Justin Baldoni: Why I’m Done Trying to Be “Man Enough” (Transcript)

Justin Baldoni

Here is the full transcript of American actor Justin Baldoni’s TED Talk: Why I’m Done Trying to Be “Man Enough”.

Justin Baldoni – American actor

As an actor, I get scripts and it’s my job to stay on script, to say my lines and bring to life a character that someone else wrote. Over the course of my career, I’ve had the great honor playing some of the greatest male role models ever represented on television.

You might recognize me as “Male Escort #1”, “Photographer Date Rapist,” “Shirtless Date Rapist” from the award-winning “Spring Break Shark Attack.” “Shirtless Medical Student,” “Shirtless Steroid-Using Con Man” and, in my most well-known role, as Rafael. A brooding, reformed playboy who falls for, of all things, a virgin, and who is only occasionally shirtless.

Now, these roles don’t represent the kind of man I am in my real life, but that’s what I love about acting.

I get to live inside characters very different than myself. But every time I got one of these roles, I was surprised, because most of the men I play ooze machismo, charisma and power, and when I look in the mirror, that’s just not how I see myself.

But it was how Hollywood saw me, and over time, I noticed a parallel between the roles I would play as a man both on-screen and off. I’ve been pretending to be a man that I’m not my entire life. I’ve been pretending to be strong when I felt weak, confident when I felt insecure and tough when really I was hurting.

I think for the most part I’ve just been kind of putting on a show, but I’m tired of performing. And I can tell you right now that it is exhausting trying to be man enough for everyone all the time.

Now — right? My brother heard that.

Now, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been told the kind of man that I should grow up to be. As a boy, all I wanted was to be accepted and liked by the other boys, but that acceptance meant I had to acquire this almost disgusted view of the feminine, and since we were told that feminine is the opposite of masculine, I either had to reject embodying any of these qualities or face rejection myself.

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This is the script that we’ve been given. Right? Girls are weak, and boys are strong. This is what’s being subconsciously communicated to hundreds of millions of young boys and girls all over the world, just like it was with me.

Well, I came here today to say, as a man that this is wrong, this is toxic, and it has to end. Now, I’m not here to give a history lesson.

We likely all know how we got here, OK? But I’m just a guy that woke up after 30 years and realized that I was living in a state of conflict, conflict with who I feel I am in my core and conflict with who the world tells me as a man I should be.

But I don’t have a desire to fit into the current broken definition of masculinity, because I don’t just want to be a good man. I want to be a good human. And I believe the only way that can happen is if men learn to not only embrace the qualities that we were told are feminine in ourselves but to be willing to stand up, to champion and learn from the women who embody them.

Now, men — I am not saying that everything we have learned is toxic. OK? I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with you or me, and men, I’m not saying we have to stop being men. But we need balance, right? We need balance, and the only way things will change is if we take a real honest look at the scripts that have been passed down to us from generation to generation and the roles that, as men, we choose to take on in our everyday lives.

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