Man Love

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I know you're going to disagree because of the number of scantily clad young actresses in films, but girls just aren't important characters in movies. They serve very intellectually narrow narrative purposes, and they do so according to themes rooted in very conservative, Lutheran property ethics.

If you care to analyse the plot of most major films, you'll understand how men are perceived as being so much more important to western culture. Adventurism with the boys is accorded so much more cultural idealism than time spent with women.

It's no secret that women are depicted in mainstream films according to the Madonna or the Whore stereotype. They're either the loving mother or the sex object whose sole purpose is to provide a safe haven (sexual or maternal) for men away from the cold cruel world. Test it for yourself. If the character is a mother she won't display a shred of sexuality. If she's there for sexual set dressing she won't display any wisdom. While the hero hangs around a poker night, hot club or top secret auto shop he'll be surrounded by babes dressed like strippers, but the girl who'll end up his steady lover will be far more decent in her dress and manner.

And talk all you want about girls who kick ass in everything from Alien to Iron Man 2 – such characters are just erstwhile men with breasts, cleaving to the male ideal of physical prowess but with female beauty thrown into the package. If there is a female ideal that isn't informed by Playboy or Oprah, we simply don't see her in blockbuster movies. In fact, you only have to look at the original Iron Man to see how mainstream Hollywood views women. The young reporter (Leslie Bibb) who challenges Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) on his involvement with weapons that go on to kill innocent civilians is quickly taken to bed and then forgotten, her line of enquiry about him forgotten. She's literally fucked into silence.

Spending time with and building a life with a woman isn't seen as a legitimate pursuit. A woman is like a rest stop, to take care of the physical or visceral needs of a man, to feed or fuck him in however metaphorical a sense. The real work to be done in life is to go off to war with your buddies. America, which sets the global cinematic vocal tone, is a nation of fighters, not lovers. Plenty of American filmmaking institutions have built their brand platform on such values – just look at the work of Simpson and Bruckheimer.

(Here's an ironic aside before we go on – consider the soft porn work of directors like Zalman King (The Red Shoe Diaries) and Tinto Brass (Frivolous Lola). They're fixated on the female characters. The obvious reason is so we can spend as much time as possible watching chicks take their clothes off and get it on, but by the nature of a 90-minute narrative, we have to spend a considerable amount of time watching female characters deal with their own concerns – albeit sexual ones. They're not just R&R fodder for men.)

Sometimes the pro-man approach is literal. In Iraq war parable 300, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) is not only so battle-hardened he doesn't know how to show his wife (Lena Headey) any tenderness before he leaves for battle, he'd rather take his men into a suicide mission knowing he'll never see her again than stay with her and be a husband and father. He might be both of those things, but he's a warrior first and foremost, even if it will lead to his inevitable death (I wonder how much it's got to do with the quote normally attributed to James Dean; 'live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse').

Sometimes it's figurative – most films inspired by the American cultural model are hero's journey/war parables. When Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) realises he still loves Mia (Jordana Brewster) in Fast & Furious, she represents a home where he can finally be safe. But in the pivotal scene where Brian realises what Mia means to him, he instead goes off with her brother Dominic (Vin Diesel) to battle the bad guys by drag racing hotted up cars across the Mexico desert. If Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) put as much energy into making his relationship happy with new love Tyler (Lori Petty) as he did into chasing bank robber Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) he'd be the perfect husband for any girl.

In the above example, Point Break is infamous as a tale of homoerotic love, of boys defined by their relationships with other men rather than women (directed by a woman, ironically enough). But when you think about it a little deeper, many films depict a love story between two men. The hero will have (or win) a hot chick to bang, but only as long as she stays at home and doesn't obstruct his mission. Think Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Iceman (Val Kilmer) from Top Gun – by the climax, the girlfriend Charlie (Kelly McGillis) is out of the picture, staying at home waving her hankie, praying for the safe return of her man from battle and keeping the home fires burning.

If you stay at home with your wife and children instead of leaving to fight – we learn by rote – we'll be called anything from pussy to unpatriotic depending on the socio-political spectrum. The maxim to live by – quite literally – is bro's before ho's. While America searches for thrills, justice or power the wives, mothers and the rest of the women wait at home, the social buttress against the chaos he spends his days fighting against. Call it man-love. Call it the New Puritanism. But don't call it equality just because a woman dresses in black leather and heels and fights as skillfully as a man.

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