“BALLOON” Is A Deft Unpacking Of Toxic Masculinity And Boyhood
The fight to combat toxic masculinity is an important one — but it’s also important to explore its causes and the environment that nurtures that toxicity. Although we know that traditional gender roles and sexism can damage everyone, we don’t often look at children in those key moments of development to see how they’re affected. But the short film “BALLOON” does this in a truly unique way.
Using the superhero myth, we see Sam try to navigate junior high. Although struggling your way through young adulthood is a universal theme, the director tackled the issue of gender and masculinity with a deeply personal passion.
“I made it for my brothers who I watched growing up, constrained by the same prison I found myself in,” director Jeremy Merrifield explained in a statement. “I also made it for the women in my life—some of whom collaborated on this project with me. They have too long had to stomach the toxicity of our culture’s dated concept of masculinity. But it’s also for me—for the boy I was who felt so isolated, unwelcome, and unloved. With BALLOON I give him the superpower he always wanted, and hopefully hint at the kind of hero he still can become.”
There are so many different ways to tackle issues of gender stereotypes and toxic masculinity — but “BALLOON” manages to find a new narrative for universal struggles.