When and if there is a future, a time in which there is enough distance and detachment to observe, analyze and write with dispassion about the current state of the nation and the world, it would be worthwhile to explore and identify the part played by the modern iteration of hypermasculinity, and its oversized and unwelcome contribution to the ongoing maintenance of the disaster du jour.
I’m not talking about that banalized label, toxic masculinity, an all too real aspect of this, certainly, but an adjunct that has been functionally weaponized into meaninglessness by the woke community, and thus bled of all too much of its actual meaning and context.
Too often, this trope has been used to attack any aspect of manhood that may appear “controversial,” or “troubling,” or “problematic,” or any of those other far from inviolably absolute labels that have been frequently reduced to talking points to support a typically modern, morally performative attitude of smug self-regard.
Nor am I here to deal with that swarm of undereducated and pathetic sad sacks, the so called Incels. This cadre of wildly misinformed young men, who have been led to assume, I gather by believing that pornography is somehow a genuine reflection of actual interpersonal relationships, that they’ve had their assigned seats on some imaginary and fantastical pleasure train taken instead by better looking and socially more available men.
Rather, I’m talking about the performative butchness of so many rightwing clowns, with all that swagger, that “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do” bluster. To be kinder to this bullshit than it deserves, this behavior is almost childlike in its willful ignorance, and might actually be ruefully funny in the hands of children.
BUGSY MALONE and THE LITTLE RASCALS come to mind.
This sort of chip on the shoulder, locker room bully bullshit has been with us forever, of course, but the men and women who are creating such havoc out of their fear today are those contemporaries of the now distantly recalled 1990s generational social creation, the Metrosexual.
(To briefly digress…back in the late ’90s, my wife, a woman of extraordinary good sense with no interest in such nonsense, asked me out of casual and transient curiosity what a Metrosexual was. I unhesitatingly replied, “Me, in my thirties.” She never knew me then, but she’d seen the pictures. My reply satisfied her curiosity, and that was that.)
To be sure, anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention can trace the latest iteration of this current perversion of manhood to the Laddie subculture of the 1990s. This social subset seemed to emerge specifically to stand as a cultural bulwark against Metrosexuality, which clearly read as unmanly to this crowd in the most banal and cliché manner imaginable.
Naturally, the very idea of something so obviously non-Neanderthal scared the living shit out of these man-boys, who seemed born and preternaturally destined to likely disappoint any woman they’d ever meet, one way or another.
It’s the many representatives of that generation of mooks, who came of voting age in the ’90s, and thus now in their 40s and 50s, and their embrace of all the worst misogynist and casually racist “Just kidding” aspects of the Rat Pack, and with their cigars, gentlemen’s clubs, poker games, and backwards baseball caps, to point out just a few of their signifiers, that are in the forefront of that presentation of masculinity we’re dealing with here.
And of course, underlying and undergirding all this machismoronics is a desperate panic, fueled in general by an obvious massive insecurity about the very manhood so amateurishly and often pathetically acted out.
There is a terrific and terrifying irony in their admiration of John Wayne, a misogynist, racist and draft dodger, who, by example, has apparently taught several generations of men like him how to bullshit themselves and the world.
Is this panic of insecurity any wonder, after so many of the homophobic, hypermasculine right wing devotees of whatever perversion of Christianity is being worshiped on any given day often turn out to be self-loathing closet queens, terrified of discovery, whose only outlet beyond the clandestine and furtive gay sex which occasionally trips them up with their wives, their constituents or their parishioners is to identify with the homophobic aggressor in the worst example of the mainstreaming of Stockholm Syndrome.
All this, followed of course, by a cry for forgiveness, a reinvestment in the service to god, and of course, that old reliable, alcohol fueled misadventure. And of course, forgiveness, from spouse, flock and voters is immediately forthcoming, because bullshit travels in both directions for this crowd.
These are the men — and, to let no one off the hook, the women who love, or at the very least, fear them, too — who got us where we are today. So terrified are they of their own secretly self-perceived pitiful worthlessness they completely reject the voice of informed authority, embracing instead anyone or anything that supports, agrees and flatters their banal and all too often homicidal/suicidal fantasies of how “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”
This hypermasculinity informs the media mouthpieces of the oligarchy, who offered nothing but contempt and dismissal as a “hoax” at a time when action might have saved lives…who have now pivoted, denying their own denials. These outright lies will, of course, be taken at their word by their audience, who would do exactly the same thing in their place.
This hypermasculinity defines that claque of evangelical clergy who dismiss as “pansies” those who choose to shelter in place, and will accept, along with their credulous followers, the inevitable deaths of their flock as their loving god’s will.
This hypermasculinity defines the political hacks who shrugged off this unqualified disaster, this world transforming event, insisting it was no big deal, who now strongly suggest that the old and the vulnerable have a responsibility to get on with it and fucking die already, so their serfs can get back to feeding their oligarchic masters’ desperate hunger for the money they’ve been investing in escaping this shitstorm they themselves have created.
And naturally that audience, those followers, these serfs buy and embrace every lie spewed at them, simply because it supports the narrative of their fantasy based self-mythology, of gunslingers, of rugged individualists, of survivors…as opposed to the willfully ignorant victims of their own bullshit they truly are.
It is in defying science, rejecting actual informed authority, denying genuine expertise, that these morons find that momentary ecstasy of strutting the world like the parody of the man they know in the depths of their empty souls they will never ever be.
Trust me on this.
As ever, I remain,
Howard Victor Chaykin — a Prince, and still Metro after all these years.