‘Moonlight,’ ‘Goat,’ and the Horrors of Manhood

     October 24, 2016

moonlight-goat-slice

“Toxic masculinity” is a phrase we don’t hear very often, but maybe we should.

It came up in an Ebony interview with the director of The Birth of a Nation: Nate Parker said, “All I can do is seek the information that’ll make me stronger, that’ll help me overcome my toxic masculinity, my male privilege, because that’s something you never think about.”

It came up in the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting against Americans and LGBTQ in history: Salon writer Amanda Marcotte wrote of the Orlando murders, “Our national attachment to dominance models of manhood is a major reason why we have so much violence.”

It also comes up in two films this year: Moonlight and Goat. One is an emotionally charged story of a gay black man’s emergence into manhood, while the other goes behind the scenes of horrific fraternity hazings. One is already dubbed an early awards contender, while the other floats Nick Jonas as its supporting star, but both are alike in how their characters are beaten, broken, and rebuilt by this warped idea of what it means to be a man.

To be clear, when I refer to toxic masculinity, I refer to a cultural stereotype. It’s not about the birds and the bees or personality traits, but about some hallucinatory commandments of manhood: men are violent, men are emotionless, men are dominant, hyper-sexual, and the list goes on. This is the world in which the young Chiron lives, as told by writer-director Barry Jenkins in Moonlight — but he still has it worse.

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