Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Film Studies

First Advisor

Melinda Barlow

Second Advisor

Jeanne Liotta

Third Advisor

Emmanuel David


This thesis examines two films released in 1999, Fight Club (Fincher 1999) and Boys Don’t Cry (Pierce 1999), through the theoretical framework of queer theory, gender theory, and feminist theory to analyze systemic structures and cultural notions of masculinity. Mainstream cinema depicts gender identity and gender roles to promote bigenderism and maintain patriarchal hierarchy. Rarely films and the characters within them break out of this ideological norm. By depicting masculine identified characters who cry, Fight Club and Boys Don’t Cry expose the characters’ vulnerabilities and flaws and challenge the “perfect masculine ideal.” These films question what it means to have a masculine identity when the characters behave in a way that is counter to normative patriarchal masculine identities. As a transgender masculine identified person, I have a unique interest in masculine identity formation and a personal desire to explore different embodiments of masculinity. Examining research conducted in the transgender community through social media sites and online forums and providing insight from my own life, this paper elucidates ideas about hormonal and biological processes related to sex and gender characteristics and identifications. A critical analysis of the cinematic and written texts of Fight Club and Boys Don’t Cry through the lens of personal experience, this thesis addresses concepts of fluidity in male identified characters in scenes in which they cry and what this act says about them and about masculinity. Further, it exposes the failures and dangers of streamlining boys and men into normative patriarchal masculine identities and practices.