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Under Construction

Jonah Hill's recent criticism of toxic masculinity is spot on

The actor spoke about learning to love himself on Ellen last week.

PastedImage-56335 Ellen / Youtube Ellen / Youtube / Youtube

AT THE BEGINNING of Jonah Hill’s career, he was often typecast in comedy films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Get Him to the Greek. 

Needless to say, Jonah has since established himself as an actor who can do so much more than that. If you haven’t seen him at his strongest yet, you should watch Jonah alongside Hollywood’s highest paid actress, Emma Stone, in the new Netflix limited series ‘Maniac’. The Guardian hailed it has the best acting that Hill has displayed in his career to date. 

Jonah also just wrapped up his directorial debut on a new movie called Mid90s, which Ellen DeGeneres was in awe of.

Ellen said that she could not believe that it was Hill’s first movie. Far from the comedies Jonah Hill has starred in himself and vaguely reminiscent of Harmony Korine’s ‘Kids’, Mid90s follows a troubled 13-year-old growing up in Los Angeles in the 1990s, as he finds a place for himself within a group of older skateboarders. 

Zero Media / YouTube

Ahead of the movie’s release, Jonah Hill prepared a zine called ‘Inner Children’. 

PastedImage-42847 Ellen / Youtube Ellen / Youtube / Youtube

The conversation turned to Inner Children, and Ellen asked Jonah what his motivation for creating the zine was. He said:

I think everybody has a version of themselves – I call it a snapshot – let’s say, at some point in your life, the person you are, you’re trying to hide from the world. Or it makes you feel a certain way. Even if you get success or you grow up, or you become good-looking or whatever of the things that you think will fix the thing… You carry some part of that with you. 

Jonah said that his own ‘snapshot’ that sticks with him is his overweight 14-year-old self. He struggled to fit in with the skaters and hip hop kids of his generation, which made him feel lonely and unable to understand his own worth. Jonah decided to dedicate the magazine to his 14-year-old self. Reading the manifesto of Inner Children, Jonah told Ellen’s studio audience:

I became famous in my late teens and then spent most of my young adult life listening to people say that I was fat, and gross, and unattractive. It’s only in the last four years, writing and directing my movie Mid90s that I’ve started to understand how much that hurt and got into my head. 

Jonah’s aim with the zine was to ask twelve people he admired if they could relate to his feelings about the ‘snapshot’, and the project resulted in some of the most meaningful conversations he has ever had. 

PastedImage-86938 Ellen / Youtube Ellen / Youtube / Youtube

Jonah said that working on this zine and his new movie helped him to become comfortable with himself, and present himself to the world in a way that is honest. He no longer feels like he is pretending to be something that he is not. 

Ellen pointed out that many actors and actresses enter the business to find approval and love. 

Also, to become other people to avoid being exactly who we are. A lot of people get stuck in that role-playing instead of figuring out who we are. So, it’s very cool that you have found who you are and love who you are, because you’re a brilliant man. I’m glad you love yourself. 

Jonah quipped that, like everybody else, he’s “under construction”. It wasn’t an easy journey for him, but he finally feels confident in himself and free. The conversation came back to Stevie, the protagonist in Hill’s new movie. 

He’s this lonely kid, he’s struggling to get love from his abusive older brother. He’s kind of a latchkey kid and he goes out to the world and he finds community in this group of skateboarders, and like anything in life – he learns lots of horrible and amazing lessons. 
He goes through lots of joy, lots of humour, lots of pain, lots of agony. It’s about life. 

Jonah then said that to make the film as authentic as possible, he had to hold a mirror up to the culture of toxic masculinity that surrounded him and many other young men during the 1990s and early 2000s. 

The 34-year-old said it was deliberately uncomfortable because he thought it would be “more offensive to revise history”. 

There’s a sex scene in the movie – not a sex scene, but a sexual scene. For me, it was very important to show these kinds of things because we grew up, I grew up skateboarding in the 90s and it was a very toxic masculine culture. This kid’s terrified during his first sexual experience. He’s literally shaking. 

Despite the fact that the child in the movie is visibly terrified and uncomfortable when a sexual opportunity presents itself, he still feels as if he has to participate. Jonah explained why:

The point I’m trying to make is that, essentially, you are taught when you are a young man at this time that sexuality isn’t about two people joyously connecting. It’s about the currency it gets you to rise up through a group of males, which is a bad lesson that we are having to unlearn. My lesson as a filmmaker is to present that palette and not to judge it, that’s for the audience to do. 

Jonah explained that he wants the current generation to learn from the mistake of previous generations.

TheEllenShow / YouTube

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