Social Psychology of Boys Don't Cry Thesis

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¶ … Social Psychology of Boys Don't Cry

The movie Boys Don't Cry is a premium example of how movies demonstrate social psychological phenomena. This should come as no surprise because the movie takes its material from the real life story of Brandon Teena, a young pre-operative trans-gendered individual, seeking to have his female sexual organs transformed through a sex-change operation, so that his outside appearance can match his gender identity, which is male. As a movie that deals with a transsexuality, Boys Don't Cry touches on some of the major issues in Social Psychology, including prejudice, gender, discrimination, attitudes, attitude change, person perception, self, social influence, interpersonal attraction, personal relationships, helping behavior, and aggression. Even more interesting is how the movie demonstrates the interplay of these different factors.

In the movie, Brandon is depicted as a runaway youth who comes to a small town. His outward demeanor is male, though a scene of him shoplifting tampons from a convenience store gives the viewer information about his physical gender identity. He comes to a small town and begins to hang out with a group of young people. Though their ages are never specified, the young people appear to be just out of high school. Socially, they do not appear to be upwardly mobile youth. They continue to reside with their parents in lower-middle class housing.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Thesis on Social Psychology of Boys Don't Cry the Assignment

Furthermore, their recreational activities seem to be somewhat aimless, giving one the feeling that they are not looking to change their lives. Two of the youth, John Lotter and Tom Nissen, are ex-convicts. Oddly enough, Brandon finds himself very at home in this group of friends, who accept him as a male, seemingly without having any idea that Brandon is physically female. Brandon falls in love with a girl, Lana, who seems to fall in love with him as well. The two even have sex, seemingly without Brandon's girlfriend realizing that he is male. Life continues without any major disruptions until Brandon is arrested for a petty crime. He is placed in the women's prison, and his friends find out that he is actually a female. His girlfriend is distraught to find out that she has been dating a woman, though Brandon explains that he was born a hermaphrodite and will be having corrective surgery. His male friends are even angrier. When Brandon is released from jail, they attack and rape him. Later, fearing that their assault of Brandon will lead to their arrests, they actually kill him. The movie leaves the audience questioning whether his girlfriend was somewhat of an accomplice in those crimes.

One of the more interesting scenes in the movie is the scene where Brandon and his girlfriend make love. Up until that time in the movie, there has been nothing that would indicate to his girlfriend that Brandon is not a male. This certainly speaks to the concept of gender. Is gender about genitalia or is it about something more? Physically, there is no question that Brandon is female; he has breasts, female genitalia, and, if the stolen tampons are any indication, is not on male hormones. Despite being physically female, Brandon is even able to convince his girlfriend that he is a male. Furthermore, in the movie, it is made very clear that Brandon's girlfriend is heterosexual. She does not display sexual attraction to any women in the movie. Moreover, she seems shocked that Brandon is actually a male. All of this leaves the audience wondering about the role of perception in the relationship. The movie tastefully portrays the two lovers having sex. However, audience members cannot help but wonder how Brandon's lover avoids noticing that he has breasts, and fails to realize that Brandon does not have an actual penis. While this scene brings up all types of social-psychological issues, such as perception, attitudes, social influence, interpersonal attraction, and personal relationships, all of those issues are secondary to the role that gender plays in the movie. The love scene in question is not a homosexual sex scene; it is filmed and depicted as heterosexual partners making love.

Gender is one of the more interesting concepts in social psychology. For years, in Western society, gender was considered fixed at birth. People were either physically male or female, and one could determine gender simply by examining genitalia. The presence of a penis signaled a male, and the presence of a vagina signaled a female. The fact that not all people have such clear-cut genitalia was a relatively well-kept medical secret. Hermaphrodites, people born with both male and female genitalia, were often pushed towards one sex as a child. In fact, there was so much emphasis placed on the penis as a determinant for male gender, that one unfortunate child who had much of his penis removed during a routine circumcision was raised as a very confused female (NNDB, 2010). David Reimer, as he was known as an adult, never embraced the feminine, despite the fact that he was raised as a girl. He was a twin, who provided a control for his situation, and his dissatisfaction as a female led many psychologists to the conclusion that while gender may be partially a social construct, there is more to gender than socialization (NNDB, 2010).

However, while gender is more than socialization, it is also more than biology. One of the World Health Organization's (WHO) health initiatives is to focus on gender and health. According to WHO, "Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behavior, activities and attributes that a particular society considers appropriate for men and women" (WHO, 2010). One of the obvious issues of gender, then, is that modern society rarely considers it appropriate for people to trade gender roles. These societal expectations ignore the fact that gender and sex are distinct concepts. "A transsexual person, born to all appearance within a given physical sex, is aware of being of a gender opposite to that physical sex. This conflict, between gender identity and physical sex, is almost always manifest from earliest awareness, and is the cause of enormous suffering. It is common for transsexuals to be aware of their condition at preschool ages" (Reitz, 1998).

While Boys Don't Cry does not reveal Brandon Teena as a preschooler, it does do an accurate job of depicting a person whose self-identified gender is at odds with sex-based gender expectations. Returning to the love scene, the film does a very interesting job of demonstrating the role that gender norms and expectations have on people. Nothing in the storyline suggests that Lana was a virgin at the time that she had sex with Brandon. Moreover, the movie shows Brandon stuffing his pants with socks, stripping away the illusion that he has some type of sex toy hidden in his pants, with which he can simulate a penis should he and Lana have the opportunity to have sex. Later, there is a scene where someone uncovers a dildo in Brandon's possession, but, even had he been using a sex toy; it is highly unlikely that their lovemaking felt identical to traditional male/female sex. However, Lana does not seem disturbed by this; on the contrary, she seems quite satisfied by the experience. More interesting is the fact that Brandon also seems satisfied by their sexual encounter, despite the fact that, physically, he was not the recipient of any activities that one would generally associate with being satisfying to a straight male. How both of the parties involved in the scene react tells an interesting story about gender norms; Lana responds like a heterosexual woman who has made love with a man, and Brandon responds like a heterosexual man who has made love with a woman. Both of them fulfill their gender expectations, based on Brandon's being a man.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film is that Brandon is required to fulfill those expectations as a man. He is not given the option of living a well-adjusted, "normal" life by stating that he is a man trapped in a woman's body. To do so would have resulted in him being treated as a lesbian, which was contrary to his gender norms. This is the most interest sociological concept from the movie, because society defines gender far more than genitalia. Modern society has chosen to define two genders, male and female. Intersexed individuals are expected to choose one gender over the other and live life as that gender, while transsexual individuals are treated as if they are mentally ill. In fact, being transsexual is considered a gender disorder; in that way, it is considered a mental illness. Mentally ill people are, by definition, outside of the normal range. Moreover, this is not merely a classification problem. As pointed out by Madeline Wyndzen, a psychologist who happens to be a transsexual, for transsexuals, their gender identities are considered the source of their problems, rather than simply part of their personal identities (2008).

Of course, it does not have to be this way. While modern Western societies are… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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