FILM

What I Learned about Toxic Masculinity from "Hobbs and Shaw"

How a two-hour d*ck-measuring contest became a beacon for my masculine enlightenment.

We know the Fast and the Furious franchise.

It would be silly to try to pretend this series was going to offer anything even remotely resembling character depth or a logical story. That's not why people pay money to see these films. We pay for the stunts, we pay for the fights, and we pay for the explosions. But as a spinoff from the billion-dollar franchise, Hobbs and Shaw seems a little leaner than the films before it, a little more stream-lined, and weaker for it. The original Fast and the Furious franchise beat us over the head with a general theme of "family is important." Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) have no allegiance to this theme—or any theme, really. They're here to do one thing: be the manliest f**king men that were ever men on the goddamn planet.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw - Official Trailer #2 [HD] www.youtube.com

This wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if the film were to explore these elements in a constructive way—if they were to leverage the greasy, muscle-bound macho men to make a statement about… anything: our fear of automation taking over the world; our paranoia around secret, all-powerful organizations; the very real prospect that eugenics is inevitable, and we should all start freezing our reproductive material. Plus, that might explain some of the stuff the bad guy (played Idris Elba) was trying to do. Instead, director David Leitch, who previously directed Deadpool 2 and John Wick 1, continues his reputation for delivering spectacular stunts and gritty fight scenes. But when it comes to this film's dramatic, emotional beats, the opportunities escape him. This may not be entirely Leitch's fault. The script, written by Chris Morgan, only vaguely alludes to themes instead of actually exploring them.

But the ultimate problem is that Hobbs and Shaw is so damn tone-deaf about its own messaging that The Rock and Statham's characters are distractingly oblivious to how destructive and inappropriate their behavior is. As protagonists, their actions are framed as admirable displays of power, strength, and manhood. I'm here to be the buzzkill and call out that it's not cool—especially these days.

hobbs and shaw toxic masculinity Source: Hollywood Reporter

Obviously, talking about toxic masculinity in media isn't new, and it's controversial by nature. It always pisses someone off, namely men; and as a man, I admit I have to readily check myself when someone writes something on the Internet that hurts my male ego. But you know what? Screw my male ego—watching Hobbs and Shaw is both a palate cleanser and a wake up call: It is pure male fantasy wrapped in childish wish-fulfillment, so much so that it makes an unwitting mockery of machismo in general. From the cinematography to the dialogue, you could teach a college course on toxic masculinity using just this film as a text. In short, toxic masculinity is the driving force behind every motivation of the film. The toxic elements in the film are easy to spot when you think about how all of the obstacles in the story get resolved. Inevitably, problems are solved in one of the following ways:

  • Being the strongest
  • Being hyper-competitive
  • Objectifying female characters

Being the Strongest (and inevitably the most violent):

While the old Fast and Furious gang drives cars, Hobbs and Shaw punch things. The Rock is a 6-foot-3-inch, 236 lb mound of muscle that is objectively the biggest and strongest "natural" human in the universe. He spends the entire runtime throwing furniture, smashing barriers, and bashing in bad guys. Statham's character is the same, except he replaces big, hulking brawn with slick, fast martial arts.

Is this awesome to watch? Absolutely. Does it get boring after the first hour? Yes, it does. These are two invincible, superhuman men, careening through piles of faceless baddies. The Rock runs down the side of a goddamn building holding a steel grappling hook with his bare hands. They will always win. Similarly, there's no substance to their characters other than being really strong. Apparently, that's all you need to be a hero.

Hobbs Vs Shaw - Elevator Fight Scene - FAST AND FURIOUS 9 Hobbs And Shaw (2019) Movie CLIP 4K www.youtube.com

Being Hyper-competitive:

Hobbs and Shaw do not like each other. From their very first moment on-screen together, they exude nothing but contempt for each other's existence. Their relationship is a back and forth tit-for-tat that never ends. The Rock and Statham have fantastic chemistry, but they're subjugated to such childish dialogue that I couldn't tell if the jokes were written or just spit-balled on set. Although that's not to say that some weren't funny.

Their competitive behavior did bring out the funniest scene in the whole movie.

Pick A Door Fight Scene - FAST & FURIOUS: HOBBS AND SHAW (2019) Movie Clip www.youtube.com

Objectifying Female Characters:

As the worst action-movie trope goes, any female character with value in the story must be either sexy or ass-kicking––two traits men find desirable and all-too-often mutually exclusive. Hobbs and Shaw leans into this trope hard. There are a total of four female characters with speaking roles in the film, and two of them are the main characters' mothers. As for the remaining two: One's reduced to being simply "sexy," and the other "violent." Admittedly, I don't even remember the "sexy" one's name. She's barely even introduced as a person; instead, the first time she appears on-screen, she blankly walks into the room, waits patiently for Shaw to approach her, and then they make out. That's basically all she does.

Vanessa Kirby plays the second female character with a speaking role, and she at least has a modicum of development. She starts off being a badass MI6 agent who is just as physically capable as all the men. She even has some emotional depth through her relationship with her brother, Shaw. But once she's infected with the super-dangerous virus (that the film tries to pass off as a plot), she loses most of her agency. She completely relies on the boys to get her out of a jam, which they are both more than happy to do.

Hobbs & Shaw's Sister Fight Trailer (NEW, 2019) Dwayne Johnson Movie HD www.youtube.com


Therein lies the problem with having violence dictate the progression of the story. There's no room for characters to make any meaningful choices that reflect who they are as people. We can't have anyone figure anything out without punching, because that's all the characters are shown to be capable of.

With all that being said, America seems to like this movie (enough for it to earn $181 million at its opening). I enjoyed it, too, in spite of myself. The Rock is limitlessly charming, and Jason Statham has incredible charisma and great comedic timing. They both kick-ass and are really fun to watch. But I'm going to argue that a $200 million action-blockbuster can be successful with more than just brute, gratuitous, man-child pandering. We can reach deeper into ourselves and find a story that goes further than punches and sexy ladies. I don't know what that looks like yet, and I'm not sure 2020 will have anything new to show us, either.

With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.

Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.

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B.S.

Are These Artists Actually Clones Created by Greedy Music Industry Executives?

Is Ariana Grande just a renovated Mariah Carey? Are Brendan Urie and Patrick Stump dating—or are they the same person? The truth is out there.

Though all music borrows in some way from other music, sometimes bands or artists just sound and/or look uncannily similar to each other.

These similarities raise pressing questions: how and why do these bands sound so alike? Could there be some dark secret behind their successes, some cloning initiative launched once music industry executives realized they could just repackage the same artist under a different name and double their profits?

Regardless of how much of the truth you're willing to see, this list exposes pairs of bands or artists that not only sound the same but also seem to occupy the same cultural purpose, performing the same symbolic and emotional roles for fans everywhere.

1. Cage the Elephant and the Black Keys

Cage the Elephant and the Black Keys are different bands. It's a proven fact. And yet are they? They both feature singers with mid-range voices and vaguely Southern drawls. They both use grungy guitars that sound like they've been filtered through a litany of overdrive pedals. They both make songs that have lyrics—but are the songs really about anything, or are they both just kind of sad attempts to fill the hole created by rock and roll's death?

Objective facts tell us that these bands are indeed different—Cage the Elephant opened for the Black Keys on several tours, and Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach produced Cage the Elephant's 2015 album and their new 2019 single. But is it so hard to believe that some rip in the fabric of the time-space continuum created a world in which two slightly different iterations of the exact same band can walk around at the same time? Even some of their biggest hits like "Gold on the Ceiling" and "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" are eerily similar, both relying on ominous bass lines and sparse, punchy guitar hits.

The Black Keys - Gold On The Ceiling [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com

Cage The Elephant - Ain't No Rest For The Wicked (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

2. Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande

They both have stratospheric ranges, prima donna pop culture royalty and/or meme status, and impressive whistle tones. Sure, Ariana's music is tailored to the ultramodern era, whereas Mariah's occupied a similar space in the late 90's and early 2000's pop canon, but they both embody the image of the magnetic, radiant, super-talented starlet with an only slightly infuriating trail of number one hits.

Mariah Carey Vs. Ariana Grande SAME AGE Vocal Battle! (UPDATED) www.youtube.com


3. America and Neil Young

If you've heard the band America's number one hit, A Horse With No Name, chances are you might have wondered if you were listening to one of Neil Young's early collaborative efforts. But Young and Dan Peek, the late lead singer of America, share little else than a slightly nasal tenor voice, a penchant for dreamy folk rock, and dozens of harmony-laden albums from the 1970s.

America - A Horse With No Name+Lyrics www.youtube.com


Neil Young - Harvest Moon www.youtube.com

4. Radiohead and Muse

They're both obsessed with technology, paranoia, apocalypses, and thematically complex concept albums. Ultimately Radiohead's breadth and range of sonic textures far outdoes Muse's, but on some of their better-known songs, Thom Yorke and Matt Bellamy's desperate and wailing voices could easily be mistaken for one another, especially when they're both crying on about fear and loneliness in the digital era over dizzying layers of synthesizer. Plus, it would fit well with both of these bands' brands if they were replicants of each other.

How Much Does Muse Sound Like Radiohead: Analysing Composition, Style, and the Radiohead Zeitgeist www.youtube.com

5. Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes both have a propensity for multi-layered trippy, ambient folk. Their lead singers have high, delicate voices that sound like they're emanating from a distant cabin, wafting towards you on waves of campfire smoke. There's a whole battalion of folk bands that sound like these two, but as pillars of the genre, the similarities between indie's leading foxes and bears are difficult to ignore.

I'm Losing Myself (Feat. Ed Droste) by Robin Pecknold www.youtube.com

6. Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco

Patrick Stump and Brendon Urie both have irrationally massive vocal ranges, which they use to create passionate, angsty, climactic jams that have been giving voice to tween girls' pain for decades. They actually have collaborated several times—even on a Coke ad, which you can listen to in its full glory as each of these singers attempts to out-belt the other. Both bands formed within three years of each other (Fall Out Boy in 2001, Panic! in 2004) and occupied similar cultural spaces in their respective golden years. Fans have even shipped the two lead singers together. Plus their specific vocal styles spawned dozens of shaggy-haired copycat frontmen.

Drunk History: Fall Out Boy featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco www.youtube.com

Fall Out Boy Ft Brendon Urie from Panic! at the Disco - Don't Stop Believing cover www.youtube.com

7. Avril Lavigne Pre and Melissa Vandella

Everybody knows that Avril Lavigne died and was replaced by a clone of herself, created by deft industry people who couldn't resist the potential profits of more Sk8r Bois. Still, the clone does sound and look remarkably similar to her predecessor, despite the obvious differences (Melissa prefers dresses and skirts, while Avril favored pants; and Avril would never have married Chad from Nickelback). Very impressive, music industry executives, but we're onto you.

Conspiracies: Did Avril Lavigne Die in 2003? | Pigeons & Planes Update www.youtube.com


Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York. Follow her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.


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