Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Know What Boys Like ...

I'm NOT a doll I'm an action figure  ...
Lately, I seem to be inundated with news stories or interviews of adults who are preoccupied with child-like obsessions: the Muppets, Kermit the Frog, TRON, young men infatuated with My Little Pony, young adult women building forts in their homes. I have not fully understood why this incenses me so … but I am rapidly developing a theory.

CBC Radio I’m looking right at you. All of these stories were featured on CBC Radio which I largely enjoy most days. It drives … me … wild. Q had extensive audio interviews with/on Kermit the Frog, the Muppets, TRON and Bronies (young men who like My Little Pony). A few months ago, on, I believe, CBC Radio's Definitely Not The Opera (DNTO) had a piece about a young woman building a fort in her home and her reluctance to take it down. 

What is at the root of this intense, emotionally stunted nostalgia for childish affectations? Are we too prosperous in the West? Do we have too much leisure time? Are we self-indulgent babies who are running away from the real issues of society? All of the above?

Don’t get me wrong. Any casual observation of my blog will reveal my strange and obscure interests. I like my Vanity Fair, my juvenile pop music, my nerdy literary obsessions, my gossipy websites, my bad TV shows but ... come ... on. I don't hold these things up as worthy of emulation or admiration. They are, I hope, guilty pleasures that take a back seat to more important concerns and interests.

Has the role of men (yes, now I am looking at you gentlemen) become so degraded in our modern society that this is how they must occupy themselves? I'm not an Iron John sort of advocate. I do not want to return to the bad old days. I don't miss excessive displays of machismo or male brutality, having grown up in a home with a strong, very dominant father and many such males in my early life. But there is something to bemoan in the denigration of the role of men in society.

Once they represented physical strength, valour and bravery - they were laborers, fire fighters, builders, soldiers, protectors of hearth and home. They held positions of power and authority (and sometimes withheld it from other groups true). They waged war; they defended family and flag; they earned for their families. There was a dignity in this for them - this has largely disappeared in the lives of many men. Their role has dissolved before their (and our) eyes with a changing world and a disintegrating economy that has displaced a great number of men as the primary bread winners. Great! you may say. I'm not so sure.

With the dissolution of male supremacy in many spheres (truly a great thing) and the implosion of capitalism in the West (debatable by some whether that is good or bad), the increase in leisure time and a lengthy life expectancy, the role of the male in society has deteriorated even further. No wonder the media is full of stories about obsessions with technology, video games, the Internet, porn, animation, Star Trek, etc ... I think it represents a complete inability to grow up and deal with adult issues. No wonder you have 30 year-olds still living with mom - why move out and sustain yourself when you can watch Breaking Bad on HBO (paid for my your parents) and play Call of Duty in your spare time? You'd be fool to venture out into the real world ...

This arrested Fanboy mentality is contaminating pretty much everything in popular culture and media. 

I am not advocating a return to inequitable relations between men and women - or that men resume the macho postures of yore - brutal behavior,  insensitivity to women, disregard for the needs of others but wouldn't it behoove a grown male to have a hobby other than collecting "My Little Pony" figurines or attending Star Trek conventions in costume? And no, Jian Ghomeshi, as you mentioned in your broadcast on December 7th, it's not "sweet" that some young men collect "My Little Pony" figures ... it's disturbing and infantilizing.

We are apparently so bored and our capacity to do good is so underutilized that we revert to these childlike states and obsessions. What about issues of social justice? The state of your community? Your neighborhood? Our place in the world as citizens of the world? The welfare of your own family members who might be isolated, impoverished or lonely?

But we women are no better - tracking the Kardashians on Twitter, collecting AmericanGirl dolls, dressing like Paris Hilton, getting plastic surgery done to resemble movie stars or Barbie dolls. One seemingly innocuous example: why would the CBC Radio invest time in a story about a young woman who built a fort in her living room and then didn't want to take it down. I can't recall now (I wish I could find it) if this was a personal essay or a piece of fiction. Building a fort ... getting into an argument with your boyfriend because you don't want to take the fort down ... feeling safe in the fort ... feeling secure in the fort ... feeling like a child again.

Maybe I'm alone in this but I don't remember feeling being a kid was a particularly satisfying place to be. I couldn't wait to grow up and do adult things. I wasn't mature by any means; I was frustrated by my lack of freedom and ability to experience new, adult things! I wanted more experiences and wider-ranging emotions. Am I the only one on the planet who didn't see it as an idyllic state? And why would I want to revert back to it now? Why would you?

10 comments:

5Rings said...

I'll be flippant, but not completely: you don't let us to hit things, and don't want us to defend things. we no longer have significant rites of passage to mark the end of childhood and adolescence so so we don't grow up to fulfill a natural role. The result: we don't grow up.

Women have several natural/biological events to mark the end of childhood and adolescence which men for the most part lack. Which is why it is worse in men than in women

Michelle said...

But you are right! You are absolutely right ... we have come to fear those attributes in men (especially here in the West). We fear men - all the traditonal rituals have vanished, hence this sense of "lostness". Women are as much to blame as men in this. We, both sexes, are stipping men of a role that they have held for many millenium and this is the consequence. It's not pretty for men. It's confusing and alienating. I shd likely post this comment as an addendum to my blog post.

Terri said...

This is complicated (she says as the mother of two young adult sons). Men are partly lost, too, because so many are out of work...manufacturers are closing down and male dominated trades are disappearing (ie millwrights, tool and die). Alternately they are joining the military in record numbers in Canada. But the desire to be "strong" is still there and I see some good things...especially young guys I've worked with lately who are great with their kids and don't talk about "babysitting" their own children. It's not all bad but I agree that sometimes young men are lost...it is partly the changing economy too. Can't make a living by digging a ditch anymore. But my sons give me hope. Great post! And P.S. some gals love Star Trek too (i.e., me).

Michelle said...

Yes, you are right Terri ... the trades are diappearing for young and old men, the military begins to look attractive (one of the few ways you can prove your "manliness"). And many young men are infinitely better than their fathers in terms of sensitivity and awareness and as male role models.
P.S. Not really dissing Star Trek, but the obesessiveness that attends it - you should see the weird material things I collect/desire. :)

Alberto Maggi CCIC said...

Please be careful with that broad brush. Men are no more lost than they have ever been. I know it may be difficult to believe, but what you see and hear on the CBC does not represent reality.

This is like the people who say the world is going to hell because they watch the news and see nothing but stories about murder, corruption and conflict. It's the news. They aren't going to report on the guy who went to work, was polite to his co-workers, did his level best, then went home to his loving family and made lasagna. No, they report about the oddities.

Here's the real news: The world is not going to hell. Men are better than they have ever been. On the average, we are still strong, but we are learning that our strength does not entitle us to anything.

It's true that most men have a genetic and cultural hunter/warrior trapped inside them, but most of us let that part of ourselves express itself through sports, sex and blogging. We know it is part of us, but we also know it can't win.

Now what reason are you gonna give for not posting this, I wonder?

Michelle said...

I don't know Al but I still might come up with something ...

Cheryl said...

If it makes you feel any better, I cannot stand the Kardashians . . .

Michelle said...

The Bronies think I am smug and a pseudo-intellectual. At least they didn't accuse me of hating ponies!
http://tinyurl.com/83pwoyj

Michelle said...

Al, you are misreading what I've said. If you read my comments above you will note: "And many young men are infinitely better than their fathers in terms of sensitivity and awareness and as male role models." No one said that men are not strong today or that the world is going to hell. They (men) appear to be alienated and confused about their role which is not the same as weak. Women are confused as well - we appreciate strength and bravery but don't want brutality or oppressive behavior. How are these men (the Bronies) gaining valuable life skills about adulthood if they are busy collecting little plastic ponies?

Alberto Maggi CCIC said...

Maybe my comment should be directed more at those others who are commenting then. Somebody is making the argument that men are lost because we don't have rites of passage. Poppycock! The rites don't make you a man. If anything, cultures would put young men through the rites so that they would be artificially emboldened so they could go off to war. Becoming a man has always happened gradually, and there have always been a percentage of boys (and girls) who never quite made it to adulthood. Just as a side note, there are worse fetishes than my little pony. Let the bronies be. We've all got a fetish or two.