Most Inspirational Film of 2013: Tough Guise 2

On March 2nd, millions of viewers will be tuning in to watch Ellen DeGeneres bring some laughs to the Oscar stage. Whether or not you support the Oscars, it prompts us all to think about film: how it challenges our ideas and perspectives on the world, how it affects real issues and why we are so drawn to this art medium.

I am sure you are aware of the major film categories at the Oscars, so now imagine the Oscar ceremonies if there were a category for ‘most inspirational’ film.

I’d like to think this might one day become a reality, so for that reason I am going to offer my selection of the most inspirational film of 2013 in the hopes that you too will offer your selections. Perhaps more media outlets would then be commenting on the gravity of the stories being told through film, and not Ms. DeGeneres’ fashion choices.

Tough Guise 2 is the updated sequel to the original documentary, written and produced by anti-violence educator Jackson Katz. This film is my choice for most inspirational film because it deconstructs one of the most important social injustices of our western society. The film dismantles societal norms of masculinity in a way that cuts across race, class, religion and culture. It truly speaks to every human being living within the western world’s system of social norms.

Disclaimer: Katz uses the gender binary when discussing masculinity, and speaks to men and women as the only genders. Keep this in mind when viewing the film!

Narrated by Katz, the film unpacks the meaning of violence in North America. He provides a historical timeline of events and influences that have all shaped our idea of what masculinity should look like, and in doing so, speaks to how all genders “should” behave within our society. Katz is careful to illustrate that violence is almost never discussed as an issue of masculinity, of self-identified men engaging in violent and often criminal acts. Because of this lack of acknowledgment, we will never get to the root cause of violence. When 90% of the violence in North American society is perpetuated by men, yet none of the dialogue focuses on this overwhelming fact and more importantly why men are so often the perpetrators, then solutions will only continue to be ineffective and irrelevant.

To be clear, people who have the sex assignment of male and who identify with that gender are not biologically predisposed to be violent. The violence Katz is referring to is the result of a complicated mix of socialization fostered by the media, political ideology, economic forces and popular culture. Sexual violence, rape culture, brutal murders are predominately the result of this mixed drink listed above. Katz is arguing that little boys are actively taught to fit into the “man box.” A very limited space which only holds room for dominance, respect and toughness, clearly leaving little space for emotional characteristics such as compassion or fairness. This box is rigid and unforgiving, causing young boys and men to suppress any feeling that’s not “tough.” Let’s use sexual violence as an example. Young boys are socialized to internalize the notion that they are the dominant gender, entitled to think of women as inferior. In addition, our media has hyper sexualized young women to be sexual objects for a man’s pleasurable consumption. Consent from either party is never associated with upholding the tough guise; as a result, rape culture in North America is rampant. And thanks to mainstream media, the victim is often attacked for their presumptive behavior or not mentioned at all! (The Steubenville rape case is a prime example of this).

Tough Guise 2 deserves a nomination for most inspirational because it calls upon every aspect of our society and their influence on these norms. How we view masculinity, femininity and the confusing mix of both that make up every individual is a direct result of our environment. I would argue that this film is as important for folks who do not identify with being male as it is for those who do. For the accepted norm of what masculinity “should” be, reflects in return what femininity “should” be. This film has inspired me to have more challenging conversations with loved ones who perpetuate these harmful norms. Perhaps more significantly, it has challenged me to re-think how I enact these norms and how I can make daily decisions to allow myself and those around me to step out of our assigned “boxes.”

Watch the trailer here: