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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Masculinity Retrieval?

In my last post I discussed the portrayal of men in the media, television in particular. The inspiration came from an article by NPR’s Linda Holmes that explored whether, even considering all the advancements our society has made in terms of social issues, television has begun to regress in terms of its portrayal of men. I must admit, it had me sold: while there are certainly some great programs out there that do a fine job at positively portraying the multiple roles modern men do and should take on (I’m thinking ABC’s Modern Family), there are about a million others that do nothing but promulgate a flawed, stereotypical, testosterone-fueled image of men (i.e. anything Spike TV has ever aired). Unfortunately, I write to you all bearing news of another TV show that can be added to the latter list: Last Man Standing, a new sitcom starring Tim Allen which promotes itself as one that is retrieving masculinity…whatever that means.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have never seen Last Man Standing. However, I have seen its advertisements and read Linda Holmes’s latest article reviewing the pilot. From what I can gather, it does in fact seem to mindlessly parade stereotypical notions of “real” masculinity with an unapologetic, boastful attitude that tramples anything that some sort of macho culture deems as an obstacle to their ideas regarding manhood. For example, Holmes points out that Tim Allen’s character proudly pulls his grandson from a daycare that seems to be promoting an open mind towards things like homosexuality and gay men and instead chooses to take him to the outdoors store he operates, which he loves because “it smells like balls.”

Holmes goes on to point out that unlike Allen’s first sitcom, Home Improvement, his character this time around has no loveable qualities nor does he have a “sensible-wife counterbalance that can take the ugly out of all (of it).” As Holmes puts it, there “ is a sense in the pilot that someone sat around a table and said, ‘We need to make a show for people who are really upset about the fact that sitcoms don't make as many jokes about women, gay men and people from other countries as they used to.’”

I can say that I am definitely going to check out Last Man Standing and I’m curious if any readers have seen the first episode. Is it as bad as Holmes claims? Furthermore, does this in fact prove my earlier hypothesis that television, and the media in general, is in fact regressing in terms of its attitudes towards masculinity?

Ryan Derry

1 comment:

Anonymous said... Pink Brain, Blue Brain

Claims of sex differences fall apart.

By *Sharon Begley NEWSWEEK

Published Sep 3, 2009

From the magazine issue dated Sep 14, 2009

message that sons are wired to be nonverbal and emotionally distant thus
becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The sexes "start out a little bit
different" in fussiness, says Eliot, and parents "react differently to
them," producing the differences seen in adults.

Those differences also arise from gender conformity. You often see the claim
that toy preferences—trucks or dolls—appear so early, they must be innate.
But as Eliot points out, 6- and 12-month-olds of both sexes prefer dolls to
trucks, according to a host of studies. Children settle into sex-based play
preferences only around age 1, which is when they grasp which sex they are,
identify strongly with it, and conform to how they see other, usually older,
boys or girls behaving. "Preschoolers are already aware of what's acceptable
to their peers and what's not," writes Eliot. Those play preferences then
snowball, producing brains with different talents.

The belief in blue brains and pink brains has real-world consequences, which
is why Eliot goes after them with such vigor (and rigor). It encourages
parents to treat children in ways that make the claims come true, denying
boys and girls their full potential. "Kids rise or fall according to what we
believe about them," she notes. And the belief fuels the drive for
single-sex schools, which is based in part on the false claim that boy
brains and girl brains process sensory information and think differently.
Again, Eliot takes no prisoners in eviscerating this "patently absurd"
claim. Read her masterful book and you'll never view the sex-differences
debate the same way again.

*Begley is NEWSWEEK's science editor.*

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