Today, Gender Across Borders is having a guest blog series about masculinity. Since I had forgotten to submit my own story, I figured I could talk about it here. Which is really perfect since last night I saw How to Train Your Dragon for the first time. I had heard about the hype, so when it came on close to midnight, I decided that it wouldn’t be so bad to give it a look.
And.. it was pretty amazing. Which isn’t atypical since I have a track record of preferring media aimed at young boys. Or just boys in general.
But why do I like (most) stuff for males?
Because the range for males is significantly larger. This isn’t to suggest that it is without (white or straight) privilege, but the emotional and personality range of boys tends to be different than it is for girls. Hiccup, in How to Train Your Dragon, is a non-violent, curious, and social outcast who doesn’t fit into the hyper masculine Viking culture. Then you have Astrid, who seems to be the embodiment of female masculinity. She’s physically violent, short tempered and egoistical.
This is rather similar to the scenario created in the film Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. We have Percy, who while hesitant at first, comes into his own in order to save his mother and Annabeth who brags about being the daughter of Athena (Goddess of wisdom and warfare). Despite all her talk, I never once found her helpful when it came to actually fighting, assessing a situation or coming up with useful strategies.
The stuff that is made for boys tends to focus on characterization – growing as a person, achieving previously unconquerable tasks, coming into one’s own. Even movies like The Hangover and Due Date (as horrific as they both are) focused on male bonding and overall themes regarding friendship. This isn’t to suggest that all movies targeted toward males is good or high quality, or that they’re all about brotherly love – but in comparison to movies for women, it definitely seems that way.
Cinema for females seems to be the exact opposite. In fact, 90% of the movies made for women is centered around romantic struggles. Even Waiting to Exhale, an excellent film about sisterhood/friendship is about romantic shortcomings. Women are typically defined within the context of their relationship to men; it’s this idea that without a man, women have no identity while men can and do flourish and come together without the presence of a woman.
And I wonder why female media focuses so heavily on sex and love. It’s not even an issue of heterosexual love being glamorized or the never ending fixated of white women (or any other privilege for that matter).
It’s an issue because women never seem to love one another, whether or not the outlet in question is created by a woman. Why do women only seem to exist in contrast to men? This mentality can be seen in the futile attempts to create “strong, female” characters. The females in question (ie: Astrid and Annabeth) have blatant, stereotypical male characteristics in an effort to make them seem more independent and capable. Women, it would seem, try to apply male gendered attributes to girls in order to capture a piece of the elusive male privilege.
But what women need to focus on is that, in some ways, masculinity is about the brotherhood. Maybe we should shift our focus to creating a sisterhood.
What about you? Do your experiences or preferences differ or are they similar?
Aside from male privilege, why is it that men like each other more in movies and on TV?
* Of course I do want to offer a disclaimer: the movies in question focus on white, heterosexual males of a specific age. Privilege ignores the stories of people who don’t embody certain characteristics. So, my case sample is really small in terms of who it includes. But I wanted to talk about it since it seems to be a recurring issue whenever I watch movies or television.