Two Decades After Brandon Teena’s Murder, a Look Back at Falls City - Stephanie Fairyington - the Atlantic
Why I do what I do:
His name was Brandon Teena.
Though his murder immediately made headlines, it was Kimberly Peirce’s film dramatization Boys Don’t Cry in 1999 that made Brandon’s story familiar to millions of Americans—and won Hilary Swank an Oscar for her moving portrayal of him.
But another figure in this horrifying story remains free.
On December 25, mere hours after being sexually assaulted, Brandon faced a demeaning and dehumanizing line of questioning from the Richardson County Sheriff, Charles Laux, when reporting his attackers. In a recent interview from her L.A. office, director Peirce called it “a third rape.”
I recently re-watched the 1998 documentary The Brandon Teena Story, which plays the real audio of this excruciating exchange at length, and it finally occurred to me why Laux seems the cruelest in this cast of characters: There’s something particularly perverse about a man entrusted with the duty to protect choosing instead to hurt and humiliate. Peirce, who spent five-and-a-half-years researching and making the film, chose to underscore the disturbing and participatory nature of Laux’s questions about the crime by playing out the rape scene in flashback with Swank’s voiceover, as she gets grilled by Laux. When I recently spoke with Peirce, she noted “a level of provocation and pleasure [that Laux derived] out of making Brandon relive his own torture.”