7 Societal Representations in ‘Boy Erased’ Film that We All Can Relate

Boy Erased is a 2018 film directed by Joel Edgerton. It is based on a 2016 memoir by Garrard Conley, who recounted his experiences while on conversion therapy.

While the story focused on homosexuality as the ‘main issue’ for the characters, one can draw parallel representations from the story which can be considered as common denominations in some current societal issues we all struggle.

1. Jared 

He is the main character, who represents our individual self. Like him we can be bound by societal expectations, things which we may not necessarily agree at a personal level.

2. Refuge Camp / Love in Action Program

A society with its preconceived notion of what is morally right or wrong. It also represents societal pressure and the status quo. It is one thing that promotes the mindset that whatever the society deems as right is the only right. Anything against that is wrong.

3. Parents (Jared’s and the other kids in the camp)

Jared's Family

Jared’s parents are fundamentalists who viewed homosexuality as a sin – something erroneous that can and needs to be corrected. And such parenting exists today. To Jared (and to anyone) who was raised to follow the examples set by their parents, this can represent the challenge to please the people close to your heart while staying true to your identity.

4. Victor Sykes 

Victor’s character represents the insecurities of someone who wants you to believe what they believe. They represent people who like imposing their beliefs on you to the point of not realizing how those same beliefs may just be reflections of their own inadequacies.

5. Cameron

That person, close to you or not, who tragically succumbs to pressure. We hear about it every day.  Someone who could’ve been saved but wasn’t.

6. Henry & Xavier

They are people who helped Jared be in tune with who he is. While they did confuse him at first, it’s those encounters that contributed to the development of his own mindset and personality. In our personal lives, Henry & Xavier can best represent the events or experiences that awaken our sense of self. They can be scary, confusing or challenging, but are ultimately honest mirrors of our identities.

7. Gary


And then there are those who learned to ‘play the part.’ These are people who instead of challenging the status quo, decide to blend in and play the role that society expects them to play. I think there is nothing wrong with it. If it’s for one’s peace of mind, then fine. But it also begs the question of whether or not one truly feels at peace lying to oneself. Anyhow, Gary seems to be doing just fine – fake it ’till you make it.

Boy Erased is a current, relevant representation of common societal struggles not limited to homosexuality and I really liked its pacing. Kudos to Joel and the whole crew!

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