Love. It’s the thing that makes the world go round. The indescribable feeling that fills you up from the inside, and makes your heart skip a beat. Speaking of beat, we are reminded of the Oscars. We all saw it happen. Will Smith, enraged, walking over and hitting Chris Rock. We debated about it, we meme’ed it, and, honestly, we are divided about it.
On one hand, it is the glorious story of a Husband standing up for his wife in the face of harassment. A hero, some may call him. On the other, it is the story of a Man assaulting another over something that could have been handled in a less caveman-like fashion. All done in the name of love. We have all watched love play out on our screens, in our books, and even in real life. We watched Dharmendra fall in love, and climb a water tower. We read about Juliet falling in love, and drinking poison. We have watched Salman Khan fight off dozens of goons, in countless movies, to win his love. We watched the Duke from Bridgerton aiming a gun to his best friend’s head for the love he had for Daphne.
Love is nothing without the passion that comes along with it, explains Bollywood. Our lovely, traditional society in India doesn’t talk about what love is, or what it should be like. It’s no one’s fault, really. We don’t have a dating process, we don’t have things in place; we had to create our own. So we begged, stole, and borrowed everything we could from what we saw around us. A lot of what we saw was the formulaic trope that Bollywood convinced us was the love we deserved in our lives. Love that was loud, brash, and needed to have some type of fight or angst in it. If you weren’t fighting, then was it even love? You only had passion if you fight. So in the style of the iconic reel audio by Scarlet Envy asking ‘Am I the drama?’, we romanticised our relationships in the most dramatic setting.
We all knew that one couple in college, who were always on and off. You know who I’m talking about. They would fight, oftentimes publicly. There would be finger pointing, loud voices, accusations of ‘You don’t love me only.’ Their IG feeds would be flooded with quotes like, ‘Only those who love you, hurt you.’ Two days of tense interactions later, they are back together. This is the cycle of rinse and repeat. Even more modern-day examples like that of Kabir Singh showed love and the associated relationship with the same type of ‘passion’ that Bollywood has encouraged since the ’80s. But to talk about any display of love, we have to trace it back to what causes us to behave that way and why we seek passionate relationships that emulate this dramatic expression. It’s a passion that seems to stem from what I, as a very lay person, can only assume comes from romanticized hypermasculinity. Hypermasculinity is a psychological term for the exaggeration of male stereotypical behavior, such as an emphasis on physical strength, aggression, and sexuality. This is a term that has been used ever since a research conducted by Mosher and Sirkin in 1984.
Be it television programmes or even kids’ movies, the idea of masculinity is everywhere. Masculinity is shown when Prince Charming saves Cinderella, or when men run the house in Ekta Kapoor shows, and it’s not just unavoidable but also appreciated. Boys are taught to want to be masculine and it has to be the right kind. There have been several arguments against the kind of masculinity I’m talking about here. Hypermasculinity goes hand in hand with a sense of dominance. Boys are told not to cry, to man up, and all of this is under the guise of what masculinity should be. It is said that 76 percent of suicide cases are men, and it is the single biggest killer of men under 50. In many cases, it can be this expectation of how the male persona should be that is to blame. There’s this need to fulfill a masculine role in order to be a man, and when some cannot, the message from society is understandably too much for them to bear.
Even the creators of Frozen 2 included Jonathon Groff’s heartbreaking rendition of “Lost in the Woods,” in an attempt to assuage their guilt from Mulan’s “I’ll Make a Man” out of You by Donny Osmond. This is the same ‘male persona’ that we grew up with, and the one we saw demonstrated during Oscars 2022.
It became aspirational almost to have someone willing to throw down for you. That is why even after the assault on Chris Rock, the Internet and world is divided. We can’t help but view it from the lens of love. We can’t help but try to defend Will Smith’s actions. We can’t help but sigh wistfully, and hope that someday, someone else would be willing to stand up for us like that. Maybe love needed to be expressed like that back in the day, but ask yourself today, if it can be talked about, then does it need to be fought about? Bonnie Tyler said it best when she sang, “I’m holding out for a hero till the end of the night, who’s gotta be fresh from the fight.”