Jake Gyllenhaal: ‘Masculinity is, nowadays and generationally, confusing’


42nd Toronto International Film Festival - Stronger Photocall

Jake Gyllenhaal is promoting Stronger, the Boston Bombing movie where he plays real-life bombing victim Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs on that dreadful day. I only recently sat down and watched the trailer for this film and I was surprised by how little of the story was actually about what happened on the day. That’s a good thing – it’s about one man’s story, not the nitty-gritty of the terrorist attack. Anyway, for years now, Jake has often come across as an odd bird in interviews. It’s not that he’s “prickly” per se, but you can just tell… he absolutely loathes doing press, hates talking about himself and really doesn’t want to answer any personal questions at all. He sat down with Elle Mag for an interview for Stronger. Some highlights:

What’s on his mind these days: “I’ve been reading a lot about the American Revolution and recently binge-watched The Crown, so I’m really curious about the pros and cons of democracy versus a parliamentary system versus a monarchy. I’m a real joy to be around right now, as you can imagine.

On being set up on dates: “People should do it more often. I absolutely encourage it. There should be more of that in my life. When you said “Set you up,” I thought you meant for a prank.

Defining masculinity: “Masculinity is, nowadays and generationally, confusing. What is honor, what is protection, what is being a man? It’s evolving. But I believe having an open heart—and a strong mind to protect that—is the idea.

On learning from his mother: “Most of the things that I learn are from the women in my life. My mom would always say this thing about writing—and I’ve taken it into account in a lot of things in my life—which is just, “Make it shorter.” Figure out what you are truly saying, whittle it down to the essence, then say that.”

What he learned from participating in the Women’s March: “That there should be another one. And it should be bigger. Soon.

On first meeting Jeff Bauman (The character he plays in new film Stronger): “I was nervous, it was initially awkward. I think there is, essentially, something fraudulent in what I do for a living. Ang Lee once said that as filmmakers, “we pretend to get closer to the truth.” Inevitably, when you’re dealing with a real-life story, there’s the knowledge that nothing you can do will ever match what [Bauman] went through. Before I start anything, I question why I’m doing it. I think that’s the conundrum of any artist, maybe.

[From Elle]

I like where he’s going on the “define masculinity” question: “Masculinity is, nowadays and generationally, confusing. What is honor, what is protection, what is being a man? It’s evolving.” Jake isn’t generally one of those guys who behaves with toxic masculinity – he seems woke and feminist (or perhaps just an ally) and I can’t even remember him doing anything personally or professionally which could be side-eyed. And yes, there should be another Women’s March. I’m sure there will be, especially if and when Robert Mueller starts indicting people.

29Rooms opening night 2017

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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54 Responses to “Jake Gyllenhaal: ‘Masculinity is, nowadays and generationally, confusing’”

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  1. Who ARE these people? says:

    There should be people in the streets 24/7 and the question is why there haven’t been already.

    • Veronica says:

      There’s been plenty of organization across phone lines and Internet movements to contact senators. Plenty of smaller protests have been going on in individual cities. Organizing in the streets on the scale of the Women’s March just isn’t fiscally or even logistically possible for a lot of people. The problem is really Congress at this point – they’re utterly intractable on the issue of Donald Trump because they’re focused on pushing their agenda through, and barring that, too afraid to admit they’ve created a monster they can’t control and don’t want to reap the backlash from removing him.

      • lightpurple says:

        Wherever Paul Ryan is, there should be protests. Including outside his house in Wisconsin and wherever he stays in DC – I’m not believing that he still sleeps in his office. Our personal lives are all impacted by his acts or failure to act, his personal life should be impacted too. Yes, his wife and kids should be exposed constantly, but respectfully, to what he is putting us through.

      • Isabelle says:

        Which truth be told does very little on its own. There needs to a combination of many things well organized with leadership. A ruttlerless protest will result in nothing happening significant and will fade away. The internet as actually ruined protest in a way because its created less organized movements, without leadership, without a specific goal or true purpose.

    • Enough Already says:

      Many are working, going to school, raising families, eeking out a living, pursuing an education etc. because of the desperately hard work of yesterday’s feminists I think many contemporary women take their freedom and agency for granted. There are still lots of fighters and people who fight in everyday, quiet ways but now that #45 is in office I think more men and women *will* be more active in this struggle.

    • Jem54 says:

      Tatiana Maslany is also in the movie, so I may go see it because I miss Orphan Black! Fun Paul Ryan facts fr @stoppaulryan In 2017, Paul Ryan has traveled to 30 states, nearly 65 cities, and done almost 250 fundraising events, and not one open town hall meeting. https://t.co/duKytUHuEn

    • Who ARE these people? says:

      People in other democracies have jobs and families too. South Koreans ousted a corrupt president, for one, but there are many recent examples of people shutting things down, on workdays, to force change. It is a legitimate question as to why protest is not more widespread or overwhelming and persistent in a national emergency because phone calls and local protests aren’t saving the country. I ask myself this too, believe me. I know too many people who live comfortably and think they can defer action til the next election. Trump may declare martial law well before then.

    • Kitten says:

      I don’t know what people are doing in other states but here in Mass there are protests and marches every single weekend. We’ve been to many of them and I think the next one we’ll go to is the Take a Knee march in a couple weeks.

      I do question how impactful these marches are in blue states, but I attend because it’s important to show solidarity with the people who are most affected by this administration.

      • Who ARE these people? says:

        I know and there are so many people doing what they can. But is it the response that is going to work for this extreme a situation? With democracy hanging by a thread? That I don’t know. The same “normalizing” factors are in place, the mass media are still blunting the truth and not asking enough of the right questions (with notable exceptions), and the Republican party appears to be fully enabled by determined financiers and religious fanatics who have been working from a master plan for decades. My senators are in the upper south and I just get voicemail. For all I know they ignore us.

      • Who ARE these people? says:

        It seems that disrupting business as usual may be the thing that works. Where was the American Spring?

      • Justjj says:

        I live in a state with a poverty rate around 20%, where nearly 60% of individuals work at or below the federal minimum wage of 7.25$ an hour. Where the average annual household income for a family of four is 40,000$…

        Do you think people are going to risk losing what very little they have they to make a political statement? This to me, is what is so reprehensible about the Republicans. It is a very red state because it is a very religious state and a very uneducated state. We all know the system is no match for corporate lobbies, gerrymandering, and manipulating vulnerable voters like the ones I just described. Telling the working poor and impoverished that their reward is waiting in heaven is as old as industry. It is exploitation and it’s so sick and so beyond evil.

        It is with such privilege that people say these individuals or anyone, should protest. Having a voice is a luxury that the overwhelming majority of Americans could never afford. I understand the intersections of race and gender also affect things, but we are in a class war and the rich are winning.

        How can people protest when they are working 60 hours a week just to keep their lights on? For example, there is no federal law that mandates lunch breaks for adults over 18. Aside from the simple logistics of disrupting or potentially losing your meager living, there are no employment or labor laws that protect American workers. Trump doesn’t have to declare martial law. The system is oppressive enough to scare people into compliance and if it can’t do that, it sure can manipulate people into it. So why aren’t the people with an education and higher paying jobs doing this on a regular basis? They try in small numbers, but the same reasons. No laws to protect them and jobs they need.

        The poor, working poor, and lower middle class, are carrying the American economy and military, and they can’t even put their heads up. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly racists and horrible people on the Right and Left, but all in all, I think there are lots and lots of prisoners to the dollar and a huge number of American workers who can’t see through the fog. The echo chambers of social media, entertainment, and the news media fill what little time they have, and there you go.

        That’s why people aren’t protesting in large numbers.

      • Justjj says:

        Imo, we are stuck. I’ll just put it that way. Ask someone working minimum wage with no car and no access to healthcare now thanks to Trump where the ‘American Spring’ is?

    • ash says:

      well black people have for decades and then get dogs, police, and national guard set upon them while “white allies” look onward until 45 now they’re angry

      just a bit of history and snark :)

  2. Nancy says:

    He’s right, listen to your mother….lol my ten year old hasn’t reached that point yet! I actually clicked on Jake’s thread to veer away from the endless, repetitious, nauseating threads on HW. I can’t anymore. Put him and 45 on an island to sort out their problems, an island somewhere near North Korea.

  3. adastraperaspera says:

    I don’t know. Isn’t “masculinity” just a phantom? Created to obscure the truth of the matter–that we are all human beings, and all equal? I say discard it, instead of define it.

    • third ginger says:

      You are so right.

    • Esmom says:

      Yes, I tend to agree. Maybe that’s why some people are struggling to define it.

    • detritus says:

      Yes, yes. What does it mean to be a good person, not a good man.
      Those themes, honour, protecting the vulnerable, those are excellent for anyone.

    • magnoliarose says:

      No, I don’t agree with that. It isn’t realistic, and we have to deal with the system we have in place at the moment. There are social theories that are interesting to debate, but then there is the reality of how the world is structured.

      There is positive masculinity just as feminism is a positive for women. My husband and I are in counseling with a focus on heterosexual relationships and feminism. It has been a gamechanger in our marriage and as parents. A large part of our discord was conditioning and him not understanding some of my reactions were from years of self-protection and vigilance from being betrayed by a misogynistic culture and victimized and shamed by it. I was determined never to feel vulnerable or dominated in any way ever again, so I saw in imaginary places sometimes, but it wasn’t my fault. I had to be that way to survive as most women do. I pushed him away because he was hitting all my alarms and assigned behavior to him from my past.

      One of the first things was my husband learning more about what has happened to a woman by the time she is old enough to be in a committed relationship. It also helped me understand his confusion about how to approach me or be a good husband. I don’t need him to fix everything for me, but I don’t need to be defensive when he wants to protect me sometimes.

      One of the reasons a lot of male feminists are irritating is because they try to act like feminine feminists in the movement instead of understanding their essential role. Some guys think by being supportive about our periods or agreeing with equal pay and recognizing No means No or rape isn’t about clothing is enough. They believe putting strong women their movies or books is enough or promoting some women at work makes their work complete.

      Like this thing with Harvey. It happened because men protected him and did not protect women when they are the only ones who had the power to do so. A feminist male doesn’t need to hide behind a woman to be told what to do; he should know it and rebuke it on his own when he sees it. He should tell other men exactly why he rebukes it and not feel like he did something extraordinary. They should call out men who allowed this to happen and did nothing every time they see it. Men have to understand the full scope of what constitutes harassing behavior or men using their power to control women.

      It means supporting women of color and understanding their added burden. If you don’t do that, then you aren’t a feminist. Period.

  4. Guest says:

    I just love him. He adores his sister, her kids, his mom. I guess the women in his family taught him much. I also love Maggie. She is great.

  5. third ginger says:

    Jake is right on track about masculinity because it’s a social construct, just like femininity. I always want to hope that Jake is a nice young man whose heart is in the right place. Sounds like he is.

  6. Anna says:

    Love me some Toothy. <3

  7. ArchieGoodwin says:

    Wentworth Miller wrote a passage about the toxicity of the phrase “man up”. It was in relation to depression, but his thoughts can be universally applied I think.

    I like Jake. After all we are reading, it’s refreshing to hear about someone who articulates, is honest and is helping with action.

    • Blinkbanana says:

      That phrase has a lot to answer for. That and the twisted notion that showing emotion, vulnerability and softness are somehow weak. Masculinity has been in “crisis” for decades. Masculinity has been toxic for a lot longer. The key is realising that equality for women is equality for all. I just wish there weren’t so many scared men out there worrying about the “womens” taking their power away.

      • Who ARE These People? says:

        No one gives up power willingly, and they’ve had it for all time. They’re not scared. They’re angry.

    • swak says:

      One of the best lines in the movie “Big Hero Six” is GoGo telling Hiro to “Woman up”.

  8. Wren says:

    Masculinity is toxic when it is defined by what it is not instead of what it is. If you define yourself or a quality in negatives, you can never hope to achieve it. How many people define being “manly” as “not girly”? When in reality, being “not girly” is an endless rabbit hole of increasingly arbitrary definitions that no real person could (or should) embody. Being strong does not mean making others weak, but it is often interpreted so. Even so called traditional masculine ideals such as leadership and providing for one’s family (or group) have been twisted. Leadership is not oppression, providing is not keeping others down so you can boost your ego by dominating and controlling them in exchange for your magnanimity.

    I often think of the concept of the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine. Essentially, the divine masculine embodies compassion, unconditional love, loyalty, courage, and strength. The leader who does not seek power, the warrior who stands for peace. Nowhere in there is ego, fear, hate, domination, or superiority, for all these things are true weakness. Power vs. force, the difference is vast and critical yet poorly understood by many. In the men I admire, I often find several of the elements of the divine masculine and often the divine feminine too.

  9. Electric Tuba says:

    My granmaw died this morning. She had 10 kids, started her own catering company to pay the bills when my granpaw was turning up short for everything, and she gave me every bit of my gumption, power, “balls” as idiots would call it. She was a Julia Sugarbaker, a Blanche, a bad ass, a butt kicker, a tell it like it is in your face WOMAN.
    Everything in me right now is on FIRE. I want to take down these dumb bastards in Washington, I want to harness all her power and mess some dumb ass patriarchal bull shit all the way UP! Ahhhhhhhhh!

    • OTHER RENEE says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss. She sounds like an amazing and inspiring woman.

    • Mira Belle says:

      Electric – internet *hugs* to you. Your grandma sounds like she was an amazing lady, and I am sorry for your loss. What a life she lived! And how lucky she was to have a grandaughter like to to carry on the fire and inspiration.

  10. Mumzy says:

    I have mentioned this group and their film(s) before, but I can’t recommend them highly enough. http://therepresentationproject.org/film/the-mask-you-live-in/

    The first film “Miss Representation” was a powerful look at how girls/women are represented in society — what it is teaching young girls and boys and how it affects females and males. The latest film is “The Mask You Live In” and does the same for boys/men. It is *so powerful* and such a needed look at the effects of trying to “being a man” in today’s society. It is available for streaming in the US on Netflix I know. PLEASE try to find and watch it. Even better, buy a copy and give to your local school so faculty and staff will watch and hopefully at least offer a showing for parents. (My daughter’s high school showed it to the two upper grades and it was very well received.) Consider donating a copy to your public library so it is available for many people to access. (I have no ties to anyone related to this organization or these films.)

    This is such an important issue and The Representation Project does an amazing job of trying to make people aware of the dangers of gender stereotyping. These films are a great way to look closely at the issue, boost awareness and start meaningful conversation and change.

    As for Jake, there are few “celebrities” I would want to sit down with for a drink and conversation but he would be one (and these days maybe the only one). He’s made interesting professional choices and the little bit the public has heard from him (bless him for that) paints him as someone who is intellecturally curious and thoughtful. (His sister seems to be a talented, no-nonsense powerhouse as well.)

  11. EOA says:

    Protesting, while important, isn’t the only way to effect change. In fact, the most important way to bring about change is to a). run for office; b). support a candidate you like and/or c). vote.

    I like what he said here about the work he does as an actor only approximating the truth. I haven’t seen Stronger yet but I do know some of the people impacted by the bombing and they are amazingly strong.

  12. Canadi-Anne says:

    Shifting the warm fuzzy feelings I had for Matt Damon to Jake G in 3, 2, 1…

  13. Tina says:

    Jake is a nice, gay man.

    • Agent Fang says:

      Why do people need to insist that Jake is gay and what difference does it make whether he’s gay or not?

      • third ginger says:

        Because the internet is the last refuge of the homophobe. Oh, they will swear they are not, but if sexuality did not matter, they would never say anything. Also, my daughter is gay.

      • magnoliarose says:

        Especially when Jake maybe just a private man who fits no label. Who cares? I don’t choose my lovely friends because of their sexuality but because I like who they are and find them to be beautiful human beings. He doesn’t need to tell us anything either way.

      • third ginger says:

        Magnoliarose, a kind and generous comment.

      • JosieH says:

        “Oh, they will swear they are not, but if sexuality did not matter, they would never say anything. Also, my daughter is gay.”

        The contradiction in these two sentences made me chuckle.

      • Agent Fang says:

        @Josieh: me too. But she was agreeing with me, so I overlooked as one does. ☺

      • third ginger says:

        You mean the “contradiction BETWEEN these two sentences.” The “they” I was referring to were homophobes. But thanks for making fun of me and my child. Never underestimate the rudeness of the internet.

    • Artemis says:

      It’s very interesting that this rumour is still a thing. Firstly; this originated from a blind item and you would think people would learn from the Gretchen Mol/Blake Lively debacle how it can destroy careers and reputations of people who don’t deserve it at all. Being gay is not bad but in his case it’s not true.

      Secondly, if you do want to go by rumours, you should now it’s not a secret on the New York scene that he picks up hot women from his Soulcycle class by leaving his number at the reception for the lady in question, it’s his thing.

      • ell says:

        when the blind started they talked about a bisexual man. now, i don’t believe in blinds, but as a bisexual myself i’m so angered at the erasure. unfortunately it isn’t just homophobes who insist jake is gay, but a lot of monosexuals in the lgbt+ community as well do. it’s just a lot of intolerance.

        with that said, even if he were bisexual, he doesn’t have to come out publicly. no one does.

  14. Myhairisfullofsecrets says:

    Always liked him as an actor and a person.

  15. Carol says:

    He has always been one of my favorites and every interview confirms my first impression. Look up the video of him singing Sondheim; he has an amazing voice. His interviews with Ryan Reynolds are funny as well. He hits all my buttons.