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The Brandon Teena Story


The Brandon Teena Story

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Teena is clearly bizarre, but her—yes, her—terrible death is in many ways overshadowed by the more unusual elements of her life. Brandon Teena was actually Teena Brandon, a young Nebraska woman who lived her life as a young man. With eerily boyish looks and a knack for treating women well, she dressed as a man and went by the name Brandon Teena. Though clearly troubled—she was notorious for forging checks and stealing credit cards, misbehavior surely exacerbated by the trying psychological and financial ordeal of negotiating a sex change—things really began to go wrong when she left Lincoln for the tiny town of Falls City. Why Brandon tried to settle down in a depressing and economically depressed community rife with domestic violence, homophobia, and general intolerance is never made clear, though filmmakers Susan Muska and Gréta Olafsdóttir make it abundantly clear that her untimely death was tragically predictable. After arousing suspicions that "he" might actually be a she, Brandon was ultimately raped on Christmas Eve 1993 and murdered a week later by the two rape suspects. Actually, "suspects" isn't exactly the right word, as Tom Nissen and John Lotter don't exactly shy away from confessions. Why, then, weren't they initially jailed, thus preventing them from exacting a violent pre-trial strike on Brandon and two of her friends? Muska and Olafsdóttir err in making Teena Brandon's story out to be one of just homophobia, as legal incompetence, Brandon's own deception, and general small-town mistrust of outsiders are also to blame. Further, because so much time is spent on the relatively open-and-shut investigation, little is actually learned of Brandon herself—or, for that matter, her two assailants. If the filmmakers behind this fascinating but flawed documentary really wanted to do Brandon justice, they should have revealed her as a human before reducing her to a poster boy for tolerance.