Have you noticed that lately, famous men have been making headlines for their seemingly more unhinged behavior than ever before?
From Will Smith publicly assaulting comedian Chris Rock on stage, to Ezra Miller choking a female fan and threatening friends, to Kanye West having public meltdowns on both social media and the streets of Los Angeles, it appears men in the public eye are on a rampage of toxic masculinity.
Then there’s the male-created violence on a grand scale. I’m looking at you, Putin, attacking and invading Ukraine. And I’m looking at you too, Taliban leaders of Afghanistan denying education to girls.
Men behaving violently and predatorily is nothing new, but the blatant brutality taking place publicly with cameras rolling, from the press to social media, is getting out of hand. Gone are the traditional “behind closed doors” male crimes from the likes of Weinstein, Cosby, R. Kelly, Marilyn Manson, etc.
But now Will Smith is an action hero on stage. Kanye or “Ye” is more out of control than ever.
Men have gotten bolder. More audacious. And mostly without repercussion. Miller publicly choked a fan in 2020 outside of a bar. But Warner Bros neither removed him from the Fantastic Beasts franchise or DCEU.
Now it seems the more powerful they are, the more outrageous the stunt. My question is where do they get the right?
There is an entitlement to their actions. “She/he deserved it.” There is a weird rationalization to their “justified” behaviors. “She/he was asking for it.” There is a complete lack of awareness that their actions are more than inappropriate. They’re dangerous. Will Smith was actually dancing at a post-Oscar par after assaulting Rock. Putin says that “Ukraine is a violent country” after brazenly invading them.
They commit actions without thinking about what could happen next.
What if Chris Rock had hit Will Smith back? What if that female fan choked Ezra Miller. What if Taylor Swift had kicked Kanye in the balls?
There’s also a lot of gaslighting at play. Many famous men display a justification that they can hit, touch or grab whatever they want. The bigger the fame, the bigger the stakes.
It can all be summed up in two words – toxic masculinity.
Recently, toxic masculinity has led to an invasion of a country, an assault of another man and predatory behavior (looking at Cuba Gooding, Jr).
This was epitomized by the behavior of the dangerous and twice-impeached Donald Trump.
Men more often than not navigate the world as if this way of “taking what’s owed to them” and “grabbing them by the pussy” is their birthright… and to be fair, since the dawn of mankind, it has been.
Historically, the male urge to hunt, conquer, rape, pillage, and destroy has been socially acceptable—and even to be expected. It’s only since the rise of an era filled with surveillance, social media receipts, and a technological paper trail that accountability has barely begun to happen, resulting in the form of the #metoo era and cancel culture.
While cancel culture has swung the pendulum from one extreme end of the spectrum to the other, creating a social media “Salem witch trials” mentality, it’s also provided accountability. This new culture had demanded that men take responsibility for their actions.
While the conversation around toxic masculinity has finally commenced… from Hollywood to Washington, to Russia, to Afghanistan it doesn’t seem like the men guilty of toxic masculinity are listening. Until it affects their wallets. In the cases of Smith, Miller and YE, it has.
In the meantime, we’ll keep trying to make them listen.
Megan Penn reports on the indie film market and anything that empowers women and underrepresented groups.
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