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question of the day: Does the Hollywood stereotype of the alpha-dog action hero hurt men?

Following on from this QOTD last week, and as suggested by reader Accounting Ninja:

Does the Hollywood stereotype of the alpha-dog action hero hurt men? Does it promote male-on-male violence? Does it do a disservice to real men by promoting unrealistic expectations of male behavior and attitudes?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)


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  • pjowens75

    Well, yes to all your questions. But when you consider the Hollywood stereotype is based on Historical stereotype, what can we expect? I mean, “men” have been sensitive for, what, 30 or 40 years? But we’ve been violently macho for thousands. Tough habit to break…

  • LaSargenta

    Ditto what pjowens75 said.

    We’re REALLY helpful here, aren’t we?

  • http://www.dubhsidhestudios.com bronxbee

    ” I mean, “men” have been sensitive for, what, 30 or 40 years? But we’ve been violently macho for thousands. Tough habit to break…”

    really!? that’s it? men — all men — had no sensitive nature or gentle side until 40 years ago? jeez, my dad would be surprised to find out about that… i guess all the times he took care of us when we were sick, played with us when we were children and talked with us when we needed guidance — all of that was out of his violently macho nature?

    so, i guess guys like Thomas Mann and St. Francis of Asissi and all of those ancient greeks and roman who wrote plays and poetry, and sculpted and painted, and made beautiful buildings… all of that was because they were violent and macho?

    really?

  • LaSargenta

    bronxbee, I think that refers to the stereotype “men”, not actual living, breathing, real men.

  • Gee

    ” I mean, “men” have been sensitive for, what, 30 or 40 years? But we’ve been violently macho for thousands. Tough habit to break…”

    Hhmm. What about, say, the Italian Renaissance or, in England, the Elizabethan era, when men were expected to be able to create and appreciate poetry, music and other aspects of the arts for example.

  • Pollas

    Hollywood isn’t needed to promote male-on-male violence. It’s been promoted throughout history, depending upon the period. Then there are sports like boxing, football (American), etc. Not to mention the promotion it receives in certain households around the world. So, I guess my answer would be yes, but no more than many other entity in existence.

    And I don’t get my personal expectations for the attitudes/behaviors of any man of mine from action movies.

  • Accounting Ninja

    I have the same answer as I did to the “violence against women” post: Hollywood depictions of gender roles are merely a symptom of the general cultural attitude about what constitues a “real” man or woman. Not in 100% of movies, mind you. It’s more of a general feel. The roles as they are presented can hurt men and women who don’t “measure up”, but the problem is the culture itself.
    Quick breezy example: Back in “the day”, John Wayne and other “tough guy” characters were in vogue. That was thought to be representation of true masculinity. But nowadays, I’m seeing a lot of offbeat, geeky man types in leading roles. Could be because, right now, the nostalgia generation who were kids in the 70s and 80s are in their primes, and they are more likely to identify with geeky Peter Pan type of men. You’d never see that 30 or 40 years ago.
    Of course, the ubiquitous super-cool action hero is still around.

    MAJ, thanks for using my question. :)

  • LaSargenta

    By Dee: Hhmm. What about, say, the Italian Renaissance or, in England, the Elizabethan era, when men were expected to be able to create and appreciate poetry, music and other aspects of the arts for example.

    Comparisons like this are not appropriate as MaryAnn’s QOTD is about current pop culture stereotypes. If you are going for a proper comparison, better offer something OTHER than standards that were exclusively for the upper classes.

    The best I can come up with is that there was before modern media a serious time lag in social change, I’d think that the real typical person in the Italian Renaissance was actually thinking like someone in the Mediaeval period, so an appropriate stereotype could be one of those found in the provencal canziones — lots about King Arthur, Charlemagne, and wars, etc.

    Then, when it comes to Elizabethan England, my own reading from that tells me that it is a whole lot more than Shakespeare’s top 10. Once again, look to ballads and other oral forms of art.

  • LaSargenta

    @Accounting Ninja: So. This is all YOUR fault then, in’it?

  • bracyman

    Not any more than stereotypes in general are bad. Actually, in response to the post by Jester that eventually led to the post by awesomely named Accounting Ninja, it’s pretty short sighted to say that before “modern violent media”, schools were safe but for the occasional bullying. Ever heard the term zip gun? It’s slang for a homemade gun. The slang was created by high school students in the 40s, when the problem of students bringing homemade guns to school to settle arguments over Ford vs Chevy were becoming an increasing problem. People, and yes, almost every gun drawn to defend your preferred make of car was drawn by a guy, people haven’t needed television to resort to violent behavior.

    Hmm, that got a little off topic. Does the stereotype if a violent alpha-male negatively affect men in general? Frankly, it’s hard to tell. Was there a time when violence wasn’t a significant part of our entertainment?

  • Gee

    “Comparisons like this are not appropriate as MaryAnn’s QOTD is about current pop culture stereotypes. If you are going for a proper comparison, better offer something OTHER than standards that were exclusively for the upper classes.”

    This was in response to the assertion I quoted that men have been sensitive for 30 or 40 years and before that were “violently macho for thousands”.

    Turning to culture for the amsses, Shakespeare et al did play to the masses, and there are sufficient allusions to the classics to point to some familairty by the masses, although perhapsthe groundlings weren’t expected to pick up on that.

    Ordinary kids could go to charity schools were they covered the classics, Latin, Greek, so I do think that it wasn’t just for the upper classes. Plus as you said there were the oral tarditions such as the Mystery plays, Morris Men and such like.

  • Gee

    Eek! My apologies for the appalling spelling, typos etc. in my last post. It’s getting later in the day here and it’s been busy!

  • JoshB

    Speaking for myself, no.

    Culture discourages me from indulging my natural instinct to hit people.

    Hollywood provides a nondestructive outlet for that instinct (videogames are actually MUCH better in this regard).

  • bitchen frizzy

    Also, sports provides a (relatively) nondestructive outlet. It also provides a way for cities and countries to “fight” each other.

    I’d say that Hollywood influences adolescent males more than adults (and recognize that adolescence can extend well past the teen years for some).

  • bracyman

    Should we get all meta here? A stereo type is a subset of traits or behaviors of a group that is made the defining characteristic of the entire group. Aside from the “shoot first, shoot second, shoot some more and then take a pull of Johnny Walker(tm)” attitude, the average action hero is characterized by self sacrifice, cleverness, persistence, decisiveness, independence and loyalty. Not really negative character aspects. I know all stereotypes are bad (thanks Southpark), but those are all the characteristics I want my kids to have, daughter included. Is that a bad thing?

    Hmm. Maybe less swearing.

  • LaSargenta

    [Truth in advertising: Before I totally changed my intellectual focus and went into the applied sciences, I studied Mediaeval History and am illiterate in 3 dead leanguages. I do not claim to be an expert, but these are topics that are near and dear to my heart and that interest me still. I will get myself emmeshed.]

    Pop culture equivalents, that’s what I’m looking for here.

    By Dee: Turning to culture for the masses, Shakespeare et al did play to the masses, and there are sufficient allusions to the classics to point to some familiarity by the masses, although perhapsthe groundlings weren’t expected to pick up on that.

    Ordinary kids could go to charity schools were they covered the classics, Latin, Greek, so I do think that it wasn’t just for the upper classes. Plus as you said there were the oral tarditions such as the Mystery plays, Morris Men and such like.

    My points on this:

    (1) You brought up Elizabethan England before. That wasn’t Elizabethan London.

    (2) Yes, Shakespeare had cheap tickets. He also had lots of examples of men who weren’t Romeo or Hamlet. [Hamlet at the end, anyhow, felt it necessary to have a duel. So, really, how "sensitive" was he? Pretty damn sensitive. But, the presence of sensitivity and intelligence or even learning doesn't mean an absence of action-man stereotyping. People are complicated. They were then and they are now. /end tangent]

    (3) “Ordinary children”. How ordinary? And how regular was that education? And how in depth did that classical education go? And if you were to compare the numbers in the schools (be it charity schools or ones attached to monasteries) to the number of boys (’cause it was ONLY boys) in the general population I think it would be pretty obvious that it is NOT the same as a pop culture influence.

    (4) Mystery Plays weren’t oral traditions. They were written down and memorized. Maybe most of the actors were illiterate and had to learn the part from someone else, but that doesn’t seem to fit into “oral tradition” in my book. (no pun intended)

    (5) Nor were Morris Dances oral traditions, but maybe I’m misunderstanding the sentence. In any case, those dances are (a) not everyday — only at Whitsunday, as I recall, in most places; but, in any case, that was a special occasion thing; and (b) those came from a very macho tradition. The staffs the Morris Dancers use were probably first swords. When I lived in Spain, I saw some of what has trickled down to today that probably came from the same root. They were called Moorish Dances — explaining the *cough* blackface used in some of the more “traditional” dancing groups.

    Descartes was a mercenary soldier for years until he settled down in retirement and invented a new system of mathematics.

    The Platonic idea encompassed the hero and the “action man” as well as other, more “sensitive” learning.

    Sir Walter Raleigh (to use an upper class example) was a poet AND a soldier. To just be a poet wasn’t necessarily enough. I’m not going to bore everyone here with an endless list of people like this.

    Far closer examples of the pop culture of the time would be ballads and maybe a case could be made for Canterbury Tales. Everyone gets skewered in that, though, so there are no heroes. And there were public sports: Archery, boxing, horse races, etc. The strong man gets called a hero.

    Does that mean all men took that model? No, I’m sure it doesn’t. I’m sure that most people looked around themselves to what they knew. A child raised in a charity school at a monestary would be likely to become a monk. A child raised in a home with farmers would be likely to be a farmer. Most didn’t run off and become the cabin boy on the Golden Vanity.

  • LaSargenta

    Whoops! HTML fail. That paragraph following the blockquote should also be inthe bolck!

  • Gee

    LaSargenta – all excellent points. I guess with the Morris dancing, the stick bashing is macho, (even if today the hankies dances are viewed at the other extreme!) and I agree with your other points. The Elizabethans were pretty ruthless soldiers and adventurers.

    I suppose what I was trying to get over, in response to the first two comments, is that just because it was “long ago” it doesn’t mean that men were ‘merely’ “violently macho” but there were other additional ideals to live up to in other times. We don’t have a monopoly on ‘sensitivity’.

  • LaSargenta

    @ Dee: I was the second post, hear-hearing pjowens75 first post. That post was about a stereotype. Not “real” men. Real people are complicated. We were talking about the Hollywood Action Man ™ masculinity stereotype — because that is what the QOTD was about — and the historical masculinity stereotype. There is no way that anyone can claim that a monk lives up to the mediaeval masculinity stereotype, for example. So, although those were indeed men, they had NOTHING to do with a long-ago version of the current pop culture masculinity stereotype.

    Hence, I stand by that second post. I stand by it like Xena with a broadsword. So there. ;-)

  • Ryan

    I think you mean you are ‘literate’ in three dead languages, LaSargenta ;) (and Kudos, I have only Latin to my name)

  • LaSargenta

    @Ryan: No, I mean illiterate. As a wise man once said: :A little learning is a dangerous thing.”

    ;-)

  • Gee

    LaSargenta – ah, okay. (Not going to argue with a broadsword anyway!)

  • http://www.udargo.com Max Udargo

    Accounting Ninja, I think it’s too simplistic to assert that cultural influences only move in one direction. Yes, movies generally reflect the culture, but then they become part of the culture and can themselves influence. Often it seems that movies, television and pop music intensify and amplify the worst aspects of our culture as they attempt to find the lowest common denominator and thus the broadest audience.

    I do think action movies influenced me as a young man because they confronted me with the question of how tough I was, and whether I would stand up or cave in to physical intimidation. In a way, those movies taunted me. It’s hard to explain, but experiencing the drama of physical confrontation in a movie theater leaves an imprint on your personality not too different from actual confrontation. You want to identify with the hero, which means you have to convince yourself you’re like him – that you would be as tough and uncompromising if you were in his situation. If you don’t feel you would be, you feel inadequate and unsafe.

    And that’s the thing: you end up being shaped in small ways by violence, confrontations, challenges, crimes, and battles that never actually take place in your life, but only in the movies you watch. You end up with a distorted sense of what is being demanded of your masculinity. Somewhere inside your guts, you’re ready to withstand torture and humiliation from cackling sadists, to bide your time until the right moment to strike out with an improvised weapon and stab your tormentor in the throat and unleash a storm of bloody vengeance. When, in reality, the most intense confrontation you’re facing is that the guy in the next cubicle keeps borrowing your stapler and not returning it.

    Some will insist these violent visceral impulses are an unavoidable, biological, inherent part of being male. But I don’t think so. I think men normally adjust to the level of violence in their environment in such a way that they feel most secure and least stressed. If we live in a violent environment, we have to learn to deal in violence to purchase relatively security. But if we can find a peaceful place away from enemies, we are happy to relax and hang loose.

    But sometimes the violent environment is in our head. Think Dwight Shrute. Or think of some wild-eyed, frothing teabagger screaming about how reforming health-care will lead to communism. Some people create the scary environment they suffer from, and it’s all in their head.

    And action movies, especially the revenge fantasies, are designed to do just that: create a scary, violent, dangerous environment for a little while. And if the movie is effective, we live a small part of our life in that manufactured environment, and it leaves an imprint.

    I’m getting long in the tooth now, and my whole life I’ve had very few actual physical confrontations, and even fewer that really mattered or were any real test of my resolve or manliness. The tests of my masculinity have been more mundane and intimate, usually making demands on my patience, reasonableness, or ability to be strong for others by setting aside my selfish concerns. Any movie I’ve seen that offered a role model in those areas was more useful as a guide to manliness than the hundreds of action movies I’ve watched.

    I watch sitcoms from the 1950s and wonder at the gentle, reasonable, affable concept of masculinity they embrace. Dad is firm and authoritative, but always reasonable, fair, and kind. He always wants to hear your side of the story and try to understand. If he deals out punishment, it’s always pronounced with a tone of regret and disappointment, and it’s always proportional.

    But Dad’s environment was devoid of violence or really any kind of aggression beyond what would be called rudeness. He didn’t have any deaths to avenge or sadistic hitmen to fend off. His environment was idyllic and, we would say now, silly and unrealistic. And yet, my very imperfect life is much more like his life than it is like John Rambo’s life.

    But John Rambo was there in my formative years, and I didn’t meet the Dads from the 50s until later when cable television decided they could be milked for ironic entertainment. I wonder if I would have been a different kind of man – perhaps a calmer, more relaxed, and less stressed man – if my models of masculinity had been different.

  • Paul

    I hear you, Max, about the relative lack of violence in my life. I’ve studied five martial arts for twenty years, and you know what? I’ve never had to throw a punch or kick at a person. Two doors have felt my wrath, and a couple of dispensers, but high school bullies were dissuaded when I blocked so fast they changed their primitive little minds. Ever since graduating from high school, the tests of manhood have been different.

    In college it seemed to be about how much beer you can drink without getting too drunk to seduce a woman, and women seemed like the judges with sex as the medals. Then after that comes the how much money can you make contest.

    But I don’t think any of us should forget that while the standard of manliness has almost always included violence, even if only as a last resort, the majority of men in written history have been farmers, serfs, and slaves, and even in war more redshirts can Captians, more victims than victors.

  • JoshB

    But John Rambo was there in my formative years, and I didn’t meet the Dads from the 50s until later when cable television decided they could be milked for ironic entertainment. I wonder if I would have been a different kind of man – perhaps a calmer, more relaxed, and less stressed man – if my models of masculinity had been different.

    The boys who grew up with Ward Cleaver went to Vietnam and made the Rambo movies that you grew up with. No, you would not be any of those things.

  • amanohyo

    The boys who grew up with Ward Cleaver also grew up with John Wayne, Gunsmoke, and The Lone Ranger, not to mention film noir/gangster movies and the birth of underground comics. Lucy and the Beav were popular too of course, and they cracked down on violence in comics pretty hard for a couple years, but it’s not as if boys had a lot of trouble finding violent male characters to admire, even in the 50′s.

  • MaryAnn

    I just want to say that I love that youse guys are actually arguing over the traditions of Morris dancing and what it might me.

    Keep it up. You make me proud.

  • http://www.udargo.com Max Udargo

    The boys who grew up with Ward Cleaver went to Vietnam and made the Rambo movies that you grew up with. No, you would not be any of those things.

    I’m not sure, but I don’t think anybody who actually went to Vietnam had anything to do with any of the Rambo movies. I know Sylvester Stallone wasn’t a vet.

    And I’m sure combat in Vietnam would leave quite a few impressions on your personality, but that wasn’t part of my hypothetical.

    It is true there were also more violent models of manhood during the 50s than what you found in television sitcoms. I expect sitcom Dads today are probably more reasonable and even-keeled than movie action hereos. But it just seems Ward Cleaver was our society’s collective role model of mature masculinity at that time. And an important part of what defined him as a man was his calm, reasonable, let-me-take-a-slow-drag-on-my-pipe-and-think-for-a-moment-about-the-problem-with-which-you’ve-presented-me approach to every situation. That’s what real men were supposed to be: calm and reasonable. I find that very appealing, I guess, and I don’t feel like my culture ever encouraged me to see manhood in that light.

    The message was always that being a man meant having the power to unleash unreasonable, disproportionate retaliation on those who dared wrong you. Dramatic, but not very practical.

  • Accounting Ninja

    @ Max Udargo, my apologies! If I gave the impression I think culture goes one way. Sometimes I can find just the right words to explain what I’m thinking about and sometimes I type and think I’ve been all clear and it comes out DUUUURP. ;)
    Anyways, I definitely think culture initially begets the kinds of movies we might see during, say, a particular decade, BUT, also that the media itself can influence culture. Sort of like culture provides the spark, but the flames may spread apart from initial cultural influence. Trends only need to be lucky and tap into a particular zietgiest at the right time to see this. It can become a vicious chicken-and-egg circle before you know it.
    I mean, look at Twilight or Harry Potter. Vampire and fantasy stories had been written for years before these came out. But something about them allowed them to explode in popularity at very particular times in our culture. Especially with Twilight, which is very badly written IMO. But when I look more closely at the current culture that let that seed grow: a more conservative trend, the resurgence of “purity” balls, a religious revival of sorts. It becomes clear how this book might appeal to young girls at this particular time but would not have, say, in the 90s.
    Plus, it can be invisible while you are inside a time period, but 10 years later, you can look back at these movies and their gender roles and say, “Wow, that’s so 80s”. And Ward Cleaver, as appealing as he is, seems dreadfully old-fashioned, because he clashes with our current culture.

    That’s what real men were supposed to be: calm and reasonable.

    These are nice qualities for anyone to have. Nostalgia aside, I don’t want to go back to this time, where Men were one way, Women another. Lots of people wistfully recall these golden years, but roles were so very binary. I don’t buy the “real man” or “real woman” thing.
    We’re all real men and women, right? We’re also all pretty different.

  • JoshB

    And I’m sure combat in Vietnam would leave quite a few impressions on your personality, but that wasn’t part of my hypothetical.

    I didn’t mean to put that much focus on Vietnam. My point is simply that the boys who grew up in the supposedly relatively idyllic time period of the fifties are the ones who ended up making the ultra-violent movies of the eighties.

  • Muzz

    Wasn’t the whole idea with the Ward Cleaver’s and the like supposed to be that they were calm and collected about childhood decisions because they were the ones who had “faced down the great evil”. They had the proper perspective on life and human nature, according to some anyway.
    Even though not everyone went to war, that implication seems to go along with the 50s male ideal. I may be wrong though.

    I have trouble picturing the Alpha male of the question with any consistency (and it makes just how archetypal most female characters are more obvious when I think about it).
    We jump right to Rambo and Commando et al but they’re fairly ridiculous and not all that impactful aren’t they?
    More potent (ar ar) examples are nearly always found in crime films. From Cagney to Scarface to The Sopranos, Peckinpah etc. That’s where you find the mens’ mensereses. Strength of character through an ability and willingness to use violence, basically. You can be restrained about it, and that restraint is often held up as a good thing, but manliness depends upon it and this haunts masculinity more than anything else I find.

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    But aren’t most men more likely to be influenced by people–especially men–they actually know–than by movies and TV shows?

    Okay, I’ll admit that All in the Family influenced a lot of my opinions about race and politics. After all, what sane person growing up in the early 1970s wanted to be anything like that show’s lead character?

    But a great deal of my opinions were also influenced by my family–especially my father, my younger siblings and my older cousins. So much so that when two of my older cousins–guys I had seen as surrogate older brothers and potential role models–ended up going to prison for murder, it caused a bigger crisis of faith than anything I ever saw on TV.

    After all, if people like the cousins in question could commit evil actions despite being so similar to me–in my view, at least–then who was to say whether or not I’d one day commit similar actions?

    In some ways, that crisis was important because it forced me to take a hard look at myself and examine my own self. It forced me to reject the idea that evil was just something that other people–but not people I knew–were capable of and to take more responsibility for my own actions. It also taught me to think twice whenever I was tempted to rationalize a not so moral action if for no other reason that such rationalization was how my two older cousins got into trouble. (And indeed, even after one of them got paroled, he was still rationalizing the actions that sent him to prison in the first place and refusing to believe he was ever wrong to commit such deeds, choosing instead to blame his victim for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.)

    In any event, my late father used to tell me many times that the main difference he saw between the respectable kids and not so respectable kids in the slum neighborhood where he grew up more often than not had more to do with family background than any other factor. If they came from a close family where everyone was loved and respected, they generally resisted getting involved in gangs or criminal activity. If they were not so loved, they did not resist that much.

    Granted, there were exceptions to the rule but then again there’s been times when I’ve turned away from darker deeds–suicide, for example–because I cared more about the effect such deeds would have on the people I loved than I did about the factors that were encouraging me to embrace such deeds.

    I could say more but I’ve taken up enough space for now. Thank you for your patience.

  • amanohyo

    Oh, you’re definitely right Tonio. Ideally close family members should be the most powerful force guiding the social development of a child. It seems that recently children are spending much more time inside their bubble of texting, gaming, televison, and movies. There are parents who take the time to interact with their kids by sharing some of these activities as a family, but it’s a very common sight where I live to see small children physically “with” their parents at an event, store, or restaurant, but bent over a DSi, watching a music video on their phone, and/or furiously texting with buds in their ears. It’s not that most parents aren’t still the most important influence on their child’s development, but with the increasing commercialization of youth, the influence of portrayals of “manliness” (and “girliness”) in the media is much stronger.

    Muzz is correct when he says that the thing that usually separates the “good guy” from the “bad guy” is not their capacity for violence, but a certain level of restraint and unwillingness to cause pain to the “innocent.” However, Max Udargo also makes a good point about the amount of violence unleashed by the alpha male often being disproportionate compared to the injustice it is supposed to correct. It’s much more rare for a modern action hero to simply incapacitate the bad guys, or indicate that he is unwilling to fight. Instead, he is often chomping at the bit, ready to blow your head off with a shotgun or kick the nameless henchman out of a window onto a fencepost at the slightest provocation. Violence seems to almost be a first rather than last resort for a manly alpha male. It wasn’t that way for the Lone Ranger or Marshall Dillon (or even Jackie Chan). I can’t help but think of our retaliation against Iraq and the Israeli retaliation on Lebanon. We seem to be reverting back towards the often extremely cruel and unusual punishments of God and Mohammed in their respective best-selling novels.

    Most humans have a desire to be powerful and to be respected and admired for that power. We all (as teens at the very least) have had fantasies about triumphing in some violent confrontation with the forces of evil and saving the day, and as JoshB and bitchen pointed out everyone has violent impulses that need some kind of outlet. Recently reading about that gang rape in California made me so furious I imagined confronting those who participated and had to exercise for an hour to get it out of my system. The most frustrating aspect of all this is that these are all human characteristics. Women want the power to control their lives, they want to be admired and respected for that power, they have violent impulses, they often fantasize about saving the day, and yet these issues are dealt with and suppressed (to a great extent) with an actual or implied “girls shouldn’t act/think/speak/write that way” shouted from almost every corner of society.

    There seems to be a disconnect where one group is obviously being influenced by society to deny and suppress some fundamental aspects of their humanity while the other is being told to embrace and express them. It’s possible to offer the counter-argument that the alpha dog male stereotype implies that men should suppress and deny their “softer, quiet, sensitive, nurturing” side while women are told to embrace their sensitivity and empathy, but the qualities of empathy, sensitivity, and effective communication are socially derived to a greater extent than simple violence. In other words, being feminine is something that must be taught to a much greater degree than being masculine on average.

    Women have been (unfortunately) taught how to be feminine through (among other things) the use of examples in the media that often conflict with their natural impulses ever since the media existed. But when the suggestion is made that the violent alpha male characters in movies and games might possibly have an influence on young boys, it always meets with resistance. It doesn’t make sense to me. Why would visual media be widely accepted and used as an effective mechanism for socializing young girls, but have no impact whatsoever on young boys? The answer to the QOTD is clearly yes, but the question remains, what can be done about it?

    Sure, you can’t magically eliminate sexism by changing the gender dynamics of characters in popular movies, but I can’t believe that it would have absolutely no effect. And considering that the amount of control you have over how other families raise their children is almost zero, why not try to change things for the better through the movies? In large part, the presence of gay characters in TV and movies (or the ‘gay agenda’ if you prefer) has been successful in changing the opinions of many Americans who have never talked to a GLBT person in their life. It wasn’t that unsympathetic and stereotypical portrayals of gay characters was censored. They still pop up quite regularly. It was that the spectrum of personalities was expanded.

    No reasonable person wants to censor depictions of macho, violent, alpha-male characters. We would just like to see a little more variety. It’s a cop out to say that the character type is popular because “all men want to be that guy, and all women are attracted to that type of man,” just as it was a cop out twenty years ago to say, that gay stereotypes were prevalent because “all gay guys really are effeminate, limp-wristed, lisping, pansies.” There’s a big leap from “I want to have power over my own life and be respected” to “I want to be a musclebound, womanizing, violent action hero.” Not every boy makes that leap, and even those that do should know that you don’t have to hit someone over the head with a folding chair and be a VIP at the local strip club to gain respect.

  • CB

    Down side of Hollywood “Action Man” stereotype: I’m expected to have let’s just say unrealistic amounts of stoicism in the face of pain, clear-headedness in the face of calamity, and competence in all things punchy, shooty, and explodey.

    Up side of Hollywood “Action Man” stereotype: If I ever do something really anti-social like punch a man for looking at me funny or even outright murdering him (as long as he’s a henchman), one witty quip and all is forgiven.

    BTW, someone forgot to inform law enforcement about the “up side”.