The Rise Of The Toxic Alpha Male In Cinema Will Spell Doom For Society

While filmmakers have artistic license, do they really care how their films affect society? Where is social responsibility and sensitive portrayal of reality?

Trigger Warning: This deals with graphic description of violence and may be triggering for survivors.

Let me start with a disclaimer. I have not watched Animal, nor do I ever intend to. The trailer itself was hard to digest with its heady cocktail of toxicity, misogyny, and violence. People who were brave enough to watch it confirm that the ugliness has been amplified manifold in the exhausting three hours and twenty-one minutes of run time.

Animal is not the first in a list of films that glorify toxic masculinity and the emergence of the Alpha male. Neither will be it the last. And that is what is disturbing, even more than the film itself.

“Violence, violence, violence. I don’t like it. I avoid. But, violence likes me, I can’t avoid.” An actor mouths these words in another bloodbath of an action film, paving the way for a new punchline in the cinematic landscape. A distressing trend has emerged in recent years, that glorifies the bad-boy protagonist. It is evident from the success of films like KGF, Pushpa, or Kabir Singh.

Violence is the new norm, gore stylized, and anarchy, the new order.

Shock value much?

It is the world of the Alpha where there are no rules other than the ones he makes. The macho male flexes his toned muscles, is shrouded in a constant nicotine haze, chugs alcohol by the gallon, and bashes up those who dare to oppose him like there is no tomorrow. Shooting, slashing, impaling, bashing, bludgeoning, and chopping limbs; all in a day’s work.

The Alpha’s rage is primal, and he is not afraid to get blood on his hands. He makes lewd gestures to celebrate his manhood, oozing style and swagger. Films like Animal thrive on shock content, by checking all the boxes in a ‘how outrageous can you act checklist,’ and promising to go even lower with a planned sequel.

With streaming platforms mushrooming and web series landing fast and furious, the question of regulation arises. How much gore is too much? Who weighs in if the content is too graphic? Should there be rules against the commercialization of shock value?

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It’s abuse, not romance!

The Alpha male selects his mate on the size of her pelvis* so that she can prolong his bloodline by bearing healthy progeny. She should be mute for most of the time, and if she dares show him the mirror, he chokes her to prove that he has the upper hand. The Alpha isn’t in an exclusive relationship. He courts others as well, and Mrs. Alpha doesn’t enjoy the same liberty.

What young impressionable women watching triggering content like this should be taught is that love should never hurt. If it does, it isn’t love, it is abuse. He isn’t romancing you; he is controlling you. The Vanga Reddy school of thought teaches that a couple in love should be able to slap each other. WRONG!

If they slap you when they like you, imagine what they would do when they don’t like you anymore. If it’s love, no one should be slapping anyone. Period.

*More than three hundred years ago women selected brides with healthy hips for their sons.

It is just entertainment. Can’t you just chill?

In which parallel universe does watching people being butchered, or their eyes being gouged out qualify for entertainment? It cannot be denied that cult classics have been made before this with heavy doses of violence. But these stories have also been enriched by character development, gripping plotlines, redemption arcs, or the unravelling of the mind, marking a full descent into madness.

Sadly, in Alpha-land, the perpetrator of violence is glorified to the extent that the lines between good and bad blur.  Does this mean that all films should be preachy and goody-goody? No!

Violence should be part of the narrative, and NOT the narrative itself.

The impact on the overall psyche of the viewer is distressing

The brand of chaos and anarchy that the Alpha-male promotes promises to be a headache for lawmakers. Not only do violent movies have an impact on the mental health of the viewer, but they also desensitize youth to violence.

There have been incidences when even serials (which are pretty tame on the whole content spectrum) have wreaked havoc. For example, in Gorakhpur, a youth tried to forcibly apply sindoor on the bride on her wedding day and claimed that he had married her, after watching something similar in a daily soap.

A fifteen-year-old in Hyderabad, influenced by KGF smoked a full packet of cigarettes and had to be hospitalized.

The success of Animal will now pave the way for other vile, unruly animals; a mad jungle of sorts.

What happens to the vulnerable?

A failure to conform to assigned gender expectations or daring to be different invites ridicule and hate. When content that celebrates ‘masculinity’ continues to be created, the situation is further exacerbated. This is not the result of a single film, but a series of content that reinforces the ‘Alpha’ as the all-supreme.

In November this year, (much before the release of Animal) an underage makeup artist from the queer community was made the target of online hatred. They posted a reel of them draping a saree. The reel received over 4000 hate-filled comments. Subsequently, in a tragic turn of events, they took their life, at the tender age of sixteen.

Haven’t we as a society failed if we cannot protect our vulnerable?

But there are a few good men on screen you can check out…

Toughness is a quality of the mind, like bravery or honesty or ambition; it has nothing whatever to do with muscles. E.R. Braithwaite, To Sir, With Love.

Megastar Mammootty playing a man who comes out in Kathal the core.

Pankaj Tripathi encouraging his daughter to soar in Gunjan Saxena or fighting for sex education in schools in OMG2.

Ayushman Khurrana doing gender-fluid roles with sensitivity.

Ranveer Singh’s Rocky Randhawa mastering Kathak.

Kumud Mishra supporting his daughter’s divorce in Thappad.

If anything, these men are more Alpha than the stereotypical moustache-twirling, muscle-flexing one. These are the men you want to have in your corner, not the axe-wielding maniacs who air their blood-stained laundry in public.

The fact that Animal is raking in big numbers is unsettling. Cinema is not just art, but also a powerful medium of influence. Filmmakers need to remember that with great power comes great responsibility. Be the changemaker and not the agent that revels in social decay, even if it sets the cash counters ringing.

Let’s bring back the meaningful stories, those that will outlive the test of time and usher in much-needed change. As a loyal viewer, is that too much to ask for?

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About the Author

Lalitha Ramanathan

Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...

54 Posts | 74,054 Views

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