Who knew there was such a thing as a “fatherhood lens?”
mStud likes this.
I think many of us have heard of the “Bro Code” by now. If not, do brush up on the 89 articles of the rule book. Or you can simply have the first 14 articles recited to you in true dramatic fashion here by Neil Patrick Harris and Matt Kuhn, two actors from the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. (Funny quote below:)
A bro never divulges the existence of the Bro Code to a woman. It is a sacred document not to be shared with chicks for any reason. No. Not even that reason. Note: If you are a woman listening to this, first, let me apologize it was never my intention for this book to contain so much math. Secondly, I urge you to take the Bro Code for what it is: a piece of fiction meant to entertain a broad audience through the prism of stereotypical gender differences. I mean sometimes it really is like we’re from different planets. (Dry, nervous laughter) Clearly no real person could realistically believe or adhere to the vulgar rule contained within. Those boots are adorable, B T Dub. Pssst. Hey guys, ignore what I said. The Bro Code is definitely not a piece of fiction. . .”
I giggled quite a bit listening to this video and you probably will too.
The positive thing about stereotypes is that they show us how far or near our thoughts and beliefs lie in relation to them. If our convictions match the gender cliche, we feel soothed and more secure in our beliefs. And if we viscerally sense our opposition to the stereotype, then we feel somewhat enraged, but simultaneously more empowered and secure in our contrary views.
Everyone wins. Bros and hos.
Let it be known that on the whole, I like Noah Baumbach’s work. I think The Squid and the Whale is an amazing film mostly because it’s really jarring and really normal at the same time. But, I felt something else when I watched Greenberg. I felt mad.
This trailer presents Ben Stiller’s character as a guy who just wants to “do nothing for awhile” in his 40s. He’s unemployed, he destroys relationships, and he writes cranky letters to every company who gets on his nerves in any capacity. That’s what he does, all the time. It would be funny if I didn’t already know men who were like this.
In her piece for Salon, Jessica Grose writes “While the alpha male wants to dominate and the beta male just wants to get by, the omega male has either opted out or, if he used to try, given up.” As women, we’re usually never allowed to opt out. If you’re a 40 year old woman without kids, you’d better have a career. And if you’re a 40 year old woman without a career, you’d better have kids. Society behooves you. But for men like Greenberg, and the men in real life who choose to just stop contributing altogether, there are no real societal repercussions. Of course, I’d have to think that men of this ilk are miserable, so I take comfort in that.
Have we come to expect less from men as women become more equal? Is the omega male just a defensive response to women seizing more power?
Earlier this winter, I found myself staring sadly at the Johnnie Walker subway print ad campaign “Say it Without Saying It.” One short message read: “To never having to say ‘I love you, man'” and another: “We only shake hands. We call each other once a month max. I still think you’re adopted. And even though I would rather streak across a packed stadium than tell you this, you deserve it. You’re a great little brother. There, I said it.” Witty and charming, no? Kind of.
But, could the same effect have been achieved without playing on men’s inability to communicate with one another? This campaign confirms, embraces, and celebrates helplessness, passive aggression, and emotional and social underdevelopment. But it masquerades it as self-aware manliness. Brothers are only fodder for jokes or target practice for farts. Verbal and physical affection are saved for special (read: unavoidable) occasions. And now thanks to the negative encouragement of these ads, handing over a bottle of whiskey to a man close to you, is a substitution for any meaningful expression. It also acts as a rubric for seeing how far men need to go before they can wash down their unease.
Why are boys less encouraged to express their thoughts and feelings to themselves or each other? Mattel’s new Sweet Talking Ken Doll may help explain, but in the voice of a kindergartner. This toy is marketed to girls ages 5 and up as “…the ultimate boyfriend for every occasion. Why? Because this handsome Ken doll says whatever you want him to say! Just press the button on his chest to record your own voice for up to five seconds. Then play it back in a high, normal, or low pitch.” Before these girls start the first grade, they are taught to understand that if they want the “ultimate boyfriend” or any man to speak the things they wish to hear, they will have to feed their unspeaking partners the lines. Boys can resign themselves to act the dummies in their relationships with their (ventriloquist) partners.
These not-so-subtle hints to boys and men from pre-K to adulthood may be the reason why girls exceed boys in language skills. By relegating men to the roles of the non-communicators and encouraging inarticulate self-reflection and self-expression, the media and the culture at large are doing both men and women a discriminative disservice.
Sometimes I think GQ is edited by someone who was a complete nerd in high school. As an adult, he is hellbent on talking about what’s cool as much as possible, because now he has become an arbiter of that intangible. GQ always strives for this. It’s the guy at a bar, nattily dressed without looking like it, nursing some microbrew that has an unpronounceable name. It’s the guy who leans in a doorway. GQ wants to be Jordan Catalano for the 21st century.
With its February cover, GQ seeks to diversify its definition of cool into not only a discussion of athletes through the decades, but also with the archetypes represented by each man. You have Kelly Slater, the laid-back surfer. Tim Lincecum, the baseball pitcher throwing his unabashed use of marijuana at America’s past time. Muhammad Ali, Joe Namath, Arnold Palmer, Michael Jordan – the untouchables, the GOATs who have cemented their roles.
Each one of these men defines a time in American culture and in their respective sport. Their reflections of masculinity vary – it’s inarguable to me that the a football player is anything like a surfer, or a golfer. Football is tradition, America, full contact. Golf is leisure, luxury, grace under pressure. And surfing, well that’s for people who deflect their actual hard work with the appearance of laziness. Each has that etheral quality that makes him “cool.” While your rankings might be different (I’ll bet mine would), GQ offers the opportunity for every fanboy in the universe to also be cool by virtue of the fact that he idolizes one of these athletes. It gives the reader the chance to see himself in the swagger of Jordan, or the traditionalism of Tom Brady. It’s GQ’s very own version of “What Sex and the City character would you be?” with athletes.
I think I’d be Dr. J.