Kumail Nanjiani worries his jacked body is perpetuating toxic masculinity

It’s funny to me that Kumail Nanjiani’s current career reads like a fairy tale and a parable. A funny, nerdy Pakistani immigrant finds success as a comedian and actor, but only while playing variations on “the South East Asian nerd.” Kumail then transformed his body to play a superhero, hoping that it would open up conversations and break the nerd typecasting. And now… people just want to talk to Kumail about his body transformation. He’s still the same nerd! He’s just ripped now. And I’m not sure he’s still enjoying all of these interviews where he’s asked constantly about his body. Kumail has a good profile in GQ to promote The Eternals, and yes, it’s mostly about getting ripped. Some highlights:

When he was a kid, a classmate called him Chicken Shoulders. “It would’ve been better if I was like, ‘Hey, I like how I look. F–k ’em all.’ But I didn’t do that.”

He’s tired of people asking about his body: “I’ve found out over the last year and a half, since I did that picture, that I am very uncomfortable talking about my body—and it’s become less and less and less comfortable.”

He really wanted to take The Eternals seriously: “If I’m playing the first South Asian superhero, I want to look like someone who can take on Thor or Captain America, or any of those people,” he says. But also because the character shrouds himself in the guise of a Bollywood star. Nanjiani grew up watching Bollywood movies—“From the ’60s to the ’90s I know basically every big [one],” says Nanjiani—so he knows those guys are jacked. “I was like, I want this to be believable. I want to feel that kind of powerful in this role.”

He’s worried he’s perpetuating the toxic image of masculinity that he grew up idolizing. “It is aggression. It is anger. A lot of times we are taught to be useful by using physical strength or our brain in an aggressive, competitive way. Not in an empathetic way. Not in an open, collaborative way. It’s the same thing when you have all these guys, like, asking people to debate them on Twitter. That’s the same as arm wrestling. It’s about defeating. And that’s what the male ideal has been. Dominating. Defeating. Crushing. Killing. Destroying. That’s what being jacked is.”

Men look at him nowadays like they want to fight him: “I just see the little child inside them, like a little child pretending to be a big, strong man. It’s laughable if it wasn’t so f–king devastating—and causing so many problems in the world. I just want to be like, Dude, if you learn how to cry, you’d just be a lot happier.”

Why he’s posted photos of his jacked body: “I wanted different types of opportunities. I wanted the industry to see me differently. With brown people, there are very specific roles that we used to get. Either we’re terrified or we’re causing terror. Those are the only two options we had. Either I’m fixing your computer, or I’m, like, planning something at the stock exchange. I shared [those photos] specifically to be like, Hey, I needed to change how people saw me so I could have the type of opportunities I was excited about. And those did happen! Now I get those opportunities. I don’t just mean action stuff. I mean, like, now I get opportunities to play a normal guy. I was not seen as a normal guy before this.”

[From GQ]

It’s crazy that he’s sort of seeing the darker side to being a strong, jacked-looking guy, which is that other men now want to start sh-t. I never would have predicted that, but I believe him. The toxicity of men is something I’ll never doubt or understand. And Kumail is right, it’s just like “dude, learn how to cry.” Learn how to deal with sh-t another way. You don’t actually have to live in this bubble of toxicity. You don’t have to perform your masculinity. Anyway, I love Kumail and I hope he gets all of the movies he wants!

Photos courtesy of GQ.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

21 Responses to “Kumail Nanjiani worries his jacked body is perpetuating toxic masculinity”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Esmom says:

    He’s a really good guy and so spot on about the toxic and fragile male ego. Truly, it is the root of so many of our problems and we will be lucky if it doesn’t cost us civilization as we know it.

  2. Kalana says:

    I wonder if anyone has told him he looks a little like handsome Squidward.

    I love Kumail Nanjiani.

  3. smegmoria says:

    I have told my bil that he needs to learn to cry. So many men need this lesson. Otherwise it just comes out as rage which clouds judgment.

  4. Spaniard says:

    I think he is making a lot of good points in this interview about of toxic masculinity and such BUT, if he feels tired talking about his body, well tell all the actresses out there about it…. women who only are asked or judged about the state of their bodies or what are they wearing.

    It is nice from time to time that men know how we are feeling for decades.

    Apart from that I think he is really good and a class act.

    • MaryContrary says:

      This exactly. I thought the same thing when Jonah Hill asked people to not comment on his body or weight loss.

  5. Emily says:

    I love all the nuance he’s bringing to this discussion. 😍

  6. TQ says:

    Love him! Love his thoughtfulness and self-reflection, and thinking about the perpetuation of toxic masculinity. Can’t wait to see what he does next.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      @ TQ, neither can I!! It will be great to see what he has coming up in the future. He’s talented and funny! I have enjoyed his movies and he is funny with great comedic timing.

      Though, he’s right but he needs to understand, along with Jonah Hill, that women have been suffering for decades for being publicly called out on what’s on the outside, instead of the inside. They are only seeing a fraction of what women endure during their day to day life, most of their lives.

      Maybe men should spend time on themselves and leave US alone. Nothing against Kumail personally, it’s just that men have no idea how women have to deal with it everyday and they complain when it happens to them a few times and we are supposed to feel sorry for them. They could use this as an opportunity to teach other men how it feels and how they have a slight glimpse into what women go through, explain to them how harmful it is to their well being. Food for thought.

  7. Barbie1 says:

    Looking good. Nice interview.

  8. RoyalBlue says:

    Oh my goodness one of my favorites. I saw him and Issa Rae in the movie Lovebirds last week and I cracked up so hard. I love him!

    • BothSidesNow says:

      Such a great movie!!! I loved it!!! Certainly a gut busting bunch of laughs!!

    • Mei says:

      Looove that film! It’s hilarious. They’re both perfect in it.

    • RoyalBlue says:

      Listen to me. I. could. not. stop. laughing. i was on a plane and my daughter was so embarrassed by my CONSTANT laughter. They were perfect for the role, their timing and chemistry, This has gone down as one of the classic comedies for me.

  9. Jess says:

    I love him and love how open he’s been about this thought process and experience through all of this. He and his wife, Emily, did a pandemic podcast for a while and it was so awesome. She used to be a therapist so they both seem to have really strong tools for talking about a lot of issues.

  10. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    He’s tired of talking about his body? Toxic masculinity has him down? Welcome to the stage.


    He’s a little to muscular for my taste (which is not what matters here) but it’s strange to me how “attractiveness” works. Like I find his face more attractive now than I did before- but it’s his body that’s changed so much! I didn’t think he was unattractive before, I just didn’t notice him that way. But now I find him handsome, even just his face.

    I feel like he looks more confident than he did in the past, so that could definitely be a big part of it, how he carries himself.

  12. Dannii says:

    Lol no, toxic masculinity is about attitude, not looks. The most toxic horrible men I have encountered have all had “dad bods”.

  13. Lwt00 says:

    That was the most insightful description of male toxicity I’ve ever read. He’s a smart, smart guy.

  14. EllenOlenska says:

    Patrick Swayze, who was teased in his youth for being a ballet dancer ( even though he was also on the football team in high school) once said that after Roadhouse came out tons of guys would try to pick fights w him. I suspect it’s been a “ thing” w guys for a long time!