Ziel: We need to talk about the Try Guys

Renee Ziel

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

With summer at its peak, body image and self-esteem tend to be important. But not enough people are talking about the difficulties men deal with in this regard and how some deal with their own concept of “being a man.”

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Researchers define toxic masculinity as the suppression of natural emotion and a false show of power by conforming to male norms. It often results in a fragile ego and the unhealthy mindset of “boys will be boys,” which allows men to act in inappropriate or harmful ways toward women and each other.

The Try Guys, a male comedy group that started and worked at BuzzFeed from 2014 to 2018, have indirectly addressed these issues for years. They should be recognized and praised for their work fighting toxic masculinity. 

The award-winning group is made up of entertainers Keith Habersberger, Ned Fulmer, Eugene Lee Yang and Zach Kornfeld. As their name would suggest, their videos consist of them trying new things and getting out of their comfort zones. They put comedy first— but there is something to be said of them apart from surface content.

While getting out of their comfort zones, these men face their own insecurities, identities and cultures they may not understand and lift one another up throughout their experiences. The Try Guys understand what it’s like to have healthy male friendships and be open about their feelings in a wholesome way. Yang in particular often enlightens viewers about sexuality and culture, being an openly gay Korean-American.

A notable example of their openness is when they received makeovers from high school girls and had meaningful reflections at the end of the video.

“Throughout my life there have been things I wasn’t confident enough to wear … and today has shown me that that is a restriction that I put on myself,” Kornfeld said.

As a commentary that women aren’t the only ones who can explore their own styles and feel confident in what they want to wear, Fulmer added, “Do it for how it makes you feel … ‘cause maybe when you do things outside of the box, you could be rewarded for it.”

The Try Guys understand what it’s like to have healthy male friendships and be open about their feelings in a wholesome way.

The Try Guys also tackle issues that women have to face regularly, such as the health issues that come with having large breasts or fashion norms such as high heels. In both episodes, they came out on the other side in immense pain, a feeling many women are used to. 

“Some people’s boobs are a huge burden to their life, so it’s not so simple as like, a face-value appreciation,” Habersberger commented as all four men took off the bras holding their breast-like weights in place, clearly relieved.

Another more famous example of their appreciation for women is a five-part series titled “Motherhood,” where they dealt with the struggles of pregnancy, babies and of course, labor pain. In the fifth part, they thanked their mothers for everything they went through, during which Fulmer openly cried.

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It’s through these various efforts that the Try Guys steadily redefine what manhood is. All of them have been unafraid to be vulnerable, even when they have an audience of well over 6 million people.

They have proven once again that it’s okay for a man to be open and honest about appreciating his friends and family and most importantly, to be confident in himself without arrogance or disrespect.

The Try Guys continue to push the boundaries of individuality in an ever-changing society. We live in a world with millions of experiences, many of which likely make us apprehensive. It is essential that we follow this comedy group’s example in being comfortable enough to try.

Renee Ziel can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @reneezwrites.