According to middlebrow pseuds such as myself, we’re in an era of “feminised masculinity”. Men – virtually with teats, enjoying a full emotional life – are as proficient in sobbing, sensitivity and vulnerable wordiness as the Girl Stereotype once was. So what the eff is going on with our films? How can there be so much salivation for The Expendables 2, a movie in which withered manhood springs back to life in a Viagran orgy of ultra-violence and steroid-pumping crusties beating the living crap out of everything in undulating convulsions of manliness? The other week, Total Recall was re-released so that a new generation of testosterone mainliners could savour Arnie’s plasticine pate butting and exploding anything that came near it. But why? How can this exist at the same time as the Notebook-watching straight-gay/gay-straight man who is emotionally literate to PhD level?
This is where I should drop in my most moistly pseud coinage of the year: post-masculinism. Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it. A few years back, some sociologists and feminists began to assert that feminism had finished its “first phase” and that an era of “post-feminism” was now upon us. No more need girls miss out on fun stuff. No – as a confident, liberated post-feminist, feel free to indulge in all the things once deemed profane. It certainly took hold in my home county of Essex. Boozing, boobs out, submissive sexuality – even reading Fifty Shades Of Grey – are ways of seizing what once represented oppression, thus owning it in a fun and filthy manner; the feminist equivalent of expropriating the n-word and lassoing it around your head in Faliraki, clad only in your knickers.
Now, whether you think that is all bollocks or not, it’s undeniably happened. Is it going too far to suggest that the rise of overtly masculine cinema, being watched by eyeliner-wearing ponces such as myself, might represent an analogous art trend for us blokes? The era of the 90s grungy try-hard male is long gone; it’s almost a platitude to talk of men’s love for their children, men’s emotional needs. These things are here. We have them. Well done, gents. But in the achieving, comes the (very British?) urge to ironise and attack the ideas established. Yes, I want to cry in front of my girlfriend (I’m straight, unbelievably) at the denouement of Marley & Me – but when she’s not there, if it’s me and my pal Greg James with a box of Peroni, then why the hell not get tanked up, put on vests, bump chests and watch the first Expendables on Blu-ray? A guilt-free way to ironically savour a masculinity now denounced and mocked; a roaring splurge of outlawed hormone. In private. Sounds feasible to me.
Then, when the movie’s finished, just switch it off. I might cook something fragrant. Maybe try on my skinny jeans and cry about the size of my bum.
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