Boys Don’t Cry & Female Masculinity: Reclaiming a Life and Dismantling the Politics of Normative Heterosexuality

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Critical Studies in Media Communication





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This analysis argues that Kimberly Peirce's film Boys Don't Cry can be read as a liberatory narrative that queers the centers of heteronormativity and hegemonic masculinity by privileging female masculinity and celebrating its differences from heterosexual norms. My critique emphasizes how the narrative strategically challenges heteronormativity and, in turn, "narrative's heteroideology" (Roof, 1996), in four ways: 1) by dismantling the myth of "America's heartland"; 2) by problematizing heteromasculinity; 3) by centering female masculinity; and 4) by blurring the boundaries of female masculinity. I argue that the articulation of each subversive strategy within the narratives of Boys Don't Cry can serve a liberatory function, whereby the privileged subjectivities of heterosexuality and hegemonic masculinity are dismantled and, simultaneously, female masculinity and gender fluidity are privileged and normalized. I conclude that the narrative structure of Boys Don't Cry not only privileges gender diversity, but also exposes the inherent sexual bigotry of heteroideology and the brutal and deadly consequences of society's failure to eradicate such prejudice. I just keep on laughing Hiding the tears in my eyes Because boys don't cry. Boys don't cry. (Smith, Tolhurst, & Dempsey, 1988)