Movies that show the complexities of male characters who aren’t violent, strong, and heartless, are engaging and memorable. So why aren’t there more of them?
I love “manly” movies with their loud explosions, gratuitous profanity, and random scenes of scantily-clad woman. Those are the types of movies that give me a break from having to think or pick a side to stand on when it comes to societal issues. However, those films are forgotten within a few days. They leave no lasting impression on me in any shape or form. Often, getting lost in a guy movie is how I remind myself of the movies that do matter and are memorable.
That being said, I have an extensive list of movies that center manhood and masculinity in a positive way. It’s in the following handpicked movies, though, that I was able to change my mind about what makes a man a man. Part of the reason why we’re so hard on ourselves as men is because Hollywood has narrowly defined manhood. These movies are among a large group that firmly establish the positive traits about the strength of a man while not making men out to be heroes. We are flawed and imperfect, yet we all desire the same things.
John Q: There are so many incredible Denzel Washington movies to choose from when it comes a black man in a non-stereotypical role. As I was going through my DVD collection, John Q actually reminded of The Revenant. The basic premise is very similar—a father racing against the clock to save his only son. John Q also has a sociopolitical undertone to it. The movie highlights the disparity this country has in its health care system. His son, Michael, can’t receive the heart transplant he desperately needs because the family can’t afford it. It’s later revealed that John is willing to take his own life to save his son’s.
Fatherhood is a blessing that literally changes the fiber of who you are as a man. You quickly go from thinking very linear and self-gratification to only considering the needs and wants of your offspring being first. From this film, I took away the insight that there is no bond like that between a father and his son.
A Bronx Tale: Gangster/mob movies are quintessential guy movies. But I also love films that take place in the heart of a neighborhood. A Bronx Tale hits both of those marks. Taking place in the unrest of New York in the 1960s, I mostly hold an appreciation for the way interracial love is interwoven into the story. Lil C develops a crush on a beautiful black girl from the neighborhood; one with rich mahogany skin, an identity rarely praised in Hollywood movies.
There’s a poignant conversation between Lil C and Sonny that I’ll never forget. He advises him on matters of the heart and how to pick a right woman at any stage of your life. Parts of the scene have been quoted in other movies. This scene was instrumental in showing me that romance and chivalry is all about reciprocity. It’s a conversation I plan on having with my son someday.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: The first time I saw this movie was in 2006. It was on HBO in the middle of the night. When I noticed Jim Carrey was in it, I thought it might be a decent watch. Today, this is in my top 5 of favorite movies of all time. It’s a love story centered on how men process break-ups. The plot introduces the question that many have wrestled with; if you could erase a person from your mind and past, would you? I’m sure we all have a person or relationship that would make answering that question simple. Yet seeing the actual decision and its ramifications play out on film made me re-think it.
Romantic comedies tend to be formulaic. You know how it’s going to end based on the trailer. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind abandons logic. It’s a movie more centered on one man’s emotion. Men do feel pain when love ends. We feel the gravity of losing the person we love. And even once the healing process begins, there are always going to be small pieces that you grasp onto. You never want to forget the high of being in love.
Movies have an intricate way of transforming our minds. It isn’t always immediate nor is does it have to be as profound. Although, movies that show men living outside of the narrow box of manhood will always leave a lasting impression.
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