When I was at university I let my hair grow and grow until it was long enough to tie back into a ponytail. I should remind you that this was in the first decade of the new millennium. Had I gone to university in the 1980s, or even the 1990s, perhaps I would have been more popular with the ladies. As it was, I did not receive a whole lot of female attention during my tertiary education. That’s not to say that men with long hair are inherently unattractive, but I’ll come back to that in a moment.
My reasons for eventually cutting my hair short are several:
Having long hair was uncomfortable. Each time I hitched my school bag onto my shoulders, my head would jerk violently as the strap of my bag pulled my hair down against my shoulder.
I had also been told on more than one occasion that once I entered the workforce I would be pressured into cutting my hair. I didn’t enjoy the prospect of having an outside force dictate my appearance, so I thought I would take preemtive measures and cut my hair on my own terms.
But the true driving force behind my decision to neaten myself up, Dear Reader, is because I am a cinephile. A large part of my perceptions of the world have been shaped by cinema, and towards the end of university it became profoundly noticeable that not one single leading man had long hair. As we entered the new millennium, long hair on men had become reserved for henchmen and side characters. Suddenly, any main man who was a mane man was automatically a parody of heroism.
While having long hair is not unattractive in itself, to me it is a sign of being a side character in the main act. In this new epoch of physical appearance, I found that I was no longer a hero, and I needed to change that, so I cut my hair in order to once again become the leading man in my own story.
Now that Hollywood has left long hair far behind, I feel the tide shifting again.
This time, it’s not a question of appearance, but rather of action. And it’s not something I am seeing in heroes, but in villains: I am beginning to feel that the presence of animal flesh on the screen is becoming a sign of menace.
If you want to show that a character is greedy, film him voraciously gnawing the meat off of a chicken drumstick. If you want to show that he is violent, show him punching an animal carcass. If you want to show that he is cold and unfeeling, show him torturing someone inside a walk-in freezer surrounded by skinned animals dangling from hooks.
And it’s not just the villains’ treatment of animals that is starting to give carnivorism a bad name. Animal videos on social media are on the rise. Perhaps it’s just the friends I follow, but I am becoming increasingly exposed to videos of animals displaying painfully beautiful human traits. It seems silly to even write it down, but I will anyway: We are seeing animals displaying intelligence, and love, and loss, and friendship, and even selflessness. To say that animals exist solely for our consumption is ridiculous. They exist for the same reasons we do, whatever that may be. It’s becoming harder to ignore the fact that humans and animals have more commonalities than differences, and I personally am reaching a stage where I can no longer fight the cognitive dissonance which allows me to love animals while at the same time guiltlessly eat a hamburger.
To be clear, I love eating meat. And I’ve got no problem with other people who eat meat. I do not want to give it up, and I don’t even know the first thing about maintaining a meat-free diet. So I won’t give it up readily. But my revulsion is on the rise, and perhaps one day I’ll find myself biting into a steak and truly realizing that I am not the leading man in my own life anymore.