While promoting Flag Day in a recent interview, Sean Penn expressed his views on American masculinity, and they’re not going to be very popular with a lot of American men.
Penn and his real-life daughter Dylan Penn, spoke to the Independent‘s James Moffatt about Flag Day, in which the 61-year-old show biz veteran starred and directed. Penn termed the ability to work with Dylan and his son Hopper on a film was a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” but that’s not the quote from the interview that people are going to be likely to remember.
Penn said, doubling down on an earlier quote that Moffatt asked him about,
“I am in the club that believes that men in American culture have become wildly feminized … I don’t think that [in order] to be fair to women, we should become them.” Penn further explained himself, “I have these very strong women in my life who do not take masculinity as a sign of oppression toward them. There are a lot of, I think, cowardly genes that lead to people surrendering their jeans and putting on a skirt.”
According to the article, that answer left Dylan “quiet” and “staring into space.”
This is, of course hardly the first time Penn has said something controversial. Back in 2018, Penn told Today that the #MeToo movement was intended to “divide men and women,” noting
“I’m very suspicious of a movement that gets glommed on to in great stridency and rage and without nuance. And even when people try to discuss it in a nuanced way, the nuance itself is attacked. I think it’s too black and white.”
Penn also didn’t hold back regarding his views on anti-vaxxers saying, “Sometimes people take their privilege and freedom as a right to be anti-citizen, to be failed citizens — those who will search out the kind of bogus science that would give them legitimacy [when it comes to] not being vaccinated.”
The article did also point to his work with the non-profit CORE (Community Organised Relief Effort), founded more than a decade ago to help Haitian earthquake victims, but that’s not what people on Twitter took away from the promotional interview.
“I feel sorry for Sean Penn,” noted activist Charlotte Clymer. “He won an Oscar for playing one of the most iconic queer leaders in American history” — referring to Harvey Milk — “and yet, even the preparation he did for that role failed to liberate him from the prison of his own gendered insecurity.”
She concluded, “Being Sean Penn is punishment in itself.”
Meanwhile, conservative pundit Matt Walsh countered by saying, in response to the New York Post‘s coverage of the quotes, “This is the first correct thing Sean Penn has said in decades.”
Flag Day is a father-daughter drama based on a true story, adapted from the book Flim-Flam: The True Story of My Father’s Counterfeit Life by Jennifer Vogel. In its initial theatrical release, somewhat curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, both critics and viewers were divided on its artistic merits, as 54% and 42% Rotten Tomatoes scores indicate.
Flag Day is now available to stream on demand.