Saturday, September 20, 2008

Where The Boys Are

Apparently Everywhere
according to these two books "Guyland" by Michael Kimmel and "Men to Boys" by Gary Cross, both reviewed this week in this Wall Street Journal article
Man and Sillyman
How the model of American masculinity became a stoner with an Xbox

Here are the excerpts:

Not so long ago, unmarried men were called "bachelors," but the word now seems oddly out of date. Back in the day, bachelors were a minor, outsider group populated mostly by loners of ambiguous sexuality or Hefnerian swingers with a taste for cool jazz and dry martinis. Today, as men marry well into their 20s and 30s and enjoy both a boundless pool of sexually available women and a commercial culture awash with "stupid fun," the young, unmarried male has become a far more prominent -- and more vexing -- social type. He has devolved into the child man -- or, if you like, man child, boy man or "basement boy" (a nod to his penchant for taking up residence in the rec rooms of suburban parents) -- with crude obsessions for Xboxes, "hot babes," and Will Farrell and Seth Rogen movies. The emergence of this social type is the subject of two timely books, "Men to Boys" and "Guyland."

Michael Kimmel, the author of the frequently cited "Manhood in America" (1996) and now of the cleverly titled "Guyland," finds that young men today just wanna have fun. After spending their college years in a haze of alcohol and hook-ups, young men go on to "re-create . . . their college lifestyle in the big city," where they flock to the sort of bar that advertises "Spring Break 52 Weeks a Year."

Mr. Kimmel is just as depressed as Mr. Cross is by such cultural signs, but for different reasons. Mr. Kimmel sees the roots of modern immaturity in what he calls The Guy Code, a set of informal rules about male behavior that requires guys to "shut down emotionally" and embrace homophobia to feel more powerful in a world where the privileged status that men enjoyed for centuries is no longer guaranteed.

Where "Guyland" concentrates on “A kind of suspended animation between boyhood and manhood, Guyland lies between the dependency and lack of autonomy of boyhood and the sacrifice and responsibility of manhood.”
"Men to Boys" traces over three generations from the lingering Victorian ideals of masculine self-restraint, gentility and "measured deference to female culture at home" to the buffoonery of radio host Howard Stern and ex-basketball star Dennis Rodman.

No longer has male hedonism to do with learning how to be well-dressed or cultivate a taste for wine, women, and song. It is about immediate satisfaction of the appetite and pleasures of the youth.”

Duly deconstructed beginning in the 1960s, male maturity was in full rout by the 1980s, when, for instance, Pepsi proclaimed itself "for those who think young." The coup de grâce was performed in the 1990s by the advent of slacker culture and the "endless thrills" of elaborate videogames. Mr. Cross observes that the current generation of young men has been uniquely shaped by a popular culture in which the "celebration of the puerile" never flags: "South Park," "Dumb and Dumber," Maxim, Comedy Central. Meanwhile, a slew of "western, crime, and adventure movies" were "transformed from morality tales into spectacles of violence."

While I know some middle age men who are endless adolescents, never marrying or having to do anything besides cater to their endless pleasure, be it women or video gaming or sports cars, I actually know more men who are married, some even with 4 or 5 kids, who are responsible, hard working, mature adults and quality husbands and fathers.

So is this "Culture of the Adolescent" an epidemic in our society? I don't really know. I hope not.

Now someone needs to write a corresponding book about women.
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