I grew up in the 1980’s and was a teenager in the 1990’s. Most of the kids of my generation were exposed to virile and resourceful representations of men. Take American mainstream media; we had movies like Terminator, where a fit male character did everything he could to protect those he loved, his family, his tribe. We had movies like Rocky which taught us the rewards of hard work and discipline, despite any social conditioning that we might have. We had the Indiana Jones movies, where a cultured man travelled to remote places in the name of science and exposed himself to danger and adventure. We had Back to the Future and MacGyver which were all about creating new things, being inventive, resourceful and making something out of nothing.
Good guy, with a twist
All these male role models displayed common traits such as courage, dedication, defined strong values, passion, strength, resourcefulness, creativity, humility, physical ability and a strong work ethic.
Fast forward to the late 1990’s up until now. What do we have? Reality shows that teaches you that you do not have to do, create or accomplish anything in order to become famous. You have movies like 40-year-old Virgin or (500) Days of Summer, all representations of a 21st century man who put women on a pedestal, who does not know his place in society, over-sensitive, weak and overall- useless.
The result? Children and teenagers assume that it is OK to be like this, only to grow up to become dysfunctional adults with high levels of social anxiety, sexual shame and a distorted view of relationships dynamics.
You sir, are a brut!
One can say that my generation was exposed to more violence in those movies, but were we? I cannot recall the sophistication of current video games or the 24-hour-online-hardcore-porn-on-demand, or accessing any violent film/TV series on the internet anytime, anywhere. Which is more violent?
The violence did not make us angry individuals. Boys will be boys and displays of aggression are a natural trait of a testosterone-fuelled human being. The key here is that these stories have a positive moral background and ultimately, a good message: “He’s the good guy and he’s also a badass” whereas now is more like “he’s the good guy and he is a white knight wearing a tampon”.
But, but, there’s great stuff on TV nowadays
OK, ok, we have had some good American TV drama in the last few years. The likes of Breaking Bad or House of Cards, for example, are indeed great TV entertainment for adults. If you are a kid however, probably being exposed to drugs and machiavellianism is not the best lesson to take for life.
There is a lack of positive masculine role models in mainstream media today. It is our role, as men, to be the best men we can be around children and teenagers. Our responsibility is greater than ever and we can and should lead by example -the example that can no longer be found in the magic little box as it once was.