Last summer, I attended an advanced screening of “The Darkest Minds,” a young adult, dystopian flick starring Amandla Stenberg, along with a slew of other actors and actresses. The movie itself was fine, but I was one of only a handful of women in a room filled with older men.
However, it wasn’t a grizzled critic that bugged me after the film. Rather, it was a film graduate student who asked me, upon seeing my open notebook, if I was reviewing the film. I tentatively confirmed. He then proceeded to launch into an explanation of the film — yes, the one that we had both just finished watching — in addition to the book it was based off of, which I had recently read. Eventually, we got into the crux of what I assure you was a very productive and not at all frustrating discussion; he enlightened me as to what YA fiction was in general.
We left the theater after the credits were over and I made a beeline to hide out in the bathroom for at least ten minutes so we wouldn’t, god forbid, end up on the same train. This wasn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. As a woman studying literature and someone who frequently engages with other media, I’ve encountered multiple iterations of the “film bro.”
He comes in many forms and across a range of disciplines, bearing unsolicited recommendations and explanations. He loves to talk to you about authors you’ve heard of too many times. He loves to pick your brain only to posit an opinion that clearly demonstrates that he was just waiting for his turn to speak. He probably loves Quentin Tarantino and David Foster Wallace and wants to talk with you about "Attack on Titan."
I’m not talking about the legitimate recommendation and discussion and explaining that happens in communities centered around media and art. What I take issue with is the kind of explaining and recommending that comes from places of perceived superiority. These men communicate down rather than encourage discourse, and are also looking to reinforce their perceived intellectual dominance while “helping others out.” Frequently, these gestures are aimed at women. Sometimes, even women they’re trying to woo. There’s an element of sexism and assumption of female intellectual inferiority in play as well.
Ultimately though, film bro culture is gatekeeping under the guise of a helping hand. The place of perceived authority that film bros inhabit is alienating rather than welcoming. Being handed a recommendation with the caveat that it’s necessary to understand a discipline isn’t a key to understanding the discipline. Rather, it implies that you couldn’t have possibly done any meaningful work prior to consuming the work in question.
While I’ve become thoroughly jaded to mansplaining and the, perhaps, well-meaning rants of these kinds of bros, there was a period of time where I took their attitudes to heart. So film and literature media bros — stop and reflect. Think about how you’re approaching conversation about your discipline and how you can foster open discourse. And please, for the love, stop telling me that I can’t possibly comprehend cinema without watching “Fight Club.”