Mid90s is a 2018 film directed by Jonah Hill, and is based around a 13-year-old boy named Stevie growing up in Los Angeles in the 1990s with his mum, Dabney and older brother, Ian, who is abusive towards him. The film follows his journey as he becomes friends with some older guys, Ray, Fuckshit, Ruben and Fourth Grade, who are skaters.
I personally thoroughly enjoyed the film. I really liked the aesthetics of the film and it made me feel somewhat nostalgic for a decade I never experienced. I also liked the laidback storyline, it felt almost as though I was watching a documentary or just observing someone’s life. As a teen girl, I think I was definitely apart of the intended audience of this coming-of-age story, as well as those who would have actually lived through the skate culture of the 1990s and for those interested in skating now.
To be able understand and enjoy this film, I think you need to have a knowledge of skate films and their specific style. Throughout the film, Fourth Grade is filming everything, from skating, to chats with some homeless men, and this all comes full circle at the end of the film when *somewhat spoiler alert* he shows all the boys a short film he has made called ‘Mid90s’.
One of the co-producers of the film, Mikey Alfred, is the founder of a Los Angeles based skateboarding and clothing brand, Illegal Civilization, who also produce music videos, short films and documentaries. As a fan of the content this brand creates, their influence is really felt through the style of the film. Many of the actors in the film are skaters in real life and are heavily involved with the brand. Most of them had no prior acting experience to this film and I think this is what also gave Mid90s such an authentic vibe.
Mid90s is an example of a homogenised film. It was produced in Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood. It has travelled around the world, and received nominations for awards in other countries, such as a nomination for ‘Best Feature Film’ in the Berlin International Film Festival. It centres around a subculture of skating that is local to the Los Angeles area, however was, and is found, all around the USA and other countries, mainly in Western society.
Toxic Masculinity and Skate Culture
Toxic masculinity is a manifestation of masculinities that is characterised by the enforcement of restrictions in behaviour based on gender roles that serves to reinforce existing power structures that favour the dominance of men (Parent, Gobble, Rochlen, 2018). It is typically characterised by a drive to dominate and by endorsement of misogynistic and homophobic views.
Jonah Hill wrote and directed Mid90s based loosely on his own experience growing up in LA as a skater in the 90s. As someone who had a limited knowledge of skate culture prior to watching Mid90s, I did notice and was somewhat shocked at the intense toxic masculinity that plagued some of the characters in the film. This is something that Jonah Hill actually wanted to emphasise in the film.
“I grew up in a skate culture in the mid-’90s, and within the film there is strong language—homophobia, misogyny, and avoiding intimacy at all costs. That was taught, and I wanted to show those things explicitly and honestly, to show the lessons we as a culture had to unlearn. To me, yeah, there is a real toxic masculinity to any time you’re about to feel something or connect.”Jonah Hill to Taylor Antrim for Vogue, 2018.
Hill wanted to be honest about how kids acted at the time, and wanted to highlight how far our society had come in a couple of decades (Bahr, 2018).
Parent, M, Gobble, T and Rochlen, A. (2018). Social Media Behavior, Toxic Masculinity, and Depression. Available at: https://web-b-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=8&sid=49178726-bb7d-42cd-a190-a125c88555c7%40pdc-v-sessmgr06
Bahr, L. AP Film Writer (2018) Q&A: Jonah Hill on toxic masculinity and skateboarding, AP English Worldstream – English. Associated Press DBA Press Association. Available at: https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/login.aspx?direct=true&db=n5h&AN=APd38c435cfb384b689239ad53bd3d288c&site=ehost-live
Antrim, T. Vogue (2018). Jonah Hill Talks About His Powerful New Coming-Of-Age Film Mid90s, And Why He’s Glad We Don’t Stay 13 Forever. Available at: https://www.vogue.com/article/jonah-hill-talks-about-his-film-mid90s-and-why-hes-glad-we-dont-stay-13-forever