Why Tucker Carlson's 'The End of Men' Is So Disturbing

one image of man with bare torso in muscle competition pose the other of tucker carlson
What's So Disturbing About 'The End of Men'Getty Images

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There has been a strange shift in the wellness space. It is becoming less about New Age-y holistic alternative health strategies and more about ideology-fueled manly optimization. We’ve gone from Gwyneth’s vagina (eggs and candles) to Tucker’s testicles (tanning them, that is). Oh sure, it is still evidence-free hooey. But he-man health hacks are increasingly the flavor of the day.

The best and most bizarre example of this trend is Tucker Carlson’s much mocked wellness “documentary,” The End of Men. Ostensibly about an emerging health crisis, the show is really the cable news equivalent of that comic book advertisement for Charles Atlas where the 98-lb weakling gets sand kicked in his face. Muscles to the rescue! “Oh, Mac! You are a real man after all!”

The message—sometimes explicit, sometimes implied—in Tucker’s show is that our limp constitutions and less-than manly social policies, diets, work, and recreational activities (do real men play Minecraft or write code for Microsoft?) have driven down our testosterone count. Tucker isn’t really concerned about tackling genuine public health challenges—there are, of course, legitimate, and very serious, issues with the American diet and sedentary lifestyle.

Tucker’s point here is to use cherry-picked data, anecdotal evidence (read: not actual evidence), wellness guru testimonials, and paradoxically homoerotic imagery, to encourage us to do something about our pathetic feebleness or we’ll be overrun by commie soy boy globalists! Apparently, we need “bro-science” to save us all from, well, real science.

From an evidence perspective, there is so much wrong with the documentary that it is tough to know what to highlight. But the testicle tanning recommendation—which is so absurd that I first thought it was satire—has emerged as the biggest punchline, so let’s focus on that.

We know that wrapping health misinformation in ideology makes it more likely to spread and be believed—especially among those with the political leaning of Tucker’s audience. (Yes, the spread of misinformation happens across the ideological spectrum. But at this cultural moment, evidence tells us this is more of an issue for the political right.) A 2022 study examined almost one-hundred thousand bits of social media misinformation to map the typical characteristics of viral bunk. The research found that, on average, as compared to scientifically accurate and reliable content, misinformation is easier to process, more emotional, scarier, and focused on morality. A claim that there is an urgent need to irradiate your balls to save your manliness and, indeed, the entire free world seems to fit this formula pretty well.

The reality about testicle tanning? Yes, studies have found that there has been a drop in testosterone, but not as steep as the documentary claims and the causes are unclear and undoubtedly complex (e.g., rise in obesity rates, unhealthy diets, COVID, less sleep, changes in environmental exposers to chemicals). But there is no evidence this reduction is the result of a soy boy global conspiracy, as suggested by Tucker and his soy globalist “expert” Raw Egg Nationalist (seriously, that’s his handle). And there is also no evidence to support testicle tanning—or, really, anything mentioned in the show—as a solution.

I asked urologist Dr. Rena Malik for her take on the procedure. “There is no scientific evidence supporting testicular tanning or red-light therapy to the scrotal skin,” was her concise response. “Bottom line: it doesn't work and it's a waste of your hard-earned money.” So, yeah, don’t.

The best advice, as is so often the case, is to focus on a healthy lifestyle—exercise, sleep, real food, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation (or not at all). If you have real concerns about your testosterone levels, see a physician.

It should also be noted that promoting a traditional (or, let’s be honest here, entirely mythical) view of masculinity—a core theme in Tucker’s world—comes with its own health risks. For example, studies have shown that people who view themselves as masculine are less likely to seek health-related help and more likely to catch COVID, to have heart disease, and poorer cancer outcomes. They are also at increased risk for being lonely, having fewer friends, and experiencing other mental health challenges. For example, a study from 2021 found that “higher conformity to masculine norms was associated with an increased risk of current depressive symptoms.” Other research, published in 2020, found a link between masculinity and suicidal ideation in boys and younger men. The authors of the study suggest that their work highlights “the importance of presenting young males with alternative and multiple ways of being a male.”

While we need to be careful not to over-interpret these findings (most come from observational studies that cannot confirm causation), this body of research emphasizes that the relationship between masculinity and health is, at a minimum, complex. Despite what Tucker tells us, more isn’t necessarily better.

The End of Men is a good reminder to be leery of all health messaging that seems more an excuse for ideological spin—right, left, or center—than evidence-based advice, especially when comes in the guise of fearmongering noise.

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