The Discounting of Lived Male Experience

As always, Bryce produced yeoman’s work as an apprentice-aged man. Props! I believe he missed a minor detail, perhaps because he has not endured sufficient chick flicks with women.

“Consider, if you will, why men and women might both enjoy the same action movie. For the man, the action hero represents an ideal of masculinity, a narrative, he aspires to. For the woman, the action hero represents a solid bedrock that can ground her inner life. Men want to be the action star, women are attracted to the action star. This sort of asymmetry doesn’t follow for chick flicks, where women are interested in a narrative they can aspire to; for men, they are less concerned with being persuaded that the girl is attractive. Seeing what she looked like was sufficient, the rest of the movie is just a good story (or not).”

My guilty habit is Japanese anime. My daughter teases me for watching the dramas, but, for me, these are the best. Most of the Japanese narratives still retain authentic depictions of “lived male experience” within the dramatic dialog, perhaps because the Japanese have not been quite so completely crushed beneath feminist dogma. Such dramas invariably contain love stories that accurately reflect male emotional attachments, both to lovers and comrades. So, using that as a reference, let’s re-examine “chick-flicks.”

What we in America call “chick-flicks” have a strong representation elsewhere as authentic dramas. These narratives describe the expanding relationships between friends and lovers, including how these relationships begin, develop, and occasionally fail. For me, personally, the characters permit me to vicariously experience emotions and entanglements which are largely absent from my intentionally stable, quiet, and un-dramatic life. I have noticed, however, when my wife and daughter enter the room, that they often make derisive comments such as, “Why are the women always crying?” and “Why is everybody shouting?” My favorite, of course, was when my daughter watched FLCL and said, “That’s too strange.” Of course it was “too strange;” it was all about a young man’s coming of age, all the strange sci-fi was allegorical.

The difference, you see, it that most Japanese anime is written for a male audience. Men make it; men watch it. As a result, you get the equivalent of “chick-flicks” written for men. So, now my critique.

When men watch anime dramas about the misfit boy who gets the girl, they’re watching something to which they aspire. The misfit boy STRIVES TO BECOME GREATER. This is not the comic-book hero that suddenly finds himself with powers that solve his problems; this is the comic-book hero that suddenly finds himself with powers that CAUSE HIS PROBLEMS. It is only by improving himself as a man that he is able to overcome his disabilities – even those that give him strength – and become a man worthy of his comrades and lovers.

In this regard, a “chick-flick” is a different narrative completely alien to men. It requires men to empathize with the goal of being sufficient – and often through connivance and whirlwind efforts following some sort of procrastination – to attract the attention of a lover and keep it. Comrades rarely figure in the narrative. Happily-ever-after is the end of the story, rather than an opening to a broader implied narrative following a crisis of self-worth. In the chick-flick, the protagonist is worthy, but alone, and needs a companion. In the male narrative, the protagonist is unworthy, though rarely completely alone, and seeks to establish self-worth justified by external and objective assessments. This journey earns him companions, who have similar journeys of improvement. Together, they accomplish great deeds they could not accomplish alone. When this narrative includes lovers, then the characters invariably recognize that they are stronger together than apart. Even in Japanese “girl-power” narratives where men take a nominally subordinate role, the narrative focuses on the male’s quest for worth to a completely superior woman, and his willingness to self-sacrifice for somebody who can live without him – but needs his emotional support to avoid despair.

One response to “The Discounting of Lived Male Experience

  1. Pingback: the male’s quest for worth to a completely superior woman, and his willingness to self-sacrifice for somebody who can live without him | gaikokumaniakku

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