Browsing through the available Netflix documentaries I stumbled upon The Mask You Live In, a documentary about “boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity.” This documentary has received countless of film festival awards and is extremely informative with the information it provides. Throughout the documentary, director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, incorporates interviews from neuroscientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, ex-NFL stars, coaches, teachers, parents, and boys of all ages. This documentary is structured in different parts, to show the different stages of masculinity that is pushed onto young boys while they are growing up.
It starts with young boys, under the age of 10, and discuses that harmful attributes that parents push upon them; “don’t cry”, “take it like a man”, “don’t be a sissy”. Through these statements we are encouraging young boys to learn to hide their emotions and not discuss them with those around them. In the film it mentioned how, after the age of 10, a boy is no longer expected to cry in public. That’s absurd and extremely damaging to a young child’s emotional growth. Furthermore, it’s at this age where young boys start to play video games.
The documentary then went into how pre-teen boys are exposed to more violence, both towards men and women, and how this shapes their mindset as they grow up. The documentary stated how the average boy (it did not specify the age) spends about 40 hours watching TV, 15 hours playing video games, and 2 hours watching porn per week. It then divulged into exposing the negative effects that TV, video games, and porn have on young boys. In TV shows and movies, there are three main “male types”: the strong, silent male, the superhero who achieves the goals through violence, and the men who do not have lots of muscle and are portrayed as youthful (ex: The Hangover cast). These three types of males are dangerous for our young boys to idolize. The strong, silent male does not disclose much emotion at all and when he does, it’s anger that is shown. And then men who do not have muscle and are portrayed as youthful and loud often achieve their version of masculinity through degradation of women, drinking beer/doing drugs, and other high-risk activities. It then dove into discussing the negative impacts of video games in young boys. The statistics it listed were scary; 99% of boys play video games, of those 99%, 31% feel addicted to video games, 90% of games rated for kids over 10 contain violence, and 50% of parents don’t monitor ratings. They also listed findings from the Surgeon General report that found exposure to violent media leads boys to be less sensitive to pain and suffering of others, more fearful of world, engage in more aggressive behaviors. It was very clear to state that video games will not cause a child to become violent, however, it may increase their tendencies. In regards to pornography,
93% of boys are exposed to Internet porn while 68% of young men use porn weekly and 21% use it daily, with 34% of youth online receive unwanted porn exposure. These images that young boys are being shown is shaping how they view sex, especially since, as the documentary stated, pornography is often how young boys learn about sex as many states enforce abstinence only policies or do not engage in teaching about sexual education. 83% of boys have seen group sex online, 39% have seen bondage online, 18% have seen rape online.
By the age of 18, the average person has seen 200,000 acts of violence on screen including 40,000 murders. If throughout their childhood, they were exposed to extreme violence towards men and women, is that not what they will attempt to emulate? Research shows exposure to porn increases sexual aggression by 22% and increases acceptance of rape myths by 31%. 35% of male college students indicated some likelihood of raping someone if they knew they could get away with it, this might be why every 9 seconds a woman is beaten or assaulted.
This documentary was extremely eye opening and informative. Towards the end, it also listed resources for parents and how parents can prevent their child from facing this hyper-masculinity force that society pushes on them.