Male friendships important despite stigmas
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 22:03
Directed by Erik Santiago, a longtime friend of Hank Mandel, “Five Friends” was screened Thursday afternoon in the library. A film about Mandel’s five close friendships, it explores male friendships: how society views them, why certain views exist, how to accept close friendships and more.
In today’s society, one keen on what’s acceptable due to gendered characteristics, strong male friendships tend to be judged unfairly and prevent many men from achieving the kinds of friendships that Mandel has found in the five friends shown in the documentary.
It began by comparing male and female friendships with the example of an iconic female friendship shown in “Sex and the City”. The women in the show are open about emotional concerns and ask their friends for advice, but the accepted norm for male friendships are nothing like that. In the documentary, Mandel explained how he has now been able to sense potential receptivity in the men he’s friends with; give more, and expect it to be returned the way the women from “Sex and the City” do. But mostly, male friendships are what he calls “episodic,” meaning they are only important for the time and setting (i.e. close college friends during college, then having close friends who are coworkers after moving on from college, etc).
But director Santiago and Mandel showed how meaningful, deep and loving friendships between males can exist despite fears of homophobia in the sense that others will think men gay. Mandel describes his friendships as ones where he learns through trust, ones that reinforce who he is and makes him better, ones that give him insights of things that should be thought about. Though the characteristics of nurture, care and compassion are ones mostly equated with female relationships, he explains how these things should not be seen as either masculine or feminine, but rather as human and part of everyone. Throughout the documentary, Santiago explored these things through Mandel’s friendships with himself and four other close friends that differ greatly from each other. Regardless of their differences, Mandel shows how each takes care of some emotional and personal aspect of him.
“Our childhood seems to have a lot to do with our relationships as we grow up,” Mandel said. He went on to show how fathers are seen as the epitome of a man to every son and that many deep seated issues arise from a lack of communication and sharing of feelings between fathers and sons. Mandel shared how he saw flaws in his own father, flaws that he vowed to never have. Even so, Mandel became really emotional when speaking about his father, stating that he loved him. Another important factor in Mandel’s life that shaped his relationship with men was his traumatic experiences being molested as a child.
After the documentary, Mandel opened the floor for a question and answer session, in which he said, “The target, when we were making it, were our sons.”