Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

"Go Now": A Popular Film Showing the Potential for "Masculinity" to Facilitate Health-Promoting Behaviours

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

"Go Now": A Popular Film Showing the Potential for "Masculinity" to Facilitate Health-Promoting Behaviours

Article excerpt

The film Go Now explores three key themes relevant to the way in which many men have been socialized to manage their health, including: 1. men's access to healthcare services and lack of awareness of their health needs; 2. men's (seeming) inability to express emotions and communicate their health needs; and 3. men's lack of social networks. As a story of how masculine identity in the face of Multiple sclerosis can be negotiated and re-negotiated to propel positive help-seeking and help-providing health behaviours in males, Go Now cultivates awareness of the role of social constructions in men's health behaviours. Rather than blaming masculity as mostly a liability for health, the film instead works as a public health education piece showing the potential for positive health behaviours across diverse performances of masculinity within the featured social structures.

Keywords: men's health, masculinity, multiple sclerosis, illness behaviour, social networks, gender identity, popular film, lay narratives, public health education


"... it is the norms of masculine behaviour that form the backdrop against which men must constantly negotiate their health-related behaviour." (Saunders & Peerson, 2009, p. 96)

Multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, is the leading cause of non-traumatic disability among young adults in the developed world (Fox, Bethoux, Goldman, & Cohen, 2006). The clinical course (and tempo) of the disease varies tremendously: normally this includes episodes of worsening neurologic symptoms. gradual progressive deterioration with eventual fixed neurologic deficits (Buchanan, Radin, Chakravorty, & Tyry, 2010). Despite the resulting challenges, some patients are able to regain a certain balance in their lives, while others find the experience devastating, suffering "insuperable discontinuity in their lives" (Boeije, Duijnstee, Grypdonck, & Pool, 2002, p. 881 ). Commonly, MS is a predictor of loss of income, employment, and social status, as well as withdrawal from social and leisure activities for patients and sometimes their families (Green & Todd, 2008). MS is a strong indicator of stress amongst relatives and caregiver burnout in families. As a fluctuating condition, MS brings with it what Khan, Pallant, and Brand (2007) describe as a "constant moving target of deficits and disability that require constant adjustment" (p. 1247). By making the lives of patients (and their families) very unpredictable, difficult to control, and creating a future that is hard to plan for (Steck, Amsler, Kappos, & Burgin, 2001), persons with MS often experience an accompanying sense of powerlessness and pronounced vulnerability (White, White, & Russell, 2008). In this regard, Riessman (2003) has described MS as "a disease that challenges capacities usually associated with [hegemonic] masculinity" (p. 8), including physical strength, competitiveness, self-reliance, self-control, sexual prowess, and general ability (Gerschick & Miller, 1995, pp. 183, 191-192).

Go Now (set in Bristol) tells the story of Nick Cameron (Robert Carlyle) who endures challenges to his male self-identity with the onset of MS. It was co-written by Jimmy McGovern and Paul Henry Powell: the drama is based on Powell's own experiences as a male with MS. Carlyle claims he did more research for this role than any other before in his acting career, spending much time "just watching and looking," as well as conversing with patients at MS centres in Bristol and Glasgow (Anonymous, 2011). The film was broadcast in 1995 as part of a BBC2 drama series called Love Bites, which included Loved Up (an "Ecstasy romance") and Ruffian Hearts: in 1996 it won the Royal Television Society's Best Writer award and enjoyed a limited theatrical release in the UK and abroad.

In this paper, we evaluate Go Now's positive potential as a public health education piece on men's health as portrayed in the case of the protagonist's experiences of living through the onset of the chronic condition, MS. …

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