Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Men Looking Stupid--and Society Rewarding Them

"Men are pigs."

This little phrase is probably familiar to you. It's been hammered into your brain by those you might not necessarily suspect. Gloria Steinem et al have done their part, yes. But more than her and her feminist friends, Hollywood has moved the feminist ball up the field.

Think back on the way the arts have portrayed men in the last twenty years. You needn't think too hard. The portrait is pretty uniform: men are idiots. There are exceptions, of course, but it's not the exceptions I'm interested in, but the rule. The rule was authored in the popular cinema by such men as Chevy Chase and Steve Martin. Go upstairs to your attic, get out the ol' VCR, and dust off your National Lampoon and Father of the Bride videotapes. Pop 'em in. Be prepared to see manhood, with admittedly great humor and enjoyment, openly mocked and degraded. I thought this when watching FOTB recently. Steve Martin isn't a grown-up man--he's a white-haired baby! All he lacks is diapers. His wife is clearly progressive, in-touch, and aware, while Steve's character is a bumbling idiot possessing the self-awareness of an amoeba. Chevy Chase is no different. He stumbles through life, a walking joke to his kids and wife, hopelessly out-of-touch with reality. Hollywood has had its say about men. Have you noticed their whispering? Or did you, like me, soak it all in without even noticing?

Or think about the guys from Friends. Here are where the feminist-minded screenwriters of Hollywood worked true magic. They wrote a TV show that was hugely watched for years and years, and they did it while all the while portraying men as idiots. Think back over the three male characters. Chandler is a weak, wimpy manipulator, avoiding confrontation at all costs. Joey is, in the mold of Steve Martin, a stupid guy idiot, albeit with more testosterone thrown in. And Ross--I grit my teeth even writing it--Ross is a pandering, whiny, wimpy, afraid man. A problem arises, and all Ross can do is gesticulate. His voice goes nasal, his hands are in the air, and you have to wonder if his fellow actors are holding their noses, cause someone's got a heavy diaper. These are all distorted pictures of manhood, and young men and women sucked them up for years without thinking about it for nary a minute. Of course, these male characters were cast against the characters of Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox who, while quirky, were strong, assertive, and in charge.

We'll look more at this. But for now, just know that little phrase--"Men are pigs"--may not be spoken by anyone near you right now. It doesn't need to be. It's been spoken to you for years by Hollywood. You probably just didn't notice.


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