They/Them: A Cinematic Exploration of Gender and Conversion Therapy

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They/Them: A Cinematic Exploration of Gender and Conversion Therapy

Gender has become an increasingly sensitive topic in recent years, and the film They/Them dives headfirst into this controversial subject. Despite not being a massive hit, the movie has garnered attention, perhaps due to the star power of Kevin Bacon or its ability to push buttons and trigger strong reactions. From the moment the campers arrive at Camp Whistler, a palpable sense of unease and veiled hostility permeates the atmosphere, setting the stage for a story that tackles social commentary head-on.

They/Them: A Cinematic Exploration of Gender and Conversion Therapy

Resistance and Rebellion from the Get-Go

It’s difficult to find sympathy for any character in They/Them, but the film’s exploration of conversion therapy is undeniably compelling. The simple act of separating boys and girls into different cabins sparks tension between camp counselor Owen and some of the campers. As the movie progresses, the struggle to recognize and respect gender identities, pronouns, and preferences becomes a central theme, with the campers standing their ground and asserting their true selves in the face of constant challenges.

A Battle of Wills and Ideologies

At its core, They/Them feels like an ongoing fight between children determined to assert their identities and a camp staff hell-bent on enforcing conformity. While the antagonists are portrayed as cold and unyielding, the protagonists can come across as somewhat ridiculous. The film’s true value lies in its message: understanding and respecting individuals for who they are, rather than what they appear to be, is of utmost importance. Camp Whistler serves as a microcosm of the larger struggle faced by those who don’t fit society’s mold, with the campers subjected to dehumanizing treatment and attempts at conversion.

They/Them: A Cinematic Exploration of Gender and Conversion Therapy

Exaggerating the Horrors of Conversion Therapy

While the film doesn’t shy away from depicting the hardships and horrors faced by the LGBTQ+ community, it does seem to exaggerate these experiences to an almost unrealistic degree. The attempts to convert the campers are undeniably disturbing, but the film’s portrayal of these events may be more shocking than enlightening. It’s unclear whether the filmmakers were aiming for shock value or trying to make a point that got lost along the way. Regardless, They/Them shows promise but ultimately falls short when the killer’s identity is revealed. The twist that a former camper has returned for revenge is hardly surprising, but it does provide a sense of poetic justice.

Perception Is Everything

How viewers interpret They/Them largely depends on their perspective on society and the issues it raises. Some may argue that the campers’ reactions are justified, while others might feel their portrayal is over-the-top. The film’s constant push and pull between characters can feel more like a childish power struggle than a meaningful exploration of identity and acceptance. If anything, They/Them highlights the problems that arise when people allow their differences to define them, rather than treating each other with empathy and understanding.

There is a valuable lesson to be learned from this film, but it’s one that is all too often overlooked in the real world.

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