Donald Trump’s terrifying candidacy has revealed many ugly truths about contemporary America, perhaps none more so than the belief in toxic masculinity he spews with every comment about a woman’s looks, or joke about the size of his hands.
“Order beer. Not wine. And beef, not chicken. Never light beer, though. And tofu. Can’t get more gay than tofu,” goes the opening voiceover in “American Male,” the first of three short films that won MTV’s Look Different competition, an anti-bias campaign which invited emerging filmmakers to create videos on the topic of privilege.
The other two films deal with similar themes of masculinity, adding in the intersectional lens of race. “See Me In My Black Skin” and “Love Reset” will be released in October and November, respectively.
“American Male” is a haunting short film based on Rohrbaugh’s experience suppressing his sexuality for most of his life. In his words, he wanted to examine our nation’s narrow notions of manhood, obsession with masculinity and the stark difference and pressure of gender roles. In the film, the voiceover acts as a kind of how-to manual for hiding any sign of weakness (read: gayness), as a beefcake actor practices beer pong, chugs protein drinks and chest bumps the boy giving him the eye.
It’s tough to watch, and must be even tougher to live. Such is the triumph of Rohrbaugh’s film. When his character says in the film: “Steer clear of the arts, unless you live on the coasts,” it is a gentle but necessary reminder that liberals and city-dwellers remain blissfully ignorant of what life is like for most of America. “American Male” is a cautionary tale for those of us who would rather forget.
The film premieres exclusively on IndieWire. Check it out: