Redefining masculinity

Newsletter editor Lily here.

Last night, I got to see Jamie Lloyd's adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and all I can see is wow. This particular show was lauded pre-pandemic across the pond and stars actor James McAvoy.

For those who don't know, Cyrano was first written in 1897 and follows a man of the same name. He's a military guy who has a penchant for prose and is secretly in love with a woman named Roxane. However, he has a massive nose, and he spends his life being wildly insecure about it, to the point where he feels like no woman will ever love him. Eventually, he ends up in a scheme writing love letters to Roxane on behalf of a handsome (but not all that bright) fellow soldier named Christian, with whom Roxane is smitten.

Interestingly, unlike virtually every other adaption of the 1897 production, this one featured no prosthetic nose on McAvoy, who was quickly deemed "sexy Cyrano" by the American media. (And it's...incredibly accurate.)

But this was intentional: Both Lloyd and McAvoy have stated that this big decision to remove the play's key centerpiece was to make room for more conversation about masculinity — and insecurities within men. This adaptation also casts people of different genders in roles that've traditionally been filled entirely by men, includes actors of all different body types and disabilities, and takes a more queer lens than its source material.

Compared to a lot of books, TV shows, and movies I've seen that try to tackle the topic of toxic masculinity, this play is one of the most effective by far. In making these changes, it's as much about perceived and internal self-doubt as it is about external validation and mockery. It also shows that perhaps much of our approach to redefining masculinity needs to be about looking inward and not just about outward appearances.

Unfortunately, it's not easy for the world to see live theater; access is an inherent problem with it. But if you live in or around New York and have the chance to go to the show, I definitely recommend it. I haven't been able to stop thinking about for the last 24 hours — and I don't want to.

What advice or support can you offer fellow members today?