In a time when feminism and gender gap seem to permeate every single discussion, every single film festival and every artist’s work, there is one crucial thing that I would like to become an important part of the conversation again: masculinity.
I have previously brought up the subject here on Classiq, but what prompted me to do it again was the title of an article appeared in The New York Times about Philip Roth after the novelist’s recent passing away: What Philip Roth Did Not Know About Women Could Fill A Book. I don’t think I have to go further into detail to explain what it was about. But I have to have my say. I don’t understand why it has become necessary for every artist to accommodate every perspective. That’s not what art is about and it is absurd that I have to spell it out. What is happening is outrageous and the NY Times article is an affront to the work of every artist.
Since when must art and literature and every opinion be politically correct? “Speak up” has tragically transformed into “think alike”. To voice your opinion has no value unless your opinion is tasteless, in tune with everyone else’s. Freedom of thinking and originality are sacrificed for the sake of social correctness. It is terrifying. Philip Roth and any other writer’s or artist’s work do not owe anyone anything. Take it or leave it.
That said, what I wanted this article to be about was masculine role models. Yes, the kind of men I would like my son to look up to when he grows up. Because I really can’t think of any famous contemporary figure who can take the place of Steve McQueen, for example. Can you? Can you really think of anyone else who has looked better in chinos and t-shirt? Of course it’s not just about the way he dressed. It is about how good and comfortable he looked in his own skin. It’s about the roles he played and how men wanted to emulate him, learn from him, avoid his mistakes. That’s style, that’s personality, that’s a role model.
And the same goes for Paul Newman, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant. They taught men how to play the role of man. This is not to say that we should not think beyond a society ruled by a constrictive masculinity, but I do want Steve McQueen to still have an important and necessary place in masculine identity. “Stars then were individuals. Now it’s like they all come out of the same factory”, Terry O’Neill said. Everybody is talking about individuality these days, but nobody seems to have it anymore. That’s what this is all about.
photo: Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair