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Journal of Cultural Georgraphy





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In the mythology of the American West, range wars pitted ranchers against farmers, insiders versus outsiders, each struggling to control access to land, each fighting to preserve the freedom and opportunities that first drew them to the frontier. The film, Boys Don't Cry (2000), set on the contemporary Plains and based on actual events, tells of insiders and outsiders who attempt to claim a place. The individuals at the center of the film challenge symbolic fences and attempt border-crossings as they struggle to construct and live with their identities. Plains citizens are depicted to erect and police societal fences, defining who belongs in this landscape and who does not, a parallel to the mythic conflict between ranchers and farmers. Common to all these range wars are debates over masculine identity. The film constructs a Plains landscape that is once again frontier, spatially as well as metaphorically.

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don't fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don't fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze,
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees,
Send me off forever but I ask you please,
Don't fence me in.
-Cole Porter, 19441


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Cultural Geography in 2005, available online:

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