Muzak aside, there are much bigger implications here; he's basically saying that “real men” are in decline. Definitely a pretty bold statement from a dude named Alice, but he probably has a pretty good point. Over the years, we've changed just as much as the girl who came to college from a nice, rural town. And while she's now much more fun to look at, we're all a bit wimpier. Here's why:
“We Used to Build Shit in This Country”
The quote above pretty much sums it up–it’s me, technically a red-blooded American Male, using a quote from a critically acclaimed HBO show to lament something I've avoided doing my entire life–build shit. Like most people/the economy, I've opted to forgo gritty, character-building work in exchange for an air conditioned job that enables me to make references to 2007 rap songs.
Neither you nor I are here to throw out statistics, but you don’t exactly need to have a beard and a degree in pompous academia to know that blue collar America is well past its deathbead–I know I’m not the only one who requires a good 3 hours to put together a coffee table from IKEA. (Note: this is part their terrible directions and part me spending 25 minutes doing Swedish accents. But its mostly just embarrassment masking.)
We used to build shit. We still build shit–now its just the fecal matter that is most of our social media activity. Blue Collar has ceded to White Collar. Only on USA, characters welcome.
Justin Timberlake Syndrome
Find me a better male role model than Justin Timberlake. I say that because I really want you to.
Not that there’s anything wrong with what Justin Timberlake is doing, or how he's catapulted to the top of the male role model leaderboard. It’s just that if we’re talking important males in society, someone like Justin Timberlake would not do well in pretty much every other possible juncture in human history. I.e., imagine him as a William Wallace? King Leonidas? My gut says he’d kill it playing role of that guy who backstabbed Caesar but…what I’m trying to say is that while he’s an incredibly talented fellow, I’m not exactly itching for him to lead us in the rebellion against those alien monsters from Pacific Rim.*
Justin Timberlake may or may not be a wimp. I have never met the man, and that is an unfair judgement to pass. He’s an alpha male in his own right–which again isn’t a knock, or a problem. But it does say something about the state of the Bro.
*If you're on the fence, this was an enjoyable movie
“All I Care About Is Money and the City That I’m From”
The arguments I just made about JT can also easily apply to Drake, whose career can be summed up in these two sentences: “Look at all this shit I’ve done. Now let me tell you how I feel about it.”
Drake is the king of psychiatry rap. Not only is this something that last bastion of traditional masculinity Tony Soprano (RIP) would’ve despised more than an insecure 15 year-old despises people his age who still watch the Disney channel, but it's also quite telling about how we, as current men, think.
“All I care about is money and the city that I’m from.” Older, Soprano-style masculinity was about protection–providing for your family, making sure your boys are taken care of, and fucking up those who threaten the order. You can make the argument that while Drake is always looks out for his friends (“Drizzy got the money, so Drizzy gonna pay it/Those my brothers, I ain't even gotta say it/That's just something they know”), is the intention here to be a good friend, or to carve out a legacy? The answer is of course a bit of both, but I don't think its crazy to say people increasingly give a shit about the latter. I know I do.
Ron Swanson is the walking definition of an overly manly-man. Bacon, hunting, and woodworking.
But the character Ron Swanson isn’t so much a man as he is a giant parody of “manliness.” It makes the whole thing seem ridiculous, in the sense that if you don’t gorge yourself with bacon you don’t possess a penis. I like bacon as much as the next guy, but part of being a dude is taking yourself too seriously. Intensity is aggression, purpose is power. Humor is sometimes capable of dropping “real talk” bombs, but this sort of satire is basically a bunch of girls ripping on their friend when she goes to the bathroom. (HOW ridiculous does she look/SO ridiculous/Sex and the City reference in order to appear cultured)
Bacon is good. Too much enthusiasm is bad. Too much enthusiasm over bacon doesn't always work.
The 1999 movie Varsity Blues is pretty damn entertaining (rightfully so, as it features best actor of our generation Jon Voight), but it was also considerably ahead of its time. Most notably in terms of (a. addressing issues of concussions and long-term mental health damage from playing football, and (b. discussing the “look at what this town has turned people into” themes employed in Friday Night Lights. But it also did something else pretty fascinating.
TV critics and those professor people would call Jonathan Moxon an “anti-hero.” He likes football, but he despises the institution Coach Kilmer has created. Generally for the right reasons–Kilmer is hella evil–but the way he does it really resonates a lot with how we do shit today…instead of outwardly rebelling from the get-go, Moxon tries as hard as possibly can to gradually disrupt Kilmer, to the point that he’s created almost as toxic a football environment as Kilmer himself.
We’re a generation that doesn’t so much outwardly rebel as we do slowly undermine. And while this is definitely is a good way to force people and groups to reach breaking points, it’s incredibly, incredibly catty. Men these days are definitely still aggressive, but we've also adopted “passive” as a forename. Like most hyphenated titles, this is slightly vomit inducing. But it's also a sign of the times.
Now excuse me while I don’t respond to this text.