1.16.2011

Desperate for a Real Hero Pt.1

Looking around for inspiration while collecting little scraps of admirable masculine behaviour, I have noticed a disturbing trend in the way men are portrayed in the media. There has been a long history of male dominated culture meaning that until the last 30 years most print media/movies/and television have been written, produced, and directed by men. You would think that characters would change as women came on the scene but unfortunately the trend to create shallow boring and obnoxious characters of either gender has not abated.

I was discussing the pathetic state of television with a friend recently, lamenting the decline of decent movies that I might actually pay to go and see in a theatre. Likewise, I have nearly eliminated television from my daily life and when I do watch, I tend to avoid comedy or drama shows with people in them and gravitate toward animal, nature and adventure stories. I quit watching the news altogether because it is unflinchingly biased, sensationalized fear-mongering. CNN is a joke. There is so much bickering, finger pointing, misery, and paranoia being fostered from what is supposed to be a "news" station I just quit watching. Never does anyone lay out the many sides of a conflict (objectively) and try to find solutions. No, it is about who yells the loudest while jockeying for position in a debate over who's opinion is the most right. A Canadian network recently ran a commercial that stated they were looking for suffering, misery, depression, tragedy, etc. because these are the stories Canadians want to see. Are you fucking kidding me? I don't want to see pictures of sex offenders in my neighbour's underwear or see the blood staining the street/wall/floor bumper after a shooting/accident/beating. I don't need to know the gory details of a celebrity autopsy/break-up/hook-up/overdose/sex tape and if I hear one more thing about terrorist threats, un-American attitudes or homeland airport security, I might just drop my tv off at the dump. But alas, I am getting off topic...

There are not many characters that could be held up as role models for anyone today let alone little boys. There is really no place you can look and think: man, I want to be like that guy (or gal) and be talking about someone with strong moral fibre, a solid character and  direction. Men on television and movies are mostly pathetic character shells draped over a stereotype.

For example:

1. Recreational Drug user/alcoholic trying to get laid and/or get high over everything else, Ususally has some charming quirk real women would find annoying.
2. The hero/accidental hero...looks good without a shirt on, kills stuff, saves stuff, fights crime, his moral compass points in only one direction and he single handedly has to save humanity. Oh, and he over uses one-liners.
3. Once bitten twice shy. This guy has been hurt in his past and there is a woman out there who can fix him...if only he'd let her. Gag.
4. Nerd, scientist, ex-husband/boyfriend Smart, oblivious, desperate, his brain will save him and get him the girl even if it is temporary.
5. Slimeball. No morals. Serial killer/rapist/wifebeater/stalker/evildoer/super-villain. Just plain mean. sometimes they have a sad-ish back story (never fully developed) but just because you weren't breast fed doesn't excuse your shitty behaviour. Ever notice that evil exists in a vacuum? hmmm.
6. Comic. Thinks he's hilarious. Usually his jokes are at someone's expense. Treats everyone like crap (usually his wife) but thinks the sun rises and sets just for him.

This is just a few of the examples that make me feel so desperate for a real hero, someone who has to work hard, to struggle to overcome his own short-comings and learn from his mistakes. I want to see men who are sensitive to other people, who are interested in their family, their neighbours, their communities but who have moments of great joy as well as sadness. I want to see a man I can look up to who has a hobby as well as a job. Someone who struggles between doing the easy thing or the expected thing and doing the right thing. I want to be able to see that there are other guys trying to figure out who they are and know that life is about more than getting laid or high or getting the girl or being an egotistical maniac who can't be serious for one single minute.

I realize that mainstream American television or movies isn't the place to find role models but with nearly every kid in Canada and the US brought up with TV as a babysitter at some point where the hell are they learning to be men? Where the hell are we finding heros? Where are those kids going to look when they are faced with a dillemma and need some advice when their fathers are absent and their grandfathers are dead? Who is setting an example for the men of tomorrow, teaching them lessons about what it means to be a friend, a mentor, a neighbour, a father? Where are all the good men?

Other cultures pass on a long history of stories containing heros that teach their children about morals, and values, cultural behaviours, and gender roles. They have stories and oral tradition, legends, myths, and tragedies. Lessons from the ancient Greeks or Chinese philosophers offer advice and direction, a place to go looking for answers in a time of need. Where other kids might have Hercules, Zeus, Odin, Loki, Thor, Confucius, Chuang Tzu, or Buddha to look up to, western culture is facing a time of growing atheism and commercialism that leaves our children with the likes of ronald mcdonald, the cookie monster, a vampire and a werewolf fighting over a dumb indecisive high school girl, drugged up rock stars and slutty professional sports players whom they adore not because of their upstanding moral fibre but because they have lots of money and lots of cool shit.

So look around boys, who's it gonna be? Are there any viable heros for little boys in this day and age? If so where are they and is there a chance they will ever emerge onto the big or little screen?

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