Toxic Masculinity and Self-love in “Money Heist”

In this post I would like to use Angels in America as a lens to look at this brief fragment of Money Heist. In both, the play and the TV show, we encounter figures that personalize the toxic masculinity. On the one hand, we need to pay special attention to Roy M. Cohn and particularly the scene 9 of Act One in which he is told by his doctor Henry that he has AIDS and that it may have been caused by the intercourse he had without protection with other men, from what Roy reacts defiantly and in a passive-aggressive and defensively tone: “No, say it. I mean it. Say: “Roy Cohn, you are a homosexual”. And I will proceed, systematically, to destroy your reputation and your practice and your career in New York State, Henry. Which you know I can do” (Kushner 45). His speech about being “an heterosexual man who fucks around with guys”, is the representation of his denial about his own identity, portrayed by Kushner as a way of highlighting how heteronormative social conventions and the discrimination against the queer community could make Roy deny his own sexual orientation so fiercely.

This confrontation between Roy and Henry resonated with the one existing between the characters Palermo and Nairobi in Money Heist. Palermo would be the equivalent to Roy in terms of toxic masculinity since he is the one that brags about using men as sexual objects and ghosting them afterwards without any kind of romantic perspective, calling this behaviour of him “Boom boom ciao”. This is probably how the authors of the screenplay show that this mask Palermo creates is another way of denial, he avoids to show his true emotions because vulnerability and sentivity in men are frown upon by society. Nairobi confronts him and says that “to love, you need  courage”.

In this sense, another interpretation can be drawn from this comparison: there could be even a parallelism between a coming-out and a declaration of love since in both situations you are being honest with yourself and the other person. In a coming-out you are declaring your love about who you are, your love for yourself. That special moment in which you decide that society and conventions do not have a say in how you should be or feel. In both cases, and as Nairobi states, “to love, you need courage”, and toxic masculinity is the opposite of bravery: cowardice in its purest form.

(English subtitles can be selected in the settings)


Guilt in “Angels in America”

This post aims at highlighting the feelings of guilt that arise on two different scenes proceeding from the most controversial characters of this play: Roy M. Cohn and Louis Ironson. I will try to show that precisely these two figures show their guilt by expressing the way they do and their own actions.

Firstly, the conversation from the scene 2 (or rather Louise’s monologue) between Louise and Belize in which the former does not stop saying he is not a racist but behaves exactly as those “racists [that] try to use race here as a tool in a political struggle” (Kushner 97) is very revealing. This monologue made me wonder why he is suddenly so obsessed in talking non-stop with Belize about race, identity, and historical and collective memory in pejorative terms. Kushner clarifies this in the character of Belize, who states “the guilt fueling this peculiar tirade is obviously already swollen bigger than your hemorrhoids” (Kushner 97). This racist, proud and rude monologue and the moment he goes to the park to have sex with other man without protection are signs of the attempts of self-destruction and discomfort he is feeling for having abandoned Prior. A key phrase here is also uttered by Belize: “Louis, are you deliberately trying to make me hate you?” (Kushner 98), indeed it is an attempt of making everybody hate him, because above all, he is the one that hates himself the most.

On the other hand, something similar happens in the scene 5, when Roy is talking with Joe about Joe’s refusal to help Roy. The latter blurts out repeatedly that Joe is a coward, and his mantra of “the end justifies the means”. However, the defensively way he expresses, with such aggressivity could lead us to assume he is not happy about what he did when he mentions of all a sudden Ethel Rosenberg: “I pleaded till I wept to put her in the chair. Me. I did that. I would have fucking pulled the switch if they’d have let me” (Kushner 113). If he is so proud of this “murder” as he named it very defiant, why does the hallucination of Ethel appear? One does not have ghosts if they are not a torment for that person. He even talks to her with familiarity, as though this was not the first time she appeared to him: “What is this, Ethel, Halloween? You trying to scare me?” (Kushner 116-7). If she is a hallucination, it is a little bit strange that Roy’s mind portrays her as someone nice, even when she knows he was responsible for her to go to the electric chair. This can also be his way of punishing himself for what he did: the one you killed is forgiving you when you are not capable of doing it.

In conclusion, Kushner employs very subtle techniques to make us deepen in the psychology of characters that hide their emotions through how they express or interact with their environment. In both examples, we deal with guilt in disguise of pride.

The Search for Oneself in “Loving in the War Years”

The essay Loving in the War Years written by Cherríe L. Moraga had a big impact on me and especially the passage I am paying attention to which is the “Journal Entry: 2 de Julio 1982” that can be found on page xi.

The first thing that draw my attention was the fact that these journal entries are extremely short for a person who makes a living writing. However, Cherríe makes it clear: “It takes the greatest effort even to put pen to paper” (xi). Also, it is a personal journal, it is supposed to be private. Therefore, I consider the length of this entry is another way she has to let her emotions flow: with the lack of long descriptions we can appreciate this discomfort.

On the other hand, it’s precisely in her words from whichI can grasp the rest of her emotions: “effort”, “weighing”, “depression”, “face flat” (xi). From my point of view, with all these words of sadness, this journal seems to be a constant fight between two facets: her desire for expressing her identity and tell her story and the overwhelming feeling of emptiness that surrounds her when it seems that all what could be described and told about her own identity is already said but it is not enough, that the pursuit of this understanding is not over. That is why the expression “bankrupt of feeling” makes sense.

Writing is, apart from her profession, her way of giving her life and way of being meaning, her way of exorcising her demons. When she tells her lover she is depressed, her lover reminds her this is not a feeling but a state. And still, this depression she feels is “keeping the writing back” (xi). The contradiction of keeping something that gives her life meaning back because it does alter feelings inside her that are not pleasant is the key point of this search for herself.

All these elements that I have noticed led me to the conclusion that this passage is about the difficulty of finding or develop one’s identity, especially through telling your own story by writing, creating frustration and discomfort.

Insomniac… or the attempt to sleep without success.

The passage I’m paying attention to is the two first stanzas of the poem Insomniac written by Saeed Jones. I have noticed several things, details that I found worth mentioning. The boy is said to have “wild legs” (1), maybe a representation of his “wild tastes” or way of being, which is not what this society or this mother of his consider “normative”.

Also I found interesting how it says that this boy “stole your eyes the day he was born” (1) instead of saying “stole your heart” because perhaps she is more focused on the superficiality and the appearances. Choosing that part of the body, the eyes, may be a way of portraying that superficiality, because at the end of the day, her mother could be more worried about how his boy looked like or behaved in front of others instead of being worried about his happiness.

Also, it has really grabbed my attention the second stanza. The “language that you’ve tried to keep from him” (1) could represent this same way of behaving or talking, employing his personality that she tried to keep away from him to let her know that she is a nightmare for him.

I truly think that the general concept of the whole poem is condensed in these first lines. As I see it, Jones seems to employ a very specific diction related to parenthood and especially bad parenting that is also recurrent in the rest of his book of poems. Even the title, Insomniac seems to refer to the insomniac a mother feels when she is worried about her son. Therefore, the relationship of this mother and her son is complicated and hurtful, maybe she suffers about who and how his son is.