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Saturday, March 06, 2021

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Film Fridays: Boys State

<p><em>Graphic by Carissa Gurgul</em></p>

Graphic by Carissa Gurgul

Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.

For many of us, a future in politics and government may not be in the cards. But for others, political success is everything. “Boys State” is a new documentary film, published on Apple TV+, that dives into this unspoken drive within a group of high school students in Texas. 

Boys State, both as the documentary title and the program the men have enrolled in, is a participatory program in which students become part of the operation of local, county and state governments. As described on The American Legion website, “American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students.”

After being founded in 1935 to counter the growing influence of nazism and anti-democratic ideas, Boys State aims to teach young American men the ins and outs of the democratic process. As someone who attended Boys State in the summer of 2017, I was eager to watch the documentary.

The film follows the entire week-long process from arrival to departure. High school men from across the state are brought to a single location and divided up into counties. From there, they elect representatives, propose policies related to their location and move into larger political elections. 

Students plot, make tactical agreements, form political alliances all to secure votes for their candidacy. The more votes one can consolidate, the more power they will earn through each election cycle. At the end of the week, the two candidates, put forth by the opposing political factions, are voted on by the rest of the participants to elect a governor. This governor, and his alternate, go on to attend Boys Nation, a direct Washington-Esque replica of D.C. politics. 

“Boys State” probably isn’t the first choice for casual viewing, but it keeps the viewer engaged throughout its 109-minute run time. As someone who has gone through the Boys State process, I loved it. It brought me back to the summer before senior year and how my week at Boys State changed my perspective. Sure, it’s a documentary of rising high school seniors, but that’s beside the point. It is a recreation of our government down to the smallest elections to keep young Americans informed about the ongoings of our political process. A short, but enjoyable watch overall.

Contact features writer Quinn Humphrey at quinn.humphrey@richmond.edu.

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