Daily Archives: December 20, 2012

Alive and Well: Male Heroes From the 20th Century and Beyond

Yesterday, whilst scrolling through my Twitter feed, I discovered this article:

Guns and the Decline of the Young Man, by Christy Wampole

The thesis of the article is that young men perpetrate horrific shootings because they are being disenfranchised by women and minorities. And because women and minorities have no empathy toward them about it.

The article magically manages to insult just about everyone on the planet, including the men she’s defending. And whether she meant to or not, the article comes off like apologetics for mass murderers, creating an external, broad societal impetus for people like Adam Lanza, Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris, and all the other shooters of the past several decades who have whiteness and maleness in common. In doing so, the article seems to absolve them from culpability in a way that I found repugnant.

I don’t think that was her intention. But by suggesting that young men like them murder kindergartners and classmates and parents because they lack the 50s-esque comic book role models of the shining Boy Scout and Superman, she seems to be saying there’s a reason for the madness that causes killing sprees.

One thing about madness: you’ll not find reasons for it. At least not reasons you can truly relate to. The line she draws from dot to dot did not spark a moment of “Oh, that explains it!”

Underlying the blatant bullshit that’s spouted for most of the article is the thread that says young men can’t handle minorities gaining political, economic, and social power that was — until the last century — almost wholly theirs. That they are filled with rage because women and other minorities have usurped their “rightful” place in the status quo. And that women and other minorities are doing just dandy in this new age, while the white male suffers.

So in a country where women still earn about 21% less than men do (1), occupy only 16.8% of the United States Congress (2), and occupy a tiny 3.8% of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies (4% if you extend it to Fortune 1000 501-1000) (3), we’re supposed to believe that men are downtrodden to the point of murderous rampages? That even without the death and horror, they’re overlaid by the godawful specter of not having real role models and losing out to minorities wherever their little feet tread the earth?

Perhaps this article wouldn’t have been quite so baffling to me if I hadn’t just seen The Hobbit the day before. Which could also be called Fourteen Men and Galadriel, which they probably discounted as a working title due to it sounding like a really bad porno.

I didn’t expect to see women doing anything at all in The Hobbit. I’ve read the book. And no, I don’t really think they ought to have shoved female characters in there. But the book alone is an interesting study in How Things Were a hundredish years ago.

Before the film even started, however, I got an interesting dose of How Things Are Now.

It happened in the form of trailers. So here they are, the trailers that preceded The Hobbit.

Man Of Steel

Man Of Steel (Photo credit: JoeHart42)

Man of Steel

Superman. Again. How many Superman movies have there been? How many Batmans? How many superdude films in general have existed? A lot of them have been AWESOME. But the SuperWomen? Thin on the ground. And when they do make female superheroes, the films pretty much suck.

Man of Steel looks pretty epic.

I’ve never, ever, seen a movie about a female superhero that looks epic. I’ve talked about it before — Wonder Woman couldn’t even get off the ground. If you can name a film where the titular superhero is a female that was epic in scope with great writing and plot, please. Astound me.

Oz: The Great and Powerful

In a world where every woman is a witch with powers, they need one man from Kansas with no real powers whatsoever to save them all.

“Are you the great man we’ve been waiting for?”

Fucking hell.

Surrounded by good witches whose powers seem to consist of making spark-tornadoes and little else (and the only non-bootlicking witch with any REAL power is evil; how’s that for a statement about women?), the stage magician James Franco must save Oz from a powerful woman.

Can I get any MORE stereotypes in my monitors please?

Jack the Giant Killer

Princess has the gall to think she can take care of herself, ends up (of course) captive to giants, and gets rescued by a good-hearted, heroic farmer. Cliche upon cliche upon cliche.

You know what they could have done to mix things up and turn expectations on their heads? Made Jack female.

Instead, we get the typical Everydude woos Princess storyline. By this point I had a headache.

And finally…

Star Trek: Into Darkness

I can’t rip on Star Trek, because it’s awesome. But after the previous three trailers, my hackles were up. And what did I see in this massively extended trailer (that made my friend ask me if we had somehow got into a pre-screening instead of going to see The Hobbit)? Men doing manly man things while the one token female got to hit two minority birds with one actress!

And Wampole suggests that there are no role models for men?

That women have taken over the world? That America belongs to minorities now?


Placing the blame for maladjusted young men who murder heaps of people on the heads of minorities is just absurd. She rounds out her article saying that we (women, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, etc.) don’t have enough empathy for the plight of young white men.

This is such an insult to everyone that I don’t even know how to address it. She flat out says that because young white men feel their power slipping away, they start hating women, hating everyone, until they snap and kill a bunch of people.

I hope you’ll join me as I say WHAT?

For thousands of years, everything was about men. Everything. And in America, everything was about white men.

I’m not a misandrist. I believe in equality. I believe that men are smarter than Wampole gives them credit for. I know that men are capable of honest self-assessment and the ability to look at the world and the way women and other minorities are advancing as what is best for all of us, including them. I KNOW that men have the capability to do what women did for centuries — learn from heroes who don’t share their gender.

I remember the books I read in school as a child. And I can’t remember many (if any) that had female protagonists. I had to find those on my own. When given the choice, I read Austen and L.J. Smith. But the books assigned to us? Hatchet. The Giver. The Chronicles of Prydain. The Outsiders. All phenomenal books. All with male leads.

Male heroes are far from dead. They’re everywhere.

People who kill innocents don’t do so because they lack role models. They don’t do so because minorities have usurped their “rightful” place in the world. They do so because sometimes the world has really, really shitty people in it. That’s all. Bad things happen. Sometimes people do really, really bad things that we can’t readily explain — and certainly not by blaming those who didn’t pull any triggers, who only hope to make a better life for themselves and their families.

Note: I’m not saying that mental illness translates into violence. There is a lot more to the making of a killer than simply mental illness, and sometimes it’s people with no history of mental illness who do such things.

Wampole asked the wrong question and came up with the way wrong answer. And that answer was an insult to anyone breathing.

We are all — men, women, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American — better than that.

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