Toxic masculinity is the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength, money, and aggression are everything, while emotions, failure, and supposed feminine traits are considered weaknesses (O’Malley). James Foley’s Glengarry Glen Ross and Lucy Prebble’s Enron deeply explore the impact that toxic masculinity has on corporate culture, and the repercussions that it causes within society. In Glengarry Glen Ross, however, the management forces toxic masculinity down the throats of the salesmen at Premiere Properties, creating detrimental competition for materialistic gain that pushes workers against each other, leading to their downfall. In Enron, toxic masculinity breeds an unhealthy work environment and competition that seemingly brings workers together to push for more monetary gain through unlawful business practices, leading to their downfall . The toxic masculinity present within each company’s culture bred unhealthy competition, creating a poor work environment, promoting unethical behavior and business practices, and eventually leading to their demise.
The ideology that masculinity correlates with success is one of the largest factors that drives the business culture within each text. Within Glengarry Glen Ross, the management and Blake emphasize to the salesman that masculinity is required for success. Blake’s character represents the ideal version of masculinity within the corporate culture at Premiere Properties. His materialistic success, arrogance, and high sales is the epitome of success within the lens of toxic men. Throughout the first scene, Blake berates the salesmen over their poor sales and he puts forth the notion that their livelihood and manhood depends on sales. The top sellers keep their jobs and are gifted a set of knives or even a car. The lowest sellers, however, are stripped of their job, lose their livelihood, and masculinity. In Blake’s eyes, weak salesmen are not worthy of being called men, and are instead considered homosexuals. The only way to be successful within Premiere Properties is to have brass balls and strive to be like Blake by adopting destructive masculine ideals. The culture present within Premiere Properties idealizes success, materialistic wealth, and masculinity.
This focus on masculinity and success ultimately breeds unhealthy competition within Premiere Properties, promoting unethical behavior. This is seen through the character of David Moss. Moss portrays himself as a stereotypical toxic man, someone who would seem to succeed at Premiere Properties; he’s aggressive, violent, and asserts his power over those who seem weaker than him. Moss, however, underperforms sales wise and Blake’s beratement exposes him for faults as a man, breaking his morale and confidence. A frustrated and broken Moss resorts to burglary in order to regain the sense of masculinity that was stripped away from him.
He tries to convince George Aaronow, a perpetual failure in the eyes of Premiere Properties, to go on board with the plan, but Aaronow wants no part of it. Throughout the film, Aaronow is portrayed to be feminine through his language and mannerisms. When he sticks to his morals and decides to not chase materialistic gain, he is perceived as more feminine and therefore more a failure within the toxic masculine lens. The toxic masculinity that exists within this company culture looks down upon emotions and casts morals aside due to the thirst for material gain. This inherently promotes aggressive and unethical behavior to quench that thirst; anyone who doesn’t follow that is automatically classed as feminine and seen as a failure.
The idea that toxic masculinity promotes unethical behavior is also seen through the character of Shelley Levene, an old and once successful salesman. He, like Moss and Aaronow, isn’t following ABC and hasn’t closed a big deal in a long time. On top of the pressure of being fired, he deals with an extremely sick daughter who he needs to provide for. He attempts to empathize with Williamson to get the premium leads, but the dismissal of emotion and greed from Williamson prevents Levene from getting them. His constant failure starts to overtake his usual confident and upbeat persona, and he starts to become desperate and distressed. This desperation and stress drives Levene to the lowest depths of the moral ladder, crime. It is later revealed that it was Levene, not Moss, who stole the Glengarry leads to support his daughter. The toxic masculine work culture put forth in Premiere Properties essentially throws Levene and his problems aside, leading to Levene going down the unethical path to support his family. Not only did the masculine toxicity within the firm negatively impact the salesmen working there, it destroyed the firm from the inside as well. The management lost support from their workers, leading one to steal and sell the Glengarry leads. The firm was broken and had lost its most valuable asset. Toxic masculinity within Glengarry Glen Ross created unhealthy competition, promoted immoral behavior, and led to the demise of the firm itself.
In Enron, the management essentially drives the idea that masculinity equates to success by almost solely focusing on materialistic gain, just like Premiere Properties. The management at Enron enacted a harsh, Draconian, policy that regularly cut the bottom ten percent of workers to have a company full of extremely efficient workers, leading to the most profit. This ultimately encouraged employees to adapt destructive masculine ideals to be ahead of the curve. If a worker didn’t adapt to the ideals, they were most likely fired from the firm, as Claudia Roe was. Unlike in Glengarry Glen Ross where the masculine ideals drive the salesmen against the firm, the ideals bring the employees together in this story. All the Traders within the firm all share this sense of aggression, arrogance, and greed, which allows them to bond. They all encourage and berate Fastow with Trader 2, and they even go on death weekends with Skilling, where workers attempt to assert their masculinity through masculine activities such as rolling jeeps and motorcycles and wotnot. Each worker’s adaptation of the toxic masculine ideals, and their pursuit to prove their masculinity to themselves and those around them essentially bonds them together.
This firmwide adaptation of the destructive masculine ideals pushes everyone to focus on the management’s main goal: materialistic gain through money. As stated before, the management perpetrates this agenda which then spreads down to the everyone in the firm. The masculine drive to achieve materialistic wealth heavily resonates with the heads of Enron Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andy Fastow. Similar to the cases of David Moss and Shelley Leven, this drive pushed them to pursue an unethical path to achieve it. In their fit to make as much money as possible, the heads of the company decide to make money out of entirely nothing using a mark to market accounting strategy, where expected profits are treated as tangible profits. This helped them skyrocket their stock price, making the company and their personal wealth explode. Their masculine drive for success, arrogance, and greed essentially made falsifying profits seem as the right thing to do. Prebble, in a way, almost utilizes this as a way to discuss the financial sector that exists today- a male dominated field full of arrogance and deception.
Not only is unethical behavior accepted by the management, but also all the Traders and the various accountants present within the firm. The highly competitive nature, the toxic masculine culture, and the management’s example all make it acceptable for the employees to go on board with the deceptive and immoral practices. Almost no one questions the practices, and most even support it, since it satisfies their personal greed. This is seen throughout the entire California scene, where Enron manipulates California’s electricity market for profits. In the scene, everyone involved with the manipulation seem to have tremendous fun seeing the electricity prices and profits rise, while the state goes into chaos. They even laugh after hearing that someone was killed due to their despicable behavior. They follow exactly what Skilling tells them to do with no questions asked, and even enjoy what they’re doing. This toxic masculine culture that exists within the firm is so widespread, that it made unethical behavior seem acceptable. As long as it brings in profits, it is an acceptable practice to take part in.
The same scene exemplifies the employees’ embodiment of the toxic masculine ideal of total control and dominance. Everyone at the firm seems to enjoy the suffering of the people in California, as they bring in profits, satisfying their biggest desire. A trader even exclaims let’s rape this motherfucker!, referring to the electricity crisis, and everyone seems to agree and support his claim. The corporate culture of masculinity that exists within this firm seeks dominance, as they rape California.
Just like in Glengarry Glen Ross, the adaptation of toxic masculine culture and ideals, and the unethical practices that took place at Enron, ultimately lead to the destruction of the firm itself. Even though the firm was as secretive and deceptive as possible, the law, media, and market caught up to them, completely destroying it. The stock price plummets to single digit dollars and the heads of Enron are arrested and convicted, despite attempting to run away at the last minute.
Unlike in Glengarry Glen Ross?? the damage caused to society by Enron through their unethical accounting methodology was much more significant and beyond saving. More than twenty thousand employees lost their jobs, retired and current employees who were paid in stock options lost everything they worked for, and it caused many other firms to collapse. There were, however, benefits to society from this scandal in terms of new laws, policies, and government organizations in place to stop anything like Enron from ever happening again.
The toxic masculinity present within Enron’s and Premiere Properties’ ultimately led to both of their demises. Within both firms, the management’s push for maximum profit, belief that masculinity correlates with success, and implementation of fierce competition promoted a toxic corporate culture and environment. Within Glengarry Glen Ross, the toxic culture and competition within the firm pushed the salesmen away from each other and the management. While in Enron, the toxic culture brought the management and employees together and allowed for them to bond on their pursuit for masculinity and fake success. The adaptation and acceptance of this culture within both firms created and promoted unethical behavior within both firms, which lead to both of the firms’ downfall.
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