Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Era of the Man-Child
Interesting article in the recent issue of The Atlantic about the demise of Playboy magazine in comparison to the rising popularity of its trashier "girlie-mag" competitors Maxim, FHM, Stuff, etc. The author of the Atlantic article compares the Playboy man (smart, well-read, cultivated, manly) versus the "laddies" readership of the other magazines - boys turned on by slutty chicks, toilet humor, Jackass, video games, junk food, etc. The conclusion is that males have surrendered to decades of feminist brow-beating (a theme effectively examined in another context by Christina Hoff Sommers in her work The War Against Boys) and have embraced the stereotypes waged against them. Since society continually demands of its males that they expend extraordinary effort to recondition their thinking and inclinations (Ritalin to control outbursts; sensitivity to control passions) males have rebelled and embraced their vulgar self (if this is what I am told that I am, then this is what I will in fact be). The new girlie-mags cater to this new male id.

Interestingly, while there was a Playboy Man there was also a Playboy Woman. As the Atlantic author suggests, the Playboy Man was not about being a dominant. He was as much liberated as the newly liberated Playboy Woman. Both were to be self assured in their respective masculine and feminine roles. Yet both interacted with each other as equals. The Playboy Man was every bit as interested in discussing literature, culture, politics, art etc with the Playboy Woman as he was in having sex with her. The author contends that oddly, the new girlie-mags promote the same egalitarianism - only that what is different is that in this new era the shared pursuits are in the realm of Jackass antics, and Girls Gone Wild. The Playboy Man would share in fine wine with his female companions whereas the Maxim Man finds pleasure in the keg-standing abilities of his female friends.

This brings to mind an interesting point raised by another Atlantic writer (unfortunately, I forget the author and the article). The author highlighted how the feminist movement liberated men as well as women - liberated men from their traditional sex role every bit as much as the feminist movement liberated women from theirs. (See Harvey Mansfield's Manliness for a discussion on the traditional role, its importance, and how it must be revived). Men, freed from the confines of the traditional role, have also found freedom from the responsibilities that the role demanded (death of the responsibility of being the "bread-winner" meant men could now simply win "bread-for-one" - with the resultant diminishing of the father figure type, two-parent households, increased divorce rate, etc). What the future of maledom suggests, given the clues provided by the girlie-mags, is a reassertive primalness (pleasure for pleasure's sake, instant gratification, sex on demand, thirst for violence) unhindered by the bonds of institution (ie, less church, less marriage, less social clubbishness (Elks, Lions, Toastmasters, et. al), less societal expectation to channel manliness for the betterment of society - whether as heroic soldier, captain of industry, or intrepid explorer).

The Playboy Man was about redefining man in the era of feminist woman. The Maxim Man is a capitulation to pre-definition of man. A liberation from any expectation of growth from boy to man. A solidification of a suspended animation. A sixteen year-old extended onward into perpetuity. An era where Man is less wanted and less in demand. Childish infantile roguishness is the expectation (and nurtured!). The Era of the Man-Child.

1 Comments:

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Kreblog said...

Related but unrelated... there was a LA Times article a few months back where the reporter followed the "Girls Gone Wild" guy.

One of the the things that struck me as interesting was, when the reporter asked one of the girls that had "gone wild" why she would expose herself, her response was it was her way to get noticed and potentially become famous like Paris Hilton.

I guess when Paris Hilton is your role model, exposing yourself is to be expected.

 

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