Filmed over the course of 12 years, Richard Linklater's movie Boyhood spans the life of a boy growing up deep in the heart of Texas. It was released this summer to solid box-office numbers (particularly for the arthouse circuit) and high critical acclaim.
It headed into the Oscar season as a potential front-runner. It won best picture from both the Los Angeles and New York film critics circles, an uncommon and very impressive feat. Boyhood ended up losing to Birdman at the Academy Awards, but that doesn't lessen it's impact, especially on people who grew up in Texas.
There are moments in Boyhood that can seem absolutely absurd. Story turns seem outlandish, and details seem over-blown. Texas, in Linklater's creation, almost seems mythologized, a caricature of itself.
Except that it's not. The moments in Boyhood that can seem extreme and strange are part of what makes the movie so accurate, so award-worthy, and so relatable to Lone Star State natives.
Here are five things Boyhood got absolutely right about Texas:
1) Honor the Texas Flag
In Boyhood, Mason is shown in school turning from the American flag to pledge allegiance to the Texas flag, a second pledge every Texas student knows well. The Texas pledge is: "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible." (In the movie, Mason says the original pledge "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible. The pledge was changed in 2007.)
Texas law states that the pledge can be said at any event where the American pledge is said. This includes, naturally enough, public schools. The Texas flag is also mythologized as the only flag that can legally be flown at the same height as the United States flag. In reality, any state flag can be flown at the same height, Texas is just the only state that does.
2. Late Night Austin Queso
For Mason and every Texas teenager, Austin is a Mecca of live music, food trailers, and tattoos. The portrayal of Austin as a wonderland of freedom for Mason is not only accurate, but also helps build the mythical quality of the state that Linklater works so hard to create on screen.
The beauty of Linklater's work here is in the details, like midnight queso. Several restaurants in the Austin area stay open all night and serve massive bowls of queso, a Tex-Mex cheese dip with chips. Students dig in to stay up for a night of studying, or to try to prevent a next-day hangover. Every high-schooler who has made a trip to Austin has eaten Kerbey Lane queso at midnight, just as Mason does.
3. The Plethora of Churches
Near the end of the movie, Mason interacts with a family that is much more conservative than his own. The family parents give him a Bible and a gun for his birthday. Both are common in Texas, but it's the former the film really pays attention to.
Boyhood does a remarkable job of making sure churches appear in the background of many of its shots. This is, in some ways, unavoidable, as the movie was filmed in Texas, after all. But it's also accurate in its depiction of where Texans worship. The churches aren't affiliated with major denominations like Catholicism or Episcopalian. Instead they are often "non denominational." According to the 2010 census, 1,546,542 Texans attend "non-denominational" Protestant churches, the largest denomination in the United States.
4. And Prison Guards
Mason's mother dates a correctional officer when Mason is in high-school. Her boyfriend's career choice is incredibly common in Texas, which leads the country in incarceration rate and in number of prisoners held with 186,000. As such, the state employs more than 23,000 correctional officers. It's a wonder Mason's mom doesn't date more prison guards.
5. The Racial Make-up of the cast
Boyhood is the story of a solidly white experience and existence. Mason has no friends who are not white. He doesn't even have friends with varied heritage. His story is one of white Protestantism. The only variance to that white-ness is the presence of Hispanic Texans.
While this is problematic as a way to portray culture, it is accurate for the state. Texas is demographically 44 percent white and 38 percent Hispanic or Latino. By looking at schools in Texas, however, we see that even though almost 50 percent of the population is Hispanic, 66 percent of Texas schools are classified as "intensely segregated." In areas like Bastrop County(where Linklater lives and a place he may have used as a potential model for the movie), those numbers are even more stark: 55 percent white and 34.2 percent Hispanic or Latino.