Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This project traces the cultural historiography of the phrase "boys will be boys" and examines the pattern of white male excusal it embodies through a case-study based survey of onstage depictions of boyhood in musical theatre. I argue that the generational idea of manhood as aggressive, competitive, and violent is continually reasserted through our passive acceptance of white boy violence. This dissertation looks to the musicals Newsies, West Side Story, Heathers, and Dear Evan Hansen as case studies for exploring the cultural lineage of the phrase “boys will be boys.” Like the works of Aaron Thomas, Raymond Knapp, and Stacy Wolf, this project engages with the intersection of musical theatre and identity discourse. While their work primarily investigates the negative effects of white patriarchy upon various identity categories such as women, racially diverse individuals, and the LGBTQIA+ community, my project aims to engage directly with the harmful impact of white patriarchal ideals upon white masculinity itself. I hope that by dismantling the structures which perpetuate toxic boyhood and advocating for a more inclusive and compassionate vision of manhood, we may see a paradigmatic shift towards a more sustainable, healthy image of ideal masculinity.



Committee Chair

Walsh, Shannon