A book review and a post about manhood, that is it. Gary Cross has crafted an amazing overview of the last 100 years of the man in American culture. 257 pages of pure genius and insight and chalk full of a ton of refererances that I can’t really appreciate because I am not that old. This is both a mix of what I have read and now my objective look at what he has said with the current reflection.
Maturity and the Man both have a big lagging question mark after them, perhaps with a giant question mark following it. In a fallen state of mind and a fallen view of life what is the human supposed to look like is a very serious question that demands our attention and formation. What is the man and why has he sort of regressed over the years into a teen or adolescent. As recently I have been using film examples to make some points its a reflection of society and culture to use Hollywood as the vehicle at which we see life unfold. Hollywood and its shameless money ball approaches leave us checking off the boxes of normal and well absurdly ironic.
The man is stuck. The man is forever longing for a life that he doesn’t have and is sort of stuck and trapped within himself. Movies that dominated the 80’s were all the macho man in Terminator and Die Hard and the plethora of Arnold and Stallone films that didn’t really have much depth but tons of escapist action taking place. The 90’s was the rise of the puerile humor in Austin Powers and Dumb and Dumber. The beginning of the boy man paraded on the big screen. The switch in 1984 to the R rating caused many original spec. scripts to get glossed over with 35 extra sexual explicit content and relentless f bombs. The man in film is far from growing up and having a family. Men in movies are James Bond, all 22 of them. And if they can’t really be Jason Bourne or James Bond they are stuck in dead end jobs that showcase responsibility as the last accomplishment before death. So, we see the man now living Mardi Gras up in Cancun over college spring break; after college actually. Taking till 26-28 to move out of the house and get married and video game sales skyrocketing higher for the post highschooler then ever before.
But why is the man immature per se? Why does the man not like his responsible existence. Perhaps because we have regressed in out thinking to outlawing family life it has created a gap of expectation in the man. Its very selfish and autonomous in its nature. Do what makes you happy and by that, don’t commit. The famous Old School movie about men going back to college and escaping married life to do so. Over and over men are boys and partying hard, getting wasted or high; all the time! And when mom kicks the man out of the house he doesn’t usually man up to the madness, rather he slides across his options and stays puerile in his thinking.
The man in entertainment doesn’t grow up. The man in tv is the same way. Shows like Friends and Seinfeld, two of the most popular in their time showcased adults not being ignorant of growing up but rather choosing to not doing so. Multiple love affairs is better then settling down with one person; philander yourself about is better then just one partner; and the list goes on.
Gary Cross also points out that the man in parenting has morphed to. The man has gone from fatherly provider emotionally to just the fatherly provider materially. The classic 1950’s Leave it to Beaver mom that refrains from discipline until…your father gets home!
Howard Stern saying things like : “I am perpetually a nine year old child and that is probably why I am still successful” Teaches us that pleasure in the boyhood realm is worth it, if you can get away with it.
So, the man is consistently inconsistent. The man is always moving downward in life and seems to be okay with that. Women might complain that the man has disappeared or has reverted so far back to boyhood that its hard to take him seriously. I have had my moments in life with obesessing over success but I feel I am on the right path, cause at least I am thinking about trying to be mature. Not that I have it figured out.
There is great crisis inside what it takes to be a man and I think it starts with what you are staring at. If you are looking to the fallen media empire out there then that is really no place to look, or not a good place to educate yourself. The man needs to come from the understanding of what the Lord has laid out for us. The man will find its purpose when he sees his creator.
I will only choose what is right about my nature and about what I should be pursuing if I look at Christ and look nowhere else, expect to learn from the foibles of the past and the entertainment world around me.
Some great quotes from Gary Cross:
“Men spend billions to retain the bodies and hair of their youth, going well beyond the rationale of “good health”, ordinary vanity, or even the practical requirements of being competitive in the sex market. Narcissism, traditionally seen as a feminine trait, is now associated with perpetuating male youth.”
“Still, my generation gained more pleasure from rejecting elders and reveling in our youth than in creating a better meaning of maturity.”
“By the 1940’s the father had very little role in raising or training children, yet he was expected to be “more” than a provider. He was to be a pal to his children as well as a model of responsibility to family and society.”
“The war was not the backdrop to a glorious return to domesticity and responsibility but a haunting memory of a violent past that would not go away, reappearing in the phyches of on the mean streets of American cities.”
“Christopher Napoliatano, sees lad popular culture as a reaction to female empowerment. It is not an expression of hostility but “more of a release—sort of like a steam valve. These shows and products that are geared exclusive to men—they are like a chance to head out to a bar and know that nobody’s going to eavesdrop, so guys can get jerky and silly and adolescent and have a big laugh.”