What That Liam Neeson Interview Reveals

For those who haven’t seen or heard about the Liam Neeson interview with The Independent, here’s the tl;dr version. At some point in the past, a woman close to Neeson was raped. She said it was a black man. So he took a big stick and walked around the neighborhood, hoping to start a fight with someone that matched the description. After about a week he said to himself, “What the fnck are you doing?”, and realized this was not healthy or productive behavior, and stopped. Today, he looks back and regrets the way he reacted.

What That Liam Neeson Interview Reveals

A lot of people are debating whether Neeson was being racist, and I’m not getting into that. I had a different takeaway. This is what toxic masculinity looks like. Not healthy masculinity, for the people in the back who pretend that phrase is implying that all masculinity is toxic. Don’t be willfully obtuse.

The prevailing culture does not teach men how to handle their emotions. Someone he cared about was hurt, and he had no way to process that. We are taught that expressions anguish, grief, sympathy, and variations thereof are unmanly. To weep, to mourn, to be upset about the suffering of others is seen as weakness. What we are allowed to do is feel angry. What we are expected to do is leap into action. A woman was harmed? We’re taught that the manliest of manly things to do is to go kick someone’s ass.

I’m not saying that what Neeson did was right, or excusable, or not his responsibility. That he didn’t end up doing something harmful, and the genuine horror he seems to have over his past behavior are positive signs. What I am saying is that his reaction is a symptom of a larger problem in society. He had no other culturally-coded way to process his emotions.

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8 Comments

  1. Haven’t read the interview, only saw it referenced on Twitter. But I’ll tell you this, I’m struggling with that same issue right now, the anger, the coding that my only way to process overwhelming emotion is through violence. I’ve been hating myself a lot lately in silence over this, swallowing the urges like razor blades down my gullet, and trying to remember to be better.

  2. I have no problems with using this as a discussion about race, and what constitutes sincere remorse and a meaningful apology. What bothers me is that almost no one is discussing the toxic masculinity that underlies this. I’ve seen people say “what if it was a ginger/Muslim/bigfoot that attacked her and he was out looking for a ginger/Muslim/bigfoot to kill as revenge” and I have to say IT’S STILL TOXIC MASCULINITY AT THE HEART OF IT.

  3. The most important thing about Neeson’s comments is that he realised that his reaction was inappropriate for himself. He didn’t need a horde of social justice warriors screeching at him to deterime that wandering around with a big stick looking for any person sharing a characteristic of the rapist (ie. skin colour) was wrong. Once he got over the understandable fury that someone he cared about had been attacked he realised that he was going the wrong way about dealing with it and stopped… mercifully before he did harm to anybody.

    Of course the social justice warriors are incapable of realising that. They operate on the basis that anyone who has the temerity to differ one iota from their opinions is quite beyond the pale and a fit target of all the vitriol that they can muster forever… they are permitted, in their eyes, to be angry about others but do not extend that same right to anyone else. They also do not recognise that people learn and change their views. Once they’ve transgressed against the social justice warriors’ opinions they are condemned forever.

  4. Yes, because racists, misogynists, homophobes, transphobes, Islamophobes, xenophobes, and other forms of bigots never have opinions that are set in stone, and are totally open minded and willing to hear ideas and points of view that don’t align with their own. It’s completely unreasonable for people who have historically been oppressed and discriminated against to see everything through the filter of oppression and discrimination. Try making your point without using the loaded strawman phrase, meant to automatically discredit and invalidate a person’s opinion.

    tl;dr You lost me at “social justice warrior”.

  5. Sorry, do you have a better term for those who shrill about everyone who has a different opinion from their own? I’d like to find a better one than ‘social justice warriors’ myself but haven’t found one yet. The ones who in their eyes can do no wrong and who are unwilling to reason with people whose views differ from theirs, who are incapable of forgiving the contrite or admitting that people do change.

  6. The people you describe (“unwilling to reason with people whose views differ from theirs”) exist on both sides of the political divide. The term SJW implies that they all fall on one side, and that’s just not true. When it comes to being “incapable of forgiving the contrite or admitting that people do change”, those people bother me, too. But not to the point that I label them, or are dismissive of them out of hand.

    Look, I can disagree with the people who voted Leave and still understand their point of view. I can grasp the frustration they were feeling and the messaging they were bombarded with. Hell, I can even understand the rise of the alt-right in the US without agreeing with them. I get how they’re sitting there, under-employed and poor but constantly seeing news stories about women’s rights, gay rights, Muslim rights, and thinking “But I’m hurting too, who’s looking out for ME?”.

    SJW is a mic drop. It is immediately dismissive of their point of view, the reasons they are upset, the background behind their beliefs and attitudes. It’s a term that means “ignore what they’re saying”. It lacks empathy, and prevents any sort of constructive dialogue around any topic.

    AND AGAIN, when you have people who have been historically oppressed and marginalized, they see things through that lens. having experienced racism, they experience Neeson’s comments through the filter of the racism they have personally experienced and find that it resonates with it. But the only way to have a conversation is to acknowledge their feelings, show that you can understand why they see things that way, and try to show that it might be more subtle and nuanced than that.

  7. You are quite right. I’ll keep looking for a better tag for the self-rigteous and intolerant who don’t help those of us who are working towards a world free of racisim and sexism and all that crap that the SJW one. They are at least after a good thing even if they go about it all wrong.. It’s time to look forwards, to make positive efforts to build a world we all want to inhabit, though… not wallow in the past and by doing so, fail to move on.

    Like you, I think the Leave vote was wrong… unlike you I am being forced out of Europe by it. The entire campaign was dire on both sides, with more lies than you can shake a stick at. But now the decision has been made, the aftermath could be being handled better. Everyone is losing out because of political incompetence and self-centered behaviour. Of going, the first thing that needs to be put in place is a free trade agreement, and appropriate rights for UK citizens in Europe and people from other EU countries in the UK. Neither are there with just over a month to go.

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