One of the most tragic stories in the history of our planet has to do with men. Yes you heard it hear from one who has spent thirty years speaking to women’s empowerment, raising one voice for women of abuse and delving into the history of terror for women which continues all over the world by the hands of mostly, men. So, this is a big moment for me as I come into my own deeper realization that we ALL have been brutalized at the hands of the Patriarchy whether it be religion or governing bodies, husbands, employers or terrorists. Men have suffered, as have women.
Men designed, supported and have lived by powerful beliefs since the beginning of time with regards to what “manly men” are, why war is necessary, why bravery and courage and fighting the good fight is at the heart of what men are required to emulate. Men grew up thinking about the hero, the warrior and living under authority that was not their own. As a result, most men simply learned to soldier through life with no idea of what really lurked on the other side of this dysfunctional set of rules for being masculine. Still in the most current dictionary the word Manly carries a heavy weight:
Having or denoting those good qualities traditionally associated with men, such as courage and strength.“looking manly and capable in his tennis whites”
What is wrong with this picture?
performing, providing and protecting became the most important part of what made a man a man, which morphed over the centuries, as any imbalance does, into a toxic reflection of the masculine that took on the mask of control over, power hunger, greed and a disrespect for anything that is not…all of the above. But, what about the human condition that is innate which men were encouraged to exorcise from their self-concept, namely, emotions, creative and spontaneous dreaming, and anything that seemed to scream the feminine, as in intuition as power, emotional intelligence and compassion for the most part, all aspects of our humanity which were not in the game of being a man.
Today, through the widening crack in the system, we are hearing some clear thinking and feelings on this subject as they spill out into our collective conscience. And, at the front of the line for telling the truth of what men have endured in the attempt to adhere to the “real man syndrome”, is the movie industry. Hidden and not so hidden in the fabric of the movies that are coming out in droves this fall, is the untold story of the patriarchal underbelly and the price being paid not only by women, but by the men themselves who have fought for their country, for families, for putting meat on the table and for simply doing what authority says in order to get ahead and be the norm. But the norm is not normal. These movies not only hint at the corporate rape of men’s souls, the pressure of being the provider, the soul crushing reality of all war, but they expose some of the most vulnerable truths that men never really talk about.
This underbelly of the patriarchy is fraught with guilt, shame, emotional pain, fear and suffering that the soldier from war arriving home with a life long case of PTSD is simply a mirror for. The men who were trained out of a large part of their humanity are equally pained by what lies buried and seemingly out of their reach and far from the light of day: Their inherent lovable-ness, their soulfulness, their feelings and their fears. Personal suffering that is hardly measurable, that has no way of being addressed, creates anger and depression, suicide and alcoholism and men litter relationships with brokenness, heart attacks, stress reactions and lack of intimacy.
There are at least four movies that stampede onto the screen this fall and winter and are couched in what you might think as being a “guy movie” but under the surface you are witnessing a revelation of the inner life of men. I am not talking about any of the Hangovers, The Interview, all the Seth Rogen movies and the plethora of wanna be cop movies since they just keep men Dumb and Dumber. But Fury with Brad Pitt, the up and coming Unbroken by Angelina Jolie, The Railroad Man with Colin Firth and The Judge with Robert Downey Jr. and the impeccable Robert Duval are stories of men who did what was expected of them in war, in work and at home and paid a horrible bone crushing, life sucking price which the women in their lives inherited.
Men brokered their own deeper humanity for towing the line and for fear of not being one of the boys. These movies eek out themes of the loss of love, the powerful bonding between men that can only be expressed by the short hugs or the slap on the back, the cold war between fathers and sons who cannot express emotion and the inability to be fully themselves are rare confessions from men in movies. And we as the onlooker with popcorn in hand, rarely get to see these themes unfold in all its pain.
As stories go, this story is the one story that our society needs to look square in the eye since things are changing and they will not be returning to “normal”. Men and women alike are crying for balance within and without between the masculine and the feminine and in the long run the shift that everyone is heralding on our planet has, at its heart, the crumbling of the patriarchy in all is dysfunction and abuse of spirit. Movies start consciousness moving outside the box, whisper the unspeakable, leave us breathless with visual brilliance in a moment that captures anguish which cannot be expressed any other way than with flying body parts. Then we watch the inevitable as Brad Pitt takes all the suffering of war and buries it deep inside just as our fathers, brothers and lovers have, only to create suffering for the generations that follow.
We have spent decades in the arms of a feminist movement that has made clear how ravaged, and how brutalized women have been from the beginning of time at the hands of the patriarchal model, but it is now time to have the conversation that is so needed regarding the wounded warrior, the brutalized man, the man who has been denied his soul.
I am inspired by the list of “man movies” that should become the most important “chick flicks” to see. So in the service of story telling I want to review all of the movies that I have mentioned here, not to give anything away, but, to coax you in seeing violent and harsh movies as a way to more fully understand the darkness of the patriarchy and what men have endured. I will add a new post for each movie to the Screenplay section of my website, starting with Fury.