Friendly fire from a reformed filmbro
Contemporary movie discourse has just been Ken-ning all over the place since the neon pink, nuclear double-barrel that is “Barbenheimer” dropped its radioactive kenergy in theatres last month. Whether you’re a glowing 5-star stan for Barbie and Oppenheimer, an anti-capitalist, anti-Hollywood ½-star doomer for both, or prefer one over the other at varying degrees.
What my kino eyes are interested in are those of chronically online, overwhelmingly male cinephile types, who’ve remained suckling at the teat of ”Christopher Nolan” supremacy since (their) Inception, pun intended.
These are types who’ve probably bought tickets to Barbie just to rant about its woke liberal agenda. These are types who’ve probably listed 1-4 of their favourite films within the top 250 highest-rated movies on Letterboxd. These are types whose favourite directors are probably all men with names that all start with the letter “K”: Kubrick, Kurosawa (both of them; afflicted cinephiles will understand), Kaufman, Kaurismäki, Kieslowski, Kiarostami, Klimov, Kitano, Kore-eda, and the list goes on…
They are types who base their whole social personality/demeanour around Taika Waititi-isms in hopes of finding their own Ramona Flowers or Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl-adjacent partner to sit and binge watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy + deleted scenes with. These types of people are what we call “filmbros”.
To lay out a very dry, quasi-anthropological definition, “filmbros” refers to a specific group of cinephiles who can predominantly express their passion for movies through bad-faith pseudo-intellectualism and misogynist textual analysis. Their socialising tactics rely on flaunting their “film tastes” as a means of discriminating amongst individuals who either 1) share their same tastes and/or 2) carry a neophytic naivete towards movie knowledge and unfortunately become targets for the filmbro’s inflated ego and superiority over them.
Naturally, filmbros are drawn to certain heteronormative, toxic masculinist movies that legitimate their place within patriarchy. Ignorance is the filmbro’s M.O.
Orthodox Filmbro canon:
- The Dark Knight (2008)
- Drive (2011)
- Pulp Fiction (1994)
- Se7en (1995)
- Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
- Whiplash (2014)
- The Usual Suspects (1995)
- Parasite (2019)
- Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
- The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
You’ve probably already seen or heard some of these movies; some of these follow a lone, soft-spoken, antisocial male protagonist who’s got some inexplicable chip on his shoulder that manifests within incredibly violent, misogynist and masochistic activities. Whether these actions justify their ends does not matter to the filmbro so long as said transgressions in their journey to a higher purpose do not disrupt their position in the patriarchy.
In other words, movie violence good if man get woman and man feel macho. And if that fails, just have a buncha edgy bros hash out their locker room talk filled with racial epithets, foot fetishes, and lame-ass references to old exploitation movies (Quentin is the poster boy of filmbros).
I mention all this sardonic targeting of the filmbro’s masculinity because I want to contextualise the filmbro within a wider crisis at hand regarding the forward trajectory of what “masculinity” actually entails and why filmbros are the way they are. If one were to compare the filmbro to the 6-foot, Andrew Tate sigma male-type, one is quick to point out that the Tate-ist holds much more “power” and “authority” over the spineless filmbro.
Thus, a hierarchy is born, and whenever there’s a hierarchy, there’s always hegemony, a dominant class/trait/masculinity that reigns over the rest. Raewyn Connell calls this Hegemonic Masculinity which, in her own words, is the “configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy.”
Even then, the filmbro does not necessarily embody your ideal Tateist patriarch. Instead the filmbro benefits from what is called “patriarchal dividend”, which are general advantages men have within the existing systemic subordination of women. And in true sigma male fashion, Hegemonic Masculinity self-perpetuates utilising the same masculine traits that define them: violence, aggression, emotional suppression, sexism, homophobia, individualism and competitiveness.
But is that really it? Are men really that inherently despicable?
It’s often easy in our contemporary culture to brush off masculinity the spawn of Satan, as inherently evil, as the scapegoat for women and feminists to conveniently blame the cause of complex systemic inequality towards the opposite sex that make up 50% of the world’s population.
They’re not entirely wrong, of course, but to whole-heartedly believe that is to admit that entirety of “masculinity” as entirely toxic—ignoring the soft masculinities, the empathetic masculinities, the non-sexist masculinities—and is inseparable from subordination and forceful coercion.
That’s too nihilistic and defeatist for my taste. Abolishing hegemony is one thing, but to equate a set of gendered traits, to equate men, as just inherently “power-hungry” in need of annihilation is just Travis Bickle-levels of cyclical violence.
In reality, what should be happening is making a clear demarcation between “Masculinity” and “Hegemony”. Instead of envisioning a static, misogynistic framework of masculinity, one should see masculinity as it really is, a set of fluid, ever-changing “masculinities” that contain a plethora of traits men can adopt and embody for the betterment of their well-being.
There are “good” masculinities and “bad” masculinities, and negotiating between the two is still an ongoing process that should strive for positive egalitarian outcomes. The tricky part is to now see “Hegemony” not as an extension of masculinity, but rather a tool for sociocultural change.
If one harkens back to Antonio Gramsci’s original interpretation of hegemony, then the fact that the majority of men can see through Tate’s bullshit, a minority within masculinity, means that you’re not consenting to the force being applied to you. One has to engage in a war of position, a war for a new masculinity—a positive masculinity—via institutional power rather than masculine aggression.
Hegemonic Masculinity is just a placeholder, a name given to the top “masculinity”, and the goal is to fight for the right masculinities through the creation/revision of rigorous structural systems that oppose the dominant minority’s interests. To do away with systemic change is to disarm the revolutionary capabilities of masculinity.
My Reformed Filmbro canon:
- The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)
- Beau Travail (1999)
- Right Now, Wrong Then (2015)
- Lingua Franca (2019)
- Ngati (1987)
- Tongues United (1989)
- Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)
- Stalker (1979)
- Orlando (1992)
- The Wolf of Wall Street *again (2013)
As for the non-denominational filmbro, I present thee with a new gospel, a new decalogue, the Reformed Filmbro canon. In this list you will find that these entries move away from the orthodox toxic masculine movies of yore, and into more progressive realisations of masculinity that will aid in our future cinephilic enlightenment.
Some of these films embrace more lighthearted, campy energetic forms of masculinity (The Young Girls), some absolutely eviscerate and lambast the defacing, misogynist, “nice guy” tendencies of men (Right Now, Wrong Then) some explore the potentialities of queer male and trans relationships (Beau Travail, Lingua Franca, United Tongues, Orlando), some try to reconcile the folly of male hubris with the quest for spiritual enlightenment (Stalker), some explore the manifestations of masculinity within colonial/diasporic contexts (Ngati), while others operate on such a chameleonic level of interpretation that sees itself both indulging and condemning capitalistic masculinity, so long as you’re not a filmbro (if you find Jordan Belfort inspirational, then Scorsese is just Fortnite-dancing on your stupidity).
Now go and spread the new word! The filmbros of yesterday don’t have to be the filmbros of tomorrow. In the words of Ryan Gosling—according to memes still circulating around on a movie still in its theatrical release that I’ve yet to watch—“I am Kenough.”