What Do Jonah Hill’s Texts Tell Us About Modern American Men?

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Gage Klipper Commentary & Analysis Writer
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While tempting to it write off as another celebrity pseudo-scandal, Jonah Hill’s leaked text messages reveal a great deal about modern America’s cultural sensibilities. Feminists were outraged and conservatives cheered when his ex-girlfriend posted the messages to her Instagram story. However, both factions were wrong — Hill might not be toxic, but he certainly isn’t traditional.

Sarah Brady, a pro-surfer and law student, alleged her famous ex was “emotionally abusive” for laying out certain boundaries for her to respect in order to preserve their relationship: no posting sexual or bathing suit photos, no “inappropriate” male friendships or relationships with “unstable women.”

Brady made herself out to be a walking contradiction: a pitiable victim and stalwart hero for women everywhere. One caption read, “This is a warning to all girls. If your partner is talking to you like this, make an exit plan. Call me if you need an ear.” Another claimed, “Someone being an emotionally abusive partner doesn’t mean they’re a terrible person,” but “it doesn’t mean it’s ok.” (RELATED: Jonah Hill Denies Forcibly Kissing Underage Actress After She Publicizes Accusations)

Feminists online predictably affirmed her moral high ground, describing Hill’s fairly anodyne boundaries as “controlling,” “manipulative,” “demanding” and “abusive.” Hill becomes an exemplar of toxic masculinity — at least until the Twitter mob finds a new target.

Feminists use these adjectives with a negative implication. Being “controlling” is bad — after all, women’s liberation was about securing absolute individual autonomy. But does it have to be?

A certain amount of control over each other is perfectly healthy in a relationship. It indicates a level of mutual respect and trust necessary to form a cohesive partnership. At face value, “controlling” such “inappropriate” or “unstable” friendships indicates that Hill is earnestly looking out for her best interests.

Hill even seemingly let her decide whether she was the “right partner for [him].” Unless he intended to trick her into staying in the relationship, he was respectfully allowing her to make her own choice. There was nothing truly preventing her from walking away.

Brady is inserting a pre-conceived power dynamic that doesn’t exist to support her worldview and in so, discounts women’s autonomy. Brady implies she lacked the free will to escape this “abuse;” she was “manipulated” into giving up her autonomy to a man. Yet with this victimhood posture, she subordinates herself — apparently by nature of being a woman— to the will of a man. (RELATED: Jonah Hill Welcomes His First Child)

And despite its contradictory nature, this worldview is so internalized in American society that even traditionalists take it for granted. From another corner of the internet, Hill received praise for his respectful, conservative and traditional relationship values.

Conservatives calling Hill traditional buy into feminist tropes of traditional men lording over women from atop the social hierarchy. These tropes are so ingrained in the American psyche, that even opponents unwittingly accept them.

This is clear in some of Hill’s more frivolous “boundaries.” Brady is a professional surfer; her “uniform” is a bathing suit. Part of her career presumably involves taking pictures of herself at work. Posting them likely allows her to get sponsors and make a living. It is unnecessarily controlling — in the negative sense — to encourage her to stop doing this.

These boundaries are not necessarily toxic (i.e. harmful), but they are absurd. They do not represent traditional masculinity, but a modern, insecure and yes, feminized, version of masculinity.

Women were traditionally viewed as the more jealous partner due to the biological male sex drive and prescribed social roles. Male dalliances were socially more understandable and forgivable; a woman was saddled with an illegitimate child for life while a man could more easily escape the scandal. With his silly demands, Hill is effectively reversing the “traditional” gender roles, reducing himself to a petty, jealous housewife that feminists have virtually shamed out of existence over the last 50 year years.

A true man in the traditional sense — assertive, strong and confident — would be comfortable with his partner accentuating her femininity. Could one imagine Richard Burton chastising Elizabeth Taylor for posing in a swimsuit? Would Humphrey Bogart complain that Lauren Bacall played her roles too seductively?  Would any man dare tell Raquel Welch she could not pose for the promos in “One Million Years B.C.”?

While it’s always been clear that Hill falls far short of a Golden Age masculine archetype, Brady has proven she’s no prize herself. What this “scandal” shows is whether on the right or the left, we could all use some better role models.