Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Movies and Masculinity

I was talking to my friend the other day who said that high school movies and romantic comedies from the 80's and 90's influenced the way Gen X men think about dating.

Say Anything, Better Off Dead, Can't Hardly Wait and the Wedding Singer all follow the story of sweet, sensitive men down on their luck and striving after a really pretty girl. The women are usually dating some sort of jockish, jerky dude, and then at the end of the movie, they fall for the sensitive one.

So men have been programmed to think that if they just act as the sympathetic friend with the listening ear, they'll win the girl.

But that's not how women work, my friend pointed out. These movies delude because women are more often going for men with spines. Sad but true.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the Westerns and other movies from the 40's and 50's. These usually feature some dude who's so dominant that he's kind of a jerk. But the women go for him anyway.

These movies present masculinity in a way that seems almost exotic today, because it's not featured in the media.

Last night, I saw the Magnificent Seven. When the young gun first meets the Mexican girl, he picks her up, throws her over his shoulder, and demands to know where the other girls are. These old movies feature a kind of brutality that you don't really see today. It might not even be permitted in the movies today.

Duel at Sunset, another Western, features the same type of character. Gary Cooper won't marry the girl, won't take her seriously, but she loves him anyway, then at the end of the movie, they shoot each other to death.

Old Westerns are fascinating to watch if you want to get into the psyche of the female mind.


SER said...

I never thought of old Westerns as providing insight into the female psyche- or movies in general for that matter. On the other hand,in movies I really like there is always at least one character who I would really like to get to know better- maybe I would not like them if I got to know them better- but it's fun to fantasize.
P.S. Strong and sensitive is far better than strong and insensitive in my book. I'll take sensitive over insensitive any day.

alagrave@mac.com said...

So you're friend is saying I was obstinately shy and socially awkward because I was attempting to emulate movies, and had I just wore a poncho and strapped a six shooter all my issues would have been parsed over my adolescent brain?

Carol Maskus said...

Yes, get a poncho!