What does it mean to be male nowadays? The female condition has been in the spotlight for some time, but nobody’s talking about the global crisis of masculinity. Longstanding certainties are crumbling. In the stone age, males were males and females were females, or at least it appears that way. Now everything’s more complicated and we’re facing the disconcerting scientific news that in nature, the weaker sex is the male. In the non-human animal world, terrifying stories are emerging. In certain fish species, for example, males have become ‘parasitic dwarfs’, appendices dangling from the much bigger body of the female; mobile scrota. Unthinkable even in a feminist science fiction film. In other cases, females do everything, self-fertilising like the mythical Amazons, changing sex when necessary. They decide everything. Meanwhile, males die of exhaustion trying to get chosen by a mate, fighting among themselves or displaying costly ornamentation. It’s a hard life.
In Il maschio inutile (The Useless Male), the four men of Banda Osiris decide to set up a self-help group for the first time. With help from a storyteller, Federico Taddia, and an evolutionary scientist, Telmo Pievani, they navigate the circles of masculine hell. It’s a case of shock therapy, catharsis. And so they find out that their chromosomes are ageing, that the male body is full of useless parts, that they need a fly painted on the urinal to stop them peeing on the floor, and that every variant truly exists in nature: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, trans. In short, an explosion of diversity in which the traditional male feels small and marginalised. Too bad: the world’s overflowing with useless things and men quite rightly belong in the superfluous category. Unless they decide to stop being postcard males, all-testosterone men. So here’s the million-dollar question: why do men survive in spite of everything? In the final part of their journey, the four anonymous men discover the scientific secret of their existence, which we can’t reveal here. The future lies in diversity, and the male sex might just be saved by exactly the freaky, surprising men – slightly absurd and achingly human – Federico’s stories are about. At the end of the day being imperfect isn’t so bad; perfection is so boring. Nature is telling us that ‘the’ male doesn’t even exist. What exists is males, and there are no two alike. Different languages like music, stories (all true!), comedy, science and social satire, seasoned with a generous dose of self-irony, brought together for the first time to narrate the evolution of the male sex and its oddities.”