December 27, 2016

"Lots of men messed around with masculinity..."

"And for reasons that make no cosmic sense, a few of those men — Prince, David Bowie, Prince Be of P.M. Dawn, and now Mr. Michael — died in 2016, a year in which dismaying ambivalence about aggressive, invasive male behavior was matched by the reinstatement of duller performances of masculinity in both our pop music and our politics. The Princes and the George Michaels seem as radical as ever."

Writes Wesley Morris in "George Michael Mattered Beyond the Music."

The Princes and the George Michaels — sorry, there is only one of each — let's put them to the side now. I give Prince and George Michael all the love the deserve — which is a lot — but I want to focus on what Wesley Morris said about the "performance of masculinity" in the music and politics of 2016. I almost had to diagram that one sentence to understand it. But clear out the stuff about artists who died this year, and you have a statement about the keeping-on-living men of 2016.

These  unnamed men of 2016 showed us 2 different masculine presentations: 1. "aggressive, invasive" and 2. "duller."

And we were ambivalent. Dismayingly so.

Presumably, Morris thinks the dead radicals — Prince, George Michaels — marked the path away from the unappealing choice between the 2 styles of masculinity — ugly or boring — that prevail among us the living. I say "presumably," because the sentence I want to talk about is a sign for an exit ramp Morris zooms past.

Who are the Masculinity Style #1 men and the Masculinity Style #2 men of 2016 that Morris didn't bother to name? It seems as though he had 1s and 2s for both politics and pop music. I don't follow pop music enough to know who the men of 2016 are and whether they are "aggressive, invasive" or "duller." There's Justin Bieber, I know. Which is he?

Politics, I follow. I'm sure Donald Trump was the whole reason for the words "aggressive, invasive." And yet... "In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, 'I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.' I took her out furniture...."

Trump's "performance of masculinity" is just as complicated as Prince's.

33 comments:

rhhardin said...

A man builds himself out of obligations.

Feminism hasn't figured out where women fit in.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Pretty black and white descriptions of what he assumes is masculinity. 1. "aggressive, invasive" and 2. "duller."

Personally I prefer the strong, capable, unassuming type of masculinity. The guy who can 'take charge' when needed yet is not embarrassed to cry at the ending of Old Yeller or cuddle with his children. He is a man and doesn't need to prove it.

EDH said...

Writes Wesley Morris in "George Michael Mattered Beyond the Music."

"Lots of men messed around with masculinity..."

Dressed me up in women's clothes
Messed around with gender roles
Line my eyes and call me pretty


- Laid by James.


"Who are the Masculinity Style #1 men and the Masculinity Style #2 men of 2016 that Morris didn't bother to name? It seems as though he had 1s and 2s for both politics and pop music. I don't follow pop music enough to know who the men of 2016 are and whether they are 'aggressive, invasive' or 'duller' ...Politics, I follow. I'm sure Donald Trump was the whole reason for the words "aggressive, invasive."

- Althouse


The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.

- George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"

epador said...

AA eviscerates snobbery whenever it appears. Or maybe its emasculates?

mockturtle said...

Good grief! I agree with DBQ. Capable, confident and willing to lead. Many different personality types can be masculine but the so called 'macho' male is usually not.

As for the 'artists' mentioned, they are highly effeminate, a trait that may be effective in drawing an audience but is neither masculine nor attractive, to me.

Hunter said...

"I Want Your Sex" would be an example of which type of masculinity?

traditionalguy said...

Talking about intentionally messing around with masculinity, the owners of harems long ago ordered the creation of better and better eunuchs to run things for them.

And that doesn't change when Butch Lesbians are the ones empowered and owning the harems.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Wake me up before you go-go.

bagoh20 said...

I prefer softness in all my favorite things: Women, meat, and puppies. All I want in other men is that they leave me and my things alone.

Things.

tim maguire said...

The answer is so obvious that if you need to be told, then you're part of the problem. Hopeless.

That's the new liberalism--there's no such thing as a teaching opportunity anymore. Instead you are written off for not instinctively knowing the "right" answer.

Fernandinande said...

What do musicians, actors and other court jesters have to do with "masculinity"?

“It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.” -- J.H.

Michael K said...

“One must have a heart of stone to read the death of drug addicted rock singers without laughing.”

Adapted from Oscar,

When we were in Paris, our teenaged girls wanted to visit the grave of Jim Morrison. It is the most visited grave in Pere Lachaise cemetery.

The definition of masculinity has nothing to do with them.

Michael Murphy does.

Murphy was killed on June 28, 2005 after he left his cover position and went to a clearing away from the mountains,exposing himself to a hail of gunfire in order to get a clear signal to contact his Headquarters for relaying the dire situation and requesting immediate support for his team. He dropped the satellite phone after being shot a second time but finished the call and while continuing to be fired upon, he even signed off saying, “Roger that,Sir. Thank You.”[12] & then continued fighting from his exposed position until he died from his wounds.


cornroaster said...

2016 also marked the death of two other men who defined a different type of masculinity - Arnold Palmer and Muhammad Ali.

William said...

It's not the messing around with masculinity that put them in the grave. It was the messing around with drugs......I suppose if your life is so suffused with adulation and gratification, you want to dance on that pinnacle forever and, worse yet, you think you can.......Given his life style, he managed to keep the ball bouncing more than many rock stars. The ability to find harmony in music does not correlate well with the ability to find harmony in life.

bagoh20 said...

I think the rock star/ drug abuse thing is pretty simple. Both things give you an incredible rush and drugs are quicker and easier. You can afford it, your friends all do it, and there really is nothing else that gives you a rush similar to performing. It takes incredible luck and self-control to overcome that constant enticement - to find peace with peace. I have the greatest respect for those who do win that challenge.

The drug part also happens to a lot of people out here in average land, but you don't hear of them, and I think often the only difference is they just weren't born with a marketable talent.

Fernandinande said...

Here's a masculine guy! He's volunteering to be killed in support of his politics, and I bet he'd be pretty easy to kill since he was apparently separated-at-birth from Peewee Herman.

Fernandinande said...

cornroaster said...
2016 also marked the death of two other men who defined a different type of masculinity - Arnold Palmer and Muhammad Ali.


Ali was one of my heroes for refusing to be enslaved by the federal gov't, but that was before I became a racist.

Arnold Palmer, IIRC, filed a lawsuit to prevent other people from practicing - and they DO need the practice - their religion.

walter said...

Aside from those SHORTS early on, Michael seemed to mess less with gender roles less than the others. He uh..always knew which bathroom he wanted to visit.

Matthew Blaine said...

"Performative Masculinity" is pure Gender Studies boilerplate. It helps explain masculine behaviors they don't like, Trump for example. Underlying that is the blind faith to the blank slate theory, that we can always mold men to behave in ways that we like. In the ways that feminists like. It's how we got Justin Trudeau.

hombre said...

Outside of my oldest son's stereo, Prince and George Michael mattered not a whit. JayZ, Beyoncé, Bieber, Miley, ditto.

They are Kim Kardashian with different vocal cords.

Big Mike said...

Masculinity defined:

The young men who died in that Aurora theater using their bodies to shield their dates.

walter said...

"They are Kim Kardashian with different vocal cords."
Uh..lumping all those together really bespeaks a lack of appreciation of innovation...creation vs manufactured pop.

Alex said...

Interesting that we don't worship fishermen, coal miners, oil rig workers or construction workers. Only singers and actors who are dandies?

Alex said...

Oh and soldier.

Bill Peschel said...

Just from the excerpts it sounded like the NYT guy was smoking hash and trying to draw connections from a few celeb deaths.

This is what passes for news: fear-mongering based on future events (assuming they happen, which they never; see: global warming/climate change), and keeping the public blind by adjusting their reality goggles (see: Why Hillary lost).

I wonder if he'll write another piece on Princess Leia's death and the meaning for femininity.

iowaan said...

Rhhardin said: "Feminism hasn't figured out where women fit in."

But lots of non-feminists have figured out where men fit in women.

Jon Ericson said...

Music by Michel Legrand
Lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman

Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
Like a snowball down a mountain, or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that's turning running rings around the moon
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind!

Michael K said...

Michel LeGrand is an amazing guy. I used to listen to his albums when I was in college and that was 60 years ago.

It was his 85th. and was last month.

I love his musical comedy movie, Les Demoiselles du Rochefort. It stars a young Catherine Deneuve and her sister, Francoise Dorleac, who was killed in a auto accident shortly after the movie was made.

Jon Ericson said...

::fistbump::

Michael Fitzgerald said...

Flash: Media Maggot Likes Femmy Men; Afraid of Masculinity... It's not exactly news, by now. On NPR, the women have deeper voices than the sibilant sissy males.

urbane legend said...

Alex said...
Interesting that we don't worship fishermen, coal miners, oil rig workers or construction workers. Only singers and actors who are dandies?

Worship? Who in his/her right mind worships any other person? Well, other than Brigitte Neilsen. Respect for determination, skill, and accomplishment, yes. But worship? Never.

veni vidi vici said...

You conclude by tying the subject to Trump, and yet no Trump tag on the post? Ya slippin' at year's end!

Meade said...

Tags: David Bowie, George Michael, Justin Bieber, masculinity, Prince, Trump's masculinity, Wesley Morris