What Makes a Man a Man?

21 May

There’s a game I like to play from time to time called “Fun with Facial Hair.”

The rules are simple: Stop shaving around my mouth, grow a goatee, and see how long I can stand it before my appearance is a complete turnoff, either to myself or to others.

Why do I do this? I’m not really sure.

Sometimes it’s because I’m lazy and don’t feel like shaving (though having to “sculpt” the goatee does take some work).

Sometimes it’s because I need a new look for a little while; friends have taken to calling me “Evil Martin” when the goatee is there, and I kinda like that.

But if the folks in Morgan Spurlock’s new movie Mansome are to be believed, there are three main reasons:

  1. I do it to assert my masculinity.
  2. I grow hair on my face simply because I can.
  3. And I do it to show I’m a man, not a boy.

So there you go. Grunt.

Spurlock’s documentary is a light-hearted look at the grooming habits of the American male. As opposed to the director’s other films, there’s no “story” or narration, and with the exception of the film’s first segment (about moustaches), he’s not a central onscreen figure.

Instead, Jason Bateman and Will Arnett are the film’s “hosts.” We watch as they spend a day at the spa enjoying the various treatments, and discussing what it means to be a man.

That alone should tell you how seriously the topic is taken here.

Mansome also features interviews with such masculinity experts as Paul Rudd, Judd Apatow, Zach Galifianakis, Scott Ian (from the band Anthrax), former Man Show host Adam Corolla, Movember founder Adam Garone, and of course, the Old Spice Guy himself, Isaiah Mustafa. (There are also some more reputable sociologists and anthropologists.)

In each of the film’s segments, we spend time getting to know someone who is obsessed with one kind of hair, whether it be a moustache, a beard, pubic, chest, etc.

Basically, what these segments — and the film overall — come down to is that what’s attractive to each person differs. Being a man these days means being confident about how you look and “taking care” to make sure your appearance is as groomed as possible.

If that means growing out a substantial beard, so be it. If it means getting a hairpiece to cover your bald spot, all the power to you. And if it means shaving every piece of hair off your chest and back, well, I’m not going to judge. Just know who you are and be confident about how you look.

Mansome is an amusing trifle of a film — it’s not exactly a probing look at appearance, but it’s not without its insights either.

Essentially, it’s a lot like Spurlock’s other films (which include Super-Size Me and POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold).

In a crowded multiplex of Avengers and Battlefield and other big-budget blockbusters, Mansome is far from the must-see movie of the summer. But it’s entertaining enough, and it’s halfway decent counter-programming if you’re looking to spend 90 minutes indoors.

I’m giving Mansome a B.

And the next time I grow a goatee, you can be sure I’ll take it more seriously than I have in the past.

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