The first rule of fighting toxic masculinity: You talk about toxic masculinity. And who better to address the scourge than Brad Pitt, one of the most macho-manliest male stars of our time: someone beloved by men the world over for beating others (and getting beaten) to a pulp on-screen? In a thoughtful new New York Times profile, Pitt acknowledges that he “grew up with that be-capable, be-strong, don’t-show-weakness thing,” but is actively working to evolve into a more vulnerable man—something he learned during 18 months in an all-male Alcoholics Anonymous recovery group after Angelina Jolie filed for divorce in 2016.
“You had all these men sitting around being open and honest in a way I have never heard,” Pitt told The Times’s Kyle Buchanan. “It was this safe space where there was little judgment, and therefore little judgment of yourself.... It was actually really freeing just to expose the ugly sides of yourself.” Note to any men out there still squelching their emotions and avoiding therapy: If Brad Pitt can do it, you can, too. “The fact is, we all carry pain, grief, and loss. We spend most of our time hiding it, but it’s there, it’s in you,” he added. “So you open up those boxes.”
Pitt has often played the strong and silent type, from his forthcoming Ad Astra role (“an emotionally barren space-man,” quips The Daily Beast) to stoic stuntman Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but in an era when his industry is reckoning with the ills of toxic masculinity, Pitt appears to be using his roles to spark a larger conversation.
In Ad Astra, he said at the Venice Film Festival, “what we were really digging at, without labeling it so much, was this definition of masculinity,” Pitt said. “Having grown up in an era where we were taught to be strong, not show weakness, don’t be disrespected, and so on and so forth... you’re denying, to a sense, those pains or the things [that make] you feel shame, whether real or imagined, the regrets in one’s life. Looking back, we were asking the question: Does actually being more open provide you with a better relationship with your loved ones, with your parents, with your kids, and with yourself?”
All of this is to say nothing of Pitt’s contemplative Rumi tattoo, as spied by Buchanan (“There exists a field, beyond all notions of right and wrong. I will meet you there.”) or his vested interest in landscape, architecture, and a reported knack for all-night pottery sculpting sessions with Once Upon a Time co-star Leonardo DiCaprio. Cue “Unchained Melody”: The pair “have been bonding over the art form,” The Sun claims. If Tyler Durden can tap into his so-called softer side, here’s hoping all of his fans will follow suit.
Originally Appeared on Vogue