Title: Roy Cohn: A Study in Toxic Masculinity
In the play, “Angels of America”, Tony Kushner explores many ways men demonstrate masculine traits and express their masculinity. The character, Roy Cohn, exhibits many characteristics that align with the concept of toxic masculinity. This includes presenting oneself as infallible and expressing aggression, especially in regard to affection. Tony Kushner explores the manifestation of toxic masculinity through the actions and dialogue of Roy Cohn in “Angels of America”.
Roy Cohn frequently presents himself as infallible in regard to his sickness. This is extremely prevalent after his conversation with Joe in the stage directions given for Roy, “(Roy doubles over in great pain, which he’s been hiding while Joe was in the room)” (116). These directions explicitly make clear to the readers that Roy was acting tough, acting masculine while talking with Joe even though he was feeling extreme pain. Another example of Roy acting dismissive toward his illness is shown during his dialogue with Ethel. By claiming that, “[he has] forcedR [his] way into history. [He] ain’t never gonna die” (118), Roy is emphasizing his accomplishments as reasoning for his survival, essentially stating that because he has done such great things, that he has to be immortal and nothing will ever knock him down.
In addition to presenting as infallible, Roy Cohn also expresses affection in an aggressive way. Aggressive behavior, especially when seen in tandem to affection, is a main trait of toxic masculinity. In the play, “Angels of America”, Roy Cohn demonstrates aggressive affection toward Joe. This is extremely prevalent when Roy says, “I love you, baby Joe. That’s why I’m so rough on you” (115). This quote demonstrates the juxtaposition between love and pain, suggesting that in order to be loved, you must endure pain. Essentially, Roy Cohn is exhibiting toxic masculinity ideas in the way that he will only show love in an aggressive way.