Men's Health at the Movies

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Author: Saacha Neilson
Date: June 25, 2021

Last week we had Men’s health week, which saw a heartening reminder of the support available to men in the wake of the very real challenges they face. Here at Jasper Pictures, we’re not afraid to tackle some of the more serious topics, and while we’ve thrown in a couple of jokes, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

In Australia today, 75% of Australians who take their own lives are men. Just as worryingly, only a quarter of men say they would see a mental health professional if they came across personal or emotional problems. These are stats that represent our goofy dads, our lame guy friends, and our 80s AFL heroes. Although the meninists will wait until Women’s mental health week to tell you this, men’s health is something to take very seriously, and understanding what shapes it is an important first step.

This week is a good time to remind ourselves of how movies and TV, like all pop culture outlets, can support unhealthy attitudes that contribute to these issues. Packed into billions of dollars worth of entertainment are notions of masculinity and male love that make it harder for men to reach out, and isolate them from those they love most. Male characters that encourage their friends to sleep around, leading men who look like an advert for protein powder, writers who use lines like “…throws like a girl” are all part of the problem. So, here are 3 things we see in film that can damage men’s health, and how we can deal with it.

Making fun of friends for being feminine

Surely one of the all-time most destructive elements of male culture. Giving your mates a hard time for not being strong enough to open their beer bottle is one thing, but a toxic culture of masculinity means that too often men will tease each other about being gay or girly. This helps to build a system that punishes men for emotional vulnerability and means that even blokes with many close friends can feel completely isolated. Who knows, it may be that your mate who enjoys the theatre more than the footy is the one who pulls you back on your feet after a personal crisis. Better yet, give the footy boys a chance to open up and enjoy how good male friendships can really be. Luckily, many modern films have adapted their attitudes, and modern films are show much more nuance than previously before.

Pros: The Outsiders. For an older movie, this does a fantastic job of exploring how important male relationships are, and also how dangerous they can be. Here the male characters are emotionally vulnerable in the wake of some significant trauma, and it’s a good place as any to start.

Cons: Good Will Hunting. It’s a fresh look at working class culture, but it’s permeated with punchlines about sleazy professors, homophobic jokes and male violence. The fact it’s produced by Harvey Weinstein, notorious Hollywood predator, and written and co-stared by Ben Affleck - who has his own allegations - doesn’t help the case.

Male beauty standards

It is truly startling just how strong some of the pressure is on men to look physically superb, a feature of Hollywood that sadly impacts both genders. While the gym has long been a hallmark of male self-improvement, its association with a need for acceptance from others is a cruel reminder of how men judge not only each other but themselves. For many, packing on the muscle and spending hours on the bench-press does build confidence and set themselves up for success. Certainly being healthy is something everyone should strive for. But too often it’s used instead of a psychologist, and leads to idolising the celebrities – and we all know who I’m talking about – that look like bodybuilders in the 2 months before their movie starts shooting. No doubt all thanks to Chicken and Broccoli. The proliferation of steroids in the entertainment industry is one of Hollywood’s dirty secrets, and

Pros: The Terminator. In this classic thriller, our lead characters are very distinctly human and normal looking, if conventionally attractive. Both male and female characters are physically innocuous, while the immensely impressive Arnold Schwarzenegger has a distinctly other-worldly feel to him. Well done team.

Cons: Crazy Rich Asians. Male lead Henry Golding looks like he was styled out of wax, and it’s a modern reminder of how the male gaze turning to other men in Hollywood can set some crazy expectations.

Obsessing over love interests

The word “lovesick” evolved as a pretty gentle way to describe someone throwing away their previous interests and concerns and instead obsess over a partner. And since the 2000s, and the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ trope, understanding how men idolising women to the point of obsession has become easier than ever. But what’s less talked about is exactly how it impacts men. It’s not healthy to place so much of your dependence into one person, and leaves you at risk of being unable to have your own emotional stability. Men who make women their point of being are doing themselves a disservice, as many heartbroken characters have shown. Worse still is the rapid challenges that come once the obsession inevitably wears off, leaving a shell of a good relationship where an otherwise healthy one could be growing all the time. It’s time men saved themselves the trouble and viewed their own emotional needs as something to respect, not to distract from.

Pros: Crazy Stupid Love is proof that male characters can evolve to incorporate someone in their life, without viewing women as an object purely for their affections. Thanks again Ryan Gosling.

Cons: Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Sure, it’s employed deliberately. But you can’t deny Scott as a character is the exact problem we’re talking about.

As one of Melbourne’s premier-based film companies, Jasper Pictures is experienced in providing an inclusive, cutting-edge approach to our films. Check our past blogs here and our end of financial year offers here!

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