The Softboy Must Die

On Taika Waititi, straight men in gay outfits, and why cis men are not “demolishing masculinity.”

Jude Ellison S. Doyle
6 min readJul 1, 2022

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A white guy wearing a slightly gay-looking floral shirt, which I assume makes him a hero to everyone looking at this picture.
“Well, I’ve put on this shirt, that’s patriarchy smashed for the day.” Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

I didn’t begin this week expecting to locate the single tweet that encapsulates all of my issues with contemporary Masculinity Discourse, but here we are, and here it is:

Taika Waititi is the director of several movies, most recently Thor: Love and Thunder. He plays a gay pirate on Our Flag Means Death, which is a great show. Taika Waititi is also — as far as anyone knows — cisgender and heterosexual. He wears funky patterned button-ups. He cast Tessa Thompson as a bisexual superhero. He is rumored to have had a threesome with Tessa Thompson and his girlfriend. He is, nonetheless, a straight guy.

Of course, Waititi is marginalized along other axes. He’s Maori; he’s Jewish. It’s just that, if there’s someone on this planet whose “entire being” “demolishes” “heteronormativity” and “masculinity” (I may not have enough scare quotes to get through this sentence) it stands to reason that this person would be (1) not heterosexual, or (2) not a man, or (3) at the very least, not a cisgender straight man, the hat trick of patriarchally approved identities. You would also assume that this person wouldn’t support cis, straight, male domestic abuser Johnny Depp in his quest to silence his female victim — which Taika Waititi very publicly did.

This, evidently, is where we are in 2022: By virtue of mixing a few queer-adjacent or femme-lite signifiers into his public persona, Waititi is getting more credit for demolishing heteronormativity and patriarchy than actual queer people or women.

This isn’t a new problem. The Internet has a long-standing pattern of obsessing over seemingly straight dudes who “come off gay,” as Waititi puts it — John Mulaney, Harry Styles, Channing Tatum — or who incorporate self-conscious “softness” into their personas (non-fictional actor and wrestler John Cena; extremely fictional soccer coach Ted Lasso). Their willingness to express some traditionally…

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Jude Ellison S. Doyle

Author of “Trainwreck” (Melville House, ‘16) and “Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers” (Melville House, ‘19). Columns published far and wide across the Internet.