MEN ARE BACK! (PART MCMLXVIII)
It would probably be best for me just to ignore the trend pieces that run in the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times, but I did read this one from yesterday:
Tough Guys for Tough Times
YOU don’t need to follow Mike Huckabee, or even politics, to appreciate that Chuck Norris is everywhere these days.
On television spots for the former Arkansas governor, Mr. Norris, the star of such shoot-'em-up fare as "Missing in Action" and "Walker, Texas Ranger," is there. ("My plan to secure the border?" Mr. Huckabee says in deadpan. "Two words: Chuck Norris.") On T-shirts, "Saturday Night Live" skits, Mountain Dew ads, and Web sites like the satirical thetruthaboutchuck.com, Mr. Norris -- or at least his image -- is there.
Now, suddenly, he is not alone, as several other action stars who peaked in prominence in the ’80s are rejoining him on the pop culture landscape.
Sylvester Stallone, at 61, is starring in the first Rambo film since 1988, called simply "Rambo," which opens on Jan. 25. Hulk Hogan, 54, ... re-emerged this month as the face of NBC's unlikely new hit, "American Gladiators." Mr. T, the mohawk-sporting muscleman who squared off against Mr. Stallone in "Rocky III" back in 1982, ... is back as a television pitchman for the popular World of Warcraft video game.
... at a time when the country is faced with a new tangle of problems, the return of the '80s action hero suggests that some Americans, particularly men, are looking to revel in the vestigial pleasures of older times and seemingly simpler ways. (Witness the popularity of the best-selling "Dangerous Book for Boys," a celebration of the traditional rugged joys of boyhood.) ...
Is it just me, or are we always going through some sort of big comeback of manliness?
A few years ago, remember, it was firefighters and other first responders, in the wake of 9/11. ("...men are back. A certain style of manliness is once again being honored and celebrated in our country since Sept. 11. You might say it suddenly emerged from the rubble of the past quarter century, and emerged when a certain kind of man came forth to get our great country out of the fix it was in." -- Peggy Noonan, October 12, 2001.) A few years before that, at least in pop culture, it was Cristal-and-hot-tub rappers, who, we were told, were more more rock and roll than the then-current strain of rockers -- certainly more so than the grungesters, who moped around and whose videos had a disturbing dearth of purely decorative female arm candy. We can keep turning the clock back through the Andrew Dice Clay/Sam Kinison era (comics who expressed open contempt for women were saving us from "political correctness"), and soon we're back at the Reagan/Rambo/pro wrestling era of the '80s (the source of the stars cited in the Times article), and before that it was ... oh, I don't know, urban cowboys or something like that.
We always seem to be fighting off the horrible pestilence of so-called sensitive guys, along with the women in their lives, who actually speak once in a while, and who are actually sometimes listened to.
This is all about the petulance of American men who want to be, and remain, hero-worshiping 11-year-old boys who DON'T LIKE GIRLY THINGS, EVER. More from the Times story:
...Mark Koops, an executive producer of "American Gladiators," attributes its success in part to Mr. Hogan's enduring status as a symbol of both high-testosterone swagger and integrity in the eyes of fans -- certifiable dudes, undoubtedly -- of all ages.
...Without a doubt, nostalgia on the part of Generation X is a strong factor in the continuing appeal of these actors. The same guys who grew up watching "First Blood" and "The Delta Force" on VHS are now old enough to hold positions of creative power at advertising firms and film studios, Mr. Palen said. "I'm in my 40s," he explained, "and growing up a young guy in Kansas, Rambo was huge."
... Mr. Koops, speaking on Tuesday, New Hampshire primary day, said the appetite for these action figures represents more than a joke. Rather, it speaks to a sincere desire among some men -- likely not Hillary Clinton supporters -- to return to what he called "a comfort zone" symbolized by heroic characters of yore.
My fear is that these guys are likely not Obama or Edwards supporters, either -- or they won't be when the GOP gets through with them. In the Democratic Party, you have three marriages in which the couples talk and strategize together. All three men take their wives seriously, and if the one whose wife is actually running is distasteful to boy-men now, it probably won't be very hard to make the other two distasteful as well. (Maureen Dowd has already told us that Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Edwards "talk too much.")
And the Republican candidate will be either guy's guy John McCain or maybe Mike Huckabee, who is the perpetual 11-year-old hero-worshiping a testosterone cartoon on two legs.