OPINION: Behind the mind of Justin Baldoni

Former actor on popular TV show “Jane the Virgin” tackles what it takes to “be enough” in his new novel. Photo of Baldoni’s book from Amazon.com.

Jamie Blodgett | Contributing Writer

Over the summer I had the pleasure of meeting with actor, director and filmmaker Justin Baldoni. Baldoni is the author of “Man Enough: Undefining my Masculinity” which came out in April of 2021. Through his novel Baldoni challenges men to reimagine what it means to be man enough and challenges the world to reimagine what it means to be human. In the 334-page novel the reader is challenged to dive deep into what it is to be enough: brave enough, big enough, smart, confident, privileged, successful, sexy, and finally, loved enough.

Many individuals might know Baldoni from his role as Rafael Solano on “Jane the Virgin” throughout its four seasons, others might know him from his brilliance as a director for “Five Feet Apart” and “Clouds.” Recently, however, Baldoni had a TED talk titled “Why I’m done trying to be ‘man enough’” that went viral. This TED talk is part of what led to Baldoni writing his novel, and then led to a book deal 6 months later. I was able to sit down with Baldoni and Ted Bunch to further speak with them about the importance of being “enough.” Baldoni touched on the moments that led to him challenging the stereotypical outlooks on how men should be, he began by mentioning “early on, vivid memories of being confused why [he] had to be mean to the girl he liked. Like fourth/fifth grade… and that turned into growing up in high school and being friends with girls.” Baldoni continued by speaking on how he was bullied because he was friends with girls without trying to “get with them,” saying “the girls were always there for [him]; the guys were always hurting [him].” As the conversation continued, Baldoni proposed that “who the world was telling [him] he was supposed to be as a man was different then the man [he] knew [he] was in [his] heart, different then who [his] faith told [him] to be…” One common factor was that Baldoni found he wasn’t practicing what he believed, that was until he met his wife, and then he was “shown a mirror.” Then began a lot of reflection. 

“Man Enough” tackles the ongoing battle of the effects of how masculinity is traditionally defined, and the feeling nearly everyone faces, the feeling of being inadequate. Baldoni states “as men we are socialized to believe that feeling at all is a sign of weakness and that the only socially acceptable feeling we are permitted to feel is anger or rage. But if we actually stop to think about why many of us lose our [minds], or break in moments when we should have the power to keep our cool, especially with the ones we love the most, we will realize that it’s only because we haven’t given ourselves the space or the time to actually feel what’s underneath it all. And what’s underneath the anger is often some form of sadness, anxiety, or if we’re being honest, a feeling of inadequacy.” Baldoni tackles many more topics in his podcast “We are Man Enough” where he features individuals including Shawn Mendes. 

Another topic that Baldoni recognizes in his novel is the topic of privilege. He “think[s] of privilege like the hurdles in the sense that we are each running our own race, in our own lane, and yet we each have our own set of hurdles, or barriers, in our lane on the way to the finish line. Oversimplified, white privilege means that the color of [his] skin will never be a hurdle for [him], just like male privilege means that [his] gender will never be a barrier for [him]. It doesn’t mean that [he] won’t have hurdles – that there isn’t struggle, that [he] isn’t working hard – it just means that [his] skin color will never work against [him]…” (Page 159). This is just one example of how Baldoni takes a topic, too often pushed aside, and brings it to light. He spoke on how he looked to use the platform he developed from “Jane the Virgin” to “be of service” and “go on a very public journey.” He wanted to “be the influence he never had” growing up and share personal stories throughout the book to make more of a connection with his audience. Baldoni is interested in the “barrier to entry” and how he can reach more men and start the conversation.

“At the end of the day [his] goal is to raise good humans. The only way [he] think[s] [he] can do that is if [he] actively teach[es] them the things the world is going to tell them they can’t be.” It was made clear through my interview with Baldoni and through his novel that Baldoni is ready to start the conversation on a multitude of topics that the world is far past due addressing. 

“Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity” is available now for purchase.

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This article was written based on the following sources:

Baldoni, Justin. Man Enough Undefining My Masculinity. HarperCollins Publishers, 2021. 

“Book Review: MAN Enough- UNDEFINING My Masculinity by Justin Baldoni.” Johnzelle Anderson, 10 May 2021, panoramiccounseling.com/book-review-man-enough-undefining-my-masculinity-by-justin-baldoni/. 

Kay, Lauren. “Justin Baldoni on Fatherhood and Fighting Gender Norms.” Justin Baldoni on Fatherhood and Fighting Gender Norms, The Bump, 16 June 2021, www.thebump.com/a/justin-baldoni-masculinity. 

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