“Toxic masculinity”–it’s a phrase you hear tossed around a lot these days. In an age where gender is becoming more fluid and mental health a wider concern, more and more people are calling it out and coming to the realization that, as William Doan says in the film “this man up stuff is bull.”
But what exactly is it, and why? It’s complicated—which is probably why we had a lengthy conversation about it (including director Cynthia White) when the film itself is just short of four minutes long.
One thing I thought was interesting is that William Doan pointed out toxic masculinity is not just passed down in families, but a systemic part of American culture itself, which is coming to light in the way we treat people based on gender and those expectations. This film is about recognizing his own anxiety and depression that stemmed from his stepfather’s abusive, alcoholic masculinity. He grew up feeling he wasn’t strong enough and that he should repress his emotions, including his tears.
The art in this animated short is quite vivid and vibrant, different from most you see. It’s done in a collage style based on a series of pencil and watercolor drawings he made for a multidisciplinary arts project called the Anxiety Project, which he collaborated on with Cynthia White and others. The dialogue in the film is also drawn from this project and his theatrical background. He and Cynthia explained their artistic process, which I always find fascinating, in great detail in our interview.
You can watch Sticks and Stones in Shorts Block No. here: https://watch.eventive.org/mentalfilmness2022/play/633f075c00397000531a4347/631fb7ab24d1050045aa3c96
Listen to an interview with William Doan & Cynthia White of the Anxiety Project here: https://mentalfilmness2022.eventive.org/eventive.org/mentalfilmness2022interviews