Hulu documentary ‘Minding the Gap’ powerfully explores the effect of toxic masculinity on boys
Minding the Gap, a documentary by Bing Liu, follows what happens to Liu and his two friends Zack and Keire as they grow up in the rust belt town of Rockford, Illinois. The film traces the violence, poverty and trauma that affected their formative years and continues to affect them as they enter adulthood.
The three boys formed a lasting bond around a shared love of skateboarding, likely using it as an outlet to escape home situations that were violent and unstable. They appear much more interested in riding their skateboards than they do in attending school or creating plans for their future, likely because they didn’t see a way out of their bleak childhoods.
The story is at points harrowing and cyclical. It is underscored by a news report pointing out Rockford’s sky high rates of domestic violence and unemployment.
Keire’s story involves an absentee father who only showed him “tough love” when he was around before an untimely death removed him completely from Keire’s life. Liu’s absentee father was ultimately replaced by an abusively violent step-father whose favorite pastime was beating him, his brother Kent, and his mother Mengyue. Zach’s story is one of a young man in danger of going the way his environment has dictated. At one point Zach tells the camera, “When you’re a kid, you just do. You just act,” which Daily Beast‘s Nick Schager characterizes as a response to the conventional calls of masculinity telling boys to “Be a man.”
Zach finds himself on the precipice of falling into the same destruction that his words decry as he and his 21-year-old girlfriend are expecting a child. Their relationship, like many depicted in Minding the Gap is one that teeters in and out of volatility.
The film centers on and locates the impact of domestic violence on its victims, usually women and children, as well as the lasting damage it creates. Liu usually keeps himself at a distance, choosing to focus on the stories of his two friends.
Minding the Gap seems to be a necessary snapshot of what happens to families and communities where toxic masculinity is allowed to run rampant, ruining multiple families and forcing unresolved issues resulting from these childhoods to contribute to dysfunction in adulthood. The film releases August 17th on Hulu and in theaters.