Tag Archives: WWI

Manly Culture

Even if you haven’t recognized it for what it is, chances are, you’ve seen elements of it. The resurgence of beards, comments on period piece clips like “Why don’t we wear hats anymore?” or “Dang- they knew how to dress back then.” Or perhaps you’ve stumbled across The Art of Manliness or are (like me) a faithful apostle of Ron Swanson.

Now whether you’re aware of it or not, there is a growing culture based around this general perspective of “manliness” that supposedly existed from 5,000 BC to 1974 AD. The resurgence in the popularity of the beard, the wave of internet memes centered around being “classy,” our love affair with period pieces- all of this compounded has created the beginnings of a whole new subculture.

Don’t believe me? Just take a look at some of our favorite TV characters.

Don “F***-You, Liver!” Draper

Jack “Even Ayn Rand Thinks I’m Egotistical” Donaghy

Rick “Bad Decisions” Grimes

Walter “Tied with Draper for Making People Love Fedoras” White

Barney “Legen- wait for it… -DARY!” Stinson

Cullen “I Will Punch You For No Particular Reason” Bohannon

Comedy, Drama, Action/Horror, Westerns- this is a pretty broad range, and we’ve got the same strong, dour antihero type in all of them. Men who remind us of our fathers and grandfathers. Tough as nails bastards who came to this country with only a dollar in their pockets- who took a break from their honest 8 to 8 jobs of hitting metal with other pieces of metal to kill Nazis and look dapper doing it.

So what’s this culture all about? As with any group, we can talk about the superfluous or cosmetic elements- in the case of the “manly” group, handshake etiquette, strait-razor whetting, and driving stick- but to really understand ’em, we’re going to need to look at the underlying values in play here.

Independence:

What do all the men shown above have in common? A degree of independence. They’re DIY guys. Men who aren’t reliant on the help or charity of others- in short, dudes who can take care of themselves in most any situation, from car repair to providing for the family to killing the undead. And on that note…

Initiative:

These are all men who don’t allow themselves to be victims. They’re proactive moment-seizing leaders who don’t wait idly by for someone to step up. Good or bad, they’re leading the way- and speaking of bad…

Stoic:

These are guys who tend to lend credence to the stereotype of the unspeaking, unfeeling male. At best, the strong, silent type- at worse, the uncommunicative lout. One way or another, they don’t let the situation get the better of them. That’d be undignified, and if there’s one thing that they’re about, it’s…

Dignity/Pride:

It’s in the way they dress, the way they speak, the way they expected to be treated. A kind of code that prohibits some things and makes others compulsory. You can’t hold your head high, then what’s the point in having one?

Moral Ambiguity:

These men are all, to varying degrees, antiheroes. Guys with their own agendas and a certain degree of moral ambiguity that keeps you on your toes. There’s a level of egotism, self-centeredness, and disregard for others that makes them pretty good at what they do, but what they do not all that good- certainly they don’t fit the traditional mold of the selfless, self-sacrificial hero.

Wealth:

And while it’s not true for all of them, money tends to be a major element of their stories. A drive to be successful, prosperous, and (again) independent. It’s the age-old dream of being your own boss.

So what does all of this boil down to?

Power.

It’s about power. These guys represent everything we, as a generation, aren’t. Independent, wealthy, self-assured, proud. Does that sound like us? Not at all. We’re the casual dressed, globally conscious masses struggling to make it by, and taking whatever miserable, degrading soulless job we can find. We’re not strong like these glamorized images of our grandparents are (having conveniently erased the racism, bigotry, and misogyny).

But we want to be.

And so begins the perpetual motion machine of life-imitating-art and art-imitating-life. Epic Meal Time, Memes, Period Pieces- the list goes on.

So is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Well, there are good and bad elements to every culture (some more bad than good, and vice versa), but let’s list out the positives and negatives.

The positives have been wrapped in bacon

Positive:

  • We can stand to toughen up a bit a lot as a generation. We don’t need to be bending horseshoes with our teeth, but some basic survival skills and a thicker skin when it comes to discomfort and hardship would be nice (battery running out on your phone doesn’t count as suffering).
  • In these tough economic times, be able to do basic repairs to your house and car aren’t just good- they’re necessary. Same goes for any of the thrifty elements of the culture.
  • Even if we don’t have it quite yet, demanding a certain level of dignity in our work and our day to day lives isn’t just good for you as an individual- it improves society on the whole.
  • While we probably shouldn’t worship the fedora or declare the suit to be the only appropriate clothing for a man over the age of twelve, it certainly doesn’t hurt to know how to dress ourselves, or conduct ourselves well in any given situation.

Negatives:

  • The glorification of the past can, as I jokingly mentioned above, lead to the uglier elements of it being glossed over. We hail our grandfathers as being great men, forgetting how easy it is to make a name for yourself when none of the good or prestigious jobs can be given to equally qualified women or non-white men.
  • The culture really doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for women at all, other than the kitchen. This is not to say that all adherents of the culture see it this way, but when you’re trying to espouse 1950s society, that includes 50s traditional gender roles as well.
  • It can’t be denied that there’s a strong conservative appeal in this culture, as well as hints of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. Glorifying wealth and success, especially when coupled with a “do whatever you need to do” mentality, can lead to the twisted perspective that poor people are poor because they are lazy.
  • This culture, despite the intentions of its adherents, does give a home for sexism. The uglier elements of the masculinity movement, those who view women as belonging in the home and nowhere else will doubtlessly find it a lot easier to fly under the radar in a culture that’s utterly dominated by males.

So what’s the final verdict?


“Manly” culture doesn’t appear to be either helpful or harmful- at least, not yet. The underlying issue being power, it’s going to be faced with the task of walking the thin line between empowerment and megalomania. So long as self-control is kept in mind, they oughta be fine.

Be sure to look for next week’s installment: “Science” Culture.

Hugo: Scorsese Tells a Story and is Awesome at it

source: alualuna.wordpress.comHugo was another demonstration that a large part of Scorsese is dedicated to documentary. His movie plots rarely rely only on a simple story structure, but draw at truth about some world or society or person – in The Aviator, it was the telling of the life of Howard Hughes; in Kundun it was the exile of Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatzo from India; In Shutter Island it was the mechanics of early 20th century mental health treatment. Scorsese has also made a fair share of documentaries, on topics like Italian cinema, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan.

source: typofile.com

The film tells the story of early and revolutionary filmmaker Georges Melies

In Hugo, Scorsese tells the story of Georges Méliès and the beginning of filmmaking in general. At points the movie goes very far into documentary-land, like in the flashback/exposition which serves as the emotional denoument of the story, which rather adorably self-consciously begins with a full-on direct shot of Ben Kingsley’s face, and involves long clips of Méliès’ original film.

Scorsese uses archetype expertly well, wielding it like a tool and using structure as a support, not a creative hindrance. The plot devices are intentional, elegant, and familiar enough to be pleasant but done well enough to avoid the negative aspects of cliche: the plucky, adorable girl, the awkward side love story, the child-who-is-the-exception-to-the-rule, and the ultimately relatable and flawed authority figure whose villiany is centered on the fact that he does not notice that the child is the exception-to-the-rule [complete with semi-frightening animal companion, physical deformity, past pain, awkward love interest…].

source: hollywoodreporter.com

Hugo and his father, who is briefly and attractively played by Jude Law

The aesthetic themes of the film, too, are constructed elegantly. Hugo is a boy who only sees the world through cracks and holes – through the numbers in the station clocks, through the holes in the vent windows, and through the metal grid of the automaton’s chest. He ultimately enters the world through these cracks, too, when he slips out of the vents or climbs out of the clock face to hang outside. Hugo’s relation to cracks and holes and small spaces mirrors Méliès’ relationship with the camera lens: he sees the world through a lens and ultimately enters it through the lens as well.

The film uses as sort of wheel spokes Hugo’s various relationships with the people surrounding him. The most obvious one is his father, and the automaton which connects them. There’s also, however, the fact that in a fit of frustration he flings himself into his degenerate uncle’s armchair; there’s the moment when the previously hostile bookseller (given gravitas by being played by Saruman) lends Hugo Robin Hood, and there’s Hugo’s emotional infiltration to Georges via Isabelle and Georges’ wife.

The film is ultimately a demonstration of developed connections and necessary maintenances, without which the characters would remain inoperable, like the broken automaton. The relationship aspect of Hugo includes Scorsese’s relationship with the film itself, and the thing reads like a love letter to filmmaking in general.

Worth noting:

source: aceshowbiz.com

Sacha Baron Cohen in Hugo

Sacha Baron Cohen is absolutely brilliant in his complex portrayal of a character which could very easily be buffooned.His stuttering speech is not quite ridiculous enough for us to laugh at, and it complements the familiar crippling self-consciousness that sort of oozes out of his character’s dialogue. He is a fool, but in a relatable sense. He is terribly awkward, but we cringe instead of laugh at his misfortunes. His air of self-confidence is quite transparent and allows us to see the very real human being underneath. Sacha Baron Cohen does excellently.

It seems kind of moot to point out that Ben Kingsley also does a tremendous job. The part spans a huge amount of time and character development, demanding that Kingsley not just play the secretive, intelligent, and broken older Méliès, but also the pre-war inspired artist, delivering platitudes to young boys while wearing a lobster costume. In Hugo, Ben Kingsley is everything that his part should be.

The aesthetics are another solid part of the film. Hugo is (and it does this wonderfully) a war-era film glazed in steam punk. The aesthetic is wrapped in gears, trains, skeleton keys, and old video cameras, and topped with flower sellers in berets and a reassuring sense of the fantastic – lovers of flim noir, steam punk, cyber punk and any aesthetically-intentional style may drool a little. I am unsure about how I feel about 3D – I am too poor and not interested enough to see the more expensive version of the movie – but the fact that directors like Scorsese and Jackson are using it is making me consider itmore carefully. I can at least see how the aesthetic would work well with the round, polished dimension that 3D movies have.

Hugo is a story and, if you Wikipedia Georges Méliès, a true one at that. Its comments on the changing public reception to fantasy and story telling are especially pertinent: the generation that grew up on ultra-ironic media like Shrek, The Office, and SNL are more often receiving stories told unapologetically, like Hugo and Avatar and Harry Potter, and it is interesting to see how we’ll react.