Aragorn, Cinema Therapy, and Authentic Masculinity

by | Dec 9, 2020 | Life | 16 comments

Cinema Therapy Guys Talk Toxic Masculinity

As we’re trying to understand emotional maturity, can we get a better picture of what authentic masculinity is?

We talk a lot about toxic masculinity, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a healthy term. Many people fear that we’re labelling the stuff that guys tend to do as being toxic, and the stuff that girls tend to do as being healthy.

I have a son-in-law in the military who loves hunting and fishing and fixing stuff. That is not toxic! Typical “masculine” things are not bad.

What is bad, though, is when those are the only things that men are allowed to express.

My daughter Rebecca recently found a YouTube channel that she just loves, called Cinema Therapy.

There, a licensed therapist and a filmmaker just watch movies and talk about emotional health. It’s really well done, quite funny, and very moving. And I was quite taken with their video on Aragorn and the Lord of the Rings, and the points that they were making about masculinity.

Instead of the term “toxic masculiniity”, they prefer to talk about “limited masculinity.”

When men are only allowed to show a very few things, then masculinity becomes very limited. And the only emotions that men are encouraged to show, they say, are anger and lust–two things we’ve been talking about over the last week! And limited masculinity then tends to become about dominance–money, status, power, control. But real masculinity isn’t like that at all.

When you look at Aragorn from Lord of the Rings, though, he can cut the heads off orcs and then go write poetry. He’s a complete man.

Many of you in the comments over the last month, as we’ve been talking about emotional maturity, have asked what it looks like to be an emotionally mature and healthy man.

I thought this video answered that question so well that I’d let them have the last word before we get into Christmas posts, and a little bit on respect I want to do tomorrow.

It’s a great one to watch with teens, too, to get some discussion going!


So watch this, and then let me know what you think! And let’s talk about what real masculinity looks like in the comments.

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Elissa

    I literally just found that channel myself a couple days ago and was thinking how much many of their videos relate to what you have been talking about! It is exciting to see good teaching about healthy and unhealthy relationships becoming easier to find!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I know! I just love it. Rebecca really loved the one on toxic positivity, too.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I think the YouTube algorithm has picked them up recently and I’m loving it. Their ones on Tangled and Inside Out… oof! They’re fantastic, too.

      • Elissa

        I thought the one they did on Kristoff from Frozen II was also very relevant to this series on emotional maturity, specifically related to guys.

  2. Tiffany

    This was cool. Might have to follow these guys. I love these movies incidentally.

  3. Phil

    First of all very cool. Second, I never saw Lord of The Rings but I liked the example used. I definitely identifiPhile did was hug his brother with a manly hug – super close but yet manly and his hands tapped the back of his brothers back and they were joyful to see each other and he used his trade mark Love Ya – before he even came over to me to say happy birthday to me. I had observed this behavior over the years and that particular moment was defining in my mind that YES – it is ok to hug a man. It is ok to say I love you to a man. And with that I implemented my new manly way of hugging a friend and saying I love you to a man. Of course this wasn’t some thing that just happened it was a gradual gravitation to that behavior. I was still heavy in my active addiction at the time so while I had been in therapy for many things sex addiction had not come up yet…tragically my friend died along side his brother in a car accident later that year in 1997. He was just 25. His name IS Mark Groner <— not was. Rest In Peace buddy and I miss you. Love Ya bro! Which brings me to the next subject. Death. I loved the commentary on this. I for one am not afraid of death. I am ready for it. For me that is. This is something that not only men struggle with but obviously all of us men and women alike. Yesterday I was making an introductory sales call with a man and I asked him if he had any kids. he said "Well I had two but one recently passed". Ouch – I hit a nerve….most people would back off that…and mostly MEN will back off that. Not me…we dove right in. First I recognized his sorrow and and found out what happened – his son Shawn Davis died of a burst spleen 9 years old – they had taken him to the hospital and they sent them home. How sad. But you know what? We didn't stop there. I told him that Jesus is with the children. Why we can't understand Gods plan – there are reasons that will help us Grow in faith with him…if we allow it. Then we talked about TLHV actually. I told him I hang out on a marriage blog and while I did not name it I talked about the prior series of how we need to strengthen our marriage in times like he is walking through. Two grown men standing in the parking lot with masks on not knowing what each other really looks like – tears just on the eye balls of both of us….He told me that his wife actually thought he was going to leave him….and he said NO I need you more than ever now….and we laughed….Really hard stuff folks…but you know what…I have one more story. I am a scout leader and I run my youngest sons Den. Monday we had a scout meeting outdoors with masks on which we have been doing for a while. However it is getting cold even way down here in the South U.S. where I live. So we brought 2 industrial type blower heaters and after the meeting was over we all had Hot Chocolate. One of my Scouts volunteered to serve the stuff from the carafe. We ran out and he got none. So when we got home I made him a hot cup of hot chocolate with milk not water and dumped a million mini marshmallows in it and then piled whipped cream on top and me and my son delivered it to his house. When we got home my son said that that was more fun than the actual scout meeting. I told him YES – because you were giving. Thats what. real man does. No I am not tooting my own horn. I am eating by example as best I can as fallible human trying to follow Jesus. Thats it folks. Love you all 🙂

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Phil–first off, You HAVE to see Lord of the Rings! You really do. Binge watch them all in one weekend! It’ll change your life.
      And second–how AMAZING that you let God use you like that with that man. That was a true God moment. That was you being Jesus. Thank you for sharing that with us today. That encouraged me greatly.

  4. Natalie

    This video was recommended to me too this past week, and I absolutely loved it!!! I really hate the term “toxic masculinity” because I feel like it attacks men and masculinity as a whole. “Limited masculinity” is such a better term, as those traits associated with “toxic masculinity” really are very limiting to men and their sense of self, as well as limiting to their families, spouses, relationships, and lives in general. I thought Aragorn was an excellent example of positive masculinity… a good role model. Then again, I’m also a big LotR dork 😉

    • Becky

      You and me both, Natalie! My daughter’s middle name comes from there. 😀
      I haven’t had a chance to watch the video yet, and probably won’t until the kids are in bed. But I also love the idea of “limited” vs “toxic” masculinity. The latter just tears men down as a whole, and the whole us vs. them mentality doesn’t do anyone any good.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love the idea of “limited masculinity” too. I think it’s brilliant!

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Dude, growing up me and [people who may not want to have their nerdiness on public display online] created a whole LotR comic series. Think Spaceballs, but for the Tolkein universe. We were MAJOR Lord of the Rings dorks. 🙂

      • Becky

        Rebecca – sounds like you and your friends would have been my people. We never finished it because real life got in the way, but my two best friends in college and I spent probably way too much time writing a musical parody of Lord of the Rings. Probably our most brilliant move was mashing it up with Veggie Tales to make a “Hobbits Who Don’t Do Anything” song. 😂

      • Rogue

        I don’t suppose you’d ever publish that as an online web comic? I would love to see that. I remember the LOTOR craze among my brother and sisters friends. And my older brother was a hit among the ladies in his theater class because he looked like a cross between a hobbit with his curly hair and Aragorn with the beard/mustache. His now wife and her siblings are also named after women of Tolkien’s work. The nerd runs very deep in my family/extended family…

  5. Christina

    I really enjoyed that video. Thanks for sharing! Will definitely watch more. 🙂
    I am very emotional and yes I am a woman but I think I feel big thing and I think that’s just how God made me. When I’m sad, I cry, as well as when I’m angry, happy, overwhelmed, etc. I feel big time.
    My husband on the other hand, I have only seen cry twice while we’ve been together (around 7 years). Once on our wedding day and once when he was confessing sin to me because he knew it hurt me (it was something very personal for him but not porn or anything like that). Anyways, he has become used to my emotions but doesn’t always know how to help me cope with them. For example, if I cry he usually just sits there while I talk but I think doesn’t know what to say. My question is how can I as a young wife help my husband express his emotions more? He doesn’t get angry much and when he does he has self control. He is affectionate but only with me and our kids, not with his own family (which makes me think that’s why he’s not affectionate much because his family isn’t). His family looks down on emotions. I think they think I am crazy for crying as much as I do haha! We’ve talked about his lack of emotion before but I don’t think he sees anything extremely wrong with it. Sorry for this seems like a rant. I guess I just don’t know how to have him understand his emotions are a good thing. We have a healthy relationship and I know he knows he can be vulnerable with me just want to keep growing of course.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Christina!
      I think the big thing is that he’s able to express them with you. If he’s able to express emotions with you and the kids, but not with his family, that’s okay. It could be that his family just isn’t a safe emotional place for him, and it may stay that way, and that’s okay. As long as he can express emotion in your little family, that’s the big thing.
      And I think just working on talking about emotions throughout the day can help. Share that high-low exercise I’ve been talking about, because it helps you plug in to where you each are emotionally everyday, and it only takes a small amount of time, and it isn’t super intimidating. It’s easier to share on an emotional level when it’s just telling about your day and it’s not always some huge thing, like in the middle of a conflict.
      And if he doesn’t know what to say while you’re crying–you can always just tell him what you need. 🙂 “I need you to hold my hand now.” Or ask him questions! “Do you think I’m a good mom?” “Can you reassure me that I’m not exaggerating about this and it is a real thing?” etc.


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