Friday, December 16, 2005

I, Too, Blame the Patriarchy

Before I forget, I had a rant I wanted to share, about this article. Here are some choice quotes:
Gary A. Randall . . . said the proliferation of antisocial protagonists came from a concerted effort by networks to channel the frustrations of modern men.
"It's about comprehending from an entertainment point of view that men are living a very complex conundrum today," he said. "We're supposed to be sensitive and evolved and yet still in touch with our Neanderthal, animalistic, macho side." Watching a deeply flawed male character who nevertheless prevails, Mr. Randall argued, makes men feel better about their own flaws and internal conflicts. . . . The most popular male leads of today stand in stark contrast to the unambiguously moral protagonists of the past, good guys like Magnum, Matlock or Barnaby Jones. They are also not simply flawed in the classic sense: men who have the occasional affair or who tip the bottle a little too much. Instead they are unapologetic about killing, stealing, hoarding and beating their way to achieve personal goals that often conflict with the greed, apathy and of course the bureaucracies of the modern world.
"These kinds of characters are so satisfying to male viewers because culture has told them to be powerful and effective and to get things done, and at the same time they're living, operating and working in places that are constantly defying that," said Robert Thompson, the director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.
What, you may ask, annoys me most about this?
Could it be that "television producers are [still!] obsessed with developing shows that can capture the attention of young male viewers"? Well, yes, that's certainly part of it--men between 18 and 49 are regarded as the holy grail of viewers. They're the ones with the money, the argument goes, and that makes them much more attractive to advertisers, and, of course, it's advertisers who run this particular part of the world. If you pull in that demographic, then you will get higher ad rates for your show. Yes, it's true, that thinking makes me crazy, but that's not what set me off about the article.

Here's the thing: the murdering, animalistic, morally ambiguous men that male-oriented TV programs want to present, in order to get the cherished viewing demographic, are apparently reacting to this stifling, bureaucratic, world, one that "constantly defies" the urge to be powerful and effective. But who built the institutions that stifle all that power and effectiveness? Who built the bureaucracies? Who made the rules? Was it some alien species? Was it women? Was it some meanie who doesn't want men to have any fun? Hmmm; no. It was men! Mostly men between 18 and 49, for that matter.

Really, it gets back to one of the corollaries to my feminism--that the patriarchy oppresses men, too. It's true that men benefit from the patriarchy in ways that women simply do not (see twisty, at her new site, for a lovely explication of patriarchy), but it's no picnic for men, either, especially if the sex roles to which the patriarchy assigns them don't fit particularly comfortably. Men benefit more, and they're oppressed less--which is why it's called a "patriarchy"--but it's not the system that most of the men with whom I'm friends would choose, and many of them fight it, in their own ways, as much as they can.

So anyway--I wanted to share that annoyance with you before (a) the linkability disappeared behind the paywall of the NYT, and (b) graduation. Which is today, in case you haven't been following along below.

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