It's Getting Worse?

Posted 2/23/2011 by WHayes in Labels: , , , , , , , , ,
I don't know if you heard, but men are fucking up again:
Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children. Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. This "pre-adulthood" has much to recommend it, especially for the college-educated. But it's time to state what has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women: It doesn't bring out the best in men.
That opens a Wall Street Journal lamentation by author Kay Hymowitz, and though I want to scream a) people should give this subject a rest, and b) how she's full of shit, she has a point. While I'm torn between raging in agreement with and balking against at the idea that guys are increasingly trapped in this slightly loser-ish bubble, I can't pretend I don't dip a toe in it. Sure, I'll read Jean Toomer and some Zora Neale, but the Star Wars DVDs aren't too far away. I volunteer with homeless children, but recently got the worst (and most humiliating) reprimand of my life for acting like a jackass. It's life, and people make mistakes that sometimes include collapsing beneath a juvenile impulse. The conflict comes when we don't grow from (and out of) our foolish decisions.

The causes behind questionable behavior are myriad, but what if there was a generational culprit? Hymowitz' emphasis on how naturally unrooted our peers are seems strikingly plausible: we "write [our] own biographies," travel abroad, and study longer and harder than before in pursuit of the questionable stability higher educated provides. Anecdotes and warnings on the importance of "getting out there while you still can" saturated our pivotal years to a point where settling down became shorthand for a type of failure. On one hand, this allows us to see and experience a world much larger than our parents, the trouble becomes finding where you actually fit within this greatly expanded landscape. Arrested development is just a side effect, and our cultural taste in entertainment -- the Xboxes, the useless apps, Transformers 3 -- just further signifies our commitment to staying forever young.

GQ occasionally gets called to task for being one of the "lad mags" that fuel our gendered problem, but the February 2011 issue features a great essay by Mark Harris highlighting the problem with our entertainment, Hollywood specifically: story comes second to marketing, and the products that sell are those that appeal to the largest group of spenders: teenagers. "Good movies aimed at adults tend to make their money more slowly than kid stuff," so kid stuff dominates. After that, of the "four quadrants" -- male and female, young and old -- of movie marketing, young and male by far makes the most money. Quoting Harris, "That's why, when you look at the genres that currently dominate Hollywood—action, raunchy comedy, game/toy/ride/comic-book adaptations, horror, and, to add an extra jolt of Red Bull to all of the preceding categories, 3-D—they're all aimed at the same ADD-addled, short-term-memory-lacking, easily excitable testosterone junkie. In a world dominated by marketing, it was inevitable that the single quadrant that would come to matter most is the quadrant that's most willing to buy product even if it's mediocre."

So now, we have a feedback loop that convinces me these trends are feeding off of each other: we stay young and lost, and steadily eat up entertainment that keeps us lost and young. There's a pretty direct route from Animal House to Ferris Bueller, to American Pie, to (sigh) "The Situation," and that picture will only get more absurd as the entertainment industry becomes more insulated and afraid.

To that end, I wonder if we'll ever change? Real-world obligations to becoming better/actual men aside, it's not like we're running out of teenagers, Children of Men style (although our societal craving for infinite youth would only get worse in that situation), so our entertainment will largely be designed to cater to them. Even the amazing, largely original, and video game-esque Inception could have been more "adult," if you will. Our only refuge, then, is TV, specifically, cable*: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Rubicon (R.I.P.), Terriers (R.I.P.), Justified, mature dramas with the kind of intrigue we would ideally want from movies, the majority of which featuring male leads fully aware of their responsibilities to the world, and the consequences of their actions (even if they're running away from them).

But then what? Those shows are, well, TV shows, and how we occupy free time can't be the only key to bettering our behavior. It'd be insulting to suggest otherwise. Here's the question, then: if it seems our elders are caught in a cycle of utter insanity, our middle-agers are fueling some greed-induced reversion to infinite childhood, and our young men are, well, forever young, who exactly do we look toward to become better? Seems the women are ready to leave us behind.

*I won't completely discount network TV. I've recently become a massive fan of The Chicago Code, and not just because Jennifer Beals makes my heart go thump.

1 comment(s) to... “It's Getting Worse?”


Pink Panties said...

I am so glad my friends and I aren't the only ones who noticed that the number of respectable men around here is declining to nonexistent.

For those who want to marry, we are constantly told that our standards are too high when in reality they are only unattainable due to the inescapable ignorance of the "men" surrounding us on a constant basis, in turn we lower our standards to almost non-existent just for husbands to turn out being sub par fathers, ultimately committing to infidelity and not their marriages.

It just pisses me off because men were created to be leaders and most of them in my generation are not living up to their true potential, living for essentially meaningless purposes and/or becoming feminized ending in them not stepping up to the plate as leaders at all.

I can't fully explain the disgust when I see a some shallow GQ wannabe with pretty much no faith, values or meaning to life except spending money, getting girls and being completely full of themselves and the utter shock I experience when I meet a man who is actually mature, respectable and isn't being nice to me just for some sort of personal gain.

Most men like to argue this and say that I'm just being cynical, but I pose this question: Think about your grandfather (assuming that he was a respectable man), now think about all of your friends and EVERYTHING about them, every action, belief, quality characteristic etc. of who they truly are. NOW, How many of these friends would your grandfather approve of?

Usually they can only name one...MAYBE two.

The female equivalent to this would be women who only want to be the next Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton or whoever, the only difference with this is that women who go after these types of shallow aspirations are looked down upon by society as a whole, but men who behave like complete douchebags are either praised or defended by society because its supposed to be cool, OR they're hailed because they have some slight sense of prioritizing. Role reversal in the home occurred a long ass time ago and women have been basically supporting their families with almost no acknowledgment. But men get a high five for finally learning how to take care of their children?

Give me a fucking break.

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