‘Boy Erased’ tackles so much more than just conversion therapy

Ty Davis

“Boy Erased” may be one of the best films this year while also being a hallmark of LGBTQ cinema.

Talking about this film is difficult, not as a result of its subject matter but for all the larger elements at work. “Boy Erased” has plenty of deeply rich sub-text it becomes hard to discuss without sounding like you’re waxing pretentiously.

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The film is based on the memoir of the same name by journalist Garrard Conley. The film chronicles Conley’s experience with a Christian conversion therapy program after being outed to his parents as gay. Occasionally the film flashes back to the inciting incidents which led to his outing and his parents forcing him to attend the program.

“Boy Erased”:

Director: Joel Edgerton

Adapted from: Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrard Conley

Starring: Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Troye Sivan

“Boy Erased” marks Joel Edgerton’s second feature film as director and his talent shines in his work with the actors. The writing and directing combination creates eerily real performances and makes the experience less akin to watching a movie and more similar to peering into someone’s life. Everything from the way the characters’ talk and move, to their mannerisms are instilled with an intense focus on detail and balance that creates strikingly realistic performances.

The film criticizes ideas of traditional American masculinity, dispelling any idea that there is a link between a lack of masculinity and homosexuality while highlighting the absurdity of the belief itself. Throughout the film, the conversion program tries to turn patients straight by the most absurd logic like “masculine” posing, sports and physical activity.

This theme can even be seen in the portrayal of Conley. At first, it may seem like he is the most generic, cookie-cutter boy you can imagine. He likes video games, plays sports, goes to church and everything. But that is by design to illustrate the film’s point that homosexuality and masculinity are mutually exclusive. It’s to show you could be the most masculine, prototypical American male, but still not be heterosexual.

“Boy Erased” was invariably going to bring comparisons to “The Miseducation of Cameron Post.” They are both LGBTQ films that deal with conversion therapy released not only in the same year but are films with themes that are few even among LGBTQ cinema history. 

“Cameron Post” offers a deep look into the psychology, emotions and turmoil of teenagers who go through these experiences while depicting the endearing relationships of the characters and the sheer baselessness of conversion programs. “Boy Erased” offers a meditative look into conversion therapy’s connection to patriarchy and masculinity, while examining the dynamics between homosexuality maternity, paternity and complacency.

Should you watch it? Yes. 

“Boy Erased” uses real-world experiences to offer an elaborately beautiful story of a man’s relationship with his parents while serving a damning condemnation of the culture that produces and allows for such indignities as conversion programs.

Ty Davis can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @tydavisacw.