Boys State Parent Guide
Watching this documentary doesn't exactly spark hope for the future of American politics.
Parent Movie Review
It’s 2018 and the Texas State House is once again swarmed by 17-year-old boys, ready for a hands-on lesson in American politics. The program they’re involved in, Boys State (and its female equivalent, Girl’s State), are put on by the American Legion. The week-long camp will divide 1200 young men into two parties, elect a host of political offices from within their own ranks, form a party platform, and then elect the Governor – the highest office in Boys State.
Unsurprisingly, 1200 teenage boys latch on pretty quickly to some of the more odious aspects of party politics. They have a natural talent for weaseling around complex issues, bullying others, and playing stupid to appeal to a rowdy crowd – a talent which doesn’t seem to disappear with age, if current politics are any indication. What could be a fun and formative experience rapidly degenerates into wildly divisive pseudo-political high school drama.
There are exceptions – Steven Garza, for example, seems determined to win by doing what he feels is right, and by knowing and understanding his voters. He appeals to their better nature, rather than pandering to their teenage desires for chaos. Garza quickly emerges as the hero of the piece, that rarest of creatures: an honest political animal. He’s a remarkable young man, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him win a real political office someday soon. I wish him the best.
Tragically, I have a sneaking suspicion that Garza would not be the fan-favorite with a lot of teenagers. The only thing worse than a political junkie is a teenage political junkie, combining the need for attention with an inability for self-reflection, resulting in an unholy gestalt (something far worse than the sum of its parts).
This documentary is almost completely suitable for all audiences. Compared to most productions involving teens, a movie with four swear words (including two sexual expletives) and brief sexual innuendo feels squeaky clean. The movie might not be too interesting for a lot of kids, but it is worth watching all the same. If nothing else, watching these teens embrace the uglier side of party politics highlights what George Washington said about political parties: “They are likely…to become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”Directed by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine. Running time: 109 minutes. Theatrical release August 14, 2020. Updated October 27, 2020
Watch the trailer for Boys State
Rating & Content Info
Why is Boys State rated PG-13? Boys State is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some strong language, and thematic elements.
Sexual Content: There are two brief references to male genitalia.
Profanity: There are two uses of extreme profanity and two uses of scatological profanity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None.
Page last updated October 27, 2020
Boys State Parents' Guide
You can learn more about the Boys State program here:
The American Legion: About Boys State & Boys Nation
What do you think are the most valuable lessons the participants learn from their experience with Boys State? What do you think are the most important principles underlying democratic government?
The most recent home video release of Boys State movie is August 14, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
Young people aren’t powerless in the political process. For an example of youthful activism, check out Parkland Rising. This documentary follows survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting as they advocate for gun control. In Slay the Dragon, a young woman launches a ballot initiative to end partisan gerrymandering in the state of Michigan.
Summer camp can even launch a life of political activism. Netflix's documentary Crip Camp follows alumni of a summer camp for disabled teens, many of whom went on to work towards the Americans with Disabilities Act.