By Alex Jackson With on February 13, 2016

“I’m not an advocate filmmaker. I don’t make films to fix a thing. There’s a lot of vagaries at the end of it. I would prefer people walk out of the movie asking questions, rather than having answers.” - Andrew Neel Andrew Neel’s Goat may not have been created to advocate against the greek system, or fraternal hazing, but it is impossible to leave the film without asking critical questions about the modern view of masculinity. From the very first shot, which beautifully portrays the ugly side of tribal masculinity, to the final shot which portrays the loneliness and emptiness of fraternal abuse, the film frames an open conversation about the often ignored struggles of conforming to the white-male culture. Ben Schnetzer portrays the central character of 19 year old, Brad Land. Early in the film, Brad is a victim of an assault. Brad’s role of victim carries throughout the film thanks to the powerful and understated performance by Schnetzer. It is important to consider the context in which this film was viewed. I saw it at Sundance, surrounded by fellow filmmakers who are trained to think critically about every shot and action. In this context, subtlety is a powerful tool which invites the audience into the greater nuances of a situation. Schnetzer is not simply playing a freshman fraternity pledge, he is playing a victim of a fraternal culture that promotes violent and abusive behaviors under nominal masculinity. My worry is that the audience this film will find will not be aware of this nuance. Knowing that the film was picked up by Paramount/MTV films, and that it co-stars the former teen heartthrob, Nick Jonas, means that many people will pick up this film expecting the same sort of greek hijinks the film critiques. Our churches and faith communities are often times wrapped up in these same issues of gender. Depicting a lead character as a victim within the masculine culture illuminates the dissonance that exists within these cultural understandings of gender. When we talk of God as a male figure, many see the same form of masculinity that this film is examining. It is important for us to bring out the themes of gender within our culture and truly critique the way they inform our understanding of the divine. Is this film existed in a vacuum, it would be easy to celebrate it’s beautiful cinematography, and powerful performances. The way that Andrew Neel brings out the visceral pain of particular moments truly shows off his skill as a filmmaker. But this film does not exist in a vacuum. It exists within the very culture it is trying to critique. It will be marketed and sold to a white male audience that is desensitized from the horrors it depicts. The film is truly great, but must be examined within a communal context, where the tough questions can be asked. The many churches that promote male bible studies that center around these forms of masculinity are the very groups that need to examine this film in honesty, and question what is says about gender in our society.

About the Author: Alex Jackson
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