Once upon a time, politics was serious business. These days, however, presidential merit is measured as much by frat-house standards as by traditional approval ratings (apparently, American voters would rather have a beer with Bush than with Kerry), and a well-timed joke can sometimes sway public opinion more effectively than a reasoned argument.
“When I started out, gaming was a geek thing,” says Sean (not his real name), a 38-year-old senior director of product development for a major electronic game publisher. “Now, it’s totally mainstream. It’s clear there’s money to be made.”
It’s not like there’s any nostalgia in his voice. With a six-figure salary and a generous bonus, Sean is one of those making the money. Electronic games—which encompass both computer games and console-based games—generated nearly $10 billion in revenue last year, thanks in part to top-selling titles like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Madden NFL 2005, ESPN NFL 2K5, and NBA Live 2005.
Given the fact that electronic games have their roots in geekdom, the sheer jock/thug appeal of the above-listed games is striking. You’d think that geek boys, having been a) persecuted by jocks and bullies and b) heavily involved in the production of electronic games, might take advantage of the latter to redress the former. But somewhere between Pong and Madden, those geeks began spending their days and nights creating universes in which testosterone rules, in the process reinforcing the gender roles that made their young lives hell.
Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers—and most infamous tyrants—were getting down with other men. Or so some folks would like us to believe. Historians and posthumous biographers have of late been venturing into the relatively uncharted territory of sexual historiography, exhuming some celebrated corpses to uncover the steamy, secret queer lives they once lived.
Everything’s bigger in Texas, or so the saying goes, and that may be truest in the realm of sex-education controversy. Texas, which has one of the nation’s highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, has also been at the forefront of abstinence-only education in public schools since 1995, when then-governor George W. Bush signed the curriculum into law.
cock rock: To some, the term conjures up images of rock gods in white jumpsuits, long hair haloed by a rainbow of lights, fans waving their Bics in unison as an immaculate guitar solo screams out from a tower of amps. To others, it evokes backstage legends of drugs and debauchery, the triumph of malecentric hedonism over social conscience, the unapologetic celebration of sleaze. To still others, it’s shorthand for memorable riffs with a backbeat that makes you want to throw some devil horns and bang your head.
Amy Richards met Jim McKay as he was getting ready to release his first film, Girls Town, in 1995. McKay was kind (and political) enough to offer his film to the Third Wave Foundation, which Richards cofounded, for a benefit screening. Though Third Wave has had dozens of events since then, none has come close to matching its success, in terms of sheer dollars raised in one sitting (over $20,000), the number of new donors and allies attracted to the organization’s work, and the unparalleled visibility that comes when you combine social justice and Hollywood.
Years ago, Joe Kelly noticed a Maidenform ad reading “Inner beauty only goes so far” on the side of a city bus, and was horrified to imagine one of his young daughters as the subject of it. As one of the founders, with wife Nancy Gruver, of New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams, an award-winning, youth-edited publication, Kelly was well aware that the relationships between girls and their fathers hold an importance that’s too often dismissed or overlooked.
From the machismo of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone to Woody Allen's nebbishes and the teenage fantasies of the Porky's and American Pie franchises, manhood in all its flavors is a staple of the silver screen. Writer-director Wes Anderson is clearly fascinated by the subject too, yet over the course of his four films he has turned his lens on one specific aspect of masculinity: the balance between boyish and manly behavior necessary for the health of not only the individual male but also the culture he embodies.
A few reviewers have acknowledged this by mentioning, if only in passing, Anderson's penchant for father-son or mentor-protégé relationships, and Anderson himself has confirmed it. In a 2001 Los Angeles Times interview, he credited director James L. Brooks—who helped him find the funding to turn a short film into his 1996 debut feature, Bottle Rocket—with inspiring his filmic exploration of mentors. Each of Anderson's four features involves a relationship between a young man and either his father or a man who is old enough to be his father: wannabe thief Dignan and crime boss Mr. Henry in Bottle Rocket; 10th-grader Max Fischer and his industrialist friend/rival Mr. Blume in 1998's Rushmore; favored child Richie Tenenbaum and his irresponsible father Royal in 2001's The Royal Tenenbaums; and airline pilot Ned Plimpton and the titular marine-life documentarian he suspects is his father in 2004's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Those simplified labels, however, are inadequate to describe the mutual give-and-take of the pairs.
In 2004, every corner of popular culture was populated by men in crisis, and I don’t just mean George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney. We had men in trouble, men in triumph, men in uniform, men on the cross, men in squarepants; men being men with other men, talking about masculinity—what it is, how to have it, keep it, get it, make it last. We might even call it the Year of the Man, but the response to such a title could reasonably be, So what’s new? Isn’t every year the year of the man?
Detailed discussions of diarrhea (Survivor). On-camera vomiting (TheBachelor, The Biggest Loser). Extensive cosmetic surgery (The Swan). Endless hot-tub makeout sessions (take your pick). On reality tv, no subject is too personal to reveal, no biological function too intimate to discuss—except for one final taboo too terrible to mention: menstruation.