YOU. Quickly. What do you want? Don’t think about it — thinking before acting is a thing that only women do. Unlike the emotionally driven, over-analytical female species, men don’t need to contemplate, they just do. Men accomplish. And they earn a new bulky muscle of masculine power every time they conquer a sturdy knot, a dirty job, a really heavy object, a steak, a beer, a beard or, of course, a soft, feminine, nubile lady. Right…?
At least, these are the ridiculous gender rules of our culture, as lampooned in today’s Staff Pick Premiere, “Men Don’t Whisper.” This short comedy from Jordan Firstman killed at its Sundance 2018 premiere and we laughed right along with it. With Firstman and co-writer Charles Rogers starring as “basic” gays, and Bridey Elliott and Clare McNulty as “basic” girls, “Men Don’t Whisper” is the story of two men whose names alone give you a clue about the creator’s sense of humor. “We made a list of the whitest, waspiest, gayest names we could think of, and Reese and Peyton came out on top,” explains Firstman. “Runners up were Skylar, Chaz, and Liam.”
After feeling emasculated by a hyper, screeching Cheri Oteri (in top form in her role as an overly enthusiastic pyramid-scheme coach), boyfriends Peyton and Reese challenge themselves to prove their masculinity to one another by attempting to entice two women out of their clothing and into some beds. “Since gay men and women are not at the forefront of the patriarchy, we wanted these characters basically to work for the devil and enforce the patriarchy,” says Firstman. “For gay men, we are constantly trying to prove our masculinity to the world and to one another because we are scared that loving a man makes us inherently less masculine.”
It’s a brilliant setup by Firstman and Rogers (also co-writers behind TBS’ hit show Search Party), as multi-level marketing retreats are often hosted in cheesy spring break destinations like casino hotels or near beaches like Atlantic City. And who doesn’t wanna get loose when they’re drunk on sun, giant novelty drinks, and the adrenaline of selling 600 “units” for Nutricia in a month? As you can imagine, the situation takes several pitiful but hilarious turns as the two men try and try again to live up to the so-called expectations of their gender, but end up taking several breaks to whisper at each other in the hotel room bathroom.
While you’re laughing at how impossible it is for these two men to get it up, you may not notice that you’re also joining Firstman and Rogers in making fun of how harshly people judge each other for not conforming to social norms. It’s a brilliant, effective approach to teaching us all a lesson about bucking expectations and just being our simultaneously masculine and feminine selves. As Firstman explains, there’s a real, dark message underneath all the comedy: “I hope audiences think about toxic masculinity and find some nuance about the pressures of being a gay man in modern society. I hope gay men see this film, and see some of themselves in it, and vow to themselves that after seeing this film, they will change every part of their identity and personality. And then we can all be the fem swishy queens we truly want to be.”
We fully support this sarcasm, and hope you will get right on changing yourself. Good luck, and enjoy this video PSA!
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