In 2012, documentary film maker Morgan Spurlock of Super-Size Me fame released a documentary designed to tackle our new perceptions of masculinity. While many discussions on manhood seek to define or examine it based on the deeds and attitudes that are stereotypical of manliness, Mansome looks to decode this concept by examining the changing look of men and what they look like. Mansome’s tone is very reminiscent of previous Spurlock documentaries and Chris Rock’s 2009 Good Hair in its arrangement as a collection of lighthearted segments that make up the story as a whole. This lighthearted nature is further cemented as the banter of executive producers Jason Batemen and Will Arnett’s spa adventures bookend each individual segment of the film.
Interspersed with candid interviews with random Hollywood types, fashion and style professions, and everyday men and women, the core of Mansome revolves around the stories of three men and their divergent view points and rationales for their own choices in grooming and appearance. The first of the three stories is that of Beard and Mustache Champion Jack Passion. Jack’s passion for beards is in many ways his outward declaration to the world that this is what a man should look like. With a beard that is easily three feet long and similar to those of ZZ Top (who appear in the film), Passion’s story takes us from no name bars where regional beard and mustache competitions are held, to the German Beard and Mustache championships as part of the American competitive team. Jack ultimately became the first American to win the German championship and through his journey we saw the continued prominence of the beard and mustache as a sign of manliness.
Former WWE and TNA wrestler Shawn Daivari was the focus of the middle story. Daivari’s tale sought to highlight many men’s “battle” with full body hair and the perceptions thereof. As an avid watcher of wrestling for most of my life, I never realized that wrestlers were “hairless”. Daivari’s constant grooming regiment to completely remove the hair from his back, arms, and chest (along with the candid interviews that also were featured) in many ways illuminated the least desirable perception of male body hair, and its constant reinforcement through sports and other popular media. The examination of this Adonis Complex (as it is referenced in the film) would make an interesting film unto itself. It is disappointing that Mansome didn’t delve further into the issue and is societal ramifications on male body image and self-esteem.
The third story features self-labeled metrosexual and fashion buyer Ricky Manchandra as he constantly seeks to find ways to make himself looks better. While not taking it the extreme as with other depictions of body dysmorphic disorder, Ricky is shown to be someone who is very obsessed with the way he looks. In a constant struggle to shed who he was as a teen, Ricky is shown finding flaws with his appearance at every glance in the mirror. His resulting perception precipitates many actions including the use of concealer and visiting a dermatologist to destroy capillaries in on his nose. While not extreme, Manchandra’s constant of finding fault in his appearance could lead to more drastic and invasive actions down the line.
The word of mansome describes a man who is both manly and handsome, the movie of the same name is entertaining yet merely scratches the surface of the real issues that men and boys are dealing with every day. While not meant to be a deep investigation, Mansome can serve as an adequate starting point for serious discussion. The varying perception and images of manhood and manliness that are pumped out by the media and society as a whole and the effects that they have are often ignored and dismissed by that very society. Hopefully movies like Mansome will just be the beginning of an ongoing dialogue about how we view ourselves as men and how we learn to be comfortable and confident in our own skin.