Screenplay; film; masculinity; influences; media; society
Logline: A group of four high school freshmen are pitted against each other to see who can become the manliest man, with the prize being a date with the most alluring senior girl in school, and maybe more.
Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis taught us to never back down from a fight. George Clooney showed us how to be a charmer. Kids at school urged us to never cry. Mom said it was OK to show emotion, but dad sometimes seemed unsure. Mixed messages can lead to insecurities and anxieties.
After taking HPR 324 Images of Masculinity in Film, we realized that there are countless influences on how a man should behave, from family members to the mass media, including, and perhaps especially, popular films.
These various influences force boys and men of all ages to make social comparisons over standards that are neither always true nor healthy. They can make living in own’s skin a tough place sometimes. As we are men, we speak from personal experience.
Therefore, we have created an original, feature-length screenplay focusing on a crucial time in young men’s lives. As boys in high school try and understand themselves, they don’t know how to be men yet (or even what that means). They try to sort through all the images of masculinity available to them. How do they sift through these numerous ideas of masculinity to figure out how to be the best men they can be, learn how to behave, and what’s important?
Douglas Kellner, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas, writes, “Radio, television, film and other products of media culture provide materials of which we forge out very identities, our sense of selfhood, our notion of what it means to be male or female…” The media have shaped the mindset of males for years, including the way society thinks men should act. This has created male myths that have become the social norm.
Gary Oliver, author of Raising Sons and Loving It!, has identified several of these myths about the “alpha male” that we will explore and challenge in our screenplay. One myth is that a man is big, brave, and strong. Strength and size are valued in society, but not being at one’s physical peak does not make one less of a man. There are different types of strength, such as the mental strength to persevere through adversity. The next myth is that a man isn’t weak, and shouldn’t cry. We can’t imagine a man not crying at a parent’s funeral, or a man not breaking down after a tragedy, or simply feeling sad. This idea that crying shows weakness prohibits growth and could make dealing with life that much harder. Another myth that Oliver points out is that a man’s man is an expert on sex. James Bond exemplifies this, and we are lead to believe that men like Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper are the epitome of a man’s sexuality. Comparing ourselves to men like that is detrimental to how we view our own self-image. The last myth is that a real man’s value is determined by what he does and how much he earns. This places an unhealthy focus on material value, rather than other meaningful aspects of being a person. These pressures create an image of a man—a muscle-bound stoic, who focuses only on money and sex with no emotions—that is out of reach and is neither feasible nor desirable.
These images remain extremely prevalent in society. Our project reveals and exposes these influences. The characters experience the pressures of these myths and learn valuable lessons, as they gain the courage to defy these pre-conceived notions of masculinity.