2. John Leguizamo’s Freak

January 31
1. FILM: John Leguizamo, Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography (view in class)
2. READ: Juan Gonzalez, Harvest of Empire, “Gonzalez – HoE Colombians” (PDF)
3. PRESENTATION: Carlos A. Restrepo & Emily Van Buren

John Leguizamo’s Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography

Background information:

  • Show ran on Broadway between 1996-1997; in 1998 it was directed by Spike Lee for HBO
  • Traces Leguizamo’s life from birth to the beginnings of his acting career
  • Show highlights his traumatic experiences that make him feel like a “freak”
  • Play (monologue) is divided into 19 scenes
  • Key (male) characters: his father (Fausto), his uncle Sanny, and himself

Discussion questions:

  1. How is Fausto’s yelling paralleled with city noise?
  2. How does Leguizamo describe his birth?
  3. What is the relationship between the Leguizamos and authority figures? (doctor, US Customs, the police)
  4. A very specific understanding of what it means to be “manly” is established shortly into the play. What are the messages John receives for not adhering to these “ideals”? Who gives him these messages?
  5. What could the everyday domestic items represent in the scene where John recounts his father’s television?
  6. Explain the “third world logic” that John’s father follows regarding his television. How is this related to the masculinity ideals presented? Are these ideals exclusive to the “third world”?
  7. How does Fausto discipline his sons?
  8. When does Fausto show affection towards John? How does this interaction once again reinforce a specific form of masculinity?
  9. What is Fausto’s secret scheme?
  10. How does John first experience sexuality? How does his father address it? How does he discuss it with is group of friends?
  11. Describe John’s experience in New England.
  12. What does John learn from his other relatives about masculinity (e.g., his grandmothers, his uncle Sanny, his aunt Anissette)?
  13. His relationship with his uncle Sanny is particularly important to his understanding of “masculinity.” In the play, this act is entitled “Surrogate Moms.” What is the importance of both the title and  his uncle Sanny is contrast to John’s father?
  14. The play presents John’s rite of passage into manhood. What are some rite of passages in our society, in your specific culture? Are rites of passage always gendered? In John’s case, what do they reveal about Latino masculinity?
  15. What is the relationship between the title of the performance with the masculinities that Leguizamo is presenting? How is “freak” used in a similar way to the word “queer” ?

Remember these are only questions to get you started. Please feel free to share any other themes and topics that stood out to you from Leguizamo’s performance.

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64 Responses to 2. John Leguizamo’s Freak

  1. alease810 says:

    John’s father gives him a very clear understanding of what it is to be a man. He sees the way his father mistreats women and prioritizes sex. This causes John to feel immense pressure to lose his virginity at an early age and gain his father’s respect and approval. His father calls him a pussy and mocks his attempt to protect his mother. His father has no respect for John’s gay uncle which also makes John want to separate himself from this part of his Uncle even though he admires him very much as a person.

    In the scene where John recounts his fathers love for the television set I saw a parallel to the way the modern man acts towards cars. Men in today’s society often buy prized luxury cars, keep them in pristine condition and pour affection and admiration into them. When children inevitably find themselves in the crashed car, or with a baseball smashed into the perfectly waxed body, they are left in a cropping fear of their father’s reaction. These behaviors show masculinity as selfish, scary, and easily angered.

    • jacobfinlan says:

      Your comparison of Fausto’s television to the modern man’s car is intriguing to me. Maybe the reason Fausto was so attached to his television was because it brought status to the household and raised himself up in his own mind as the kind of guy who could afford a television. I think that a lot of men are so connected to their cars because of the status that it brings them among other men, and so any damage to that ‘tool’ is devastating.

      • edortega3231 says:

        I also agree with Jacob. Your comparison of Fausto’s television to the modern man’s car was very creative. I never looked at it in that way. The fact that men pour their souls into inanimate objects, such as a car or a televison set, proves that men are capable of some emotion to a certain degree. Could it be that society has stripped the male psyche of the ability to express emotions, such as love and compassion, that men then seek to express it in other ways that do not go against the norm? Crazy, isn’t it? Fausto cares for his television set more than he does his own son. His television is broken, therefore he is upset; yet he “field goals” his son and busts open his head, and feels no remorse. Very interesting indeed.

      • limajames11 says:

        I agree with Jacob as well. Your comparison of the television as the modern day car obsession among men is very interesting. I didn’t look at it that way either, but it makes a lot of sense. I also believe that in this era the obsessions are not only limited to cars but also to items such as expensive electronic gadgets. Everyone seems to have an iPod, iPone, iPad, or whatever else seems to be the most popular these days. And this is definitely to associate themselves with a certain social class. I feel that this is to display which class they believe they belong to. Which status they hold. This relates to the television during those years in the 90’s. Those who owned a television were perceived as the people with money. And relating this to John’s father Fausto, I believe this is exactly what he was trying to show off. To show off his manliness, status, power, and wealth. He sees the television as a huge possession because at that time, in the area where he was living, and the ethnicity that he was, it was a big deal. This idea can also be perceived through Fausto lying about owning a restaurant but instead he washes dishes there and hides the truth.

      • misharo says:

        This is a great comparison to the modern man’s car. I really did not recognize or I should say remember the TV. The TV plays an important role to Fausto because at times it does sometime seem that he values the TV more than his family. However I don’t think it describes a lack of emotion in men as edortega3231 questioned. At the end of the day I believe any man knows that it is just as a car or a television set. It’s a way to show some sort of pride a man has for his possessions. Fausto exemplifies the stereotype of a hard-working and struggling Latino man. A TV or a car is somewhat a way to boast about their hard-work and to say “Look at the hard-work I do now I have something to show for it.”

      • dipali1991 says:

        I agree completely with you on your statement. The idea of how important masculinity is for people is scary for me too. Masculinity can have a power over someone that can cause them to do things that are violent, uncalled for, and sometimes just morally wrong. All of this is done just to prove a point; basically the point that you are a “man.” I feel that insecurities play a big role is masculinity because boys are faced with so much pressure that they feel the need to overcompensate for qualities they lack which sometimes causes them to do awful things. John’s own father called him a pussy like you said, which was uncalled for and should NOT have been said to his own son. Obviously John takes this to heart and tries to prove his father wrong.

    • britaneyguzman says:

      I completely agree with your opinion of Fausto, John’s father. His father pushed him to have certain ideas or a certain mentality of what a man should be. He even goes as far as bringing him to a hooker in the back of a fast food place to ensure his son “became a man.” John must have a very strong character because even with all of the pressure from his father he was still able to realize that what his father was doing to his mother was wrong, and it is not okay to treat people as Fausto was.

  2. jacobfinlan says:

    Fausto and John’s relationship is interesting because the only time that Fausto is affectionate toward John as a child is when Fausto is drinking – otherwise, they lack any real sense of affection toward each other. When Fausto does force John to kiss him, John kisses him on the lips and Fausto says, ‘Not on the lips… Freak.’ We can see what this says about masculinity in Fausto’s mind – kissing between two men should be absolutely limited, and should NEVER be on the lips. So, in this context, masculinity is basically homophobic; affection between men is not ‘macho’ or ‘tough’ enough for Fausto.

    We see that being masculine is a huge priority for Fausto, and his secret scheme in the long run is to own his apartment building, and eventually, the whole block. Fausto’s big scheme may have become important to him in the city because he sees that all of these business men in the city are the big shots, and are the ones that the other men look up to or have to answer to.

    • franciscotorres01 says:

      Jacob I completely agree on what your looking into about machismo, but I wonder what you think in accordance to women? why is that women are allowed to be more affectionate in public in comparison to men? Why are gay men the primary group attacked in accordance to homophobia?

  3. korb10 says:

    John’s father serves as the stereotypical Latino model in “Freak”. Through his own behavior and “teachings”, he reinforces the idea that men need to be “tough, dominant, sexual, and a provider”. Like many people all over the world, John’s father insists that in order to be a real man, a boy must first lose his virginity. He encourages John to push his morals aside to have sex with a strange, older woman. John admits that he is disinterested in getting sexually involved with her, but he does not want to disappoint his father. Leaving KFC without losing his virginity, to his father, means not being a man. Fausto shows his own sexuality by cheating on his wife. He is uncomfortable with his wife getting educated- he does not like being undermined by her when she uses words he cannot understand. He does not like that her education and late nights out take his power away. Fausto exemplifies this hunger for power and dominance by the way he disciplines his sons. By beating them, he is able to assert his power over them. He wants them to be afraid of him, which they are. They knew that they would be beaten when they broke the antenna of his prized television.

    Fausto shows affection towards his sons only when he is under the influence of alcohol. When he finally forces John to kiss him and he is kissed on the mouth, he calls his son a “faggot”. He is showing John that too much affection strips a man of his masculinity. This causes John to refer to his Uncle Sanny as a mother figure rather than a father figure. John gets this idea from his father that any man who lacks any masculine trait is more of a woman than a man. John’s Uncle Sanny also serves as the only homosexual character in the film. Fausto dislikes Sanny, most likely because he does not fit into Fausto’s mold of the typical Latino man. Fausto does this again when he calls his own son a “pussy” when he is reassuring his wife that he would not dare hit anyone. He is basically telling his son that by lacking violence, he is also lacking manhood. Instead of applauding his son’s respect and self-control for his elders, he questions his masculinity. Finally, after losing his job as a tenant, Fausto is forced to work as a dishwasher. Instead of compromising his image as a provider for his family, he chooses to dress for a job he does not have and lie to his children about his career. He would do anything not to compromise his image as a “real man”. John has grown up under the influence of his father, so he is taught that in order to be a “real man” he also has to be “tough, dominant, sexual, and be a provider”.

    • brichelleg says:

      I agreed with your comment about how john’s father was portal in his story served as the stereotypical Latino model in “Freak”. Machismo is a trait that allows a man can be a loving, caring (certainly in his own definition), and a trait that is certainly expressed through sexual conquests. His dad had to constantly show how masculine he was by how sexual he was to other women and a prime example when he took John to the back of a KFC to lose his virginity and finally becoming a man. This is a concept that is rooted in patriarchal societies; the male’s role outside the home entails how much of a façade he can put out among others.

    • limajames11 says:

      I agree to your statement that Fausto is portrayed as the stereotypical Latino male in “Freak”. His notion that he should be macho, powerful, dominant, and sexual are some of the main characteristics of a stereotypical Latino male. I believe that when he is not able to fully exert these traits naturally and have power over his family he turns for other solutions. Solutions such as, violence, alcohol, beating his children and wife, screaming, yelling and swearing at them constantly. I think that the importance of Fausto’s yelling being parallel to that of the city noise is to show that he is trying to have power over everything. His voice should be on top. He should be the one in power.

    • jayrodriguez13 says:

      I completely agree with this post. Fausto was really the personification of what it is meant to be a stereotypical Latino macho male. However, there was one time when Fausto showed John some love without really being under the influence. When John was acting in the play at the end of the movie, Fausto came to him, and although he and John got into an argument, Fausto did show him some affection. I believe Fausto’s words were, “I knew you were there that day at the restaurant, and you never said anything. And I love you for that.” It is here that we can see that Fausto is showing John that it is alright for a man to show some affection every now and then, although he still must be tough and domineering.

      • korb10 says:

        Yes, at the end of the play we see Fausto become the most vulnerable thus far. However, he admits that he is unable to show his affection properly. While he shows that he is not entirely macho in this part, the fact that he admits his inability to express himself suggests perhaps he is “entirely masculine”.

  4. jeanclaudenicolasjr says:

    john leguizamo’s account of his relationship with his father parallels many of the deficiencies we see in our society today. fatherlessness was the root of many problems john describes in this narrative. although his father was present in the home, he was still absent. his inability to connect with his children posed many problems. the mother was nurturing but that wasnt enough. john and his brother needed the love, affection and attention from their dad. the dad needed to be a stellar example of what its like to be latino in this new found world they moved to. they didnt need to see their father cheating on his wife and neglecting his family. the dad should have proudly galavanted his sons to his job and taught them a life lesson of making the best within your current situation. instead he chose to live a lie and cause his sons to believe he was the owner of the restaurant, a decision which later backfires on him. his sons resent him for lying and his wife resents him because he didnt provide a sense of safety and security for her. rather, she now has to fend for herself.

    i believe fausto could have demonstrated to his sons and his wife humility. he could have been an extremely loving father and husband, yet still maintain control of his household without the violence, fear and intimidation. he could have exercised this male domination that was so important to him and that was such a part of his upbringing without losing his family. for example, he should have included his family in his tv time and other relaxing moments. he should have been the one changing the channels for whatever programming the kids wanted to watch, while still enforcing that no one touches the tv when he is not home.

    • korb10 says:

      Something that I had not considered until reading your post was why his mother was not enough. He refers to his uncle as a stand in mother but he never discusses why his mother was never enough. He does not seem to have any harsh feelings towards her, but he does not seem to have any positive feelings for her either. What do you think about this approach towards his mother?

    • I somewhat agree with your statement about Fausto son’s resenting him for lying. John was clearly devastated when he learned that his father was not the owner of the restaurant but instead the dishwasher. However, at that moment John did not think anything but to save his younger brother from witnessing the same thing so that the image of his father can remain “strong”. Later in Freak, the father does tell John that he knew when he was in the restaurant and saw that he was the dishwasher but appreciated the fact that he kept it to himself. John never threw it in his face and it was simply because he didn’t really care what his father was doing, he just wanted to be accepted by his father.

  5. brichelleg says:

    In today’s society, everyone takes on gender roles, the roles that we are assign give people a sense of stability and structure. Throughout history, society has influenced the meaning of traditional family arrangement and at times, these family arrangements were rather unequal. Society conditioned many people to view that it is natural that the men work outside the home “Bringing home the bacon”, while women stay home cooking, doing the laundry, and taking care of the children. This is evident throughout John’s story of his life.

    The role that men upheld in the johns story is a stereotypical depiction of Latino maleness (machismo). “Machismo” plays a significant role in many Hispanic/Latino homes. The term gives a distinction between sexes; males enjoy rights/privileges denied to females. From a young age, boys and girls learn about their expected gender roles and their place in the family. This term serves to reinforce the prestige of the male in the family. It is evident in John’s family structure, the existence of a patriarchy, model that they followed. John’s father serves as the stereotypical Latino image that is constantly portrayed in media “Hyper-Sexualized being”. Through his own behavior and “teachings”, he reinforces the idea that men should be “tough, dominant, overly sexualized and the head of household”; what is constantly being re-affirmed throughout Johns story is the concept of manhood and the expectation bestowed upon them. While his mom served as the ideal of “the angel in the house”, always taking care of her children and her husband. Many scholars have identified her role as marianismo- to be like the Virgin Mary; she is the vital source of nurturance and moral authority in the family. The cultural ideals of Marianismo and Machismo are expectations to be lived in the daily life of many Hispanic family structures.

    • Katheryn says:

      I think the idea that everyone takes a gender role in society is completely true. I agree with the role males are given such as being the bread winners, while women raise chidden and take care of the household. I think it is true the that John’s father filled this stereotypical role of a Latino male. I also think it was a great point that you brought out the fact that John’s mother as fulfilling the ideals of Marianismo. I don’t think anybody really addressed the idea that John’s mother embodies the typical role of a Hispanic mother as being subservient and almost “Virgin Mary” like.

    • korb10 says:

      Fausto definitely withholds the idea of a typical male, but do you think that John does? We discussed in class the way that John uses humor rather than violence or aggressiveness to approach people and problems.

  6. laurentodd91 says:

    What I noticed in John Leguizamo’s Freak is not only how masculinity is portrayed for the Latino community, but how it is stereotyped in other ethnicities. For example, we see John act out the Irish brother of a girl he was hitting on. We see the brother being protective, tough, and intimidating as he threatens John and makes him leave the bar (of course). But, what is different about when he plays this Irish male role is that he was extremely hot tempered something that is a stereotype of the Irish. Then again when John tries to make friends with some Italian guys we see again he acts a different way. We see a man who is relaxed with his words, yet still tough and strong. The way John acts it out this Guido working on his car, the way he talked, the way he acted was of a stereotypical Italian man, still very masculine, just in a different way. Ultimately he beats John up. And then again we see him acting as his African American friend with a pick in his hair with a lazy stance and very laid- back personality.

    By displaying all these stereotypes of men and what masculinity is to each culture we could see how untrue most of these characteristics are. Although stereotypes usually hurt people, the way John used them brought up all these negative characteristics and made it something to laugh at. With showing “what a man should be” in all these different back-rounds as he poked fun at them it gives empowerment to all the different people so they can laugh at the fictions of their own group and other groups. By showing not only the fictions of Latino masculinity we could see a lot of the same characteristics used to define masculinity in these other nationalities.

  7. edortega3231 says:

    The relationship between the title of the performance and the masculinities that Leguizamo exhibits is not as complex as one would imagine. In his performance, Leguizamo uses the word “freak” when he shares one of his many childhood memories with the audience. Leguizamo mentions that his father enjoyed drinking, and would become somewhat of a sap when under the influence. This memory is very important because it is the only time that Leguizamo reiterates the title of his performance. In this particular memory, Leguizamo’s father, Fausto, is extremely intoxicated and decides to give his son a kiss. Leguizamo, assuming that he felt uncomfortable with his father’s sudden portrayal of affection, hesitated and cringed. This made Fausto angry and reaffirmed his definition of masculinity. Repeled by his vulnerability, Fausto became very defensive. Not wanting to upset his already drunk father, Leguizamo gives in, but kisses his father in the lips instead. Fausto then beat his son, and called him a “freak.”

    In my opinion, I believe that the word “freak” is used in this context to describe Leguizamo as an outcast. I believe Leguizamo wanted his audience to experience his humanity through his experience in being molded as a man. The idea of masculinity is not innate, but integrated into our being through vast networks of systematic barriers. Leguizamo learned what it meant to be a “man” through his experiences with his father, along with other male figures that he mentions in his comic memoir. To be labeled as “the other” by someone Leguizamo really looked up to must have greatly impacted his development into adulthood in an extreme way. All Leguizamo wanted was to be recognized in his father’s eyes; instead he was rejected and labeled as a “freak.”

    With that said, the word “freak” and the word “gay” have a lot in common. Both of these words are labels that bring about a lot of negative connotations. These people being characterized as “gay” or as “freaks” have to live with these implications and stereotypes. The truth is that these characteristics may not apply to them. Nonetheless, they internalize these expectations and fall victim to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • You basically said everything I was thinking of! good job, I’m going to talk about masculinity also, you made a good point…

    • limajames11 says:

      I was thinking the same, that the word “freak” was used to show how John was an outcast all his life. This could be because of his lack of masculinity like his dad believes, or his ethnicity. Him being an outcast because of his ethnicity can be seen in many areas of the show. For example, when he speaks about moving to different neighborhoods, like that of the Italian neighborhood. And they ended up having to move. This was because he did not “fit” in with those around him.

    • Stanley Demosthene says:

      I think this is extremely insightful as an approach to look at John’s naming his show “Freak” and how the title alone played into his own development. The word freak usually refers to an outcast and growing up, John did feel as if he were an outcast, constantly having to prove himself to his friends as well as his own father in order to fit in.

      I love your approach to John’s interaction between him and his father and think it is interesting and I also couldnt agree more.

    • I completely agree with you about men are portrayed as not showing or even having emotions expressed. While in the movie he thought that his father was strange for asking him for a kiss and then when he did give his father a kiss his father thought of him as a “fag” for kissing him. This ties into masculinity and when who is to say that a kiss on the cheek is masculine but a kiss on the lips is not. Showing that society and at home life is how we portray traits of masculinity its not just learnt from little kids on their own or that its something that we are born with.

  8. klakotko says:

    The main messages in “Freak” heavily favored the many stereotype presented and enforced throughout society. Every character aided the stereo-typically aggressive, unemotional, intimidating, and superior, even the female characters. It was no surprise to me that Leguizamo had to more or less pretend to be someone else and hide any slight feminine qualities to prevent being ridiculed. His dad served as the primary example in Leguizamo’s life of what an ideal man was supposed to be. A dad always plays a significant role in a young boys life. In his story, his dad exemplified the stereotypical man that wanted his son to lose his virginity despite if he ready or not signifying he was a man sexually and to drink before legally able, signifying maturity. He also showcased a lack of respect for his wife when he cheated on her right in front of his children as if that were completely acceptable, and getting angry when his wife did not obey him. His mother also contributed to Leguizamos perception of a man when she refers to him as her “Latin King”. This also instills the trait of superiority in his head at a young age. It is also interesting to look at his relationship with him brother. Between the two of them Leguizamo was the “manlier” child and he did not treat his brother as an equal. This is most evident in his nickname for his kid brother, “a fat boy called bitch.” He did reveal his real self to the audience of his story and it was very interesting to see the feminine qualities he did possess. The way that he hid them just made his views of masculinity more visible.

    All the characters viewed as “freaks” in his story portrayed feminine characteristics such as affection and submission. His uncle was gay and his dad did not always approve of his ways. Even the way that Leguizamo had to specifically clarify he did not want to be gay out loud proves that he had a phobia of homophobes due to the fact that he knows he would not be accepted as well in society. Additionally, it was equally demeaning when his mother would be looked down upon by his father because she went to school, when she used big words. It is a shame that gender roles are so prominent and immutable. The image we give off must depict our gender. However, the irony present in his story is very interesting as well. When Fauzo puts on a tux and lies to his family in order for them to look up to him and view him as a successful man, he is actually unknowingly exuding very feminine qualities. Although, he is trying to maintain pride and power, he is exemplifying fear. He too is afraid of the disappointment and judgement that are caused by a lack of masculinity in the man of the house. All throughout history, these stereotypical images of men have been built up so much even simple phrases like ‘man of the house’ simply provide more subconscious reasons to be someone you’re not. I think that the overall message of his performance was positive and inspiring. I loved how he ended up doing what he wanted to do with his life and not following in his dads footsteps, ultimately being more of a ‘man’ than he ever was by standing up for himself. Which therefore made him hard to deem as either a feminine or masculine character.

  9. Katheryn says:

    John Leguizamo’s Freak, semi-biographical show really tells a story. John exposes many aspects of his private life, from struggles with the relationship he has with his father, to conflicts he has within himself. I think the way he portrays his relationship with his father is a very important aspect of the act. Fausto, John’s father, embodies Latino Masculinity and this idea of “machismo”. His father had a great deal of influence in his life. In society, most young men look up to their fathers as a source of inspiration and motivation. Like any other young man John looked up to his father and wanted to embody the same masculinity he had. They way Fausto discouraged John by saying things like “you faggot” and “pussy,” was one of the sources driving Johns internal conflicts of attempting to be more masculine. John did things such as lose his virginity behind a KFC to blaming the broken to TV on Poochie to try to impress his father. When John takes Poochie to his father’s job to see him in action, is when he realizes his father was not the man he thought he was. John realizes that the man he wanted to impress was nothing more than a dishwasher, and yet he still just wanted his approval. After all of the lies and the abuse, John still had the deep desire to please his father. The question that lies here is why?

    In today’s society, the harsh reality is that many people face the conflicts that John faced throughout their life. It is sad to say that this idea of Machismo and Masculinity that resides in the Latino culture still exist today. Everyday there are young boys looking up to men who are unfaithful, violent and merciless. John was fortunate enough to find a happy place in his life by not trying to embody his father. Not all young men come to realization that the people they look up to are actually not the best. Our culture has engrained this notion that Latino men must abide by the idea of “machismo,” and it is something that can not go away over night. Although our society today has changed a lot from the time of John’s childhood, these cultural stigmas still exist.

  10. Throughout Freak, John receives most of his knowledge of how to be “manly” from his father. Fausto, John’s father, disciplined his sons with violence. In the scene where John describes how he and his brother broke the TV antenna, John lied so that he could avoid a major beating. After that, John and Fausto bonded over the fire escape, one of the few times that Fausto shows his affection. Here, Fausto tells John that a real man drinks. Towards the end of the conversation, Fausto asks for a kiss so that John can show his respect for his father. When John gives Fausto a kiss, Fausto freaks out, saying that a man doesn’t kiss another man on the lips. This reinforces Fausto’s ideal that real men are heterosexual. I think that the strong backlash from this scene was a major reason why John emphasized that he wanted to be just like his uncle Sanny, minus the “sleeping with men.” His father used intimidation to make John think negatively of anything that didn’t fit the heterosexual male norms.

    After this point, John notices that Fausto is bringing the other woman home, a woman he has to pretend to be something that he is not in order to keep. Fausto pretends to be Jewish to continue his relationship with this other woman. It is as if a man can get any woman by manipulating the situation and morphing into something different with each woman. Not only is Fausto glamorizing the drinking and violent Latino stereotype, he is also becoming bolder with his ability to get away with another woman.

    • JessicaRaugitinane says:

      I really like how you pointed out that Fausto pretends to be something different with each woman that he encounters. I think this ties in well with what I blogged about, how males reveal “indirect or disguised affection”. It seems that masculine men constantly feel the need to disguise their true selves. It’s almost as if to be masculine means to never show people what you are actually thinking or feeling. I like your use of the word “manipulation”. I think this accurately describes how masculine men try to manipulate their outward persona in order to get what they want or be perceived in a certain way.

      • Luis Muniz says:

        I like how you pointed out that males seem to constantly disguise their true selves as seen in Fausto but is it the need to disguise themselves or the need to be portrayed as society says they should. I think he does it so he can fit the role of a “man”

  11. JessicaRaugitinane says:

    John Leguizamo’s “Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography” portrays men as having to indirectly show affection. Affection cannot be a part of a man’s natural persona, but can only be revealed through a tough, hard, or cold exterior. For instance, John’s father, Fausto, only shows affection to his son when he is drunk. The alcohol becomes the reason for the father’s affection. Thus, the father keeps his masculinity since his affection results from the alcohol’s effects rather than from his own choosing, making the affection socially acceptable. Additionally, Fausto’s drunk affection seems to always include cursing or demeaning his son by calling him a freak when John kisses him on the lips instead of the cheek, disguising the affection as manly or tough. Likewise, Fausto shows affection towards women through sexual acts, physical violence, yelling, or cursing, again displaying a tough exterior. Moreover, the only time Fausto expresses his love for John is in the past tense. Fausto reveals to John that he knew that he saw him as a dishwasher and knew that John always kept it a secret. Fausto says that he “loved him for that,” expressing his love for John but in an indirect way as to maintain his masculinity. Therefore, to be accepted as masculine in society, a man’s affection can never be direct, gentle, or sensitive, but rather should be passionate as long as the passion embodies anger, toughness, or insensitivity.

    John demonstrates this disguised or indirect affection with the way he treats his younger brother, Poochie. Of course John loves his brother, but chooses to display his love and affection in tough ways. For example, John calls his brother “a fat boy called bitch” and blames him for breaking the television set. Also, to bond with his dad, John has to drink alcohol. The only time John really becomes affectionate is with his Uncle Sanny. Yet, Uncle Sanny is homosexual, paralleling John’s affection towards his uncle to a relationship a son and a mother would have. A man is able to show affection towards his mother and his masculinity will not be endangered; thus, John depicts how male affection must be redirected or disguised in hard exteriors when men attempt to show affection to other men.

    • limajames11 says:

      I think you are so right! I believe that the ideal in the society that a man should not show his affection directly or in a sensitive, gentle, sweet, or loving manner is widely accepted. These words such as, gentle, sweet and loving and words often used to describe a women or even a nurturing mother. I believe that generally most men in the society function this way, not just Latinos. They show their love and affection indirectly. I can relative to this the way that my dad shows his love for me. It’s definitely not in a gentle manner. Not that he uses violence, no, but in a masculine manner. Not too sweet or not too loving. Just enough to show that he loves me 😛

  12. limajames11 says:

    The one thing that stood out to me throughout the whole show was how Fausto, Johns Father, was trying to portray what it is to be a real man. He portrayed this through his discipline for his sons, his language, behavior, and his ideals. When john is imitating his father, the one thing that is always present is his use of language and mannerism. He is always seems as yelling, screaming, and swearing. He is constantly swearing at his children and his wife whenever he gets angry about something or even when he is casually talking. Fausto was always heard saying “Fuck you” or “Faggot” or words along those lines. I think this use of the language and the volume of his voice was a way of him saying “I am the man of this house and I can do whatever I want”. As if he has all the power. The notion of ‘machismo’ plays a huge role here. I believe that Fausto’s yelling being parallel to the city noise portrays his dominance as the male figure in the family. That he is the man of the house, therefore, his voice should be the one heard and followed. This is why when his wife is going to classes and studying and educating herself, he does not like it. He does not like that fact that she is more educated than him (using big words like he says) and climbing up the ladder of power and dominance. He believes in the notion that as his wife and a female, she should be inferior to him.

    Although he was not the greatest role model, he himself believed that this is the way a man should act. And thus, he is in a way “teaching” that to his children. He is disciplining his children with violence. He swears at them, yells at them, and beats them when they do something wrong. Also he is teaching them the ideals of a “MAN”. That a man should be dominant, powerful, have money and be sexual. That a man should not have any characteristics that would describe a women, which would make him less masculine and more feminine. This is why Fausto takes John to a strange woman and says “make me proud” directing him to lose his virginity. Losing virginity was seen as a huge part of being masculine. Again, in this situation when John does not fulfill his dad wish, he is scared that he has disappointed his dad.

    The influence of all these factors leads John to feel like a “freak”. He doesn’t know where is belongs. He feels left out of being fully masculine. He is confused. And he feels like an outcast.

  13. britaneyguzman says:

    You brought up a good point, it made me think about how the stereotypical “masculine and feminine” roles were kind of reversed in this play. The character who tried to act the most masculine was the one being called a “sissy” during the sex scene, and how the mother was the protective figure, and independent when leaving her abusive husband. This just goes to show that the stereotypical gender ideology is always changing.

  14. britaneyguzman says:

    Like we discussed in class, when I think of different rites of passages I tend to lean toward age-related ones such as quinceaneras and bar mitzvahs. These signify a girl or boy turning into a man or woman, coming of age and being an adult. These are typically seen as positive events for both the recipient and the family hosting. They are also often choices that the individual can choose whether they want to do. For example, as a Latina I could have had a quince, but I CHOSE not to.

    In John’s case, he did not really have a choice in his coming of age “ceremony”. Throughout his play it seemed as if every moment where he was getting older or more mature revolved around finding his sexuality or a sexual encounter. In particular, the hooker his father set him up with. John felt forced by his father to have sex with this woman in order to become a man. In this, the act was definitely gendered but it cannot represent the coming of age for all Latino males. I may be wrong, but I am confident in saying that the majority of Latino fathers do not do this to their sons. Fausto was further playing into the Latino stereotypes in pressuring his son to be suave and smooth in seducing this woman twice his age. He was also pushing the idea of the Latino man being sexual in nature.

    • korb10 says:

      Do you think that John’s father chose to help him with his coming of age “ceremony” because it was his responsibility as a father or do you think he did it to ensure that his son became “masculine” like him?

      • britaneyguzman says:

        I think it could be a little bit of both. Although in my opinion forcing ones child into sexual intercourse should never be a responsibility, Fausto may have personally felt it was his duty. This may be because he was raised this way, or because he wanted to ensure his son’s masculinity also.

    • klakotko says:

      I think you brought up a very interesting point in regards to rites of passages. In John’s story he was forced by his father to experience his coming of age, however, I think that the fact that you had a choice in the matter reveals the way society is moving. I think this is a very important idea to realize, that times are changing, freedoms are changing and so are perceptions and opinions of masculinity. This is clear in the recent growth and increase of the gay and lesbian community.

  15. bethanita says:

    John Leguizamo portrays himself as a marginal figure in his community; he can never quite figure out how to fit in. He shows himself interacting with people from several different cultural groups, and he always manages to get into some kind of trouble. As the play’s title tells us, John is seen as a freak. Others view him as a ‘pussy’ and when he does something wrong he often gets beat up, either by his father or by other guys in the neighborhood. His inability to fit in is the reason the family constantly has to move. John makes light of his marginal position, but in the play he is constantly looking to make connections with his father and with the other kids in his neighborhood without success. For example, when he tries to make friends with a group of Italian brothers, they start to make fun of him and he pulls out his Italian joke book, insulting all of them and provoking them to beat him up. While his cultural background has many similarities to theirs, he is not able to relate to them and instead their different cultures cause misunderstandings and problems, leading to his rejection. Similarly, when John goes out with the black Muslim girl and they are about to have sex, he takes off his clothes and she rejects him because he is so white. Again, the differences between them make it impossible for the two people to relate to one another, and John is rejected. This is what makes him a freak; no matter what he does, he is misunderstood and rejected.

    When it comes to John’s father, it seems that there should be many similarities and the two of them should be able to make some sort of meaningful connection. But John’s father constantly struggles to be macho, and he views John as a ‘pussy’. John identifies with his uncle Sanny, who is gay. Fausto can’t understand this because he never respected Sanny. In his view, Sanny is not masculine and doesn’t deserve respect. On the rare occasion that Fausto expresses affection, he asks John for a kiss and John always kisses him on the lips, resulting in his father’s rejection and the use of a word like pussy or faggot. Fausto cannot relate to John because he doesn’t view him as masculine the way he believes a man ought to be. The only time he says he loves John is during the discussion of his job at the restaurant, when John found out he was a dishwasher and never told anyone. For Fausto, washing dishes is not a manly job, but being the head waiter is—it’s a job that commands respect. John understood why his father lied and out of respect for his masculinity and pride he never revealed his secret to anyone. One of the only times the two of them ever have ‘bonding time’ is when Fausto brings John to lose his virginity. As Fausto sees it, John can never be a man until he has sex with a woman. During the encounter, John does not seem to enjoy himself, but his only thought is of making his father proud. John is constantly trying to be the type of masculine man his father could notice and respect, but once again, the two of them are just too different; their conflicting views of masculinity keep them from relating to one another.

  16. misharo says:

    Jonh Leguizamo’s very appropriately named Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography
    “Freak” does a great job to depict interesting topics not only related to Latino men but most men in general in terms of a quest for masculinity. Usually when characterizing individuals as men or women they have gone through some stages in life- and these are their rites of passages. It’s interesting how the stereotypes of these men and their masculinity during Leguizamo’s coming of age or rite of passage still hold some value in today’s modern day and age. One thing I struggle with in their autobiography is actually pointing out a specific rite of passage; I don’t think there really was one. It was just apparent that John was constantly being taught how to be a man and express his masculinity in different instances and by different people. Some argue that when he lost his virginity this could be used as an example as a rite of passage but I disagree. When he took his first drink of alcohol or actually got into his first fight these are all times that expressed masculinity in a different way. Actually the scene that he lost his virginity shows not his masculinity but his innocence still as a boy not yet a man, he was somewhat taken advantage of.

    Fausto represents most if not almost everything the class came up with in the wordle for the words that correlated to Latino men in terms of masculinity; passionate, macho, hardworking, family-oriented, aggressive, confident. It was obvious that in John’s quest for masculinity Fausto was the most important in teaching John everything that he could as a father but not trying to force him to be like him but instead it was a test for him to learn different aspects of manhood and for him to choose his own masculinity and identity.

    • Julissa Antigua says:

      I agree with you, Fausto does fit the wordle the class created. I never thought to compare the characters we see or read about to the original ideas we had on machismo in the beginning of the class. Fausto played a very important part in guiding his son’s masculinity. Even when he was little the beatings and the yelling served as a way to make John stronger. Also the fact that Fausto never really showed his sons affection also trained John to never expect it or rely on it. Even if these things are wrong, they will remain with John because they are instilled in him from birth.

  17. amyhahm says:

    John Leguizamo’s Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography “Freak” was a very eye opening performance. He did a very insightful job depicting his life and significant rites of passages that he had undergone. His story was exciting and educational. He depicted many points of what he believed Latino Masculinity to be. He had a very remarkable and influential people in his life, and while they influenced him greatly, these people were very different.
    Characters such as his overly masculine father and his homosexual uncle had shaped John Leguizamo to the person he had become. The different stereotypes that Leguizamo depicted in his story are very relatable to many different families and today’s society.
    Leguizamo definitely expressed his masculinity through the rites of passages that he has undergone with very different traits masculinity influences in his life.

  18. I really enjoyed watching the film “Freak”. John Leguizamo’s performance was so intricate and I loved how even though it was a one man show, he was able to give the characters so much life and personality. This story was very touching because John always wanted his father to notice him. Fausto (John’s father) embodied what one can assume as “latino masculinity” because he is always talking about how a man should be tough and for his son to stop being a “pussy”. John is just a young boy trying to find himself and soon learns he can never escape who he is no matter how much he tried. I think this is why he found trouble in every city he and his father moved to. Fausto then encourages John to lose his virginity to become a man. John does end up losing his virginity to this German woman however it was all to be accepted by his father. A father’s role in a son’s life is very important because I do believe that boys want to look up to their father and make them proud. However, Fausto never gave his son affection and that was really all he wanted. Once John found his element in acting, he was able to tell his father how comfortable he was acting and how much he wanted his father’s approval.

    • Julissa Antigua says:

      You’are right, John’s main focus throughout his life was to gain his father’s attention. You can tell by the way John acted and reacted to situations that he always had his father in the back of his mind, thinking if his father would agree and approve of his actions. I also found Fausto’s inability to show his sons affection to be very sad. It must be hard to live with a person like that.

  19. Carlos Perez says:

    John Leguizamo speaks to the reality of what its like to grow up a Latino male in a Latino family. Of course he is talking about the difficult things we got through as a people in a funny way but its all very true. The fact that he spent so much time not being able to relate to his dad and going through difficult times making it in America. The expectations of what a Latino male should and how to deal with it. I enjoy that he is not afraid to speak about the hardest things that Latinos go through. Although his father was a working man he always found time to be a dad. Not everything was negative.

    • amyhahm says:

      I like how you made the reference to reality. Although he is doing a performance, it is an important factor because he is talking about his own experiences growing up as a Latino male. It really highlights the expectations a Latino male should have and the things he should know how to deal with.

  20. Brimar Guerrero says:

    I really enjoyed John Leguizamo’s Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography. I thought the one-man skit was really funny and Leguizamo portrayed the vision of his family very vividly. I can completely relate to some of the themes that he presented throughout his performance because some of the dynamics of the Latino household are very similar. For instance, Fausto’s yelling can be compared to the noise in the city. New York is always very lively and that is why people call it “The City that Never Sleeps”. I believe this correlates with the skit because for some reason Latinos tend to speak really loudly and I don’t necessarily understand why; I say this from experience because I come from a Dominican household. There is always something going on in a Spanish speaking household. Whether it’s the sound of the pots and pans being moved around in the kitchen, siblings arguing over who gets the remote, or a mother blasting music as she cleans on Sunday morning, there is always something going on in such households.

    I really enjoyed how Leguizamo portrayed masculinity in the works. Throughout the performance his father seemed to represent the typical stereotypes of the Latino male. For instance, Fausto cheated on his wife and he places a lot of emphasis on sex. Leguizamo has an Uncle who is homosexual and Fausto does not approve of this and that is why he does not want his sons around him. Fausto seems to be very cold and he never shows emotion, the only time throughout the skit that he demonstrates some sort of emotions is when he is drunk and he is speaking to Leguizamo.

  21. Julissa Antigua says:

    I found this film to be very funny. I think that John did a great job of making the hard and difficult times in his life comical while still carrying a serious message across. I really enjoyed watching it and felt comfortable at all times even through the grotesque parts of the film. I feel like comedy was John’s way of coping and dealing with his troubles. Yes, he did have a hard upbringing but at least he got back up, took his lessons and keep it moving. Both his mother and father were important people in his life and the viewer can see how each of them affect John and his outlook on life.

  22. Stanley Demosthene says:

    John Leguizamo’s Freak was an exceptional way to start of the class. It was interesting to watch how John was able to gather all of his childhood and upbringing’s hardship and channel them in such a humorous way. His childhood was far from perfect or the norm being he had an alcoholic father who would whip John and his brother occasionally, but for John, comedy was his way out rather than choosing a life of crime for example. This use of comedy combined with story telling made it extremely easier to tell, while at the same time gaining positive reactions from its listeners because of the consistent use of comedy and stage play. John’s father was a great factor in his learning what it meant to be a man. His dad glorified sex and the treatment of women. Seeing this all while growing up, John felt that pressure of needing to “be a man” which in turn lead him to want to lose his virginity at a very young age with his friends.

    In another particular scene, with his father in a drunken state, Fausto asks his son for a kiss. To his father, kissing a man meant you werent a man, and John at first retracted from his fathers advances. Realizing where things could have gone, Fausto reasserts his masculinity to cover up a moment of ‘weakness’ by yelling at John, saying it was fine because he is his father. John then gives in and kisses his father, after which Fausto spits and says “Gross, not on the lips. You little freak” reiterating the title, and character of John.

  23. Luis Muniz says:

    I really enjoyed Freak I thought it set the tone for the class as to what are the things that we will be going into. I really like how he was able to out a comedic spin on different subjects in his life. In the discussion we talked about his uncle who was gay. When John said that he would like to be like his uncle except the whole gay thing, i think it was more of just something he didn’t like about him in general and not so much not liking the gay part of him. However his dad has a problem with Johns uncle because he is gay. His father also has a problem when John kisses him on the lips. His father is portrayed as a typical Hispanic father who is always tough. John talks about how he used to get beat even when things were not really his fault

  24. franciscotorres01 says:

    I think what I found as the most telling aspect of Freak was the exaggerated interpretation of John’s characters. A good example would be the gay uncle. If you look at how John moves and talks when he takes on that persona he exaggerates to the stereotype i think. The uncle is portrayed with a higher voice and what would be considered more “feminine” movements. Its just interesting to see how he puts his characters in context.

    What I also found interesting about this movie is relate-ability or at least to the stereotype. The opening scene is basically salsa. It kind of sets the audience up to the fact this diffidently not your typical story. I mean if i was telling the story of my life even I might open it with a salsa routine, but i also love salsa.

  25. arussell11 says:

    I loved how this film was insightful yet comical. I find that most comedians are funny because of the real life experiences that they are able to share, not ones that they make up or stretch the truth about. So I believe that this was a great way to look at some of the candid experiences of John.

    One thing that really stood out to me was his experience with losing his virginity. While meant to be comical (which it was) there were some very real aspects that included him being forced to engage in sexual intercourse with an older woman by his father. John was not necessarily ready for this step but this is what he had to do in order to be considered a man and have machismo. Another thing that was interesting was the alcoholism that his father had, which caused him to not only be physically abusive, but mentally abusive. These were two major points that were expressed in the film that contributed to John’s childhood memories.

    Both alcoholism and sexuality (among others) speak to the stereotypes of Latino men and were portrayed through this comedy. I think that here we see some of the extremes of the stereotypes portrayed yet we also see a unique aspect which is the affects of this life on the child involved. This was a great way to visualize these stories.

  26. SPRING 2013 POSTS & COMMENTS

    • Iris Foley says:

      I really enjoyed watching John Leguizamo’s “Freak.” It was entertaining and funny but brought so many important themes and ideas we’ve been discussing in class into the spotlight. John’s stand-up performance highlighted many of the most important events in his childhood, events like family parties, broadway shows, and late-night conversations with his father. What was interesting was that these events didn’t really seem to be life-changing or especially memorable or important. But to John, these small experiences were the ones that defined him and the life he now leads. John’s family was filled with larger-than-life personalities, namely his father. His father was often violent, drunk, and unfaithful to John’s mother, but at the end of the day, he supported the family. He epitomized many of the masculine/Latino stereotypes we’ve discussed in class – strong, aggressive, breadwinner, sexual. These masculinities defined much of John’s young life. He seemed to respect and fear his father, regardless of what he did to him or his brother and mother. The masculine life his father lead was something for John to look up to and aspire to, especially as his father became more successful financially, but his father also showed him, in some cases, how he didn’t want to be as a man. The comedic spins John put on his life and the relationships he had with his family members served to highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly moments, but the take-away message seemed to be that regardless of how he grew up, he can look back on it all now and see that it made him the person and the man he is today. He wouldn’t have the sense of humor that made his comedy career so successful if he hadn’t had the dysfunction to shape his perspective.

  27. Amber Jones says:

    The idea of how a man should act and how a female should act all starts in the household. In class we discussed the difference in how our parents treat us considering our biological makeup. Males are taught not to cry and to work hard with their hands and females are taught to be caring and nurturing. This idea is actually seen in the very beginning of the play when John describes how his mother treated him as a child. She called him her “Latin King”; these mere words hold such an immense weight. It is teaching him at an early age that he is superior and whatever he asks for he shall receive. I can surely relate to this because having a younger brother my mother does the same thing with him. She literally does everything from making his plate of food and placing on the table to ironing and laying his clothes out. Since my mother does all these things for my brother he in return is going to expect the same from any woman that he comes into contact with. My mother also tells me constantly that I should be the keeper of my home and know and understand how to take care of a man. So ultimately the way you are raised plays a large role in the way you look at gender.

    It was very evident to see that John’s father played a key role in his formation of what a man should be. John’s father was very headstrong and played the role of the man in the house. We can see how his father’s role affected the entire home by the way his mother acted towards him. When the kids broke their fathers’ TV antenna the mother was afraid for her kids, she knew that they would not be able to escape their father’s anger. When he eventually came home she tried to “butter” him up so that he would not be so hard on the children. This mere act of female submissiveness verses male dominance is a clear dynamic of set gender roles; this exposed John and his brother early in life how a man should act and how a female should act towards males.

    We also see John’s struggle to have his father’s love and affection but due to his father’s unwillingness to express this, John is let down. John instead views his father as man of coldness and harshness the only time he seems to receive any love is when his father is under the influence of alcohol. When his father asks him for a kiss he does so by giving him a kiss on the lips and in return his father calls him a “faggot”. His father’s reaction to him automatically conveys the message that it is unmanly to show any type of affection towards another man.

  28. Amy Hahm says:

    I really enjoyed John Leguizamo’s Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography “Freak”. His performance demonstrated his struggles and obstacles as a Latino boy. In his performance, he portrayed his life through comedy and humor and his significant rites of passages. I think that “Freak” portrayed Latino Masculinity in a great way. There were so many Latino stereotypes present in his performance. An example can be his father, how he was portrayed to be a violent drunk. There was a specific scene where John broke the television antennae and he was so scared how furious his father would be that he blamed it on his brother.
    His life passages were quite significant on him becoming a “man” and what a “man” was. And I believe a lot of the focus on masculinity had to do with being with a woman, such as John’s father and his affair. In John’s performance, he talks about his father’s affair. It is interesting to me how a father would let his children meet his mistress. Experiencing John Leguizamo’s life through this performance was quite eye opening. On the other side, being feminine was looked down upon, such as John’s gay uncle. This performance really reinforces the idea of how masculinity rules and controls a man’s life. It shows how femininity is looked down upon and how masculinity is praised.

    • Its an interesting point you bring up. It seems as if having feminine qualities was something worthy shame according to Leguizamo’s father. Even in the part where the father introduced his children to his mistress, had a subtle undertone that cheating was his right as a man. That it was okay, if anything it just meant that his wife had something to “fix”. John had said that his mother became the Queen of Low Self Esteem as if her confidence correlated with levels of male attention. If anything the fact that the Father also let his children be part of his schemes made it seem like he was instrcucting them how to be a “Latin Lover”. The whole thing was very bizarre.

  29. The movie Freak was great. John Leguizamo is has been known to successfully star comedic movies. My first exposure to him was in the 1995 movie Too Won Foo where he play a Latino drag queen. Conversely, I feel Leguizamo strategically uses comedy to lessen the impact of his harsh reality as a child. A reality that I feel is very familiar to Latino males yet consideraly abusive to an outsider. There were a few key things that stood out to me. His stand up centered around two things: The Nuyorican experience and the social construction of what it means to be masculine.

    He mentioned certain things that happen to Latinos when living in the US (particularly in the North East). There are the language struggles. This consisted of people not being able to pronounce his lastname. The being struggle of having parents with a thick accent. He also mentioned the use of Spanglish. Outside from language, he admitted to some latino stereotypes such as having a big family with 50 or 60 cousins, playing loud salsa music, loving platanos, being religious, idolizing Cantiflas, and in some cases being low income. All of which define who he is today, and how for its a source of pride\laughter not shame.

    Along with these realities is the expectation of manhood and what that meant in his family. He mentioned growing up with a non nurturing Father, who was his primary model of what a man is supposed to be like. The characteristics his father personified were: Violent, Brutal, Dominant, Drunk, Player, Forceful, Hypersexual, and Heterosexual. His father spanked him, gave him alcohol, was mujeriego (player), called him a Freak when accidentally kissed him, and taught him how to hustle to make money. However his gay deaf, Uncle Sandy taught that there are in fact Homosexual successful men out there. This was different then how he was brought up to believe. However his father’s influece determine what acceptable for him to engage in and adopt as a growing man. The underlying message was that femininity equated to being a weakness and inferiority.

    • Iris Foley says:

      I also picked up on the contrast between the struggles of John’s upbringing and the comedic outlook he had on it. Even though he did grow up in a tough neighborhood he was able to look past all the bad stuff and only focus on the good things. I think comedy became a coping mechanism.

  30. Going off of what we had discussed in class, I do believe that the concept of masculinity and femininity is defined in a household. We often follow the footsteps of our parents with sons looking up to their fathers and daughters looking up to their mothers. In Freak John Leguizamo exemplifies this behavior when looking at his relationship with his father. John looked up to his father and wished to portray a similar masculinity as him. His father often puts him down and curses “fuck you” or calls John a “faggot” and “pussy” when he is not following in his fathers machismo footsteps. The relationship his father has with his mother is also representative of the gender roles that children first experience in the household. His father was uncomfortable with the fact that his wife was getting an education because it makes her smarter than he is. If this is something that John is experiencing for the first time then his views on women in society will be similar to the views that his father holds.

    In relation to my own experiences I can say that my parents had a large part in shaping what a woman or man should or should not be defined as. Even with what extra curricular activities we were exposed to fit the gender roles that our parents put out for us. My sister and I had been introduced to cheerleading, a sport viewed as feminine, at a very young age while both my brothers had been introduced to baseball, a sport viewed as masculine, at a very young age. Toys were bought depending on our gender and even television shows that were put on were chosen based on our gender. While society may have defined years ago what the differences were is masculinity and femininity it is up to the parents whether or not they adhere to them.

    • In response to your last paragraph, gender roles are forced upon most individuals since birth. I too agree that society has defined the differences between masculinity and femininity but to think of gender roles in a different light would be interesting. Essentially I had the same ideas but then I began to think about why things are the way they may be. Males may have been created to play a certain role and females may have been created for totally different reasons. We as a society are always evolving so because we now are becoming more gender neural we sometimes expect that everyone else should agree and things that have been a certain way for so long are supposed to change. Granted there are many different examples of this and I`m not at all saying that change isn`t good. I`m just saying that as much as society wants change, we as a whole are still stuck in our old ways too.

    • Iris Foley says:

      I also am now opening my eyes to the gender norms I grew up in. I never thought about them – extracurriculars, tv shows, even household chores. I think most kids grow up in the same circumstances and never even think about it and parents raise their kids without even thinking about it.

  31. Freak by John Leguizamo touches on many aspects of masculinity as well as fatherhood. John puts on a performance full of excitement and comedy while mocking but also celebrating his Latino culture. Through his performance he mentions many encounters he had with his father. In particularly he tells a story about a time when his father was drunk and he was sitting on his father`s lap. During the story we see a son wanting to be like his father at all cost. John says he drank some of his father`s liquor and it appears that he was repeating what his father does when he drinks. Although John`s father can be verbally abusive John still wants to be like him. Why?

    In addition to John`s performance, he also highlights some struggles that Latinos have when they come to America. From language barriers to some cultural differences, the transition is still a struggle for them. He mentions many stereotypes about Latinos as well, from what they eat to how they talk and this makes them seem less educated than others.

    Masculinity as a whole is measured by power, wealth and control. In Freak, John`s mother starts taking classes and bettering herself and John`s father didn`t really like this. If a women makes more money which gives her wealth a man`s masculinity may feel threatened. This got me thinking about masculinity and how there possibly isn`t a such thing as masculinity unless it is compared to femininity. Masculinity seems to be everything that femininity isn`t and it seems like the whole idea of masculinity essentially is to create an even larger gap between men and women.

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