acted this way. After finishing the film and prior to reading Eileraas’ article, I realized that I was pathologizing Brandon’s cross-dressing in an attempt to make sense of the disgusting behaviors I witnessed in the film. Eileraas notes the way that pathologizing Brandon’s situation can further reinforce gender norms and the idea people should “manage or cure that which it deems abnormal”. While watching the film, I did not feel that anything was wrong with Brandon; however, I did have the false idea that some kind of pathological explanation would have made the people in town recognize that it is unreasonable to blame Brandon’s “deception” for what happened to him.

    I believe that fiction and nonfiction films hold different potentials for transgender cinema because of the way they are able to display people’s interactions and feelings about transgender individuals. Fiction films attempt to shine light upon the transgendered individual in a way that involves a comprehensive understanding of the individual. By using actors, fiction films are able to express a full series of emotions that would probably be more understated in real life. Nonfiction provides the potential for a better understanding of the true experiences of transgendered individuals and the actual situations faced in their lives. The Brandon Teena Story and Boys Don’t Cry each express the different potentials for transgender cinema. In Boys Don’t Cry, the story of Brandon Teena is laid out in a way that encourages the viewer to understand the emotional situation experienced by Brandon. This film depicts Brandon’s experiences in a narrative form that promotes empathy on the part of the viewer. The Brandon Teena Story uses interviews and clips to tell Brandon’s story while noting the opinions of people in Brandon’s live. Although the plot depicted in Boys Don’t Cry is disturbing, The Brandon Teena Story is especially disturbing because of the opinions displayed by many of the individuals interviewed.

  2. Kaneja Muganda says:

    In Halberstam’s piece we are given a variety of perspectives in regards to the way we all view transgendered relationships. Halberstam refers to Butlers critique on whether there’s a true distinction between “realness” and “real”. Butler says that real doesn’t exactly mean the act or acts of imitation rather it is the “way people, minorities excluded from the domain of the real, appropriate the real and it’s effects”. In this case of both film’s every character responded to how ‘real’ Brandon’s efforts were on coming off as a male. In Boys don’t cry Brandon’s character truly believes that she’s a man and doest everything in her power to convince others that she’s indeed a man. Her efforts are quite real and the way people respond to her seem at times more real than her character portrayal. That part of the midwest did not seem open minded to gays or lesbians as a whole. Both films reiterated this notion that many people during that time didn’t appreciate homosexual relationships.
    In our first film it seemed like the main emphasis evolved around Brandon’s transexual activities. In the second film the emphasis is geared towards the fact that homosexual’s aren’t entirely respected. The cops and even some of the parents were very upfront about the way they viewed Brandon as an individual. They thought it was disgusting that she tried to pass as a male, and most of them backed up their beliefs by saying that Brandon’s ultimate flaw was the fact that she was a lier. In actuality I believe they didn’t appreciate the way she presented herself. I think in regards to these two films there may have a been a slight difference in the way fictional and nonfictional films view transgendered cinema. I wasn’t convinced that the non-ficitonal film was as open in revealing the way most people view transgendered. But I definitely noticed the way people responded to this case in the second film. People seemed to be more affectionate regarding their feelings around homosexuality.
    Eileraas has us question the way individuals view the female body in regards to gender and social identities. Some of us think that no matter how we act we will always be characterized into different gender groups based on the way our bodies look. If women want to be men, their actions may not matter at the end of the day if they are born with male female body parts. In one text we’re asked to understand Brandon’s story as a transgendered, and the other text we’re asked to analyze the way we view women in respect to gender and identity.

  3. João Gomes says:

    Eileraas and Halberstam introduce Teena Brandon’s story, recapturing the circle, life and the murder of the 21-year-old individual. Eileraas intercepts female oppression and body image, while Halberstam presents a biographical analysis and argues about transgender issues and the “unlost power.”

    Eileraas articulates gender, sexuality and violence against women in “Boys Don’t Cry.” The film establishes the “female body as a locus of ‘unspeakable’ pleasures and violent abuse” (Eileraas). The objectification of women is demonstrated in a variety of scenes, emphasizing male supremacy. In particular, the rape scene illustrates the dehumanizing oppression and maltreatment of women under a phallocentric society. Specifically, the murderers laugh, shout and beat Brandon while raping him, underscoring Teena’s vulnerability and suppression. As Eileraas states, “‘Boys Don’t Cry’ powerfully reminds us that the female body is an especially bloody target for the will to power and truth.” In his sexual identity crisis, Brandon dresses and acts like a boy, accessing the privileges of masculinity to love women in a homophobic sphere; he resists conventional scripts of femininity “by employing the mask of masculinity.” Hence, “Boys Don’t Cry” demonstrates America’s patriarchal society, in which masculinity is celebrated and “deviants” like Brandon ostracized.

    Halberstam presents Teena Brandon as an active symbol for the various murders that occur with similar characteristics. The author defines the term transgender as an individual who “challenges, deliberatively or accidently, gender normativity” (54). In this scheme, Brandon is established as a transgender individual as he defies gender norms and a heterosexual coherence. Additionally, Eileraas establishes transgender ontology in terms of the relations and interactions between people. The author argues about passing, deception and realness, connecting Brandon’s life with “Paris is Burning” subjects. Halberstam argues that Brandon tries to assimilate and appropriate attributes associated with masculinity. In ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and “The Brandon Teena Story” the desire to pursue a real boy’s life is ubiquitous regarding clothing, props, gestures, behavior and so forth.

    Fiction and nonfiction films hold a lot of potential for queer cinema, transgender in this case. Fiction films often romanticize, obstruct or falsely portray real-life individuals and events to enhance a given plot. For instance, Laura Tistel sued “Boys Don’t Cry” because it falsely portrayed her relationship with Brandon. Fiction films have the potential to inform and celebrate transgender issues as a political activism art form. They are frequently enjoyable and easy to understand because of its narrative characteristics. Nonfiction films are supposedly objective by ensuring a fair and impartial approach of a given event or personality. Unlike fiction films, documentaries are structured by true facts and events. While “Boys Don’t Cry” appeals with pathos, “The Brandon Teena Story” appeals through its innate authenticity by considering legal case documents and the brutal police recordings.

  4. Alyx Smagacz says:

    In Karina Eileraas’ article it seems to say that Brandon was a threat to heterosexuality by promoting homosexuality. She briefly explains the view that Brandon was a homophobic lesbian. I think that might be somewhat close to what she actually was. I think that Brandon Teena wasn’t necessarily against heterosexual relationships or was shown to be a threat to them. In the movie Boys don’t cry she is portrayed as a girl who wants to be a boy; she wants to have male parts and she is embarrassed of her female parts. This to me seems like she is promoting heterosexuality over homosexuality. She dressed as a man, acted as a man, felt like a man; she believed herself to be a man, and I think that if she were able to she would have made herself physically a man too. This seems almost like she is against the homosexual acts of woman and woman, otherwise she would not have tried so hard to be a man. Also by her comments that she was not a lesbian makes it very clear that she thought she was a boy.
    As far as fiction and nonfiction films, I feel that with the film “Boys Don’t Cry” I had more of a connection with the character due to the fact that we got to see her while she was alive and we saw all of the actions being carried out instead of hearing about them from someone else like in the documentary. The documentary was much more private and gave the details in a manner that would be more appropriate for news telling by the way they presented the story.

  5. Alex Andorfer says:

    It is interesting to see that there are wholly different narratives and perspectives on Brandon Teena. Halberstam looks at Brandon in regards to his girlfriend’s socioeconomic class. Halberstam believes that Brandon specifically chose lower class girls to date because they would accept his imperfections so long as he treated him with the respect they associated with stereotypical masculinity. Essentially, he was their knight in shining armour. The fact that he wasn’t really a knight was inconsequential once he had already taken on the role of being the perfect boyfriend. Halberstam writes, “Brandon’s relations with his girlfriends demonstrates that a penis is neither necessary to nor inevitable within heterosexual encounter.” His biological sex is completely irrelevant, as he can give the girls what he needs to give them regardless of his genetalia. He can behave as a perfect boyfriend, in the role of a man, without a penis.

    Halberstam also describes ways in which narrative further constructs gender in different scenarios. In the case of fictional character jazz musician Joss, both the doctor and the registrar at the morgue played a role in shaping his gender. The doctor revoked his status as “male,” but the registrar choose to leave his chosen gender identity and record him as Joss and not Josephine. The eligibility of passing differs according to person to person, thus gender is fluid and constantly changing according to circumstance and interaction with various people.

    Eilerass chooses to focus on how Brandon Teena was constructed according to his body from the view of very close-minded, hating people (i.e. his rapists/murderers and sheriff Laux). Through their eyes, Brandon’s body is only verifiable or worth anything when he is being used as his actual biological gender. He did not have male genetalia, therefore he was not man, and shouldn’t act like it. Since he had a female body he was positioned or “made” by the males who abused him. Laux was “apparently unable to conceive of Brandon’s female genitals without something stuck inside of them, without some attempt at male penetration.” According to view, without males the female body does not really exist. This narrative constructs the female body and subjects it to the conformity of femininity.

    I found that Boys Don’t Cry and the documentary did not differ from one another as film’s so often take on creative liberties and narrate a story completely differently than the actual event. The documentary does allow the viewer to see the power behind Halberstam’s statement as Lana and Brandon’s other girlfriends are indeed very poor and uneducated. Also, the background about Falls City, a place full of domestic violence and petty crime, further supports Halberstam as Brandon was unlikely to be accepted due to his subversions. The binary division of gender was likely to be upheld in such a close-minded town. The fact that Brandon Teena’s story was turned into a movie, an actual narrative on screen for a large population to see, is worth noting. A movie portrayal seeks to demonstrate the tragedy of the story and the stereotypes that subject people to categories which are often too constricting and limited to fit into. Gender is shaped by social roles and interactions with others, not by chromosomes, hormones and genetalia. However, gender norms are perpetually reinforced and looked at through a lens of western-civilization heterosexuality. Those whose gender identity and narratives deviate the norms, like Brandon Teena, fall prey to conformists.

  6. Courtney Faulstick says:

    I think giving perspective on what could be seen as a narrative film in Boys Don’t Cry with the other, the documentary of Brandon Teena, was interesting background filler for the movie. When you are done watching a movie many things are left to the imagination to fill in the ambiguous parts. After watching Boys Don’t Cry, there was some ambiguity about the specific case of Brandon Teena. I then watched the Brandon Teena Story and it provided incite that most of the time we don’t get after watching a narrative film, even if it is based on a true story. While watching Boys Don’t Cry, I thought the characters in the plot were probably over exaggerated from the actual case; however after watching The Brandon Teena Story and meeting the real individuals involved, the characters were definitely under exaggerated. The hate that was portrayed about the fact Brandon was technically a female was outrageous in the documentary. I understand that it was in a very conservative town and times were a little different then, but the ignorance of these people was unreal. It actually made me mad to listen to them talk about the case.

    It is easier for most people to accept a drag queen in a fictional movie, but what then is the difference in creating a nonfiction piece that exemplifies the daily life of a transgender individual. The difference for most is the realness and hatred toward these individuals. It opens the door for cinema to be able to utilize both fiction and nonfiction depictions of transgender individuals, I believe, to create both a more realistic world and a fantasy world to show the lives of these people. Just like heterosexual film makers have different needs to fulfill for individuals, this allows the topic of transgender to be portrayed in a multitude of ways.

    In both Halberstam’s and Eilerass’s analyses of Brandon Teena they seem to agree that Brandon actually believes he is a man. This is why it is hard for Brandon to understand the homosexual accusations of others because where it matters he lives as a man, loves as a man, and is a man. Brandon insist to people that don’t believe him no I am a man. Even if he doesn’t have the proper sexual parts, who are these individuals in these films and why are they trying to tell him otherwise? If he wants to be considered a man, he should be allowed. Eilerass comments on the explicit fact that Branson is more homophobic that a lesbian. Because Brandon thinks of himself as a male, he doesn’t even consider the allegation that he could be a lesbian. Eilerass also brings up many of the awful things that the sheriff asks Brandon in the interview of her rape, and I am just remembering the sheriffs attitude in the documentary and it just goes to show is attitude leads to Brandon’s death. She then talks about the ambiguity of violence against women and when in a case of transgender MTF or FTM it actually applies. Halberstam talks more about the gender variance and says, “When we read about transgender lives, complex and contradictory as they may seem, it is necessary to read for the life and not for the lie. Dishonesty after all, is just another word for narrative” (74). He also quotes Judith Butler a lot and makes some references to Paris is Burning that can connect to the life of Brandon Teena.

  7. Caroline Tibbetts says:

    Respond to Halberstam’s and Eilerass’s analysis with your own analysis of the two film. Do fiction and nonfiction films hold different potentials for transgender cinema? How do the two texts compare?

    I am conflicted in deciding which film I found to be more effective the fictious Boys Don’t Cry and the non fiction documentary like film the Brandon Teena story. The story of Brandon Teena itself is so emotionally draining, raising so many questions of the gender roles within our society, within lower economic classes in middle America and the potential solution to these tragic “sexual identity crisis” like Brandon Teenas. I watched Boy Don’t Cry first and found myself hiding my face and blocking my ears through out the violent scenes and leaving the theater with a pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes that took at least a few hours to alleviate the anxiety and remorse that I felt for Brandon. After having watched the Brandon Teena story I found that Hilary Swank’s rendition of Brandon was ideal, perfect in every way. The way the director portrayed Brandon’s story was unfortunately exact, right down to Chole Sevigny’s depiction of Lana. The conversation with the sherrrif was word for word making my stomach turn that this form of primitive thinking exists within our country. The interviews with John and Marvin made my skin crawl and the footage of Lincoln and Falls made the film especially powerful. Which was more effective? I am still undecided, because I am rather preturbed that the Brandon Teena story placed John as such a victim. I wanted more focus on Brandon and where her mother was during her identity crisis and why she did not do more to support Brandon.

    In terms of the readings Unlosing Brandon definitly presented some interesting points and loved the cross over examples with Paris is Burning as well as the mention of the economic issue associated with Brandon’s tragic death. I would have appreciated a greater analysis of Brandon and his background again instead of the various fictional media depictions of Barandon. I also did not really like the implication that Brandon was over exposed in the media, I find Brandon’s story to be vital enough to go down in to history serving as an example and a very important analysis in order to prevent this from ever happening again.
    The second reading was also helpful in offering various media interpretations and theories for Brandon’s lifestyle which I found beneficial in addressing the transgender issues. I like The first article differentiation of transgender and transsexual because I actually found that confusing in thinking of Brandon’s life and situation.

  8. Caroline Tibbetts says:

    I am conflicted in deciding which film I found to be more effective the fictious Boys Don’t Cry and the non fiction documentary like film the Brandon Teena story. The story of Brandon Teena itself is so emotionally draining, raising so many questions of the gender roles within our society, within lower economic classes in middle America and the potential solution to these tragic “sexual identity crisis” like Brandon Teenas. I watched Boy Don’t Cry first and found myself hiding my face and blocking my ears through out the violent scenes and leaving the theater with a pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes that took at least a few hours to alleviate the anxiety and remorse that I felt for Brandon. After having watched the Brandon Teena story I found that Hilary Swank’s rendition of Brandon was ideal, perfect in every way. The way the director portrayed Brandon’s story was unfortunately exact, right down to Chole Sevigny’s depiction of Lana. The conversation with the sherrrif was word for word making my stomach turn that this form of primitive thinking exists within our country. The interviews with John and Marvin made my skin crawl and the footage of Lincoln and Falls made the film especially powerful. Which was more effective? I am still undecided, because I am rather preturbed that the Brandon Teena story placed John as such a victim. I wanted more focus on Brandon and where her mother was during her identity crisis and why she did not do more to support Brandon.

    In terms of the readings Unlosing Brandon definitly presented some interesting points and loved the cross over examples with Paris is Burning as well as the mention of the economic issue associated with Brandon’s tragic death. I would have appreciated a greater analysis of Brandon and his background again instead of the various fictional media depictions of Barandon. I also did not really like the implication that Brandon was over exposed in the media, I find Brandon’s story to be vital enough to go down in to history serving as an example and a very important analysis in order to prevent this from ever happening again.
    The second reading was also helpful in offering various media interpretations and theories for Brandon’s lifestyle which I found beneficial in addressing the transgender issues. I like The first article differentiation of transgender and transsexual because I actually found that confusing in thinking of Brandon’s life and situation.

  9. Elyse Brey says:

    Elyse Brey
    March 31, 2011
    Queer Cinema
    Heitner
    Response Journal 8
    I think the impact of non-fiction is what really gets the point across in the two films we watched for this week. I happened to watch the documentary first, which made me so sympathetic going into the altered non-fiction of Boys Don’t Cry. I feel that a lot of times in fiction, we get so focused on the perimeter details and we forget about the point of the story itself. But with non-fiction, that is what the film is required to do, the mise-en-scene is what the lead character is seeing and the kind of life that they lived. The documentary is powerful because it’s true; all of that happened. And being able to hear the opinions of those who knew Brandon was what really gets you. You can hear the recorded police questioning, and you see interviews with her killers, and you meet those people who loved Brandon and it makes you sad that she was so brutally murdered for being who she felt she truly was.
    Halberstam talks about a “gender realness” which is what makes a particular gender acceptable. The issue that can be seen in the Brandon Teena story is that her gender isn’t real yet, or at least to those people who were unwilling to accept and appreciate her for being her, it wasn’t real. Brandon’s killers and many of the other people who were around her in her final days just say that it didn’t matter what happened or that she got what she deserved because she lied. Well, how would they go about living their lives if they had been born with a body that they weren’t comfortable in and decided that they couldn’t live their lives in that prison? I’m angered and hurt by this story, and Boys Don’t Cry is just so much more emotional and heart-wrenching than I ever wanted to watch in a film. I cannot empathize because I have never felt what Brandon felt, but I can sympathize for her in her inability to be her true self and because of something that she cannot change if she doesn’t pay thousands of dollars to do so. I’m saddened by the works we watched this week.

  10. Amy Slay says:

    I had seen both “Boys Don’t Cry” and “The Teena Brandon Story” prior to studying them in this class. They have of course always presented horrific and heartbreaking renditions of Brandon’s life and death. However, in the context of Halberstam’s and Eilerass’ articles, I viewed Brandon’s story not just as that of an isolated individual, but rather as an important legacy in the development of transgender history as well as highly pertinent to feminist theory and the crucial intersection of “gender, sexuality, and embodiment.”

    I think both the more fictionalized representation in “Boys Don’t Cry” as well as the documentary treatment of “The Teena Brandon Story” are very honest depictions. I was very moved by the fact that the testimony Brandon gives at the Police Station in “Boys Don’t Cry” is almost word-for-word the real recording of her statement in “The Teena Brandon Story.” Eilerass; however, points out some interesting discrepancies. Kimberly Pierce’s film makes it seem as if Brandon is prompted to admit to being raped by the prodding of Office r Laux. The documentary reveals that in reality, Brandon had already given a three-page statement about the assault before being questioned by Laux.

    Halberstam discusses the utter failure of the media to portray transgender stories honestly, arguing that they instead work to illegitimate and conform them into something heteronormative and comfortable. This happens in three ways: stabilization, rationalization, and trivialization. The project of stabilization establishes “the transgender narrative as strange, uncharacteristic, and even pathological” (55). Both films show that Brandon was guilty of multiple accounts of fraud and theft. I do not fully agree with Halberstam’s analysis that Brandon gave more than he took, and was in fact a Robin Hood figure. However, I do not think Pierce is in any way trying to “explain” Brandon by using his criminal record and tendency to lie against him. The film instead shows the overwhelming difficulty Brandon faces, stuck in a body that he hates and does not identify with, trying as best he can to live the life he wants, but he is ultimately “silenced forever”. The film does not make excuses for Brandon’s life; he is rather a tragic hero.

    I full-heartedly agree with Eilerass’ discussion of Sherrif Laux’s absolutely inexcusable inaction and treatment of Brandon when she reported the assault. Brandon is dead because Laux viewed her as inhuman and deviant simply because she was a woman who dressed as a man. No arrests were made because he viewed Brandon as a liar and an “it”. When Laux is supposed to be questioning her about the assault, he treats her as if she is the criminal, asking her why she runs around with girls. I further agree that Lotter and Nissen rape Brandon to punish her, to put her back in her place as a woman that they can have power over. This reminded me of the scene in “All Over Me” when Mark sexually assaults Claude.
    The representation of John Lotter and Tom Nissen seems to vary between the two films. In “Boys Don’t Cry” Lotter is a more central character with a more dominant personality and has deep connections to Lana and her mother. Nissen seems to be more of a side kick, happy to follow Lotter’s lead. The documentary created a different picture. Nissen testified against Lotter, putting the latter on death row. Nissen seems to be more cunning. According to Brandon’s testimony, it was Nissen who brutally beat her and was the first to rape her, contrary to what is portrayed in “Boy’s Don’t Cry.” I was left with very contradictory impressions of the two men.

  11. Brittney DeBo says:

    Both Boys Don’t Cry and The Brandon Teena Story left me with a lot of questions that I will actually also discuss in my presentation. In both of the films we see many cases of Lana encountering confessions about Brandon being a female, but it isn’t until the very end that she actually starts to believe that Brandon is a she. The fact that Lana is scared to look at Brandon when John and Tom pull down Brandon’s pants made me think that Lana is just in denial or scared to know the truth. We can see an example that can serve as evidence for Lana’s feelings during their intimate moment outside the factory when Lana sees cleavage down Brandon’s shirt.
    In the reading by Eileraas as well as both of the films, Brandon is interviewed by Sheriff Laux in an abusive way. Sheriff Laux, as well as others such as John Lambert only saw Brandon as a liar, and some saw him as a homosexual that was just to afraid to admit herself as a lesbian. In Brandon’s interviewing by Sheriff Laux, Brandon was confused by the questioning and didn’t know how the questions he was being asked were relevant to what had happened the night before with John and Tom. This made me ask myself, “did Sheriff Laux have personal reasons not to act, other than he saw Brandon as a liar? Do sex crimes play out differently when they target transgender individuals? This is what Sheriff Laux seemed to believe, because since “Brandon was lying about his identity, how could he believe Brandon about this?” Also, it made me believe that Sheriff Laux was a liar himself because he told Brandon’s sister the case was “under his control” when he continued to release John and Tom and only days later Brandon was murdered.
    One last question that both of the films and readings brought to me, “was Brandon Teena murdered solely because of the hatred of being a female who dressed like a male?” or was in a combination of jealousy within John of Brandon and Lana’s relationship and because of Brandon’s identity?

  12. Sam Herron says:

    An important part of the movie, Boys Don’t Cry, when the guys in the car were pressuring Brandon to drive faster and the girls were telling him to slow down. Brandon kept wanting to prove that he was a male and masculine, so would do things such as riding on the back of the truck in the mud and by speeding away from the cops. He knew it was wrong to speed from the cops, but wanted to prove he was masculine and a male. Halberstam claimed that women believed Brandon was a woman and had a romantic relationship with him and claimed women were dissatisfied with other men that they had relationships with (Halberstam, 65). In the documentary, The Brandon Teena Story, many people claimed that Brandon knew exactly what women wanted and how to treat women. The women who was interviewed with her son claimed that Brandon was able to tap into the female and male aspects of himself. This is important because he had masculine traits, but was able to use female traits to treat women with respect. Lana’s mother and Tom Nissen wanted to see Brandon’s genitals to see if he was a male or a female. They wanted to know the truth, and Lana told them he was a man. Halberstam also claimed that the only thing holding Brandon back from being a man was his body and that was the only way they could beat Brandon because the women liked Brandon better than the other two (Halberstam, 67). Elierass claimed that Lotter and Nissen wanted to expose his body for everyone to see his genitals (Elierass, 3). The perpetrators were able to gain power and orgasmic pleasure by doing so (Elierass, 3). By carving their initials in his body which is also a sense of power and domination over women implying they could have control (Elierass, 3).
    I think that fiction and nonfiction films hold different potentials for transgender cinema because in non-fictional films we can see what really happens. Sometimes I think people are unaware of these issues in the real world, especially when we are going to school at Lake Forest College. I also think that even though this story is depressing, I think that it can help people to see the confidence Brandon had and did what he wanted, minus the forgery and lies that he had to do. In fictional movies, I think it is harder to connect to the characters because they are made up. Movies like Paris is Burning, seem to have more of a message than fictional movies such as Pink Flamingos. It seems that fictional movies have more of a hidden meaning and therefore a different approach to transgender cinema.

  13. Amy Slay says:

    (cntd)

    In conclusion, my understanding of Brandon’s story is dependent on both films. As I stated previously, I find both narratives to be extremely honest. “Boys Don’t Cry” is of course more dramatized. For example, Lana was not really present for the murders as the film would suggest. Pierce’s film provides a detailed, meaty, and pulsating depiction of those few weeks in December that culminated in Brandon’s murder as well as giving the audience insight into Brandon’s personality, the hardships he faced, and his relationship with Lana. “The Teena Brandon Story” fills in a lot of the blanks with interviews of the people involved, as well as with Brandon’s family and previous girlfriends. The documentary paints a more comprehensive picture, while “Boys Don’t Cry” is a condensed and stylized fast-paced narrative that allows the audience to see through Brandon’s eyes.

  14. Sean Biggs says:

    I feel like non-fiction stories can be very effective in establishing the idea that something like the Brandon Teena tragedy does occur in real life. It is very common for people to be naive when watching a fiction film and say, “this doesn’t really happen” or “this is farfetched”. Both the film and the documentary set the stage for the true story of Brandon Teena. If the story was communicated and disguised as fiction, it would not have the same emotional depth in contrast with the knowledge that the events took place. I felt like I was mourning for Brandon after watching the films since he was a real person. Additionally, establishing the other characters as real creates a direct commentary on the irrational views of people towards transgendered individuals. It is very easy for fictional films to feed us cookie cutter responses towards queer lifestyles, but direct transcriptions like those in the Eileraas reading and the other films, give us a sense that these are pervasive mindsets that are held by individuals including law enforcement. This establishment of the presence of such ideas inspire activists and others to take a stand and become aware of the fundamentalism of individuals towards queer lifestyles.

    Halberstam speaks of the ideas of different projects: stabilization, rationalization and trivialization. Making society aware of these different approaches towards transgendered individuals is very important to the idea of change. Fictional films do not create the same feeling of immanency as non-fiction films. Be revealing these executions of these “projects” in non-fiction films, theory becomes reality when we see them practiced by law enforcement in Brandon’s case.

    Both of the readings are very similar, however Eileraas’ paper seems to speak more of the inherent politics of F-T-M conversion while Halberstam focuses on the effectiveness of Brandon’s performance as a male and fulfilling the role of “boyfriend”.

  15. Emily Weber says:

    Halberstam enforces the Brandon Teena story through the notion of unlost power and the narrative significance that remains from his story. She talks about the “commodification of memory…of transgender subjects,” and how these stories both evoke sentiment and appreciation as well as anxiety about maintaining social normative society. She also emphasizes what is real or true in terms of gender and how this interacts with what happened to Brandon. Halberstam argues that the physical “deception” Brandon exhibited and the lack of passing was the reason for his assault and death. This justification process is seen time and time again in both films. We see from the people interviewed in the Brandon Teena Story that they felt betrayed and slighted by Brandon’s lies. Furthermore, we see that they adamantly believe that Brandon’s lies were grounds for the extreme repercussions.
    In terms of Karina Eileraas, she describes the implications behind Brandon’s within queer and feminist theory. Her insight into biology and gender roles, and identity was extremely helpful and informational as the reader. It struck me though, that even before reading this article and being aware of how these different aspects of human sexuality and identity interact, I was extremely more cognoscente of these issues than any person interviewed in the documentary. Even from her closest family and friends, no one seemed to show the slightest amount of understanding or sympathy—they could not conceptualize what was going on with Brandon and who this person was that they all had been “tricked” by. There is an obvious movement to pathologize what Brandon was going through by the people being interviewed, which is congruent with Eileraas’ argument. She claims that making transgender and transsexual identities an illness that it further reinforces polarized gender norms thusly rejecting anything different. I found myself disgusted with the people closest to Brandon and longed for the responses that showed a glimmer of empathy.
    I believe that fiction and nonfiction films hold different potentials for transgender cinema because of the distinguishable emotional responses each can elicit. Fiction films romanticize the situation taking away from the raw emotional reaction evoked in the documentary. They are actors, the sets are constructed, camera angles are manipulate to portray certain aspects of the story and while certain the context is the same and the events are sad, fiction film sheds only a small light on the harshness of what happened. Nonfiction film has the potential to portray the real and true experiences of Brandon. I found this especially relevant in the interview between Brandon and Sheriff Laux—this exchange was significantly more impactful in the documentary then in the fiction film. In Boys Don’t Cry the interview is “presented as a part of a spliced, hence continuous, chronology” (Eileraas). This has a less lasting effect then hearing Brandon’s actual voice, hearing his actual shameful embarrassed terrified tone speaks volumes compared to the movie Boys Don’t Cry. The documentary allows for a much more disturbing experience, but that is because it is capturing a real experience through exposing the thoughts and opinions of the individuals that knew Brandon personally.

  16. Alicia Fischer says:

    Eileraas points out that this case forces us to re-conceptualize violence against women. She also explores “ feminist understandings of the body and sexual difference.” Halberstam argues that Brandon exists among the unlost and that the term transgender is a term of relationality. He goes on to say that not only does it describe identity, but it discusses how people relate and interact with one another in a community. The two films convey a portion of Brandon Teena’s life as well as the events that led to his horrific murder. The documentary provided viewers with a more accurate portrayal of Brandon’s experience as a transgender individual whereas the film romanticized his relationship with Lana. The film, however, did accurately represent how unhelpful, disrespectful, and hideously the police handled Brandon’s case.

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