Sunday, December 11, 2005

Neanderthal Therapy

I really feel like punching something. So this post is about thicked-headed guy stuff.
You've been warned, ladies.
Man is no angel. He is sometimes more of a hypocrite and sometimes less, and then fools say that he has or has not principles.
-Honore de Balzac, Le Pere Goriot
They're at it again. Still trying to figure out why, even after years of relentless feminization of American society, men still identify with deeply flawed tough guys and anti-heroes.

The latest attempt at an explanation appears in today's New York Times "Fashion and Style" section (where else?) in a piece provocatively titled "What Men Want: Neatherthal TV." I knew right away that this article was going to reach deep into the male psyche and enlighten us all because the author was none other than Warren St. John, the "reporter" who brought us all, (I kid you not) both "metrosexuals" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

So what does Mr. St. John's story tell us about why guys prefer characters such as "Jack Bauer," and "Tony Soprano" to, let's say, "Magnum, P.I?*" The answer will shock you:
'"The code of such characters, said Brent Hoff, 36, a fan of "Lost," is: "Life is hard. Men gotta do what men gotta do, and if some people have to die in the process, so be it."'
Holy boxer shorts, Batwit. What a freakin' breakthrough. Guys like, well... to watch other guys doing guy things!!! Men want to watch guys beat up other guys, shoot things and blow stuff up! Amazing! Why, just think of what this could mean for entertainment!

But there must be more to it than just that. I mean why do we men feel the need to get in touch with, you know, our inner masculinity?
"It's about comprehending from an entertainment point of view that men are living a very complex conundrum today," he said. "We're supposed to be sensitive and evolved and yet still in touch with our Neanderthal**, animalistic, macho side." Watching a deeply flawed male character who nevertheless prevails, Mr. Randall argued, makes men feel better about their own flaws and internal conflicts.

"You think, 'It's O.K. to go to a strip club and have a couple of beers with your buddies and still go home to your wife and baby and live with yourself,' " he said.

Oh, yeah. I do that all the time. "Hey, honey! Me and the boys are going to down to the Paper Moon and throw back some beers. Don't wait up." Yep, that sure leads to learning how to live with by yourself. At least I'll feel better about my own flaws. Right.***

Still not convinced why men like to watch other men act badly? Then let's get a real live doctor to explain our condition:
"'These kinds of characters are so satisfying to male viewers because culture has told them to be powerful and effective and to get things done, and at the same time they're living, operating and working in places that are constantly defying that,' said Robert Thompson, the director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University."
I know what your thinking: "There's a freakin' Center for the Study of Popular Television? You gotta be kidding me! How much federal grant money are they getting to watch %$#&@* TV?" But what Dr. Thompson is trying to explain to us is that guys don't like wimpy heroes. This is apparently news in certain circles.

Here's the deal, doctor. Guys have always liked movie anti-heroes. "The Outlaw Josey Wales," "Wanted, Dead or Alive" "Dirty Harry," "The Magnificent Seven," "The Wild Bunch," John Wayne's Ethan Edwards in "The Searchers," and yes, even pretty Brad Pitt in "Fight Club."**** These characters do what we would like to be doing instead of going to the office and pushing the paper around. We can't shoot people without getting in hot water, so we like to watch other people doing it. That's just the way it is. No further explanation is required. If you don't get it, then check your shorts to see if they're missing.

Now get your girly-man fingers out of my head. Gladiator's on in 10 minutes.

* All men out there who actually watched Magnum, P.I. without being forced to raise your hands.
Thank you. Please turn in your testicles as you leave.

**
So what? Neanderthal brains were roughly ten percent larger than those of modern humans, you twit.

***
Who cares about his own flaws anyway? It is what it is. Get over it.

****
Guys will always think that Tom Cruise sucks, no matter what role he's playing.

2 comments:

a former european said...

Ah yes, the master thespian Tom Cruise! He is best known for that film where he played the young, cocky guy.

Lately, he has amazingly expanded his repertoire to include roles as the aging, cocky guy. We must all see the works of this Great Master of the Cinemah right away before he is taken away by the alien mothership!

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