Sunday, May 31, 2015

"My Own Man": a sensitive filmmaker assesses his own "masculinity" as he turns 40 and his wife has her first two children


In “My Own Man”, filmmaker David Sampliner, as he turns 40, reflects on the pressures on him to conform to conventional pressures of manhood, as he becomes a father to his first child.  This film has a little bit of “Morgan Spurlock”-style “Inside Man” character to it, but it is “softer”.  I recall that some biologists say that new father’s testosterone levels go down even more when they do child care, a favorite point from the “Family Research Council”.
  
David grew up as a second child under a more “masculine” older brother.  His father, a successful surgeon, had been a typical 1950s-style patriarchal husband in a Jewish family.
  
David reports that he lost the ability to throw a baseball like a man at 10, and doesn’t know why.  So he won’t become a Clayton Kershaw.  But later he gets feedback that he lacks the “killer instinct” to survive and protect people dependent on him. There is a play-acting confrontation where he doesn’t show the instinct to say “F- you, get out of my way” that a more aggressive man would.
  
He graduated from Yale, but bounced around a while (not becoming a history professor), even working in a fast-food job (“paying his dues”) before becoming a filmmaker.
  
Perhaps he is what Paul Rosenfels would have called “psychologically feminine”.
  
He takes a testosterone test, and the results put him at the low end of normal.  In appearance, he looks male enough, relatively trim with a hairy body.  But compared to his brother in gym exercises, he lacks coordination.
  
So he goes on a quest to discover masculinity, including hunting lessons (aka “The Deer Hunter”).  His father thinks there is something of existential importance to being able to survive on your own with a weapon and live on what you can kill (which Mark Zuckerberg has tried).  He also takes voice lessons on assertiveness.
  
I remember a rude question on a job interview to become a debt collector, whether I had ever gotten results by ordering other people around.  And authoritative assertion was a problem when I worked as a substitute teacher. 
  
The official site is here  This is a Netflix (“Red Envelope”) original documentary, an opportunity I will make personal note of.  It is available on Instant Play.
  
At the end of the film, his wife announces a second child, proudly. “Another baby in our family.”
  
The filmmaker has appeared on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
  
I think this is filmed in New York City suburbs. 

Bill 

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