Over the past two days I have watched two films, both of which deal with modern perceptions of masculinity. The films are The Descendants and Drive. I can tell you now, that Drive is by far the superior film in terms of acting, framing, colouring, productions, direction and soundtrack, all of which are exemplary. It is debatable as to whether the violence is in anyway glamourised or if, in fact, while being executed slickly, it's still sick as fuck.
The Descendants overtly deals with how, in middle-age, men can still work out how to call themselves men. Here, George Clooney opts for staring into the middle distance, swearing at his comatosed wife and stalking the man whom which she was having an affair. Conversely, Drive is on paper a standard 'mans' movie, full of shooting, yes - driving - low-lifes in LA and a sad, beautiful waitress in the svelte blonde form of Carey Mulligan. It is, however, played out with such insight and silent understanding that it has left me with a deepness of feelings that reminds me of the strange languor of emotion that I felt for about a week after watching Lost Highway for the second time.
I'm also reading The Corrections, which also deals with Masculinity in a world in which conceptions of masculinity are uncertain and lead, in an non-deliberate, confusing way, to mass-emasculation. So it's very much in my mind at the moment. Also, I'm writing something with this in mind. Also, I'm a man.
So how do we define ourselves as Men now, in the post-feminist, post-patriarchal, post-standardised-gender-roles world Gen Y? If you follow Hollywood's model then you have to shoot shit up and be one buff mother fucker. If you follow the standard British model then you have to walk with a swagger, say 'mate' constantly and appear ready for a fight at any given time. Basically, being A Man means making yourself as animal as possible. Of course, you also now have to 'be in touch with your emotions'. Which basically translates as verbalising how unmanly you feel and consistently giving in.
Generally, I think it's good that 'traditional' gender roles have been abandonned in favour of a more unisex existence. Unfortunately the repercussions of this is that everyone has to actively try harder to define themselves in the eyes of others while maintaining their personal integrity as what they perceive to be acceptable. In the same way it seems hard for a girl to be both intelligent and attractive, it too is true that it is difficult for a man to be both sophisticated and manly. Sophistication and its aesthetic trappings are in someways the enemy of manliness. Men in suits who read Ulysses don't punch sleazes in pubs who crack onto their birds and they pretty much never cut logs, build walls, drive getaway cars and set fire to terrorists in corporate buildings.
Is manliness always a facade? Is it always bravado? Is anyone inherently more masculine than anyone else in terms of biology, or is it an entirely culturally induced concept? Are we aware of it and do we continue to both worry about being on it's scale and also rejecting it as old fashioned?
And where the hell do I get a silk bomber jacket with a scorpian on the back??!