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Beyond Labels: Her Complex Role in Boys Don't Cry

Chloe Sevigny seems to be at the top of her career in the year 2000 as she revels in the honor of her first Academy Award nomination as best supporting actress in the intense indie crossover hit, Boys Don't Cry. The film dramatizes the shocking true story of Brandon Teena (born Teena Brandon), a young transgender woman living as a man in Nebraska during the early '90s, who was raped, then later murdered by two violent "friends" because of who he was and the way he lived.

Sevigny plays Brandon's girlfriend, Lana Tisdale, who stood by Brandon to the very end. The movie is full of questions about gender and gender roles, most obviously centered around Brandon Teena. But Sevigny, through her subtle, sexy and complex performance, makes us look at the many sexual roles Lana Tisdale played as well.

In the book about Teena, All S/he Wanted, the documentary film, The Brandon Teena Story and in Boys Don't Cry, the same information comes through: that Brandon was attracted to very feminine girls, liked to play the conventional role of a chivalrous Romeo and balked at the idea that he was simply a lesbian. Sevigny is able to capture the jaded, yet innocent quality of the trashy, yet traditionally feminine Lana as she is first wooed by Brandon, who she assumes is a biological boy.

The first time they make love, she is making love as a heterosexual woman to a presumably heterosexual young man. Later in the film, she has a lesbian love scene with Brandon after "he" has revealed himself to her as a biological woman. Never in a film has the complexity of gender and sexuality been explored so sensitively, realistically and passionately. And never has there been an actress so capable of exploring these deep and controversial waters before.

Sex and Death: The Scorpio Obsessions

Chloe Sevigny's career has followed a very Scorpionic pattern. Scorpio, after all, is the sign associated with sex, death and transformation. She first received a huge amount of buzz with her starring role as Jenny in Larry Clark's controversial 1995 film, Kids, which was written by her then boyfriend, Harmony Korine. In this movie, she played a teenager who gets HIV infected the first time she has sex.

Pluto is thought of as the planet of intense transformation. Its turbulent effects force us to change and grow by facing our own "demons." When the movie was released, Pluto, the ruling planet of Scorpio, was finishing a long, long trip through Scorpio—a transit that began just when AIDS was first beginning to enter the public's mind.

Also, at the time of her film's release in spring, 1995, Pluto was transiting Sevigny's Venus, the planet of art and female sexuality. Certainly, AIDS has been the greatest (and most horrific) metaphor for Scorpio issues of our time: it links sex and death in a concrete way. And this thought-provoking, button-pushing film certainly transformed Sevigny's life, from slacker kid hanging out in Washington Square Park with Korine, to the "voice of her generation"—a moniker given to her by writer Jay McInerney, that she does not accept. In true Scorpio form, she prefers to just be the voice of "herself."

With her Sun, Mercury, Venus and Mars all in Scorpio, it's no wonder Sevigny has continued to explore the themes of this mysterious, intense sign in film after film. Her most commercially-accessible role was in Walt Stillman's 1998 movie The Last Days of Disco. In this light, smoothly-written comedy, the focus is on a group of over-educated, overly-analytical, white twenty-somethings who are figuring out what to do with their lives during the end of the "sexual revolution" and just before the onset of AIDS.

Even though the film is light and airy, Sevigny once again is the voice of the heaviest, most Scorpio-themed plot point in the film. Her basically introverted, innocent character decides to "act" like a slut in order to impress the guy she likes, and ends up getting a sexually transmitted disease from him.

This year, she played a lesbian opposite Dawson's Creek star Michelle Williams in the HBO movie If These Walls Could Talk 2. In Sevigny's episode, which takes place during the early days of feminism and last days of hippie-dom, she plays a self-identified butch lesbian who proceeds to sweep slightly self-loathing Williams off her feet.

The gay newspaper The New York Blade called Sevigny's episode "the hottest segment" of the three in its March 3 issue. Perhaps part of that heat came from the connection between Sevigny's earthy Moon in Capricorn  and Williams' earthy Virgo planets.

Part of what makes the segment so great is that Sevigny makes us feel for this character who loves women, but doesn't want to fit into the 1972 feminist stereotype of what a lesbian is supposed to look like (peasant shirt and long hair). She is comfortable with herself and her sexuality. Sevigny's ability to play so many sides of female sexuality makes her something of a modern day Marlene Dietrich, with just as much mystery, and much more heart.

Sevigny and Swank's Astro Links to the Real Star of Boys Don't Cry

Although Chloe Sevigny and Hilary Swank are doing the glamorous awards show/film festival/talk show circuit to promote Boys Don't Cry, both women have expressed that it is the story of Brandon Teena himself that is so tragic and moving. He is the real star of this groundbreaking film.

In fact, both actresses have intense emotional connections to his chart. Swank's Moon, which represents her emotional nature, is in the same sign as Brandon's Sun, Sagittarius. It's clear from Swank's performance that she was able to get inside the heart of Brandon. Brandon Teena also had Venus and Mars, his "love planets," in Scorpio, and they made a conjunction  (a close, intense relationship) to Sevigny's Sun and Mars in Scorpio.

Film is a magical way for huge groups of people to share a similar emotional experience, and Neptune, "the planet of healing and illusion," is the planet that most present day astrologers associate with this modern art form. Pluto, the planet that rules Scorpio, happened to be transiting Swank and Sevigny's natal Neptunes during the making of Boys Don't Cry.

Both actresses can rest assured that they have done right by Brandon Teena, by compassionately and beautifully bringing his story into the hearts of millions of movie-goers. And judging by the intensely positive reaction of critics and audiences to this film, one would like to believe that they've helped to transform some of the homophobia and transgender discrimination that lead to Brandon's death into a deeper understanding of sexuality and humanity.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill Dearman is the author of the gay best sellers Queer Astrology For Men and Queer Astrology For Women (St. Martins Griffin/1999). She has been professionally practicing astrology for twelve years and currently writes horoscopes for the national magazines Twist and Girlfriends as well as numerous papers syndicated via Q Syndicate. She has written about subjects from astrology to literature to film and theater in Mademoiselle, Publishers Weekly and HX. An excerpt from her upcoming novel, The Great Bravura, was featured in Best Lesbian Erotica 2000(Cleis Press). She also writes and produces films. The Village Voice called Dearman a "risk surfing playwright" whose work "shocks and rocks." She is a 1999/2000 artist in residence at HERE in New York City.

Jill is also the author of LoveCycles, an email-delivered guide to love and relationships based on individual birth data, available in the Shop@StarIQ.

Visit the author's website.

Send an email to the author.

For more information about Jill Dearman, click here.

Other StarIQ articles by Jill Dearman:

  • The Bedroom Astrologer 11-15-00   4/5/2014
  • The Bedroom Astrologer 11-1-00   3/8/2014
  • These Men are from Venus   10/5/2013
  • Brendan Fraser: More Than Just a Pretty Face   4/27/2001
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar: Every Girl's Heroine   4/25/2001
  • Geoffrey Rush: The Moody Marquis   3/23/2001
  • Julia Roberts and Benjamin Bratt: Still Peaking   1/30/2001
  • Kate Winslet's Passionate Choices   12/29/2000
  • Helen Hunt and Hank Azaria: What Does This Woman Want?   12/5/2000
  • Bounce Star Ben Affleck: The Ball is in His Court   12/1/2000
  • Charlie's Angels: Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu   11/25/2000
  • Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger: Dr. Seuss Meets Nurse Betty   11/17/2000
  • Dylan on Dylan   11/10/2000
  • Bono's Return to Roots of Rock   11/4/2000
  • Geena Davis and Bette Midler: Big Stars on the Small Screen   10/27/2000
  • Janet Jackson's Down-to-Earth Planets   10/21/2000
  • Gloria Steinem: Happy At Last   10/14/2000
  • The Strange Musical Path of Bjork   9/26/2000
  • Picture Perfect Couple: Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston   9/15/2000
  • Harrison and Michelle: A Return to Classic Hollywood   9/8/2000
  • Drew Barrymore: Happily Ever After At Last?   9/1/2000
  • Meg Ryan in the Middle   8/18/2000
  • Mark Wahlberg: Marky Mark is Back   8/12/2000
  • The Return of Cat Stevens   8/4/2000
  • Lou Reed and The Smashing Pumpkins: Piscean Themes   7/29/2000
  • Patti Smith: Her Gung Ho Comeback   7/21/2000
  • Rupert Everett: The Ultimate Gemini   7/7/2000
  • Angelina and Billy Bob: Hollywood's Mod, Odd Couple   6/30/2000
  • The Virgin Suicides: New Hollywood Meets Old Hollywood   6/2/2000
  • Opposites Attract On Screen   5/26/2000
  • Beatty and Bening's New Baby   5/19/2000
  • Aquarian Psycho   5/12/2000
  • Puff Daddy and Jennifer Lopez   5/5/2000
  • Water Signs Rule the Cider House   3/23/2000
  • The Tangled Web of Ripley   3/2/2000
  • Aries Grrrl Warriors: Where Will They Go From Here?   2/18/2000

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