Jack O’Connell: Men’s lives are burdened by the term ‘toxic masculinity’

The 24th GQ Men of the Year Awards in association with BOSS at Tate Modern, London, UK

Jack O’Connell is currently promoting a BBC Two drama called The North Water, set in the 1850s and costarring Colin Farrell. He just turned 31 years old and he works consistently – he flirted with stardom, but I think he’ll probably end up as as just one of those talented British actors who can move in and out of character roles and lead roles in a wide variety of projects. A jack of all trades, master of none. Before I read this Guardian interview, I had generally positive feelings about Jack. He seemed, as they say in the UK, like a “lad” with a heart of gold. I still remember how warmly he and Angelina Jolie spoke about each other on Unbroken, and anyone who adores Angelina that way is A-OK in my book. That being said, Jack sounds pretty douchey in this interview. It’s like Not All Men, but instead of just an internet reply, it’s a whole damn personal philosophy wherein Jack seems to think that men deserve to be a protected class. Some highlights:

On masculinity: “It’s quite a… complex topic, isn’t it? I grew up in a lot of genuinely macho environments. My dad played football for a team until I was seven, and I can still remember that musk of the dressing room….The environment with my uncles was a jovial one, with hilarity, honesty. I don’t think the term ‘toxic masculinity’ is very helpful though. It makes me feel… a certain way to see men’s lives getting clouded by it, and burdened.”

Men are a chastised group: “Men are a chastised group within society. But my experience with male-dominated crowds was always that they were… gentleman….Misogyny is a pig-ugly trait, but you could also call it a self-absorbed, self-serving self-centredness. And no one likes a selfish c–t. It’s tough. I mean, I read the Guardian. And a lot of time I feel targeted, just by virtue of being a lad.”

On meeting Angelina Jolie: “Walking in for that first meeting was nerve-wracking. It’s a funny one, when you meet Americans. Because if you have a strong regional accent,” he gestures to his strong regional accent, “there’s a danger of being misconstrued as their equivalent of a conservative redneck who’d vote Trump. In Angie’s case that did not apply. Which in my experience is quite a rare thing.”

Why he deleted Instagram. “Right, that’s why I deleted Instagram.” Why? “George Clooney told me to. It took about three years from him giving the advice though for me to take it. It’s show business, isn’t it?”

Understanding his identity: “Your own identity is one of the most challenging things to understand. As a man, you have your own power and agency, and it’s about learning where that is beneficial, and where it’s poisonous. That’s not a phenomenon that’s particular to men though; we’re all trying to work out what our meaning is aren’t we? And we’re all fallible. I’m trying to listen more. I’m trying to be better.”

[From The Guardian]

On a scale of Tone-Deaf Matt Damon to Apologizing For Being Tone-Deaf Matt Damon, where does this fall? I think it’s more on the “Matt Damon apologizes for —” side of the scale. It’s clear, as I read the entire interview, that Jack was basically trying to meditate on masculinity in the modern age, and how men perform masculinity for other men, and how we shouldn’t generalize about men or masculinity. But he’s a smart guy – he should have caught himself when he started in about “Men are a chastised group within society.” Oh, poor baby. He’s worried about men being chastised! You know what women are worried about? Being raped, being assaulted, being stalked and harassed because a group of bros need to perform their masculinity for one another. But hey, men are being chastised, you guys! Where’s their viral hashtag? #NotAllMenDeserveToBeChastised

Jack O'Connell 76th Venice Film Festival

Thanks to Laura for the tip!

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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38 Responses to “Jack O’Connell: Men’s lives are burdened by the term ‘toxic masculinity’”

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  1. lunchcoma says:

    Men burdened by the term and not by toxic masculinity itself? All right, then.

    The rest of the interview is really heavy on name dropping.

    • Nina says:

      Poor little souls, it must have been so hard on them to finally be called out for their behaviour

    • PoppedBubble says:

      Just like being more concerned about being called a racist than actually being one.

    • Myra says:

      A culture and behaviour so problematic that a term was coined for it and it’s the term that bothers him. I really dislike the #NotAllPeople defense. It’s just a ploy to sidetrack from very much-needed discussions.

    • NotSoSocialButterfly says:

      Yes, and clearly, “If it don’t apply, let it fly” does not resonate with this one. Ugh.

  2. Erinn says:

    “and a lot of time I feel targeted, just by virtue of being a lad.”

    So you’re a shit person, then. If we’re reading about toxic masculinity or other male caused problems – if you don’t see yourself in the kind of person they’re describing you wouldn’t feel offended. But sure, go on about how gentlemanly you and allllll of your friends are.

    • detritus says:

      Weird right? A lot of the time women are targeted by virtue of them being a woman.

      Not something they feel, actually backed by research.

  3. goofpuff says:

    Oh yeah, he is totally tone deaf. Way to misunderstand what “toxic masculinity” really means.

  4. Rapunzel says:

    What’s the old saying? Men fear women will laugh at them, but women fear men will kill them? And this guy is bitching about the burden of toxic masculinity theory and feeling targeted by The Guardian?

    Newsflash, dumbdumb: if the concept of toxic masculinity is a burden to you and you feel chastised and targeted by the media, then maybe you should ask yourself what you’ve done wrong to feel so weighed down, guilty, and attacked. Find out and get yourself right.

    • GraceB says:

      “Dumbdumb” made me laugh out loud because it’s something we frequently call each other in our house.

      I think the term “toxic masculinity” has the same impact on men as “white privilege” and racism does on white people. They feel targeted, even if they don’t feel it applies to them. People have an inability to separate themselves from the group and see the bigger picture. It’s not a direct accusation, unless your actions have been a part of it. It’s addressing a wider cultural issue.

      • Rapunzel says:

        They can’t separate themselves because they are not different. This is what causes the outrage: they become aware of what they’re doing wrong and don’t like it. It’s childish tantrums.

      • dlc says:

        white privilege does apply to all white people. In our society we receive privileges as Caucasians weather or not we want to admit it.

  5. A says:

    I feel burdened by having to explain ‘toxic masculinity’ to men like Jack O’Connell. Where’s my sympathetic interview?

  6. Robyn says:

    Won’t somebody think of the men?! *faints*

    Sure, #notallmen but definitely this specific man.

  7. ElleV says:

    miss me with this nonsense – this is like saying white people are a chastised group as if facing criticism is worse than the harmful behaviours and systems that people are actually criticizing.

    no one on earth is saying it’s toxic to be a sporty, sweaty man who likes a laugh unless your definition of being a “lad” necessarily intertwines those things with sexism, homophobia, racism and violence. that’s why people critique *toxic* masculinity, not masculinity generally – like, it’s literally spelled out in the name. ffs.

  8. Barbie1 says:

    He feels like a victim does he? What an infuriating interview. Poor baby feels targeted lol give me a break!

    • AlpineWitch says:

      Take this with a grain of salt as it has been reported through 2-3 people to me…. but he is not as nice as he thinks he is… quite the opposite.

  9. Emma says:

    My lord I hope he gets pushback on this. What a self-absorbed git.

  10. #facts says:

    At this point all the men In Hollywood are whining and complaining about being azzhole stupid and just plain foul arrogant sob’s. That’s it in a nutshell.

  11. Leah says:

    He thinks men are burdened by toxic masculinity. Whatever.

    What about the women who have been killed by it? Snuffed out for saying NO. It’s the male ego that drives it and refuses to accept that no. As a woman I am always on guard about what I say to men because I know that if one of them takes something the wrong way, it could end badly for me. If one of them assumes something or refuses to read the room, it could end badly. I always have a wall up. I’ve been on a target of the abusive side of that ego, and have been stalked for saying “no” so it’s self protection. Women always have to be on the defense from male toxicity. It’s exhausting.

    I doubt that guy has any such worries.

  12. Case says:

    I don’t think he understands what “toxic masculinity” means.

  13. Deanne says:

    Oh please. Cry me a river Jack.

    • Eve says:


      Should’ve read the whole thread before posting my comment. Didn’t mean to plagiarize you.

      Or, you know…great minds and all that shit.

  14. Calypso says:

    Well I’m disappointed to hear this. I’ve followed Jack’s career for a while because I thought (think) he was incredibly talented but this is a massive professional turnoff. I know he’s struggled and had a lot of trouble getting his life together (I think he was troubled before he was an actor and then acting/becoming a big name certainly didn’t help — I know his prior felonies actually hampered his career because he couldn’t get work visas in the US, it was that bad) but I’m like you, Kaiser, I felt generally warm things about him. He was an underdog in the UK. So many actors in the UK are from very posh, well-connected families (I love her but Phoebe Waller-Bridge is from titled nobility as are many Brits in the arts) so yeah I want working class representation (s/o again to Michael Coel for being brilliant).

    But this? Come on, dude. This is absurd, and gross and I hold out hope that he will learn and grow but until then nah.

  15. Eve says:

    Oh, go cry me an ocean. All of them, actually.


  16. Marigold says:

    I think it was fine.

  17. J says:

    Why is he wearing a pajama top in some of those photos?

  18. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Men should be ecstatic with verbal burdening as their generational consequences should be severely tangible. F@ck their sensibilities. I have three sons, and I still tell them to shut up when a women is speaking lol.

  19. Wilma says:

    Dude should be reminded that men are victims of toxic masculinity too. We should bond together and eliminate those attitudes for the good of us all.

  20. Cassie says:

    So on his way to denounce toxic masculinity he displays fragile masculinity….K.

  21. pottymouth pup says:

    tell me you’re a male chauvenist without saying you’re a male chauvenist

  22. pottymouth pup says:

    caption this interview with “tell me you’re a male chauvinist without saying you’re a male chauvinist”

  23. Kay says:

    Every time I see these men lament about the struggles of “masculinity is being targeted!”, I roll my eyes. We don’t give a shit if you like sports and dumb jokes, Jack, we just want you to be a fully rounded human being whose “lad nature” doesn’t put women in harms way/make us uncomfortable.

    My husband loves sports (our whole lives are overtaken by football, between pro and fantasy and college) and golf and fishing. He is also an outspoken feminist (who puts his money where his mouth is, politically and from an activism standpoint) who will call out a misogynistic joke and has no problems indulging in “less masculine” hobbies. He leads a happy life. It’s not rocket science.

    • schmootc says:

      Yup, don’t be Robin Thicke and grab someone’s breasts on a video shoot! This isn’t hard. Keep your hands to yourself. Treat people like human beings! And so on.

  24. Penny says:

    Women are being chastised for being raped, stalked, harassed and abused