Boys and girls are different. We know that, we say that, but somehow in todays world, were not living it. After a quarter-century of focusing on womens various roles, its seems weve drastically narrowed the parameters within which boys can act. Thats one of the premises explored in a powerful documentary, Boys Will Be Men, airing at 11 PM Wednesday on KPBS. (Yes, its late on a work night, but thats why we have VCRs. Its worth breaking out a new videotape.)
Written, produced and directed by award-winning independent filmmaker Tom Weidlinger, Boys Will Be Men builds on two book, William Pollacks Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From the Myths of Manhood and Michael Thompsons Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys (co-written by Daniel Kindlon).
It features comments by these authors, and other researchers, on the detrimental factors affecting boys growing up in America today a lack of appropriate male role models, too many examples of violence, and an increasing pressure to prove their manhood at the expense of other boys.
Much of the film is spent following five boys who have been sent to an Outward Bound-type program. From the first week, in which throwing tantrums is the norm, to the final weeks when the boys work together as a team to help a runaway girl in a similar program, the transformation is amazing. The second half of the film focuses on 20 boys from the south side of Chicago who take part in a poetry-writing performance program that mixes ancient rites with modern rap. The boys begin as disbelievers (I was right with them on that) and end up raving about the experience.
Documentaries arent usually must-see TV, but at a time when some boys are expressing their frustrations by shooting their schoolmates, and may boys are distancing themselves from the world, Boys Will Be Men is worth a watch.