Let’s Get Reel: Boys State

Covering American Legion baseball for several years, I always got invited to the end-of-year awards dinner, held at the local Legion post. It was usually a pizza party and then awards were handed out to the team. For most of the time I attended this event, it also served as a chance for the girls the Legion post sponsored for Girls State in Charleston to speak on their experience there. I always enjoyed that aspect. Most of the time, the girls did not get into much detail, but I have always had an interest in politics, locally and beyond, so it was still occasionally worthwhile snippets on the exposure young kids were getting to the process.

Enter Boys State, released on Apple TV, a documentary released last year that covered in some detail the 2018 Boys State in Texas. Boys State was founded in 1935 and is used as an educational tool to teach selected participants in the election and campaign process, from local ward chairmen through state governors.

It is encouraging seeing young people take a legitimate interest, formulate processes for debate and logic and act upon them. It is also a harrowing look at some of the problems with the modern democratic process, where the serious, reasonable choices are largely drowned out the WWE-chant campaigns and social media memes and videos.

I good microcosm for the entire process was a moment where they were working on campaign slogans, and basically kept cutting it shorter and shorter. Without saying it out loud, or perhaps even realizing why, they were looking for something chant-worthy. It’s a marketing trick that is taught for slogans. Short, repeatable, and if possible, with cadence. Example: MovelevATe, Make Life Easier.

It also touches on what politics can do to the participants. At one point, one of the governor candidates, Rob MacDougal drops this gem: “Sometimes you can’t win on what you believe in your heart, It’s a morally questionable thing to lie in politics. It gave me a new appreciation for why politicians lie to get in office.”

Boys State is getting a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s worth the watch, even if it leads to a little despair. It has racked up a ton of festival and critic and it is easy to see why. Also, there is a phone call at the end that will make you cry. I make no apologies for that.


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