Monday, August 20, 2007

The Dangerous and Complicated Masculinity of Jason Bourne

I recently watched the movie The Bourne Ultimatum and found myself, as I often, reflecting about what the movie says about manhood. There's quite alot of material to consider on this topic.

But before we consider the actual content of the movie, I want to note the movie's appeal. Ultimatum has been massively successful--$176 million of success, in fact. Part of why I think this film is so successful is that it portrays a man as just that--a man. Of course, Bourne's physicality is a major part of his problem, and that's what the movie largely explores: a man's discovery of himself as a killing machine. Bourne wrestles with the reality of his blurry past throughout the three Bourne films, and thus his greatest strength--his strength and physical ability--is also his greatest weakness. He has discovered that he is able to kill and injure at will, but unlike other action characters, this realization brings him no joy, but only pain. It is ironic, then, that a part of what makes the movie so entertaining is Bourne's amazing ability to fight and, when necessary, kill. Where he recoils at himself, we grow excited.

But with all that said, with all the violence of Bourne accounted for, there is still something pure that draws us to Bourne. It is not fighting alone that enthralls us. It is Bourne's strength, his masculine ability to make things happen. Against any foe, against any odd, we the audience can know that Bourne somehow, in some way, will prevail. There is a part of manhood here that we should not miss. Bourne is the ultimate man, the guy who can do all things and defeat all enemies. We do not watch him simply to see what's going to happen with his life. We watch him to see a man in action, a man who is not bound by what anyone says or thinks of him as a man. In a society filled with weak, passive, frightened, unsure, timid men, Bourne is an example of a man whose strength and power emanates from his person. One look at his constantly tensed shoulders, his tight face, and you can see that this is a man in control of himself and his surroundings. For these qualities, Bourne draws us to himself, in order that we might see a man in action, a man unencumbered, a man fearless and untamed.

In a small way, our admiration of Bourne reflects our admiration of the ultimate fighter, Jesus Christ, the one who will slay all his foes with but a word. We naturally long to be led by a great man, a strong man, albeit one who marries his strength to virtue. Jason Bourne is not that man, and neither is any other man, real or imagined, save for Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate man, the great warrior, who exuded courage by coming to earth, who destroyed sin and Satan at the cross, who will return in majesty and splendor to the new heavens and new earth. When we watch Jason Bourne, then, we're not really yearning for a complicated, troubled action hero. We're yearning for Christ, for His infinite strength, His vindicating return, His incredible love. We enjoy watching Bourne deal out justice to his foes on the big screen, but we wait for a day of justice that will play out before our very eyes, and end the war between good and evil that rages in the current day.

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Blogger Dad said...

Owen, let me relate a relationship that is similar to what you are talking about. We have several families (moms and kids) that come to the river to spend the afternoon. I have started swimming early in the afternoon and was immediately told by the kids that I was "Jaws". My role was to drown, eat, scare, etc. the kids. Eventually they realized that I really won't drown them and became much bolder in the attacks upon me. They love to see if they can 'drown' me, or over come me physically. Of course that is impossible!!! :)

Our youngest daughter and several of the younger kids in these families are thrilled to find a man who can overcome all enemies (them). A real man, if you would.

I'll probably watch the movie when I can rent it, but have enjoyed the other two.

Al (Not Owen's dad or that other 'Al'.)

3:46 AM  

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