Hollywood’s war on men continues

Back in 2006, I wrote an optimistic article for American Thinker in which I saw some hope in Hollywood’s approach to manliness.  I’m going to quote here at some length from my earlier article, because I want to make the point that I was lauding an enormously successful movie because it celebrated traditional male virtues:

The Narnia Chronicles: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is a wonderful film, with Christian themes intact.  I therefore went to the film prepared to be impressed — and I was.  The big surprise for me, though, and something I haven’t seen discussed anywhere, is the movie’s positive depiction of its male lead, Peter (played by 18 year old William Moseley).

As the movie begins, Peter is a young man who is casually kind to his sisters, painfully impatient with his brother, and loath to take on responsibility.  Once in Narnia, of course, Peter has responsibility thrust upon him, for he quickly learns that he is the High King of prophecy.  It’s important to note that he’s not simply one of two kings, or one of four royal children — he is the High King, the leader among leaders.  Although he is at first appalled, once he realizes that he cannot avoid this destiny, he swiftly grows into his role.

The pivotal moment for Peter comes when he, his sisters, and their talking beaver companions are stranded on rapidly cracking ice, with a frozen waterfall above them about to burst, and hostile wolves surrounding them.  To add to the pressure Peter faces, one of the beavers has a wolf poised above his throat.  Up until this point in the movie, he has merely been reactive.  This crisis forces him to be proactive.

Peter has few options.  He can kill one of the wolves, but this is unlikely to save him and his companions from melting ice.  With imminent disaster facing him, and everyone screaming different advice to him, Peter is forced to make his decision alone, and quickly.  At the last moment, he plunges his sword into the ice beneath him, causing the entire ice pack beneath the companions and the wolves to crack.

While the wolves slip into the water, Peter’s sword creates a pole to which he and his sisters can cling as their block of ice races downstream. (The beavers, of course, run no risk from their icy plunge.)  Peter’s rapidly developing courage and resourcefulness reappear when Lucy slips off the ice floe, and he dives under water to rescue her.  It’s a gripping scene, made more so by the fact that dire circumstances have forced Peter to leave the boy behind and become a man.

Once Peter has crossed his personal Rubicon, from boy to man, his old—fashioned manly virtues develop swiftly.  He displays principled honesty when he confesses forthrightly to Aslan that Edmund’s failures can be traced back to Peter’s own impatience with him; he shows magnanimity when he welcomes Edmund back into the fold, even though Edmund’s treachery almost destroyed them all; he demonstrates brilliant tactical skills when, in Aslan’s absence, he creates a masterful battle plan; and he acts with incredible gallantry when, despite his sheltered upbringing in Finchley, he leads his troops into battle against the witch and her foul warriors.

In the remainder of the article, I contrasted the Narnia movie to the anti-male nihilism in Brokeback Mountain, which came out at about the same time.  When I considered that Narnia was a huge hit, while Brokeback was something of a big joke, beloved by critics but laughed at by ordinary Americans, I hoped that I was seeing a positive trend regarding boys and men in movies.  I have to admit, though, that I got a little worried when the Narnia sequel, The Chronicles of Narnia : Prince Caspian came out.  In a major departure from the source book, the filmmakers presented Peter as whiny, jealous, suspicious, and foolishly impetuous.  The heroic, moral character from the first book had disappeared and in his place was a petulant teenager.  Still, compared to the movie I saw last night, a movie that starred yet another character named Peter, this impaired Peter in Narnia was still a virtuous man.

And what did I see last night that cast me into such despair about pop culture and the attack on traditional manliness?  It’s a “comedy” called I Love You, Man, which came out some months ago, but which I only saw yesterday on DVD.  The premise is simple:  After eight months of dating, Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) and Zooey (Rashida Jones) decide to get married.  It turns out, though, that during their eight months of being together Zooey had never noticed that Peter didn’t have any guy friends of his own.  Her girlfriends, however, point this out as a threat to the marriage (he’ll be whiny and clingy) and as a threat to the wedding (lots of bridesmaid, no groomsmen).   Overhearing this conversation, the panicked Peter decides to do some guy bonding so that he can stand tall at his wedding and be independent afterward. For the next hour and a half, we watch Peter deal with a series of truly disgusting guys in an effort to bond with one of them.  His ultimate pick as is “guy friend” is a man that any woman would recognize instantly as a dangerous narcissist or a sociopath, and it is this character who gleefully introduces Peter into a modern man’s world.

From start to finish, the men — and the women — in the movie are repugnant.  Peter, who is sweet enough, is so emasculated that, although heterosexual, he is an anti-man.  To the extent he has any virtuous behaviors, they exist because he’s abandoned manliness.  He is a lesbian in men’s clothing.  His father and mother enjoy embarrassing him about his sexuality, such as it is.  His brother is a gay man who has become so bored with picking up other gay men that he’s begun preying on straight men. Zooey, while a fairly decent, straightforward woman on her own terms, hangs with a group of gals who discuss sex in the crudest terms, and who genuinely seem to dislike men.  One of her closest friends is married to a man who is so disagreeable it is impossible to tell why his wife wants to become pregnant with him.  Played by Jon Favreau, he’s not only hostile to everyone around him, his “guy” friendships focus on gambling and binge drinking.  Peter’s efforts to bond with Favreau’s character end with the vomiting scene that seems to be obligatory in all modern movies.

Peter eventually gravitates to Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), who is not gay, who is not a binge drinker, and who is not a lonely old man seeking friends by posting “young man” pictures on line (as one character does).  The scenes that follow the developing Peter-Sydney relationship play out like a parody of a traditional chick-flick, with a nervous, tongue-tied Peter trying to woo the cool Sydney (only in a nervously non-sexual way).

What kills any comedy potential in this parody of chick-flicks is the fact that Sydney is unspeakably repugnant.  I’ll freely concede here that it’s entirely possible that all guys, outside the company of woman, have a special living room chair in which they masturbate, complete with accessories; haunt open houses to pick-up divorcees; track other people’s farting patterns; inquire into the explicit details of their friends’ sex lives and then broadcast those details to others; encourage their dogs to poop on heavily trafficked sidewalks; and aggressively attack people who “insult” them.  Even if it is true that this is just how guys are, that does not mean that these are virtuous behaviors.  Peter, however, is simultaneously intrigued and repulsed, with attraction dominating.  Sydney, therefore, becomes the eponymous man of the “I love you” title.

The movie’s message is clear.  Men are either epicene or revolting.  There is no middle ground.  Ordinary male behaviors involve projectile vomiting, public defecating, impulsive violent behavior, obsessive (and often deviant) sexual behavior and, if they’re not amongst the “nice” guys, you can add on brutishness, gambling and binge drinking.  The concepts of decency, kindness, honor, and bravery are conspicuously absent.  Real men — men who have integrity, who honor women, who protect those weaker than they are — simply do not exist in this Hollywood universe.

What’s even worse than the misanthropic nihilism of I Love You, Man, is the fact that the critics thought that this little movie was just great.  At Rotten Tomatoes, it’s got an 82% on the freshness meter.  Scan through the reviews and you’ll find words of love for Rudd’s charm, Segel’s comic timing, and the funny sexual predicaments — all of which is true if you don’t mind the fundamental premise, which is that guys are crude, disgusting and amoral.  As the mother of a lovely 10 year old boy, I mind that premise a great deal.  I don’t like the way our culture demeans men.  I want men to be able to honor themselves.  Movies such as this one render them as nothing more than figures of ridicule.  They are perpetually gross, sex-obsessed jokes.

I should add here that I have a pretty loose sense of humor.  I’ll laugh just as hysterically as the next person at the peeing scene in The Naked Gun, at Lucy Ricardo’s endless antics, at the Three Stooges’ eye pokes, and at the existential zaniness in Groundhog Day.  There are few cows too sacred for a good joke.  Systematically demeaning an entire population group, however, ceases to be funny.  Additionally, hen one looks at the statistics about boys and education, and about men and crime, this systemic degradation begins to seem destructive and downright dangerous.

Vote with your feet.  Avoid movies that, rather than laughing at the human condition, aim to destroy the soul of half of our population.

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  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    Real men — men who have integrity, who honor women, who protect those weaker than they are — simply do not exist in this Hollywood universe.

    They do appear in the Japanese popular culture, Book. To quote just two examples of a plethora of them, Bleach and Naruto.

    I don’t have the gift of words as you do to describe manly men (probably because I don’t think about it too often ; ) But, I’ll describe some highlights.

    Determination is one of the highlights for warriors. Those people have to face daunting odds and somehow persevere even as their hearts quake, their knees shake, and their brains are telling them to run and preserve their own life and F everybody else. But they stand and take it. They hold up the shield wall, protecting their comrades, their brothers by their side, behind them, and in another part of the battlefield entire. But what is determination? Is it just excessive pride or willpower of those that don’t think they are mortal? Of course not. Determination, real determination, is not just a strong desire for something, it is acting in such a fashion that you find a way to get what you strongly want. It’s not sitting around complaining about something because you want it now, now, now. Determination is the willingness to pay whatever price is demanded for what one seeks.

    Another thing I like seeing in my entertainment is honor. Specifically, the ability to keep one’s word, to use one’s word as one’s bond. Both the protagonist of Bleach and Naruto are honorable individuals. When they say they are your friend, they won’t stab you in the back when you are in trouble. They’ll do anything physically possible, and sometimes impossible, to save you. Because they said they would. Because they are your comrades in arms.

    The Desire for Power: Bad Men Lust After It, Good Men Need It.

    Ah, the desire for power. Often it is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In that vein, absolute hate destroys absolutely and absolute love heals absolutely as well. Modern American culture teaches that those that seek power only do so to enrich themselves, to hurt others. The men of the frontier have always known that most men actually seek power because they NEED it to protect that which they love. The hate of those people and individuals that seek to destroy their important people is enough to conquer the corruption of power. The love of such people is strong enough to beat back the self-aggrandizement that comes with acquiring power, to heal the hearts of those wielding such power.

    Both the hero of Naruto and Bleach have special inner powers which are released as they fight opponents that grow more and more powerful as the series continues. This kind of story telling was described by a Westerner, actually, when studying epic stories such as the odyssey or Beowulf. Well, the Asian cultures haven’t given up on heroic narratives. Even though the West, for the most part, have. What is important, however, is that such stories always attach a price to that immense inner power. A price they would have to be willingly to pay if they wish to use it to protect the people that they need to safeguard. This isn’t a Quaker or Hollywood production where the ‘hero’ is the guy who turns loose all these criminals for ‘compassionate’ reasons, only to have the criminals kill, rape, or come back for revenge. This is the real deal here.

    The Lion and the Witch was never as dramatic as it could have been. Some of the plot and characterizations weren’t explicitly rendered utilizing superior screenplay, animation, or plot. I can honestly say that Eastern manga art has exceeded the West on this score, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’ve seen both styles and renditions. The values are very similar, but the packaging and the dramatic output is very different. If Americans liked the Lion and the Witch, they would come to love such masterpieces as Firefly, Babylon 5, or the various Eastern created mangas.

    Most of the difference in quality isn’t because of inherent Eastern superiority. Most, if you had asked me, is due to creative control. The best Western products came from the mind of one person, the Creator. Not some idiot retarded executive trying to make a ‘buck’. Japanese manga, for example, is entirely written and drawn by one person, the Manga Author. He also creates the background, character bios, and everything else on that order. When the manga is turned into an animation by a company, the characters are drawn exactly as the manga depicts and most of the time the storyline stays pretty much the same. Barring some weird exceptions.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    In the West, screenwriters and actors are beholden to the Hollywood elites. They have essentially a monopoly on what material gets funded and what material gets blacklisted. Like all guilds and monopolies, there aren’t a lot of competition, thus a lot of what they make is crap. Just regurgitated vomit that they painted to look like a different color and are now selling it to the new generations of gullible fools.

    Defectors from the Hollywood Left have already illustrated just how cruel, mean, and corrupt those Hollywood elites are. Don’t expect any art highlighting the power of the human spirit anytime soon.

  • 11B40


    Several times, on this web site, I have expressed my opinion that the ending of the military draft was one of the most subversive actions of the last century. When a society implicitly tells its menfolk that they have no individual responsibility to defend that society, if need be, with their very lives, it has started the process of demasculinzation.

    As much as this trend is now well established in Hollywood’s movie product line, I think that it is even more pronounced in television. One of my repeated observations is what I refer to as the Stupid White Guy (SWG) scenario. More prevalent in TV commercials than programs, it often involves either an Ass Kicking (intellectually or physically) Woman (AKW) or an Obviously Superior (morally or physically) Minority (OSM) who, almost invariably, protect the SWG from the intricacies and subtleties of adult life. While the message I receive may be subliminal to others, the absolute number and repetition of these parables leads me to conclude that no producers are concerned about their social impact individually or cumulatively. In an communication industry that seems to always be seeking the “new” the SWG-AKW-OSM scenarios seem peculiarly long-lived.

    The recent digital TV conversion brought some thing else to mind. I used to receive my TV “over-the -air” (as opposed to cable). Before the conversion, I would get channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 11. Afterward, I got channels 7, 11, and 26 on one TV and channels 2, 11, 26 and 60 on the other. The good news was channel 26, an Asian oriented station with 4 different sub-channels. Two of the sub-channels that caught my interest were (South) Korean language but many of the programs had subtitles in English. (Aside: something that I think should be required of all foreign language broadcast stations.)

    Well, for me, the two Korean channels were a breath of fresh TV air. I particularly enjoy the serial historical dramas which contain plenty of sword action and plenty of Dragon Ladies. But, initially, I couldn’t put my finger on what I was finding so enjoyable. What it was, was the recognition of the importance of personal honor in human life. As much as I agree with the importance of fighting and resisting the demasculinization process our society is now experiencing, I think that there is a concurrent process of de-honor-ification.

    If you look at our current “mortgage” and “debt” crises, the one thing that you never hear is that it is dishonorable to borrow someone else’s money and then not pay it back.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    The problem with Japan, of course, is that it’s dying — demographically that is. It’s vitality, and the vitality of other Asian nations, seems to be alive only on TV and in movies.

    As for the TV bit, I almost never watch, so that part of pop culture eludes me entirely. If I do watch, it’s Turner Classic Movies, from a time when men were still men.

  • suek

    In one of our lengthy discussions here, I posted some links that I had run across, and which covered material that was entirely new to me – but shouldn’t have been. Unfortunately, we’ve moved on and the names have slipped from memory, but it has to do with the facism/socialism/ communism theory and the methods of forming governments and teaching children to be good little citizens. The particular point I wanted to mention was that underlying the whole concept was the idea that a society should be a matriarchal one – that men were superfluous somehow.

    100 years ago, that wouldn’t have been possible – much of labor was physically intensive and required more physical strength and endurance than most women were capable of day in and day out. But today – building on the labor of our predecessors, we have eliminated a lot of the physical requirement and women can do much of what needs to be done. The need for men as a source of work is no longer so critical – men _can_ be superfluous. The possibility of eliminating men from the governance of society is a goal that theoretically _could_ be achieved – and much of what you’re expressing, I think, is an effort to eliminate men’s meaningful role in society. Who would trust governance to such men? Men become meaningless play toys in society.

    Do I think this is good? No…I think those who think that women are more nurturing and therefore will care for society better, and won’t go to war and therefore will make better leaders are unrealistic. Women can be murders too – they just usually use poison instead of physical force. The victim ends up just as dead. Does anyone think for a moment that Pelosi would hesitate to send out an army to accomplish her goals if she thought that’s what it would take?

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    I think we have a plague of people who are unable to appreciate & respect talents that they do not themselves possess. (See my post here for an analysis of how this works in a business environment.) The typical denizen of Hollywood has never served in the military or even as a volunteer fireman, or even done something like amateur sports car racing or serious ocean cruising in a sailboat–and, hence, does not value the kind of courage that it takes to do such things.

    To go fairly deep into “hypothesis” territory–I also wonder if the sneering at the heroic view of male behavior is due in part to male sexual fears, operating at a deep subconscious level. History and literature suggest that, especially in time of war, women tend to be attracted to heroic males. Your average Hollywood type isn’t about to go join the Special Forces–so maybe he deals with the potential competitive threat by denigrating the competition.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    If men can be rendered superfluous, it won’t be long before the sick, he elderly, the non-productive, the young and defenseless will e rendered superfluous and expendable.

    Of course, that is the goal of the Left. THeir nihilism demands the extinction of the human species because they hate sentience. They would rather go back to being animals, with no concept of the past or of the future. Living in ‘harmony’ with nature, when nature is nothing but a brutal evolutionary ladder more harsh than the harshest and cruelest corporate sharks, is their dogma.

    The problem with Japan, of course, is that it’s dying — demographically that is. It’s vitality, and the vitality of other Asian nations, seems to be alive only on TV and in movies.

    Nothing lives forever. We are all dying on the road of life. What matters is strength and legacy. The British Empire died, but it gave birth to America, in fire and war, love and hate. The Roman Republic lasted over a thousand years and perpetuated itself first from the capital of Rome to the capital of Constantinople, and then ceased to be for a time. Until resurrected in the form of the fiery phoenix of the American Senate and Republic.

    In the 20th century, technology and politics were the dominant forms of competition. In the 21st, culture will play a more important part than technology, and secular religions will play a more important part than politics.

  • suek

    >>They would rather go back to being animals, with no concept of the past or of the future.>>

    Or any sense of responsibility or morality. No concept of free will…

  • nathan

    I completely agree that the treatment of men as Doofuses by Hollywood, and the subtle psychological abuse of boys in our schools is outrageous. The best antidote is for the very same boys and men to be made aware of what is being done to them, so they can fight back.

    However, there were a few redeeming features about I Love You, Man. Sydney — admittedly with Peter’s money — creates a marketing campaign which turns his friend into a hugely successful real estate agent. Peter stands up for himself and tells his jerk of a colleague to kiss off. Lou Ferrigno exercises self-control despite having enough muscles to crush any opponent, and he becomes a friend of the groom at the end of the movie.

    Like any film comedy, this one has the tasteless humor one expects these days. You could see the confusion about meeting gay men coming from a mile away. That tasteless humor isn’t going to change.

    But there were a few signs of decent behavior by these men.