American Male looks at the effects hypermasculinity— including attitudes toward women, minority groups, and LGBTQ+ people—has on men, particularly young men. For them, it’s clear there’s a real crisis in contemporary masculinity, and the battle of identity politics has flared up again.
The powerful six-minute film examines the toxic masculinity often pervasive among groups of young men in the U.S. and the disturbing interplay found between same-sex desire and violent homophobia within that group. Filmmaker Michael Rohrbaugh said in an interview with The Huffington Post that he wanted to showcase the ways in which younger males navigate a culture of overcompensation to “prove their manhood,” resulting in a heavy psychological toll.
American Male engages in a discussion of what’s considered masculine in society, while highlighting how extreme masculinity and homophobia often go hand in hand. The film helps to lift the lid on—and to challenge—the racial, gender, and LGBTQ+ biases and privilege that many people take for granted.
“Order beer, not wine. And beef, not chicken. Never light beer, though. And tofu—can’t get more gay than tofu,” the narrator of the film says. “Steer clear of the arts unless you live on the coasts. That means no theater, dancing, painting, poetry, or prose. Too much reading is also risky because it makes you look soft and bookish…What can I say, better safe than sorry.”
Rohrbaugh says he made the film so viewers can “gain a better understanding of what life feels like in the closet. I also hope they’ll reflect upon their own lives and think about falsehoods that might be holding them back. So many of the social norms we’ve been taught are rooted in discrimination, and so many young people are taught to feel ashamed of who they are, raised to believe that ‘there’s something wrong with them,’ that ‘they’re not normal’ or ‘not who they should be.’ Those types of lies are really destructive, which is why they must be exposed and debunked.”
American Male was the winner of MTV’s Look Different Creator Competition, which invites up-and-coming filmmakers to create work addressing the topic of privilege. For more information on MTV’s Look Different campaign, visit www.lookdifferent.org.