Films such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up and Superbad - all from the production stable of Judd Apatow - show that the young male box-office stars of today’s romantic comedies are goofy schlubs and nerds. As unlikely as it seems, actors such as Segel (Sarah Marshall), Seth Rogen (Knocked Up) and Michael Cera and Jonah Hill(Superbad) now define the paradigm of a Hollywood romantic lead. Cary Grant they are not. They’re not even Hugh Grant. They may know the appeal of sex, but they have no sex appeal. Yet this is Hollywood, and these pathetic, if well-meaning, losers inevitably end up with the hottest chicks.
Goodwin complains that there are no modern equivalents to actors like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. I can't speak for everyone, but personally, I find the adorable and endearing Michael Cera to be much more swoon-worthy than Sylvester Stalone and his bulging biceps. What Goodwin fails to realize is that our conceptions on masculinity are changing, and that's a positive thing. Just like women face pressure to act "feminine," men face the same kind of pressure to behave "manly" and "macho." And what does this pressure lead to? Boys picking fights with each other to prove who has more testosterone, school shootings committed by males who are outcasts and thus turn to guns to reaffirm their masculinity, men raping women to exert dominance and control, high rates of binge drinking and reckless driving among males, etc etc etc. I watched a documentary in my Sociology of Gender class, entitled "Tough Guise," and it examined these exact issues. Males are experiencing pressure from every which way - pressure to be a "real man," and these pressures cause some of them to crack. Over the years, male role models have become progressively more "macho," from professional wrestlers:
...to G.I. Joes:
So I would say that the good-hearted Evan in "Superbad" or the surprisingly sweet Ben in "Knocked Up" are positive role models for men today. These new kinds of heroes teach men that you don't have to sport enormous muscles or carry guns to achieve happiness and get the girl. In his article, Goodwin even has the nerve to mention that feminism might be a cause of this "decline of masculinity," which actually makes very little sense because it is more likely that men will have the desire to act more "macho" in response to feminism in an attempt to gain back some of the power that women are trying to obtain by becoming liberated.
Bottom line: this article is highly misguided. Instead of deeming today's heroes as stuck in a "sorry state of masculinity," we should see these new stars as an indication that harmful stereotypes are finally being broken down. It's a positive thing.
(Thanks to Jennifer for sending me this story).