Jon Bernthal Slams 'Bastardised' Masculinity and Says Real Men Are Kind

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Jon Bernthal Slams 'Bastardised' Masculinity and Says Real Men Are Kind
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In many ways, Jon Bernthal is the embodiment of the traditional "tough guy" archetype. From his early role as violent alpha male Shane in The Walking Dead, to taking on the vengeful character Frank Castle in The Punisher, to his most recent performance as gangster Johnny Boy in Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark, he's an actor capable of portraying some pretty raw brutality when it's called for. But Bernthal himself couldn't be more different.

In a recent conversation on the webseries Hot Ones, Bernthal spoke about his resistance to that sort of immovable macho persona, and critiqued its prevalence in our culture.

"It's everywhere," he said. "It's in our politics, it's in our entertainment, it's in our media, where the rigidity and unbending sort of, just inability to move off of your opinion, that is being confused with patriotism and strength and masculinity, to say 'it's my way or the highway'... For me, that's the most un-American thing in the world."

In the clip, which blew up on Twitter after being shared by writer Carrie Wittmer, Bernthal went on to describe toxic masculinity as a "bastardszed" version of what it should really mean to be a man, and that real manliness is about being secure enough to acknowledge and learn from your mistakes.

"I think you need to be able to talk to anybody, you need to be confident enough in yourself that you know you can make a mistake, that you can learn from everyone, that you should approach and engage in dialogue with people who think completely differently than you," he said. "The people that I really admire and respect in my life all have that. People who actually walk the walk, they don't just talk about it, they all kind of live by that code, that you're constantly trying to get better, constantly trying to grow. It's not about implementing my will on you."

"I think with this kind of masculinity thing, I feel like it's sort of been bastardized in this way, that again it's about the bombast and it's about looking tough," he continued. "But having empathy for people, having compassion for people, helping people, being somebody, wanting to be the kind of person that would be there for someone in need, that's what I think being a dad's about, what being a man's about, and that's certainly how I'm trying to raise my boys, to have an open heart towards everyone."

This isn't the first time Bernthal has made his thoughts on masculinity and fatherhood clear. In his 2018 Men's Health cover story, he described his efforts to distance himself from his "scrappy" past and teach his sons how to be both strong and able to express themselves. More recently, following the January 2021 riots at the Capitol, he critiqued the individuals who had appropriated the iconic Punisher logo, calling them "lost" and "misguided" on what the character and his story stands for.

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