A24’s critically-acclaimed family drama film, Waves, hits theaters this weekend.
Recently, one of its stars, Kelvin Harrison Jr., spoke with Shadow And Act about the themes of toxic masculinity and Black boyhood in the film. Harrison Jr. is having an incredible year as he’s also coming off of another critic favorite, Neon’s Luce. He stars in Waves with Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie, Sterling K. Brown and Renee Elise Goldsberry.
When asked what he thinks the film says is happening with Black boys in America, he said, “Ultimately I think, [and] what Luce says so explicitly too, is that we’ve been put in a box. And I think Tyler (his character) is trying to find the words to say that. He’s not understanding these generational divides and what sacrifice means and ultimately what love and community really is. How do we navigate with our parents, how do we navigate that with ourselves and our other relationships and how to we break the curses and the cycles that [have] come before us and empower ourselves to know who we are, ultimately. They’re [Black boys] just like me that have an identity.”
As Waves is a meditation on grief, a lot of what Tyler is dealing with in the movie we don’t see much until later on. In regards to what people can learn from how Tyler deals (or doesn’t deal) with rage, Harrison said: “It feels like he can’t say how he feels. He feels like he can’t be vulnerable and that there isn’t a space where that would be accepted. So he’s spending a lot of time bottling it up and trying to overcome, when it just doesn’t work that way. How we heal is through communication. How we heal is letting out some of these fears and insecurities and putting [them] out in the forefront and using other people to help us grow, together. I think with a lot of young African American men, we are told that we need to rise up to expectations and just deliver without checking in.”
He continued, “In my own experiences, I’ve seen my father and uncles, kind of you know, this is such a small version of that, but in terms of masculinity, he was like ‘Boy, you don’t need to use lotion, Men don’t use lotion.’ But the smallest little things make you think about a million little things that kind of go, ‘What am I doing that doesn’t make me not a man? And I shouldn’t be sensitive. And men do this and women do this.’ I think we’re trying to navigate what that means for us in a time that is so different from the world they grew up in. And it’s overwhelming. I hope people see the movie and start to go ‘How am I complicit in kind of perpetuating these stereotypes?'”
Watch the full interview below:
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