Young Jimmy accepts a ride home from a friendly stranger, Ralph. Jimmy likes Ralph. Ralph likes Jimmy. Ralph REALLY likes Jimmy. Ralph likes Jimmy so much he persuades Jimmy to go to a ... See full summary »
Young Jimmy accepts a ride home from a friendly stranger, Ralph. Jimmy likes Ralph. Ralph likes Jimmy. Ralph REALLY likes Jimmy. Ralph likes Jimmy so much he persuades Jimmy to go to a motel with him. In the motel room, Jimmy decides he doesn't like Ralph THAT much. Ralph has other ideas. Written by
The companionship, the praise, the friendly attitude dispelled any misgivings Mike might have had about going with a stranger. He probably never realised until too late that he was riding in the shadow of death, but sometime that evening, Mike Merritt exchanged his life for a newspaper headline.
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Full of hysterical assumptions and fears that are so absurd one finds it impossible to believe any audiences even took the film seriously
(this is part of an essay I wrote for my FHSS Sexuality Class on the film)
"Boys Beware", a film produced in 1959 and later shown around many American schools in 1961 has a catastrophically strong anti-Homosexual message attached to it. In a nutshell, it follows three 'sick' men who prey on young boys, sexually abusing and in one case, killing them. Had "boys beware" used the right logic, it could have been helpful to children and teenagers in preventing pedophilia and rape. Instead it hides behind bigotry and hatred, perfectly depicting the social attitudes of it's times.
"That looks innocent enough doesn't it? A lot of young people hitch hike. But sometimes there are dangers are involved that do not meet the eye. Jimmy didn't like walking home so he decided to thumb a ride. He'd done it one hundred times before and he didn't think anything was unusual when the driver struck up conversation. The stranger was a good listener too and it only seemed minutes before they pulled up in front of jimmy's house. When jimmy pulled out the stranger gave him a friendly pat." The opening moments of the film seem coherent and meaningful. Shots of a shady man offering a young boy a ride home are accompanied by omniscient voice over which is full of hints that the man is a pedophile or rapist and that the character Jimmy is of course in potential danger of harm both physically and emotionally. Any half educated person watching this film in todays times would be asserting that "Boys beware" was exploring a pedophilia sexuality and it's dangers. Had the film followed from its original connotations it would have made sense, but then of course it would not be folly for analysis on its promotion of heteronormativity. As the next scene begins, "Boys Beware" begins to erode in its coherence. Homophobia, and lack of understanding of other sexualities (which both exist inside of the heteronormative paradigm) will rear it's ugly head. "The following Saturday they went fishing together. By then they were using first names. Ralph said it was more friendly. Then during lunch, Ralph showed him some pornographic pictures. What Jimmy didn't know is that Ralph was sick. A sickness that was not visible like smallpox but no less dangerous and contagious. A sickness of the mind. You see, Ralph was a homosexual. A person who demands an intimate relationship with members of their own sex." Homosexuality is denounced here for the first time in the film, full of hysterical assumptions and fears that are so absurd one finds it impossible to believe any audiences even took the film seriously. Having defined the term "homosexuality," the film successfully promotes male/female relationships without even showing any. It does this simply by comparing homosexuality to a disease, labeling it dangerous and contagious going far enough to separate any form of sexuality that does not fit in with the heterosexual paradigm as sick. While media in popular culture in today's world tend to shy away from upfront and direct criticism of homosexuality, "boys beware" sheds light on the fact that the media can be a factor in how the unthinking masses come to conclusions. In the 1950s, most people were disgusted with Gay people outright- as shown and maybe in part because of this film. Today, most people are okay with Gay people but so long as they are not a close friend or family member. Popular culture reflects this, as evidenced by huge amounts of Gay characters used for comedic (but not dramatic) effect in television shows. What this hints is that heteronormativity will always be around any society until a sweeping majority of it's people accept other sexual orientations unconditionally. The heteronormativity in "boys beware" is just a testament to the hatred felt at the time, as is the passive heteronormativity shown through todays use of stereotypical Gay characters that are hardly ever made to connect to audiences on a meaningful level.
One should feel deeply sorry for the amount of Gay or confused teenagers who were shown this film after its release (as it was distributed for over twenty years). In promoting heteronormativity as the only accepted norm, the film magnifies how much Homosexuals are the "other." This would have been damaging to impressionable Gays: "But all homosexuals are not passive," the narrator begins, "The stranger agreed to give Mike a ride home. The companionship, the praise, the friendly attitude dispelled any misgivings about going with a stranger. He probably never realized until it was too late that he was riding in the shadow of death. But sometime that evening Mike Merric traded his life for a newspaper headline." "In the shadow of death"? Whoever made this film obviously learned scriptwriting lessons in hyperbole. 'I am going to become a killer'-- is what many young boys can not be faulted for thinking upon viewing this film fifty years ago. If one ever wondered why so many Homosexual men married into straight relationships and lived lives of lies, one has to look no further to this film, and films such as this that force Heterosexuality as the only human relationship by a hardline default. Anything else are labeled illnesses that can lead a homosexual to become a murderer. Comparing such a ludicrous film to most media today, we are quite tame. It is true that Gender opposites continue to be the overwhelming norm, and that heteronormativity (at least subconsciously) is hard to escape. However, being homosexual is no longer so separated from the heteronormative paradigm that it once was. Viewing historic, albeit, stupid films such as "Boys beware" is important in understanding that as a society we have made progress in our acceptance of things outside the heterosexual norm, but also sends a chilling reminder of the times we missed only by a few decades.
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