When she got the green light from her publisher to sign a book on Timothée Chalamet, Aline Laurent-Mayard first imagined a “funny” book, in the form of a “collection of tweets and WhatsApp conversations”. Then, looking more closely at “Chalamania”, the enthusiasm aroused by the Franco-American star since the release Call Me By Your Name in 2017, she realized that the topic might be more serious than she thought. “I find it interesting that society now suddenly values a little skinny guy with a strange physique, who behaves very differently from the handsome kids before,” explains the freelance journalist to 20 minutes.
“Between the time when I started to think about this book, during the first confinement, and today, there have been many changes, whether in the notoriety of the actor or in the discourse on masculinities, which has expanded,” she says. In his book, Freed from masculinity, published Wednesday by JC Lattès, it brings Timothée Chalamet closer to Harry Styles and Tom Holland, other stars of his generation who, known for their kindness, seem to question the codes linked to virility. Perfect men? Not so sure…
Timothée Chalamet, Harry Styles and Tom Holland are therefore men “liberated from masculinity”?
With the subtitle of the book, How Timothée Chalamet made me believe in the new man, we tried to create a little vagueness. Of course, it’s not that simple. These three personalities are men who represent something new. Compared to those of previous generations, they talk more easily about their feelings, their emotions, their mental health. They are committed to the rights of women and minorities, in particular LGBT+ people. They carry kindness as a strength, a far cry from the “bad boys” of twenty years ago who had to look mean, and even men in general who don’t say hello, don’t smile, try to have looking mysterious. They take up things usually assigned to the feminine and, in doing so, say that they don’t think the feminine is feared or inferior to the masculine.
Timothée Chalamet last month became the first man to grace the cover, alone, of the British edition of vogue. Two years ago, the vogue American reserved the same honor to Harry Styles. Is it a paradigm shift?
I dream about it ! It remains to be seen if it will be anchored in a reality where the masculine and the feminine will increasingly mix, where we will realize that there is no big difference between women’s fashion and fashion. man and that the boundaries are more blurred. Maybe it’s just a little publicity stunt to say that we are woke and in tune with the times…
Would the promotion of these male figures have been possible without the #MeToo movement?
#MeToo has awakened and accelerated the expression of pre-existing anger. It would have happened in any case, not necessarily through a hashtag. It was inevitable that this anger would be expressed. The women started to think about how to fight this – and not just put the abusers in jail. For example, saying, “I don’t want to see abusers on TV anymore, I don’t want to give money to misogynists anymore, I don’t want to watch romantic stories where the guy harasses a girl downstairs her with a radio and signs…” We wonder what we still want and what could be a guy who is not an asshole?
And how would this man be?
Today, whether in fact or fiction, more and more queer women and men are saying “I want a guy who’s good, who’s nice and doesn’t just pretend, who listens to me. , who takes care of his share of the work, etc. That’s the big difference in fact, we see it in the series and the movies: the guys are super cute [mignons], they are nice. I often talk aboutTo all the boys I’ve lovedreleased in 2018 on Netflix, and its hero who thinks of removing the bowl of crisps from the sofa so as not to make any crumbs… The fact that this scene marked the people who saw it so much proves that we no longer want just a nice guy on the face of it but we want men who are really, in everyday life, in the details, attentive, on the initiative and in an egalitarian approach to society.
Timothée Chalamet, Harry Styles and Tom Holland correspond to this ideal?
In the way they carry themselves, in what they say, they are definitely men. They are in a position of power. They take advantage of the fact that the masculine is perceived as superior to the feminine, of the fact that a white man, cis [non trans] and straight – or at least perceived as such – will be invited on the cover of a major women’s magazine, will have access to the best roles, will earn lots of money. There are plenty of other men who do amazing things, I’m thinking of Billy Porter, Lil Nas X, Jonathan Van Ness, who I talk about a lot in the book. They and they get less success and less respect and validation from the general public and the male press when they do, better, everything that Chalamet, Styles and Holland have been doing, and for much longer. Without them, Chalamet, Styles and Holland couldn’t do what they do today. I would say that they try to deal with their masculinity so that it is more pleasant to live with and to enjoy life.
That’s to say ?
We must understand that sexism and patriarchy prevent men from many things: to express their feelings, to take care of their mental well-being, to choose to exercise professions or to carry out activities perceived as feminine. There’s something quite selfish about their approach, I don’t think they’re looking to break the patriarchy but just do what they love – and in that they’re very masculine.
You say you reject the notion of “toxic masculinity”. For what reasons ?
There’s something essentializing about it, like there’s a toxic masculinity and a positive one, and a person would be born that way. This is not the case, “good masculinity” does not exist. Masculinity is problematic for everyone. There is no masculine essence: masculinity is defined in opposition to the feminine, as its opposite and, above all, in a situation of superiority. Masculinity exists only to be able to oppress and take advantage of the feminine. Something needs to be changed structurally. There are super nice people, whom we love to have as friends, as companions, as colleagues, but who remain people in a situation of domination. As long as these individuals continue to be perceived as “men”, they will continue to enjoy all the advantages of masculinity.
You also address the issue of “wokefishing”. This neologism designates the fact of making believe that one is much more progressive than one is in order to benefit from it, to the detriment of the values and causes that one claims to defend. Are Timothée Chalamet or Harry Styles above suspicion on this side?
You never know what motivates people. We are never safe from revelations. For their career, their kindness and their ability to listen are very positive, that’s what they are known for. They therefore have every interest in being irreproachable in the age of smartphones and social networks. But we can clearly see that, in society, more and more men call themselves deconstructed and feminist. There are many who take advantage of it and openly brag about it to their friends, telling them that they are just doing it for fun, to prove that feminists are being fooled. There are really nice men, who really want to do well to free themselves from the shackles of masculinity, I interviewed some in the book. They say they do their best but it’s not that easy. I wish that was what came out of my book: men can and should try to do better, if only selfishly, for their own good, but also more broadly for a desire for equality. We must be fully aware that no one is perfect, that we grew up with lots of clichés and that the road is long to succeed in getting rid of these well-established ideas.
The personalities we are talking about here are Anglo-Saxon. Who are their equivalents in France?
When writing this book, I told myself that I couldn’t just talk about Americans… But I didn’t have much at hand. The last cover of French movie [la Une titrant sur la « reconquête » du cinéma français ne montrait que des acteurs blancs] reminds us well: we are in a country where no known actor or singer is someone who is sexist and/or takes advantage of his situation of domination. We still have the same faces, fewer changes, fewer known young people. We always value the same actors who live between the balls, to use a popular expression. Afterwards, there are still people who express a change. Eddy de Pretto does not particularly reflect the image of a nice guy, but he does express a certain femininity. Bilal Hassani, before his non-binary coming out, was already expressing something very feminine and revolutionary. I preferred to talk about the young and not so young that we meet in the street. I have never seen so many men wearing skirts or polish as this year. Something is happening at the level of masculinity.
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