SINGLE IN SCRANTON: Reclaiming masculinity

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First Posted: 9/9/2013

To be a man means something different these days than what it has meant in the past. Modern “dudes” have risen from the pop culture gutter, leaving us with nothing of substance to worship. The 1970s Burt Reynolds macho-ism has disappeared, replaced, I fear, by less authentic, less interesting “Jersey Shore” clones that inhabit every bar across America. (Can you really imagine The Situation kicking ass and saving the day the way Reynolds did in “Deliverance?”)

Novelist Ernest Hemingway’s adventures in war and love are legendary. Hemingway, in my opinion, is manliness made real. For example, after he survived a plane crash in Africa, Hemingway was said to pour alcohol into his fractured skull to keep infection at bay. And apart from his involvement in WWI and WWII and the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway, or “Papa,” as he was known, was worldly. He was an adventurer, traveler, and writer, a combination of traits that are rare these days.

In his heyday, actor/director Sylvester Stallone created characters such as Rocky Balboa and John Rambo that had muscle and heart. Rambo’s shirtless “Arghs!” and Balboa’s face-offs are classic moments in American cinema that typify what it means, in part, to be a man.

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche may be best known for declaring “God is dead,” but the German thinker also had other ideas, like his “Will to Power” and Übermensch, or “The Superman,” concepts. In a BBC documentary about Nietzsche, one person described him as “the first punk philosopher,” imagining the thinker raising his middle finger to the larger establishment. Nietzsche is important because he challenges us to rise above ourselves, becoming something better.

Comedian/director Woody Allen, the nerdy hero of pop culture, although not at all manly, uses his intellectual and comedic powers to redefine masculinity. Allen’s classic movie “Annie Hall” is one of my all-time favorites, and Allen deserves credit for showing how nerds can be cool.

And President Theodore Roosevelt, a politician and hard-riding Rough Rider, was a man of intrigue and fought in the United States’ war against Spain just a few years before becoming president. Rather than fade into retirement, Roosevelt, who was athletic and an intellectual, after losing the bid for president in 1912, put together a team to explore the River of Doubt in South America, an expedition that nearly killed him.

If men are to progress, a new model for masculinity is needed.

Using the above archetypes, think nerd/intellectual meets rugged outdoorsman. Rather than this, what we have is a disgrace, an insult to manhood. The douchebag model of masculinity – the beer-guzzling, NFL-obsessed car enthusiast – which is so widespread nowadays, won’t cut it. As Nietzsche I’m sure would agree, culture needs an “uberman,” someone to save us from the douche state that persists.

In the dating world, women have to demand a better kind of guy, a quality guy, and that’s what they will get.