Dumb Guy Chic
In the sixties through the eighties, the so-called second wave of feminism sought to address gender inequality in laws and culture. One focus of that movement was the portrayal of women in popular media, especially on television and in commercials. A major catalyst for the movement was The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan, which noted that magazines and other media most often depicted women as homemakers or models of attractiveness and in doing so, nurtured a narrow and servile view of women. Women in TV commercials were obsessed with whitening their laundry or whether their kitchen detergent made their hands feel rough. Even as late as 1979, studies indicated that women were portrayed in magazines as passive, conforming and less competent than men. I think it’s undeniable that progress has been made … career women are a staple of modern television … and what I’d suggest is that the media worm has turned, as evidenced by the number of dumb guys in sitcoms. We are living in the age of Dumb Guy Chic, in which men are not only portrayed as dumb … acting dumb is promoted as a quintessentially male quality.
An alien monitoring our media would conclude that Nirvana for real men is a case of light beer, two pizzas, a pile of chicken wings in a room full of like-minded guys watching sports. It is Nirvana-plus if each of the participants has hood-winked his wife into believing he’s doing chores or his boss into thinking he’s working. At any point during the proceedings, each real man would willingly trade his girlfriend or wife for a Bud Light. Nothing would make our real man happier than being able to watch football on his phone during his best friend’s wedding or sneak in two cases of beer. Cultural cravings are satisfied musically by rap music, hip-hop and whatever variant of rock and roll they listened to in their youth. Listening to classical music, jazz and especially opera by a male is proof positive of the presence too many X chromosomes. Theater means movies to our real guy and movies means action, sports, or dumbbell comedy. Even if our real man bears a strong resemblance to Quasimodo and possesses the physique of a Sumo wrestler, he’s entitled to refer to women as ugly or fat and act as if Kiera Knightly should be beating a path to his door. Our real men don’t discuss or even argue, they talk smack and subscribe to the parliamentary principles of The Best Put-Down and The Loudest Wins. Yes, I could go on and on … and will. The subject deserves more than one post.
It’s easy to say that the asinine beer commercials are all in good fun, that loud-mouthed but dimwitted sports talk guys and male heroes that can throw a ball sixty yards but can’t put together a decent sentence harm no one. It’s true that by roughly 25, we are who we are anyway (unless life forces us to reconsider). But if portraying women as shallow, subservient and less-than to our girls is harmful to our society (and it is) then doesn’t continually exposing young men (and especially our boys) to an onslaught of Dumb Guy Chic teach them that to be a man, you have to act dumb? What’s that do to our society? And speaking for men who came with a functioning brain and a willingness to use it, I’m sick and tired of the implication we’re somehow less of a man for our trouble.
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