Thursday, December 17, 2009

Securing his manhood 'cause he's a real man.

Wesley Morris and Alyssa Rosenberg are musing on the absence of Real Men (TM) from modern movies. Specifically, is it the case that the current male pantheon of American actors are markedly deficient in traditional manliness?* If so, how has this come to pass?

Alyssa is right that the Morris piece suffers from its lack of an articulated definition of manliness. But his piece and hers do sketch the outlines of a relatively coherent type: someone who may have little truck with conformity to society's expectations, "keeps himself collected," and exemplifies "self-possession, competence, sex, and just a whiff of arrogance." Preferably under 40, and not too remote, cheeky,** or somnambulistic.

Is this vision of calm, confident, unironic masculinity fundamentally at odds with the reality of modern manhood? Are the indecisive, lassitudinous, neurotic boy-men who saturate our movie screens the natural consequence of rejecting hidebound gender roles? Is there any American actor out there who can do "thoughtful, reflective, and yet secure in himself" and "sexy beast"? Or are we doomed to watch guys on film?

*George Clooney excepted, everyone acknowledges that Clooney is Old Hollywood come again.

** Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man is a bit too much on the cheeky, ironic side. And he spends too much time pottering in the garage with overgrown toys. Frivolity is for cloaking your vulnerability, not for a full-time job.
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