There are few films that make me reconsider day-to-day life and for that, I’m dedicating this post to one of them. I recently watched a documentary on Netflix the other day that really had my mind racing, hungry for more on the matter. It summed up the male race particularly in this age of technology. In today’s world, social pressure and the culture of masculinity has a huge pressure on men. It’s an issue that affects all of us but only this film manages to hit the nail on the head of what exactly the issue is. That film is called The Mask You Live In.
Before I make a start on this sensitive subject, I’d like to put a bit of a disclaimer in. One, this is a ramble. Two, not for one second am I saying I am perfect here. I fall for all of these society pressures too.
What makes a man?
Society, along with the acceleration of abundance in technology has had a dramatic impact on the male race. Everywhere you go, all you see is male dominance. Sports is widely regarded as being the number one icon of what it takes to be a man. There is no excuse for ‘playing like a girl’, ‘crying’ or not following what it takes to be ‘a lad’. Supporting a football club and eyeing up the latest hottie to strut through the office is just part of the job spec. Every man also has to be the best they can be. Screwed up? Well, it’s a learning experience to do better next time. There is no excuse for failure.
There are a lot of really well made points in this documentary that struck a chord. It’s instantly recognisable after seeing this film how society is shaping the modern man to be insecure, anxious and depressed.
Everyone reading this post has their suppressed problems, particularly those between 18 and 30. I’d probably put most of them down to the following saying ‘comparison is the thief of happiness’. This is where modern technology plays its part in to the game of masculinity. Social Networks are the prime target of my rant here. They’re geared so it’s all about who gets the most amount of likes, the most amount of comments. Whoever gets the most? Well, surely that’s the most masculine person?…
Bear in mind that everyone else on Facebook is thinking the same thing. Everyone surely by this point knows that it’s not a numbers game, but in all honesty its very hard to get away from. It’s an issue that even Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t have an answer for just yet. Mark would probably like to explore the matter, it’s one of the main reasons people delete and never return to the network! Heck, the entire media industry doesn’t have the answer either. If it did? Well, there goes the advertising industry. It would collapse under the weight of people who were now in control of not allowing media to influence their decisions. It’s all a balance of making money and the affect on people. All I’m trying to get across is try not to feel that overwhelming insecurity that you can’t upload X or Y because it might not get enough likes. It’s that sort of added stress you don’t need.
If you watch a modern superhero movie these days, guess who the hero is. Well I can name a few of their attributes: strong, silent, always in control and is not emotional.
Now for anyone that knows me at all well, they are aware that I’m a gamer. This is probably where the film touched home a bit with me. Video games obviously have an impact on male behaviour too. Reinforcing stereotypical structures of what a man should be. Typical characters being tall males with 5 o’clock shadow, brunette hair. When emotion sneaks in to the gameplay, by and large it’s anger. Any grief in the storyline is very underplayed, not really discussed or processed. Kids end up looking up to these traits and what they end up doing is looking up to someone who can’t express themselves emotionally and cannot be open or honest with anyone around them.
Combine this with the explosion of porn that boys see from the age 12 upwards and there is the poisonous concoction society has put upon men. Playing games, consuming media alone while seeing a skewed view of what ‘society is like’. Surely this plays a part in which has reared the ugly beast of a society we see today before us. The constant bombardment of objectifying women and intentionally or unintentionally, not seeing the humanity in girls plays its part in to the violence regularly seen in news outlets. Why has it become normal to assume that the latest shooting in the news was conducted by a male? It’s plainly clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with the male species today.
It’s no wonder that boys are three times more likely to be kicked out of school than girls and this transcends out of the education environment into the real world. The shocker? Well, male suicide is 7x higher than girls in the ages of 20-24. Now that’s one pill-shaped stat you may want to swallow with a glass of water. It’s clear that from that sole statistic alone, the issue is taboo.
Emotion in the modern man is something that is suppressed.
Respect Your Fellow Man
This leads me on to my final point, which I only realised after watching The Mask You Live In on Netflix. Heck, this final chapter sums up why the blog post was called what it is, shit happens. There are men in my life who haven’t provided that male figure to look up toward, be inspired by and lean on in hard times. However, I never considered that their story could follow the similar lines that were highlighted in such a film. It’s not just an issue that has come about since technology, it’s got roots far beyond that.
There is a quote from the film that I loved.
“…She saw enough in me to say ‘I know theres something going on with you, I know your dad died before you were born, but you’re using that as an excuse. You’re too smart to act like you are not. We don’t always get to choose what happens to us, but we have a responsibility to make the most out of it’.”
Everyone has been scarred from something in the past. Whether it be a sudden death, illness, heartbreak, financial woes, affairs, substance abuse, drinking problems… The point is, there are things out of our control and histories that people hide under the mask they present to society. Overthinking such problems where you believe you are alone in such woes are the stem of many mental health issues. It’s not just you who is feeling down, neither should it be normal to keep it behind that mask you carry around. This post hasn’t been called shit happens for the ‘shock factor’. As much as I hate the saying, it is a fact. Shit happens is a very dismissive saying but has a whole lot of truth to it with the lack of poetry to boot. What is at the essence of the matter is to be adaptable, go with the flow. I believe that those who are most adaptive to such situations are those who are strongest in today’s world. But it’s how you bounce back from those issues. If there are people that you look at with regret, consider what may have scarred them and how they perhaps failed at bouncing back. No government or self-help class will be able to help you bounce back if you don’t have that driving force within yourself.
I think my next blog post will be an insight in to my bucket list. It will go some way to provide insight in to who I am. The goals I set for myself and what I want to become. Because of the way I was raised, I want better for myself and therefore my kids. It may sound crazy but I like to self-reflect and work on myself. Heck, that’s what constitutes most of my portfolio and this blog!
On a bit of a tangent, I’m so excited to one day be a dad and inspire my son/daughter to be the best they can be. I’ll try to remember what this film had taught me about the battering that the modern man is taking these days while raising him/her. Personally, I believe it’s a bit too late for me to fully grow out of the mould society has put upon myself because I have been born in to it. As for my kids, well they have a fresh outlook.
I’ve grown up with people in my life where I look back and say ‘I’d hate to be like them‘. Instead of dwell upon how bad of an influence they were or how negative they had been on my upbringing, I bounce back from it. In some ways, those are the people that inspire me to succeed. I’d do anything to not become like them.
I could write on and on about the topic being discussed and I’m sure this won’t be the last time I bring up the subject. I’m sure it could be better written in parts but understand where I’m coming from… I’ve been brought into this taboo society but consider me an advocate for the small changes to make one massive one. Heck, it’s taken me months to perfect this blog post as it’s such a delicate matter that I feel very passionate about. It’s an area of interest that from about the age of 14 upwards, I noticed the shift all men are experiencing. To all who have got to this part of the blog post (somehow I have kept your interest!), again I highly recommend giving ‘The Mask You Live In’ a watch in your next Netflix + Chill session. The 90 minute documentary gives the subject a far better, well rounded, professional and honest insight in to it all. And no, I’m not sponsored by Netflix in any way (I wish)!
So what do I want to come of this post?
All I’d like is to make readers reconsider the next time they call the person next to them ‘gay’. The next time you see your mate having a cry and telling them to ‘man up’. Again, I’d like to emphasise that I am a product of this culture so doubt I can make much headway to break out of how I was brought up. But, I’ll try to consider this film from time to time and fingers crossed those small changes in all of us will make an impact.
But if there is one thing I want of this post though, is for you to watch The Mask You Live In.
With another blog post out in the wild, I’d like to finish this one off with something a bit different. It’s an announcement…
I’m donating a proportion of all the profits made from my ‘There’s No Place Like Summer Camp’ book to mental health charities. It’s a cause close to my heart since being affected with some mental health issues personally. I don’t think enough is being done to take this epidemic by the scruff of the neck and deal with it head on.
I don’t have the answers, but I’m sure providing my small input to the wild world of the web will go one step further to making someone else speak up and have someone to talk to.