Hyper masculinity refers to the exaggeration of certain stereotypical masculine attributes such as aggression, fearlessness and emotional bankruptcy.
Recently, we’ve seen a spate of Hindi movies that eulogise a somewhat hyper masculine behaviour in the protagonist, who is invariably male. This is evidenced in the excessive and sometimes pointless male centric action sequences, mindless dialogues and heroes having chiselled bodies with 6-pack abs. Every top rated star has started to adhere to this one stereotypical image of a “manly man” and thus, we see different movies with practically the same storyline (that of a body-builder with a hidden heart of gold, who copes with his inability to show emotions). Not only has the variety of movies gone down, the standard of movie making has become questionable. If one were to inspect the so called blockbusters in the past 2-3 years, one would find the same disturbing masculine image appearing again and again.
The following are 6 reasons why this trend is hugely problematic for the society:
1. It is a well known fact that certain images in media sometimes have an adverse affect in the society. The Machismo factor results in glorifying some aspects of a particular stereotyped masculinity. Young men are vulnerable to such kind of thinking and social conditioning, which without any doubt is very harmful since this eulogises violence, which is seen to be stylish and “manly”. Brute force seems to be the call of the day.
2. There is absolutely no scope of depicting and/or appreciating alternate masculine characters in these movies. At a subconscious level, this sends out a message to men that only a certain type of image is acceptable and regarded as true masculine behaviour; all the others need to be repressed. It is either the “Dabangg” or the “Rowdy” hero who rules the theatres nowadays. Even the side characters or the villains are similar though somewhat lesser versions (in terms of morality and goodness of character) of the hero. Non-violent expressions of masculinity are not accepted at all.
3. These movies have made women completely redundant for the storyline! Earlier, some strong roles used to be written for them, but nowadays all they do is ornamental at best. Movies are a reflection of the society, but they also tend to be our main escape mechanism since the audience does not have to think too much but the violent images tend to affect the people at a subconscious level.The emotional bankruptcy of the male protagonist makes it unimportant for him to engage with the issues of the women surrounding him.He becomes the centre of all the attention.
4. Risk taking among Indian cinema fraternity has decreased to a large extent. These movies stink content wise! The audience is fed such garbage in the name of entertainment. It’s the “punch” lines (pun intended) that matter. The Bollywood producers are playing the safe card. So, if one movie is a huge hit, it is likely to be replicated by some other director/producer. After all, movie making is one of the most profitable businesses there is.
5. Hypermasculinity also stresses on the hyper sexual aspect of a man. The hero is invariably straight and is homophobic to a certain extent.The films are filled with crass sexual innuendos and the hero is often found to be lewd in his behavior. Rape jokes and misogynist song lyrics are the order of the day. Take for example, the song “Agal Bagal” from “Phata Poster Nikla Hero“, in which the hero insists on stalking the lead actress.
6.There is a disturbing commonality with some problematic political and ideological stances. The fact that these masculinity ideological structures are so popular with the so called “educated” urban public makes you realise they might share some common traits with the rise of the popularity of religious fundamentalist right wing activities, (which also strategically make use of some attributes of hyper masculine behaviour) in cities and towns in India. In ‘Raanjhanaa‘, Muslims are shown in quite a poor light. This is opposed to the creepy stalker-y Hindu hero, whose main fault was to fall in love at first sight for a Muslim girl, who is shown to be manipulative and indecisive in nature. Only, he never even bothers to check with the girl if she is really interested in him; his liking for her comes first to any sensible logic in the case. But her family and religion (at a very subconscious level) becomes the villain in this story.
There is a dire need to reevaluate the ways we look at gender in motion pictures, especially Indian cinema. The instances of increasing gender-based violence in India makes it very important for us to inspect problematic stereotypes that appear in popular media.