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.