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Pentucket Profile

The student news site of Pentucket Regional High School

Pentucket Profile

The student news site of Pentucket Regional High School

Pentucket Profile

Toxic Masculinity in the Film Industry

Photo Source: The New York Times
Photo Source: The New York Times

Men have always been a prominent piece of Hollywood’s history, whether it be as directors, actors, producers, or writers. It has been only over the past handful of decades that women have started to get the proper respect and recognition for their dedication and passion for film.


Women have started getting more representation at award shows and in the public film eye. As hard as they have worked to get to this point though, there is one sour aspect of the film industry that looms over everyone: toxic masculinity and its constant spotlight being shone through some of the most popular characters you see every day.


When one thinks about movies, one’s mind may go straight to the most recent theatrical phenomena of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, stellar examples of how characters can be made one way and interpreted in another. After watching both movies back for a second time, I took some time to look into how Oppenheimer presents Cillian Murphy’s J. Robert Oppenheimer as a man, and then how Barbie presents Ryan Gosling’s Ken as a man. 


I judged Oppenheimer as more of a technical masterpiece rather than a character study; however,  if one looks at Oppenheimer as a man, then one can see that he is a very troubled, unstable person who is not confident in demeanor. Regardless of this, he still obtains a lot of scientific and mathematical knowledge.


Moving on, Ken is a direct parody/dramatization of how Gerwig sees men in today’s society. She tends to characterize them in a negative light. Even though she bashes men for their flawed mentalities, she makes sure to give the character some level of redemption and sense enough to recognize who Ken is to himself, and that he does not need to rely on Barbie for his happiness. He is just Ken and that is enough.


One thing I admired was how both Nolan and Gerwig showed how these characters think and brought out the film’s means and how they add to the film. That being said, I also believe that they have both been wildly misinterpreted and the point that these directors were trying to make has been skewed by some audience members. 


Oppenheimer takes time to analyze how the title character came to make the atomic bomb for America, and what that process led to in his life as well as beyond his legacy. Some men who have seen the film seem to think that he is a hero who should be heralded as a god for what he did not only on a technical scale but also for the pure genius that he had. People tend to think this way, but all it takes is one look under the surface of the movie to realize that he is not someone to be idolized, but rather someone who created a weapon of mass destruction and started a nuclear arms race that carries into today’s world.

Photo Source: The New York Times

Ken is, in my eyes, the most missed point of 2023 in terms of cultural prominence and popular figures. He is not supposed to be a role model or even someone who is seen as cool, but rather someone who is dependent upon others to determine his own decisions and does not have a clear sense of self until the film’s conclusion.


Unfortunately, this idolization of certain male characters is far from a new trend. Characters like Anakin Skywalker and Patrick Bateman are written as tragic or evil characters who are not meant to be seen as having healthy mindsets. 


When speaking with Massi Iacaboucci, a Senior at Pentucket Regional High School, she talked about how it is important to have a male lead who is emotional and can still be strong, but not at the expense of others and without embodying those harmful masculine stereotypes.


If you were to go on an app like TikTok and search under an Anakin Skywalker feed, you would find yourself watching edits of him appearing a lot more charming than he was intended to be. In turn, this can result in some teenage, occasionally adult, men trying to change some part of themselves to become more like what they see as attractive or cool.


Next, I spoke with Aidan Blot, a Junior at Pentucket Regional High School, and he thinks if a male character is cynical in mindset or negative towards women, they should not be idolized or seen as cool even though they may appear like that on the surface. 


This idolization of characters transfers over to their real-life actors portraying them. Actors make the characters come to life, but why do we see the same big names pop up in movies, and why do most people typically look towards the names that are men?


This uneven balance of who makes it in the film industry is sadly sometimes due to attractiveness and personal biases. It is a well-known fact that female actors have not been given nearly the same respect and opportunities over the course of their time in film as men have.


In 2014, a study conducted by the Geena Davis Institute concluded that male characters in movies were on screen 29.6%, while female characters were on screen only 15.9% of the time. Recently, award shows such as the Oscars have talked about eliminating the separation of ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Best Actress,’ and melding it into one larger category of just ‘Best Actor.’


Inclusive steps like this have been key in allowing women to get more recognition and opportunities on the big screen and proved that their talents can excel far beyond a lot of male actors. Seeing a larger movement towards a focus on women in media is so uplifting. This reveals that toxic masculinity is not something that can hold dominance over one’s success, instead, there are people in the arts who recognize how hard women work to get where they are.

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    Ben DrescherFeb 29, 2024 at 9:26 am