I have chosen to write about the difference between fact and fiction between a documentary and a docudrama. Between how important getting information out to the public and what sells to the viewing public for entertainment. I would like to state that I feel quite fortunate that I watched the documentary, “The Teena Brandon Story”, first then I watched the movie, “Boys Don’t Cry”. I had viewed the movie years ago; I had heard that this movie was a true story based on fact from the documentary. In my second viewing from an analytical standpoint, let me just say I was quite floored about how could they call, “Boys Don’t Cry” a docudrama when there were so many important facts that were excluded from this film. Both film and documentary did receive Academy Awards.
“The Teena Brandon Story,” is a documentary about Brandon Teena (aka Teena Ray Brandon), a transgendered person, who was murdered along with Lisa Lambert and Phillip Devine in 1993 in Falls City, Nebraska. The story is told through interviews with the people who loved and hated Brandon for his difference. Recorded interrogation and trial transcripts, all of which showed that Brandon’s girlfriends thought he was a male. All talked about how he was the best boyfriend and so in tune with their feelings and so giving. Brandon Teena’s police tape, photographs, and file film footage.
“Boys Don’t Cry”, is a film based on actual events. Brandon Teena is the popular new guy in a tiny Nebraska town called Falls City. He hangs out with the guys, drinking, cussing, bumper surfing, and becomes quite the ladies’ man in town. He has been warned by his cousin that “they” do not play like that down there. Brandon ignores the warning and becomes one of the guys and dating the local hometown beauty. He has forgotten to mention that he is wanted in his hometown of Lincoln for forgery, grand theft auto, stealing and most importantly that Brandon Teena was actually a born a woman named Teena Ray Brandon. When his friends find out they feel betrayed and lash out violently with murder.
Trauma is the focus of “Boys Don’t Cry” and community is the focus of “The Teena Brandon Story”. The differences stems from narrative and documentary. Narrative creates a story around a character while a documentary creates an argument around a historical incident. Both films use the same material and they were released a year apart, although the character portrayal is negative in both films the narrative was sued for slander. The documentary displayed Lana Tisdel as white trash and in the film she was portrayed as white trash. The family sued the filmmakers and I believe why is because the documentary showed the actual Lisa Tisdel in her interviews and the filmmakers were sued because they captured her likeness maybe because it showed her as a druggie and alcoholic.
“Boys Don’t Cry” and “The Teena Brandon Story” made sure to refer to Teena Brandon as Brandon and to call her “him” they did not follow the wishes of his mother and call him “she”. The suspicion that they were lesbians was not okay in the documentary and the film; it seems that they were more okay with her having a sexual identity crisis. Both pieces expose a core of homophobia among not only the killers but Brandon himself he insist that he is not a “dyke”. There was an attitude that she is going to get a sex change operation and that was “okay,” for some reason.
One of “Boys Don’t Cry” biggest copycat moments of the documentary is the opening scene of the movie begins with the start of a long dark and lonesome road and flashing lights with a single line going down the pavement and “The Teena Brandon Story” begins the same way.
Brandon Teena was murdered by John Lotter and Tom Nissen. When they found out that Brandon was actually a girl passing as a boy and dating their good friend Lana Tisdel the men became and enraged and killed her.
The documentary tells the events of Brandon Teena leaving Lincoln, Nebraska and going to Falls City, Nebraska since people did not know him there. Too many people in his hometown started finding out that he was a girl and problems were arising more frequently. The documentary gave you a reason and a time frame of why and when Brandon left Lincoln and went to Falls City. The movie did this weird transition and maybe the only reason why I noticed it was because it was all so fresh in my mind and I was looking for differences but, “Boys Don’t Cry” did the transition of when Brandon went to Humboldt by showing him, I guess in the bar where Candace, also known as Lisa Lambert worked as a bartender.
A barroom brawl breaks out and in to help him fight is John Lotter and that is how the friendship of him along with Tom Nissen began. They showed Brandon ending up in Falls City because John Lotter suggested they go to a party which Candace points out is seventy miles away. This is where he meets Lana Tisdel, the love of his life. The movie gave you the impression that Brandon was going to return to Lincoln until everyone in Falls City, Nebraska was accepting of him and did not know his secret.
The movie gave off a feeling of a love story in a sense with certain circumstances gone bad, kind of like a Romeo and Juliet spin off rather than about someone passing for a man and getting into trouble all the time back home for passing as a man.
In “The Teena Brandon Story”, all of the real names were used in the documentary and the parents gave permission and also gave testimony as well. In “Boys Don’t Cry”, the names were all used except for the female victim Lisa Lambert and her son. Their names were changed to Candace and Tanner, which poses the question of rights in the docudrama.
This crime was actually a triple homicide not a double as they so blatantly portrayed in the movie. The people that were murdered were Brandon Teena, Lisa Lambert and Phillip Devine. Phillip Devine was a young black guy that was visiting Lisa Lambert at the time. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In my opinion, they did not see the relevance of mentioning the third murdered victim in this horrific incident. I feel that it was a cheap rip off in my eyes.