"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.