Ranbir Kapoor In Animal: Are These The Heroes We Need?

Ranbir Kapoor In Animal: Are These The Heroes We Need?

The film once again brought to screen a typical masochistic male, putting spotlight on toxic masculinity wrapped in a new way

Sapna SarfareUpdated: Friday, December 15, 2023, 10:00 PM IST
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A still from the movie Animal |

The recent Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Animal has become a hot topic of discussion. Not only because of the moolah it is raking at the box office, but also due to the accusation of the film celebrating toxic masculinity. The movie’s director Sandeep Reddy Vanga was in news for similar accusations for his Telugu blockbuster Arjun Reddy and its Hindi remake Kabir Singh.

The discussion gained momentum when prominent author and columnist Shobha De was trolled for expressing her thoughts about Animal. She posted a video on her X (formerly Twitter) account saying, “What is the film saying? This kind of Neanderthal alpha male behaviour is to be condoned and is to be considered love. We have to make excuses for a hero who has daddy issues and all kinds of other issues. Well, that’s fine but gore and violence and offensive language and the hero who is being applauded telling a woman to prove her love by licking his shoes and we think this is great cinema." (sic)

Animal and other such films have raised the point that men shown in these movies (typically categorised as sigma, toxic, alpha, etc) are stealing the spotlight and are worshiped. However, we, as a society, need to contemplate whether these are the heroes we are looking for or need?

A take on the topic

Toxic masculinity being glorified in films leaves a nagging feeling that what such films add to the men’s mentality. Popular radio personality RJ Malishka firstly praises the cast for being so good and convincing. She feels one should not call them out for how they did their jobs. “What films of this impact do is open discourse/conversation. This has seemed to open a can of worms also. It is not like the mentality does not exist. It is just that it encourages people to believe and preach further that this is the lens with which masculinity must be viewed.”

Talking further on this, Mansi Poddar, a psychotherapist and founder of the Heal. Grow. Thrive Foundation, reveals, “Many women have confused love and abuse, believing that passion comes with aggression. Films like Kabir Singh merely reflect a common social belief while glamourising it. These notions don’t develop solely from watching cinema; they stem from childhood. However, balancing the narrative to illustrate the damage this kind of masculinity inflicts on the man and his relationships is important. These movies often teach young people what a ‘man’ is supposed to be, especially if the family culture mimics this.”

Quite an impact

All of us remember the dialogues and moments from your loved films. So movies like Animal can impact men. Dr Austin Fernandes, Psychiatrist, Hiranandani Hospital, Powai, Mumbai, mentions, “The impact of such portrayals on men is significant. When films show aggressive or controlling behaviour as something heroic, it can make men copy those traits. This copying can cause issues in their relationships and affect their mental well-being. Men might feel like they have to act a certain way, hiding who they are and holding back their feelings. So, when society accepts and admires these toxic characters, it creates a messed-up idea of what it means to be a man, causing harm.”

The truth is such masculinity can isolate men from developing deeper and equal relationships and friendships. Poddar reveals, “It also limits their experiences and the type of people they relate to. Loneliness, alcohol abuse, rage issues are common with men who exhibit toxic masculinity. ”

Actor Angad Hasija also opines that such movies hold the power to influence men’s perceptions. “Even if they are entertaining, some films might support traditional gender stereotypes and encourage harmful behaviour. It has an impact on women and has the potential to obstruct the progress of women's rights and feminism.”

Feminism in focus

The other side of toxic masculinity and its brethren is its impact on feminism and the way women are being seen. Quite often seen are men (and even women) trying to throw feminism and its work under the bus without blinking an eye when they see it calling out patriarchy and its issues. Malishka reveals, “The word ‘Feminism’ has been made to seem like a bad thing sometimes even by women. I don’t think anyone panning this film has a problem with the existence of this film. It must exist but the conversations around it must also exist and ideally without the war-mongering tones it happens in.”

“Toxic masculinity comprises three main components: toughness —expecting men to be physically strong, emotionally tough, and aggressive in behaviour; anti-feminine equality —suggesting that men should reject anything considered feminine, such as showing emotions or accepting help; power — encouraging men to strive for social and financial status to gain the respect of others. Toxic masculinity isn’t just about acting like a man; rather, it involves the intense pressure some men may feel to behave in ways that are harmful,” says Poddar.

What do we do

Movies, in general, tend to be taken home. People do not leave their brains at home to watch the films. Actor and content creator Arjun Fauzdar confesses, “In an ideal world, everyone would readily recognise fiction. However, the impressionable nature of the Indian audience can translate into real-world influence. Filmmakers shoulder the responsibility to consistently emphasise that their work is purely fictional and does not endorse harmful behaviour — a crucial obligation in India, where cinematic portrayals can contribute to concerning mentalities.”

Dr Austin adds, “Mental health professionals must address media influence on perceptions and promote media literacy and critical thinking to help individuals navigate these influences. ”

In the end, we wait to see if game-changing films come to change our mindsets.

Types of toxic masculinity

Alpha male

leaders. Love challenges. Confident. Very masculine in a traditional sense. Hunters. Intelligent. Most will be found heading organisations.

Sigma male

Introverted alpha male. Reserved. Dynamic. Intelligent. Unsocial but intriguing. Self-reliant.

Lone wolf

Sigma males. Romance’ novel heroes. Emotionally withdrawn yet passionate. Follows their path.

Gamma

Lacks confidence, romantic, and empathetic but has difficulty with relationships. Can get bitter and negative if rejected.

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