I had been hearing about the film “Scout’s Honor” for quite some time. See, I actually live in Petaluma, California, the quaint little ‘burb where Steven Cozza, the hero of “Scout’s Honor” lives. Not only that, but I also coached a young Steven in basketball. I can easily vouch for him as being a funny, smart alecky and really athletic kid. Now I can add to that list, he is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.
Before I get all high and mighty, building up an, at the time of this film, 12 year old Junior High Schooler, let me get into the subject matter of the film. In the late 1990’s, Cozza’s Boy Scout Master was asked to resign his post in the local troop 74. The reason, as most know by now, is that the Scoutmaster came out and admitted he was Gay. Soon Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters across America who were admittedly Gay were dismissed from their positions in the troop. It was then that young Steven, his dad, Scott and longtime Assistant Scoutmaster Dave Rice began to start to fight the very group they had all proudly become a part of, the Boy Scouts of America. They started “Scouting For All,” a group that seeks to allow Gays into the Boy Scouts of America.
What makes this story even more amazing is that none of these men are Gay. Should it matter? No. Does it? I think so. In an age where people only seem to get involved in a cause when it actually physically affects them, what these three men did is refreshing, heroic and pretty monumental. Not only that, but to start it in a small, somewhat rural community like Petaluma takes more guts than one can imagine.
I love Petaluma, but feel free to read any interview in which homegirl Winona Ryder talks about her Junior High years here where she was frequently harassed or bullied by boys who thought she was Gay. Granted, times have changed and the close proximity of Petaluma to San Francisco has undoubtedly eased some tensions towards homosexuality. But Junior High is a scary, insecure time for any youth and for Cozza to take on this cause at his age is an incredible challenge.
To me it’s unfathomable that a young man could take on such a sensitive cause, in a truly insensitive age bracket…and be accepted for it. Granted, there is talk of threatening emails and calls in the film, and one creepy, threatening call is replayed in which someone threatens to do young Cozza “a favor” by “whacking” him. But I’m still blown away that more kids and parents stayed off Cozza’s case. The reason for it is simple. Steven Cozza is an honest and genuine kid. He was raised to have certain values and he has them…in Costco sized bundles.
Director Tom Shepard does a really nice job of portraying Cozza as just a normal kid who had the good fortune to be raised by a couple of great parents. Yet, I wanted to see more of the negativity towards “Scouting for All.” Not from a personal sense of vindication, but merely for balance or to know who was opposing this quest. There are allusions in the film to many parents who supported the Boy Scouts of Americas decision to ban Gays, but only one woman was shown. Thus, she becomes the “bad guy” by default. This subject is a great one for debate, yet Shepard only ends up showing one side. (It should be mentioned that the film states Cozza’s new Scoutmaster and the Boy Scouts of America declined to be interviewed.)
Still, Shepard is on-board for an amazing story that goes all the way to the Supreme Court. It’s interesting to watch Steven Cozza grow from a gangly, somewhat unsure teen to a self-assured young man speaking at a rally in Washington, DC. It’s also great to see “Scouting for All” grow from a grassroots program to a nationwide one.
It is a shame that a group, so meaningful to so many youths as the Boy Scout is has taken such a black eye over this one. In fact, in the early goings of this story a few years back, I myself was undecided on my feelings. Back then, I still didn’t see why “Scouting for All” was out to basically, ruin the fun for all the other Boy Scouts. I myself was a Petaluma Boy Scout. In fact, I had a major issue with my Scoutmaster because he was a total jerk. He should have been kicked out on grounds of general creepiness.
But over the course of time and definitely by the end of this film, I understood that the point wasn’t a matter of principle or semantics. The point is exactly what the Boy Scouts of America preach: To help others at all times, not just straight people. To be friendly, loyal and morally straight. Cozza eventually reached Eagle Scout, the highest ranking one can achieve. He got there by adhering to the Scout Law. By the end of “Scout’s Honor,” one wishes the governing body of the Scouts were as serious about their law as Steven Cozza was.