by Ellen Gillingham
Reading Title(s) (Author, “Title”):
Milestone and Meyers, “Representing Men”
1.) What is this week’s readings major arguments/points?
The readings major points focus on representations of men in popular culture. Milestone and Meyers highlight and explain different types of masculinities. They focus on three key discourses: the ‘old man’, the ‘new man’, and the ‘new lad’. These are stock images and media representations. The discourses change masculinity over time along with femininity because new trends develop over decades. One important point that resonated with me, is the fact that men are objectified, not to the extent that women are, but contemporary men are still held to standards of appearance and personality. The new representations do not completely replace old ones, but they are added, so they coexist. In popular culture, men are represented with working roles, but there are not clear boundaries because men are also shown as fathers. The main point of the reading is that mixed trends in representations suggest that the struggle over gender relations continues, “Driven by traditional and progressive forces” (145). The authors suggest that joining masculinity and femininity can create concerns about inadequate differences between genders.
2.) What are some things that you did not understand? Or, are there questions you have for Professor McCune, or the author?
Does focusing on three masculinities in contemporary Western culture decrease the understanding of individualism? In other words, does categorizing men into three types exclude men who do not fit the molds?
3.) What did you learn about Gender and Spectacular Consumption?
I learned that there has been an increased focus on men’s bodies, which has led to their objectification and sexualization. This not only undermines masculinity, but a legacy requiring men to look good leading to a larger range of male grooming products. Additionally, in popular culture, protagonists in cultural texts that represent traditional masculinity are cops and action heroes. Heroism is a strong feature of traditional masculinity, presenting men as engaged in heroic activities, and creates the spectacle of hyper-masculinity. I also was interested in the idea of the new man as a “nurturer” (116) because this cannot be easily incorporated into consumer culture. It proposes a paradox to norms, so if man is depicted as domestic he is often seen as a comedic fool instead of a realistic lived experience. Because popular culture is an institution is teaches viewers, so the media is very problematic because it does not show lived experiences, but stock images. If it is resistant to new representations then this severely impacts all viewers and consumers.
4.) How might you apply the author’s ideas to other examples, beyond what is
presented in the essay?
Because the reading is from the UK instead of the United States, a useful example to add to the authors’ idea is that of the Western. The authors examine many depictions of men in popular culture. I would argue that the Western genre is defining for American masculinity representations. They depict families, but focus on man’s conquest of the West and justice. The cowboy protagonist fights villains and rescues damsels in distress. The cowboy archetype was an essential ideological element as the countries developed. Ideals for masculinity in America is partly defined by the hegemonic cultural figure of the cowboy.
5.) If given visual/performance material to review, how are these in conversation with essay(s) read for this week?
The documentary, The Bro Code (Keith) takes into account how popular culture, the media reinforce sexism in men. It covers a range of topics from The Jersey Shore to pornography. For me, it related most to “Representing Men” when the narrator said, “possesses and controls women [which is a] womanizing attitude” (Keith). The documentary went beyond some of the limitations of the book by applying this attitude across all cultural backgrounds. It shows the harmful influence of the media on young men and women, even taking into account class to say that working class children do not have their parents telling them that television is not reality compared to upper class children, who do. The film opens up the conversation for looking critically at the media in relation to society. One thing that resonated with me in particular from this film is the criticism of comedy. The narrator states that it functions to “neutralize a group [by] turn[ing] them into a joke” (Keith). This connected to a class that I am taking called “American Humor.” I recently did a presentation on the minstrel show and black face, which is an example of a neutralized group. I learned that the acts were “funny” because of the superiority of humor, which states that a person laughs about misfortunes of others because these misfortunes declare the person’s superiority on others. Another idea is that people laugh at things that are taboo. Either way, comedy directed at a specific group can be very offensive.