One thing that I found particularly interesting in this weeks readings of In a Queer Time & Place is Halberstam’s exploration of the transgender gaze in relation to three films The Crying Game, Boys Don’t Cry, and By Hook or by Crook. Specifically, I was most interested in her analysis of The Crying Game and Boys Don’t Cry. When I saw Boys Don’t Cry for the first time I actually thought about the movie The Crying Game. While they’re both very different movies, it was the only other movie I had seen with a main character that was transgendered. So, while at the time I thought The Crying Game was a kickass movie because it had a transgender character, I didn’t see just how problematic a lot of the film was.
One thing that I found interesting in the films is the role of the secret. In class we discussed in the documentary there was this desire of the town to know the “truth” about Brandon’s sex. This is similarly portrayed in the film Boys Don’t Cry. Almost everyone in the film questions Brandon’s sex, yet the audience already possesses this “knowledge.” In the film Brandon steals tampons from a gas station and when he takes a shower at Lisa’s home the audience sees him bind his chest and place a sock in his underwear. This is quite unlike The Crying Game, in which Dil’s “secret” is kept from the audience supposedly as a means to offer the audience “something new and unexpected” and is dramatically revealed to Fergus towards the conclusion of the film (Halberstam 80).
Halberstam critiques the use of the secret in the film The Crying Game along with it’s misuse of the transgender gaze and argues that Boys Don’t Cry offers a transgender gaze through the use of the deconstruction of the shot/ reverse shot (86). It does this “by forcing the spectators to adopt, if only provisionally, Brandon’s gaze, a transgender look” (Halberstam 86). However, I have to wonder, while Boys Don’t Cry does offer a transgender look for its audience, it still presents certain assumptions to the audience and attempts to portray certain “knowledge” about Brandon’s secret to the audience. I can’t help but think that a Hollywood representation, while maybe better than other representations of Brandon’s life, is still problematic simply because it can never really represent the what Gordon calls “’complex personhood’” that Halberstam cites in her book (72). The “secret”, either the audience’s desire to know what it is, or to see if the rest of the characters in the film discover it, become a problematic motivation for the audience to see the film.