A response to “Spiderman, are you a unicorn?” published in the May 10, 2002 issue
My (imaginary) girlfriend can’t understand why I don’t want to see “Spiderman.” The fact is I have seen too many movies based on poor male role models, and they’ve influenced my life as far back as a young boy. After watching “Rambo” or “The Incredible Hulk,” I spent the active days of my youth playing “smear the queer” and fighting in BB gun wars. My childhood realities involved (unconsciously) participating in personality-impacting lessons of aggression, competition, prejudice and war: boyhood role models taught me how to kick ass and punish the queer boy, not negotiate peace treaties or accept alternative lifestyles.
Of course, I had my share of opportunities to pursue less traditionally male games, like jump-roping or partnered hand-slapping – but then I would’ve been labeled a sissy, or, even worse, I would’ve been the one who was smeared.
As for my childhood movie experience, it offered a plethora of role models to emulate: who could forget Rambo, the Terminator, Indiana Jones or James Bond – they all showed me how to kill the bad guys, save the world and still rescue the girl. I can’t remember a movie wherein the hero failed at any of these feats.
These days, I have to put up with rubbish like that one movie about a man who’s forced to compromise his genius in math (ha! Math is for nerds!) because he has an incurable mental illness; or what about that stupid period piece that questions the Bard’s artistic intentions and demi-god-like poet status (what’s with him not going home with the girl?!). I’ve been trained not to care about fallible male figures, so I can’t remember the names of the movies-they probably sucked anyway. Where are the real men?
I’m not talking about Kevin Kline dying of cancer and trying to reestablish a relationship with himself and his family. I’m talking about manly men, like The Rock in “The Scorpion King.” That guy doesn’t show affection for other men or wither away from something as wussy as cancer; he embodies my favorite saying as a young boy: “I’m gonna open up a can o’ whoop-ass on you!”
Why can’t a man be more like Kevin Kline? If I had the courage to escape the stereotypes of my childhood, I would make a very good sissy. I could be vulnerable, say “I feel …” a lot and I could even admit that I couldn’t take on the world. Granted, I’d be the butt of all my friends’ jokes – and I’d probably get my ass kicked by the boys who still play “smear the queer” – but I have big muscles and a short temper, so I could do like I did in the old days and open-up-a-can if anyone mocked me in my attempt to grow as a person. The sissy side of me (which isn’t very big, okay) would like to see James Cameron create a role for a man than requires more than “I’ll be back,” doesn’t demand muscles like the poster boy for Gold’s Gym, doesn’t use guns and grenades to convince people he’s right and can do good in the world without violently destroying that same world in the process. I’ve never had my ass kicked, but if I suggest to James Cameron that he exchange that tired, misplaced stereotype of a male hero for a model man who sets precedence as a more thoughtful, well-rounded and reasoned figure for today’s boys to look up to as they grope for conceptions of what it means to be a man, if I did that, well … I’d probably get my ass kicked. (But then again, the human race may evolve.)
I’ve decided not to pay $7 for the chance to expose myself to these outdated, moral-corrupting role models. It’s no use going to watch a movie that ignores the things you should see.
I’d much rather read Tom Robbins’ books, in which the men are given traditionally feminine qualities, when it comes to the idea of a hero. Has anyone ever read “Jitterbug Perfume”? It’s a great story that shows men how much they have to learn from traditionally feminine characteristics – it teaches men to live with dignity.
That’s why I don’t want to see the benignly received “Spiderman.” Boys are taught that (super)heroes need to fight, wear a mask of invincibility and ALWAYS save the world and rescue the girl. Of course, in real life, we have boys imitating (knowingly or unknowingly) the “heroes” they see on-screen – and the world is a worse place for this idea of Hero.
In our daily lives, girlfriends and the rest of society should not expect us to sweep them off their feet while saving the world from terrorists, like a (super)hero. Some of us have different ideas about gender expectations that certainly do not fit well with the idea of a traditional (super)hero. Stop reinforcing these unrealistic hopes and lower your heroic ideals and expectations of men, or we’ll keep killing the planet and encouraging dependent women.
Sam Jacobson, PSU student