Lessons movies taught me about being a better man
Let’s get this out of the way right now: toxic masculinity is bad, but that doesn’t mean masculinity is too.
This subtle shift in ideology has played a prominent role in some major motion pictures. Some handle it deftly, while others miss the mark.
These movies explore the concept of “being a man” and how that has changed over the years. Gone are the times of idealizing toxic behavior such as repressing your emotions, not listening to others and self-centered thinking.
Being a better man means being a better person. That is a goal we all should strive for.
Don’t bottle up your emotions
“Good Will Hunting” is probably my favorite movie. When I first saw it, I was an angsty teen that thought he was way smarter than he actually was. That’s probably why I identified with Matt Damon’s character, Will Hunting.
However, in hindsight, that’s probably not such a great thing. The whole movie is about how enormously talented Will is, but he cannot get out of his own way. Yes, he had traumatic experiences growing up, but his inability to express this in a healthy way, e.g. not with violence, holds him back.
Everyone around him, from his childhood friends to his mentor, his girlfriend and his therapist, are all trying to help him. But because he doesn’t want to show vulnerability, he nearly destroys every one of these relationships.
Showing vulnerability should not be seen as showing weakness or as being “less of a man.” Recognizing and expressing your emotions is healthy and absolutely manly. I couldn’t think of anything manlier than a man secure enough with his masculinity to share his feelings.
Communication is key
I have a love-hate relationship with the movie “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” While it was fun to see two of the more iconic comic book characters to share a screen, the whole conflict of the movie could have been resolved with a phone call, text or an email.
The movie boils down to Batman being enraged because Superman makes him feel powerless, Lex Luthor becoming evil because Superman makes him feel powerless and Superman not understanding why everyone is not enamored with him after destroying most of a city during a fight with a really angry guy with a grudge.
The conflict ends with the infamous “Martha” scene, where once again a woman has to save the day.
This one scene is literally the first scene where the two communicate effectively (clunky dialogue aside), and it solves their conflict almost immediately.
The movie is a masterclass in showing how extremely powerful men can let their insecurities and egos control their every decision, and we’re all just collateral damage.
Don’t just hear, listen
We all want to be heard, but you shouldn’t prioritize your opinions and feelings over someone else’s just because they’re your opinions and feelings.
An example of this is Poe Dameron in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” From the very first promotional materials, the audience was told he was a good guy, someone on the right side of the galactic struggle for power. Heck, he is a good guy.
But being a good guy doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. Surely his logic could be simplified as, “I am a good guy, and so whatever I do is obviously good.”
Poe, my man, you couldn’t be more wrong.
There is rarely just one way to resolve a conflict. Listening to Admiral Holdo (and by doing so, General Organa), was the right thing to do.
At the very least, listening to her would have shown his ability to consider other opinions. Disobeying her because he thought she could be wrong and he thought he was right kind of makes him a bad guy, at least in this instance.
No one likes the guy who won’t listen and always thinks he’s right, even if he maybe is.
It’s not always about you
This can be a difficult lesson to learn, and it’s not exclusive to just men.
It can’t be said enough: it’s not always about you. And by that, I mean there are other people in this world, and sometimes it’s about them.
Or maybe even it’s about all of us.
Sometimes we become so concerned with how something makes us feel, we forget that another person may also be affected by it.
No movie better illustrated this point than “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”
This movie seemed like a fun jaunt through the internet with our pals Ralph and Vanellope at first, but it quickly became about the fracturing of their friendship.
The root of this was Ralph’s insecurities and inability to let Vanellope live her own life, even if that meant not being with him.
That’s a tough pill to swallow, and we need to realize that sometimes people drift apart. It’s even more difficult to acknowledge that sometimes no one is “at fault” and it’s just a matter of circumstance.
This last lesson takes the previous ones to fully realize. Your feelings are valid, but you need to be able communicate them in a positive way while also listening and considering the feelings of the other person.