Search Party co-creator tackles toxic masculinity with new short Men Don't Whisper
Men don’t whisper, but a new short film from the co-creator of Search Party asks, “What if they did?”
Released on Vimeo this week after screening at the Sundance Film Festival in January and the South By Southwest Film Festival this month, Men Don’t Whisper is the latest cringe comedy with a twist from Charles Rogers (Search Party, Fort Tilden). Starring Rogers and his real-life boyfriend, Jordan Firstman (who is also the film’s co-writer and director, as well as a writer on Search Party), the short film focuses on two gay men (Rogers and Firstman) who, in a bid to prove their masculinity to each other, pretend to be straight while on a company retreat and pick up two women (Clare McNulty and Bridey Elliott).
“We’re boyfriends now, but we spent a year together being best friends before we were boyfriends. We were just spending an unhealthy and suspicious [amount of] time together,” says Rogers of his relationship with Firstman. “One day, we were like, ‘What are we doing tonight?’ We had no plans. We were like, ‘What if we just went downtown and tried to flirt with girls and see how far we can get with that.’ We were like, ‘We’d probably end up in the Ace Hotel with them on double beds and we’d probably have to go to the bathroom and whisper.'”
But rather than act out that fantasy, the pair wrote a movie instead — and made sure to give agency to the women their characters attempt to woo.
“We thought politically and story-wise it would be weird if we made these girls helpless creatures with no flaws being taken advantage of by these seemingly straight men,” Firstman says. “We wanted to make them flawed as well. They are the epitome of ‘basic bitches’ in our minds.”
“It was a really fine line to write this because we wanted to say all the right things about the way gay men are misogynistic and no one escapes patriarchal s— but we also wanted to make a sex farce where people are being taken advantage of,” adds Rogers. “It kind of helps that everyone has an M.O. in the movie. That’s the way it becomes a little less creepy.”
Watch the NSFW short, produced by Group Nine Media via their production arm JASH, below:
The 22-minute short arrives at a moment when the concept of masculinity is being investigated amid the growing Time’s Up and #metoo movements, which have sought to expose abuse and injustice, empower women to speak out, and create a level playing field where all genders are treated with the same respect and equality.
“I think a huge problem with masculinity is its narrowness in its definition and the way it’s treated. Men are involved in too many conversations. Men are at the table too often, but not at the right tables,” says Rogers. “In the film, we’re playing with the way you have to be overly assertive, overly dominant — performatively so, in a way that doesn’t involve sensitivity — to be heard or get what you want. That’s truly dangerous and it’s depressing. The way to overcome it is to accept the wholeness of masculinity, which is that it also involves femininity and involves so many expressions of identity, and that’s something we just have to do while we have a president in office who isn’t honoring any of that.”
While Rogers isn’t sure what the future holds for TBS’ cult comedy Search Party (season 2 aired last year and the network has not yet moved forward with an order of more episodes), he and Firstman intend on expanding Men Don’t Whisper into feature length. The two men will again star, as will McNulty and Elliott (both of whom starred in Rogers’ SXSW-winning feature Fort Tilden and appeared on Search Party).
“The short is very much about our joint issues with masculinity, but the feature is about our relationship issues. We’re really getting into it,” Rogers says.
Adds Firstman: “It gets a lot more real.”