Web Series: 'Man Enough' Thoughtfully Examines Masculinity
Hollywood is currently undergoing a transition the likes of which we have never seen before. Women are coming forth with harrowing stories of sexual harassment and assault, and perpetrators as powerful as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are paying the price with what is essentially a blacklisting in the industry. It is a positive change, undoubtedly, but it has also led to cases that occupy a more confusing moral ground, like the recent controversy involving comedian Aziz Ansari. Man Enough, a new web series, aims to put a voice to these contemporary men, and explore just how we fit within the framework of these greater social movements. The result is a revealing, consistently thought-provoking watch.
Premiering earlier this month, Man Enough sees Jane the Virgin actor Justin Baldoni speak candidly with various athletes, actors, and musicians. The questions vary in each episode, but the overarching goal is the same: to lend credence to our perspective as a gender, and to discuss topics that are rarely illuminated on a screen. The second episode, for example, sees Baldoni and company discuss the role of traditional masculinity in the modern age, questioning everything from the way our fathers raised us to the way media and television depict us on a daily basis. There aren’t any clear answers, if at all, but seeing the cast tackle such obtuse material sort of invites you to reflect and arrive at answers of your own.
What I found most appealing about Man Enough is that it doesn’t approach its subject matter as “precious” or overly-serious, but from a place of good humor and candor. In scenes where Baldoni and others are seated at a table, moments of heartfelt revelation could just as soon turn into a joke or a funny turn of phrase, taking the unease out of the situation. The series doesn’t have an agenda, it doesn’t aim to soften the male image or revolt against the current feminist movement, it simply wants to get to the bottom of men as they are, and in that, moments of profundity arise.
In the episode “Lets get Vulnerable”, my personal favorite of the four that have been released thus far, the group questions why men feel they have to get drunk before they can open up or be genuine with friends. “We have to socially excuse ourselves for behavior that should be so natural,” says Hamilton actor Javier Munoz. “We’re removing the inhibitions. The inhibitions to be something other than what we are,” adds rapper Prince Ea, “meaning that this whole persona, masculinity, is an act. They don’t call it gender roles for nothing, it's a role.”
The episode “#METOO” delves into more controversial (and timely) territory, sexual consent, but to the show’s credit, it maintains its unpretentious air. "This is like going to a university and getting a new education for many of us men," Baldoni explains, "Yes means yes, no means no, and saying nothing also means no. This is just something that we have to educate our older men, our younger men, and our boys about at a much younger age." Amidst all the criticism and defensiveness, it's refreshing to see a group of men discuss sure heated topics from a place of mutual respect.
For some, the interview/roundtable format of Man Enough may grow tiresome, especially as some episodes range upwards of forty minutes, but there’s also a wealth of important and revelatory material to be found along the way. These are informed entertainers discussing topics that affect all of us as men, and doing so in a skillful, entertaining manner. In a recent interview with Mashable, Baldoni said that "We’re having to unlearn and confront our privilege and biases that we didn’t even know we had… Three years ago I wasn't a bad guy; I just wasn’t as aware as I am today." Check out Man Enough, you won’t be sorry you did.
All four episodes of Man Enough are currently available for streaming on manenough.com.