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HBO’s “ Beartown ” is a superb review of rape and toxic masculinity

On the heels of the wildly entertaining 30 pieces, HBO Europe Continues To Deliver Strong New Year’s Drama With Beartown, a five-part Swedish adaptation of author Fredrik Backman’s novel of the same name about a small town whose youth hockey craze is put to the test when a horrific crime takes place and everyone in the community is forced to take sides. Frozen and enraged, it’s a sobering portrayal of the tragedy forged not only by toxic masculinity, but also by equally harmful – and potentially deadlier – systems that nurture, amplify, and protect it.

Directed by Peter Grönlund and written by Anders Weidemann, Antonia Pyk and Linn Gottfridsson, Beartown (premieres February 22 on HBO) teases a mystery early on, via a prologue in which one indistinct figure chases another through the snowy forest outside of Beartown, culminating with the pursuer aiming a gun at the target fallen to his knees. The question of who these people are is resolved at the end of the first chapter. However, finding out why they’re in this situation isn’t revealed until the climax of episode two, when the story fully focuses. Yet while clarity isn’t immediately forthcoming, the series proves to be instantly captivating, thanks to vivid storytelling that exposes the interpersonal dynamics of its many players.

At the forefront of the action is Peter Andersson (Ulf Stenberg), a former NHL star who returns to his frozen hometown to coach the adult local team. Recognizing that they are all stranded ‘geriatric’, he quickly chooses to take the reins of the more promising youth club led by aspiring star Kevin Erdahl (Oliver Dufåker). It ruffles the feathers of former coach David (Tomas Bergström), who has been relegated as Peter’s assistant, as well as the father of Kevin’s businessman, Mats (Tobias Zilliacus), a former teammate. of Peter resenting his own game. Days cut short by a teenage prank pulled by Peter and his friends. To complicate matters further, Peter is still grappling with alcoholism and the death of his young son, not to mention the pressure of having to win right away with his new team, because the whole future of the club – and of the city – depends on their success this season.

Peter is a mess, and he’s cleverly described by Stenberg as a man whose straightforward, no-frills approach to coaching is both circumstantial (and effective), and also more than a little obnoxious. Just because Peter is right doesn’t mean he’s always right. The refusal to present him as a mere noble and harsh savior is at the heart of Beartown, especially since his clan settles down and his wife-lawyer Mira (Aliette Opheim) decides, without discussing it with her husband, to refuse a new job because she knows it – after years of being there wife of an NHL star and shoulder the burden of family grief over their deceased son – whom she is after her spouse. Even as the series goes through routine plot moves, most of them having to do with one-dimensional rugs, Grönlund and his company are laying the groundwork for an ubiquitous male privilege that will soon become his primary concern.

[Inevitable spoilers follow]

As Peter’s efforts on behalf of the club take precedence on the central ice, Beartown soon divides his attention between the coach and his teenage daughter Maya (Miriam Ingrid), who can see neighbor Kevin playing hockey outside his window, and who soon develops a mutual crush on the athlete. At a post-victory party at Kevin’s house, they are ready to consume their feelings for each other, but Kevin violently oversteps his limits, perpetrating an assault witnessed by Amat (Najdat Rustom), a fast young recruit. of the team whose mother is the janitor in the arena where they all practice. On the eve of the Championship game, this horrific incident is coming to the public light, and things are about to explode in Beartown, as everyone – players, coaches, officials and parents – has a vested interest in protecting. the hockey team and, in extension, Kevin.

BeartownThe subplot about Amat’s worried attempt to curry favor with his boisterous and intolerant white comrades is completed with a secondary thread involving Kevin Benji’s teammate / friend (Otto Fahlgren), who secretly yearns for Kevin and pursues an underground romance with a boy in a nearby town. The corrupting consequences of power structures like the Beartown hockey program – which teaches boys that they are of the utmost importance, that victory is everything, and that being fat, tough, profane and mean is the way to go. ‘achieve his goals – can be seen everywhere including in Kevin. To its credit, the series draws heavily on the mix of entitlement, embarrassment, selfishness and anger that Kevin was imbued with by his father, while refusing to let him escape his heinous conduct.

The corrupting consequences of power structures like the Beartown hockey program – which teaches boys that they are of the utmost importance, that victory is everything, and that being fat, tough, profane and mean is the way to go. ‘achieve your goals – are visible everywhere …

In its last installments, Beartown takes a few man-made melodramatic turns designed to set up its crisp and orderly conclusion. Still, it’s hard to quibble too much about this heartwarming recap given the fact that the material so insightfully reaches the real heart of the sexual assault issue. With seething precision, he directly targets the types of environments that cultivate and embolden ugly masculine ideas about their own preeminent self-esteem and the inferiority of those who dislike them. The brothers in this sordid and anguished story are a familiar bunch, but Weidemann, Pyk, and Gottfridsson are less interested in criticizing a particular type of abusive jerk than in censoring the world order that allows them to operate with reckless abandon and little effort. fear of repercussions.

In this regard, the Grönlund series only appears as a standard on its surface. Courtesy of touches big and small, along with solid performances from his bosses (especially Stenberg and Ingrid), he fucks the intertwined social, economic and legal systems for their distorted priorities, which breed crimes, shame victims and persuade everyone. to let the culprits fend for themselves. “Can you tell the difference between predator and prey?” Maya’s friend Ana (Sanna Niemi) asks her very early, and Beartown asks this question not as an invitation to guess the identity of the Big Bad in its history, but to encourage viewers to see how many potential monsters are among us.

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