Now Reading
Nathanael Lessore on balancing comedy with the theme of toxic masculinity

Nathanael Lessore on balancing comedy with the theme of toxic masculinity

Why comedy?

In my buildup to studying Creative Writing at university, I was bored at work. I was in a call centre, receiving maybe three or four phone calls over an eight hour day. The rest of the time, trusted to use at my own discretion. I had nothing to do but write. And so, to entertain myself, and colleagues at the desk around me, I wrote silly poems, lists and essays.

I took that silly factor with me to uni, where my lecturers scolded me for being too entertaining. They were right. I was getting easy laughs, but at the expense of narrative structure and emotional beats. Over the next three years, I was moulded into more of a complete writer. Still, writing has always been a fun pastime, only now I get paid for it.

Naturally, my first book, Steady For This, fell into the comedy genre. We did well, balancing a strong voice with absurd comedy and poignant moments. When it came to book 2, King of Nothing, the only change in brief was to use a different voice.

Funny vs emotive

I am a lazy writer, happy to rely on the fundamentals of writing, (show don’t tell, use of the five senses etc) and then listening when my editors fine comb the emotional beats into the manuscript.

I tell kids at my school visits that nothing can be too consistently funny, as that would be tiresome, but consistently upsetting can be a bit of a drag. Writing needs both.

The conception of King of Nothing

Chicken and an egg situation: what comes first, the themes or the plot? A question I need to ask more authors. Did you choose a topic to write about, and then build a narrative around that, or did you already have a sequence of events and decided to interwove themes into it?

In the case of King of Nothing, it went voice-plot-theme.

I already knew my voice was going to be cynical, the opposite to the happy-go-lucky voice I used in my first book. The plot was based on a true event; I once took my little sister to her taekwondo lesson in the local community hall, where the scouts were finishing up in a back room. There, I bumped into the toughest kid in school, who was sat in his full scouts uniform, badges, shorts and all, and he swore me to secrecy. This anecdote turned into a buddy comedy where the school bully is forced to join a scouts-equivalent group, and he teaches a nerdy kid how to be “cool”.

Naturally, the theme followed.

The toxic masculinity angle

It’s hard to write about this without repeating what I’ve already said on the topic in other blogs. But the message is worth repeating, over and over again until the gravity of the situation hits home.

Deplorable, misogynistic content in the phones of millions of kids in the country, under the guise of “this is how to be a man”. The subscribers are mainly young boys and teenagers, as that’s what the algorithm is geared towards.

Recently, I was sat on the train near two boys and their dad. The boys were loudly glorifying Andrew Tate content while their dad was sat right beside them.

I can’t know for sure if the dad was unaware or simply uncaring of the disturbing radicalisation that his own children are exposed to, but either way there’s a problem going unsolved.

Andrew Tate isn’t the only content creator who posts videos that demean and encourage hostility to “females”, however he is the most popular.

My little nephew who was 9 years old at the time, asked me a bunch of questions about Andrew Tate, saying that everyone in his class was talking about him. I can tell my nephew not to watch such content, but I can’t tell YouTube to stop recommending it to him and his classmates.

A solution, not the solution

A friend of mine is a secondary school teacher, and the Tate craze got so much that they decided to hold an assembly about it. However, the faculty decided to back out, as they were worried that addressing these videos could further encourage students towards it.

We decided that King of Nothing could be a way of getting an alternative narrative to Tate’s ideology into schools.

If it’s fun and engaging enough, the book can provide the theme of tolerance and equality to those who desperately need it most.

Things to look out for:

Kids who use words like “beta” and “alpha”, this terminology is taken straight from Tate videos.

Phrases like, “most girls do…” or “why do all women…?” – the generalisation is learned from this kind of content.

A general lack of respect towards women – this one seems obvious, but I’ve seen much more disrespect to female teachers than male ones.

Any talk of Rolexes, Lambourghinis, and phrases like “real men…” could be red flags. Consult your GP.

King of Nothing is out in paperback now

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.