Rob August in American Male (Youtube)
Rob August in American Male (Youtube)
2 min read

There have been many films about the gay community that have tried to give the viewer a sense of what ‘in the closet’ gay life is like.

One of the most powerful short films of its type was launched via Indiewire last week as part of the MTV Look Different Creator Competition.

The short film “American Male” examines the detrimental nature of internalized homophobia.


The film, directed by Michael Rohrbaugh, follows a frat boy who is working overtime to present as hyper-masculine.

American Male (Youtube)
American Male (Youtube)

Shots of the college student performing stereotypical masculine activities such as working out, attending frat parties and drinking beer are shown throughout.

In a voice-over, the student explains how he has carefully crafted his persona to appear as masculine as possible and schools the viewer on the behaviors of women and men.

At one point he explains how women gesture more and that as a child he would gesture a lot, but trains himself to stop.

“Order beer. Not wine. And beef, not chicken. Never light beer, though. And no tofu. Can’t get more gay than tofu,” he says.

Michael Madden & Rob August in American Male (Youtube)
Michael Madden & Rob August in American Male (Youtube)

Living life isn’t easy for the student as he is shown struggling with attraction to his fellow frat brother and overall unhappiness at suppressing his identity.

It’s tough to watch, and must be even tougher to live. Such is the triumph of Rohrbaugh’s film and why this is a must watch.

When his character says in the film: “Steer clear of the arts, unless you live on the coasts,” it is a gentle but necessary reminder that liberals and city-dwellers remain blissfully ignorant of what life is like for most of America.

The MTV competition requires up-and-coming filmmakers to step outside the norm and focus on a topic of privilege. American Make is the first of three winners, the other two films deal with similar themes of masculinity, adding in the intersectional lens of race. “See Me In My Black Skin” and “Love Reset” will be released in October and November, respectively.

Creator of American Male Michael Rohrbaugh
Creator of American Male Michael Rohrbaugh

In an interview with Huffington Post, Rohrbaugh explained the message of the film.

“I would like for viewers to gain a better understanding of what life feels like in the closet. I also hope they’ll reflect upon their own lives and think about falsehoods that might be holding them back,” Rohrbaugh said.

“So many of the social norms we’ve been taught are rooted in discrimination, and so many young people are taught to feel ashamed of who they are, raised to believe that there’s something wrong with them, that they’re not normal or not who they should be. Those types of lies are really destructive, which is why they must be exposed and debunked,” Rohrbaugh continued.

“American Male” is a cautionary tale for those of us who would rather forget what is was like for us and what’s still like for so many of our gay youth today.

Watch “American Male” below.

Last Updated on Sep 27, 2016

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