In the contemporary world, masculinities are a real problem. Research done for the documentary, from the PapodeHomem project, tells us that seven out of ten men do not talk about their feelings with their friends, failing to share their greatest fears and doubts. This situation is due to years of fruiting a culture of toxic masculinity, which imposes certain behaviors on men.
They are taught to be the providers of their families, successful professionals, not to show their feelings and to be strong – emotionally and physically. All these inheritances lead to several problems, such as domestic violence, the tendency to harassment and extremely high rates of suicide and homicide.
Drawing a parallel with the film industry, in four seasons full of twists and conflicts, the American series chronicles the intense life of high school teenagers at Liberty School. During the episodes, young people have to live with an extensive list of problems, such as suicides, murders and substance abuse. Secrets pile up and make everyday life extremely complicated – much more than it should be for teenagers that age. At the heart of all these adversities is one of the protagonists of the series: the boy Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), in whom it is possible to notice some traces of toxic masculinity.
: Clay Jensen and toxic masculinity
In the first season, the suicide of Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), girl Clay was in love with, starts a streak of bad luck in her life. His days as a high school student become a true hero’s journey. He prevents one of his classmates from practicing one during the high school ball, covers up a homicide committed by his friends, does everything to help Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn) get rid of heroin addiction, among so many other courageous attitudes and altruism.
However, by focusing so much on the problems of others, Jensen ends up forgetting to take care of himself, as portrayed in a dialogue that the character has with his girlfriend, Ani (Grace Saif), who advises him: “if you don’t help, you will not be able to help anyone ”.
Because of being so involved with the adversities of others, Clay develops a series of paranoias. His panic attacks become more frequent, his anxiety and depression increase exponentially, he has nightmares every night and starts to see the spirits of his deceased colleagues. All of this leads him to take very questionable actions.
The boy starts to get involved in physical fights, drives the car of his friend Zach Dempsey (Ross Butler) at high speed until he overturns and starts experimenting with drugs, for example. Even so, the boy does not expose his difficulties to anyone and starts to suffer in silence. Both verbal and emotional and social silence. A silence that starts to corrode him internally.
It is a consensus, nowadays, that the fact that men, in general, have greater difficulty in expressing their feelings makes them end up resorting to other means to express them or even to try to hide them, such as violence and use of narcotics. Since so many emotions are suppressed, it is not uncommon to see male individuals having untimely and explosive reactions to adverse situations. These characteristics are very present in the protagonist of, especially in the scenes in which he attacks other characters or throws objects on the floor as a way of showing his anger.
To make matters worse, Clay is extremely reluctant to seek psychological help. So, he goes in for another male statistic. Even though they commit suicide four times more than women, men are still a minority in the numbers of psychotherapy patients. In the series, in addition to initially refusing to deal with a professional, Jensen is unable to open up even to his own parents, who on several occasions try to help him and ask about his mental state.
This is due to the aforementioned need for men to appear strong and insurmountable, thanks to this intensely widespread culture of unhealthy masculinity. In this way, boys like Clay Jensen end up keeping their biggest fears and anxieties just for themselves, turning them into a snowball of emotions about to explode.
Still in this sense, another type of behavior of the character falls precisely on this issue of toxic masculinity: his enormous need to protect others. The figure of the man as protector of his family is extremely widespread, especially in his relations with women, who, being seen as weaker physically and even emotionally, should supposedly be protected.
In this sense, Clay Jensen has a certain “hero syndrome”, as stated earlier. He feels obliged to save everything and everyone and always seeks to be in control of situations, even when they do not involve him.
It is also worth mentioning that the analyzed character runs away from the stereotypes of the man in society. He is not a strong, athletic guy, nor does he have the best skills when it comes to girls. On the contrary. Shy, Clay was never among the most popular in his class, which, at first glance, may make him resemble the “beaten up” goodies in romantic comedies.
However, not even the sweetest of boys can escape these sexist traits. That kind of masculinity unhealthy is exposed to all men in society. And you have to be very careful not to be affected.