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March 08, 2012

Feminists, MGTOW, and Selective Attention Syndrome

In a post about the upcoming Pixar movie "Brave", Grim writes:

The difference between a traditional fairy tale and this kind goes beyond the obvious -- the female hero who can outfight all the boys with ease, which is now the standard rather than the transgressive model. Rather, the real difference is masked by that aspect: you couldn't make this movie with a male hero, because people would be outraged to see young women portrayed as a pack of useless losers. People would hate the male hero whose attitude conveyed that it was an insult to his excellence to suggest he might marry some penny-ante girl from his village. The female lead allows them to tell the story they want to tell without running up against the uncomfortable truth about what kind of a story it is they are telling.

The real difference is that the love story has been replaced, in our age, by the story of the 'hero' in love with herself. Prince Charming, whatever his flaws, was driven by love for another: his service, and his sacrifice, were for a beloved lady he valued above his own life and for whom he would suffer any pain and dare any peril. The modern 'hero' is focused on her own fulfillment, resisting every duty to her family or her society as an injustice that interferes with her personal journey of self-actualization.

It struck me, during the admittedly obnoxious trailer and the ensuing discussion, how often men and women look at exactly the same things but see vastly different messages in them. In many ways, this is not surprising. Despite the best efforts of feminists and progressives, girls and boys are still socialized differently. It's not just that our hormones, physiology, and life experiences differ. Our dreams for our sons and daughters bear little resemblance to one another:

Trendy middle-class couples call their little girls “Billie” or “Charlie” and dress them in jeans. But this is not a sign that the gender barrier has disappeared. If it were, they would also call their little boys “Daisy’”or “Violet” and send them to school in frocks.

To give a girl a masculine identity is to pay her a compliment, implying she is better than the others. To give a boy a feminine identity would count as child abuse.
- Kate Saunders

There's an uncomfortable truth there, if we're willing to face it.

In the trailer I saw a brash, overconfident, defiant young girl whose body language should be depressingly familiar to any parent who has ever asked their son or daughter to do something he or she does not want to do. Granted, for most teenagers "something they don't want to do" encompasses pretty much everything their parents think is good for them. Their opposition isn't particularly well thought out. Often it's not even indicative of their true desires: they haven't figured those out yet. At that age, rebellion is more reflex than philosophical statement.

During the scene where the young men are shooting at the targets, the young woman and her father are on the same page with respect to the suitors: both are derisive and scornful. The father is, if anything, more harsh. If the suitors fail to impress Merida, they impress her father even less.

So what did my admittedly feminine brain take away from this short trailer? I saw a classic fairy tale theme: the brash young hero(ine) overreaches, is taught a lesson, and becomes a better person. And so, when I Googled up the plot of the movie, it turned out to be:

Set in Scotland in a rugged and mythical time, "Brave" features Merida, an aspiring archer and impetuous daughter of royalty. Merida makes a reckless choice that unleashes unintended peril and forces her to spring into action to set things right.

It's hard for me to see this story as one in which selfishness is glorified. A frequent theme in Disney and Pixar stories is the rather callow, obnoxious young hero who has some growing up to do. Think Lightning McQueen or the Emperor Kuzco. The challenges he overcomes are often of his own making and he benefits from being taken down a peg or two. Putting a female face on this tried and true theme doesn't seem particular dangerous to me. It just suggests that women have flaws too.

Grim also objects to what he calls the "standard narrative" of a girl who can outfight all the boys. Given that "Brave" is the first Pixar movie to feature a female protagonist that seems like a bit of a stretch, if an understandable one. The blog princess has wondered many times why members of the Oink Cadre (including her esteemed spouse) don't even see the pervasive negative female stereotypes in popular culture. Men simply don't notice them, even when they're obvious and in-your-face. It took years of my pointing out how women are portrayed in the media (helped along by a one year deployment, during which he saw literally no TV) for the spousal unit to remark to me one day, "You know, I always thought you were blowing that whole thing way out of proportion. But being away from TV and movies for a year, I am seeing things through different eyes. For the first time, I do see what you have been complaining about."

Somewhat ironically, I was also the first in our house to notice the rising devaluation of traditional masculinity. Oddly, no one argued with me on that score. They were able to see it right away because it concerned them. And it offended them - just as it has always offended me to see women and wives depicted in the sneering, leering way they are so often portrayed. There's more than a little truth in many of these negative stereotypes: wives do nag, men who build bridges become strategically clueless when it comes to sorting socks, women can be conniving and manipulative, men can be brutal and controlling. It's not so much the noting of our respective flaws, but the reductive portrayal of masculinity and femininity that rankles.

Just as Grim saw something different than what I saw in the trailer, both T99 and I saw something different in Grim's post than what he says he was trying to convey:

What do you make of the proposed MGTOW fairy tale in which the prince refuses to marry any of the pack of women in order to 'go his own way,' wherein all of whom are portrayed as variations of negative female stereotypes?

E.g., instead of negative stereotypes about boys -- the three options being an idiotic oaf, a vainglorious emotional jerk, and an incompetent child-man -- we have all the girls portrayed as archetypes of the negative qualities that these movements tend to portray as emblematic of women.

That seems like the kind of thing that would annoy.

Well yes, it does annoy. I suspect I may have written about this a time or twelve :p

What do I think of the MGTOW movement? When it comes to the individual, I'm not sure what I think matters. To the extent that MGTOW is about men becoming the kind of men they admire rather than defining themselves in relation to women, I think it's a good thing. In fact, that is precisely what I have advocated to both women who despair of ever finding good men and men who despair of finding good women: become the kind of person you think is worthy of respect.

I broadly approve of men (and women) learning not to be controlled by their desires. I broadly approve of men (and women) getting to know themselves and deciding what they want out of life before getting married, though I did not take that path myself. What I do not, and cannot, commend are reactionary ideolologies that pre-emptively declare war on the other half of humanity. On this score, I see no real distinction between radical feminists and radical men's rights activists.

No, that's not quite right. There's one big difference. Radical feminists are excoriated 24/7/365 on conservative sites. Feminism is widely blamed for everything from global warming to the heartbreak of psoriasis. Interestingly, the torrent of outrage is almost surgically selective:

What fuels the selective outrage against feminism? Is it principle, or personal pique? Keep in mind that Playboy began bashing marriage in the 1950s - years before Betty Friedan wrote the book that launched second wave feminism. No fault divorce and Roe v. Wade were still decades away and birth control was still illegal in many states. Yet somehow, evil feminists found a way to go back in time and brainwash poor Hugh. Who knew they had such power? Their message was a simple one: chumps settle down with one woman and raise families. Real men demonstrate their sophistication and manliness by ducking marriage and wallowing in commitment-free sex:
According to the writer, William Iversen, husbands were self-sacrificing romantics, toiling ceaselessly to provide their families with “bread, bacon, clothes, furniture, cars, appliances, entertainment, vacations and country-club memberships.” Nor was it enough to meet their daily needs; the heroic male must provide for them even after his own death by building up his savings and life insurance. “Day after day, and week after week the American hubby is thus invited to attend his own funeral.” Iversen acknowledged that there were some mutterings of discontent from the distaff side, but he saw no chance of a feminist revival: The role of the housewife “has become much too cushy to be abandoned, even in the teeth of the most crushing boredom.” Men, however, had had it with the breadwinner role, and the final paragraph was a stirring incitement to revolt:
The last straw has already been served, and a mere tendency to hemophilia cannot be counted upon to ensure that men will continue to bleed for the plight of the American woman. Neither double eyelashes nor the blindness of night or day can obscure the glaring fact that American marriage can no longer be accepted as an estate in which the sexes shall live half-slave and half-free

The "slaves" in this utopian manifesto were married men and traditional family life was the enemy of happiness and fulfillment.

This is not to say that second wave feminism, which became prominent well over a decade after Playboy began touting its siren song of self uber alles, did not have its own part to play in the dissolute and rootless culture we live with today. But to blame feminism first and foremost is to put the cart before the horse. Looking back at the world Hugh Hefner and his cronies worked so assiduously to destroy (and conservatives praise so long as no one expects them to adhere to the "prudish" moral code that made it possible), one can't help but wonder at the blind folly of human nature:

It was a world largely constituted by what he calls “desire”—desire chastened by deliberation, restrained by prudence, constrained by self-respect and rendered noble by a concern for the welfare of others. Since the 1960s, thanks to “the democratic project”, we have lived to an ever increasing extent in a world constituted by what he calls “impulse”, passion liberated from restraints and constraints, unchastened and utterly irresponsible
.

These days, I see ever increasing numbers of conservatives arguing against the very qualities that made (and make) traditional marriage possible: temperance, self restraint, consideration, selflessness. Hard work. We are told that unless society rewards virtue, men cannot reasonably be expected to finish school, get jobs, or move out of their parents' basements because... I've never figured that one out.

Some day I fully expect to walk into the children's book section of Barnes & Noble and see a book entitled, "If you give a boy a cookie... (he won't turn into Tucker Max)". The result is an entire generation of adult sized children who were raised without punishment and without disapproval even when their actions merit it; a generation who demand bribes before doing what our parents expected from us as a matter of course. Is it any wonder they can't be bothered to stand on their own two feet... unless, of course, we continually massage their egos?

What used to be the bare minimum society was willing to accept - self sufficiency - is the new virtue.

So to answer Grim's question, behind the radical fringes of both feminism and the men's rights movement I see a self absorbed, entitlement mentality that views civilization as a zero sum game in which they are determined to see "their side" win at all costs. The problem is that there aren't supposed to be sides.

There's no real secret to marriage. Choose your mate wisely and then work at it every single day, keeping in mind that your mate sees things very differently than you do for a reason. And though you will frequently not understand him or her, you don't get to unilaterally demand that someone else's world revolve around you. Each of us has our own dreams, desires, hopes, and sorrows and our own feelings are no less (but also no more) important than those of our better halves.

Marriage is a balancing act that forces us to stretch, to grow, to become wiser, more understanding, kinder, braver. I understand Grim's disquiet at what he sees as a "heroic" portrayal of a girl whose life doesn't revolve around marriage (especially to someone she didn't choose for herself). I feel the same disquiet when I see conservative men blaming everything that is wrong with today's society on women being allowed to contemplate a life that doesn't revolve around finding a husband and forcing him into a life of indentured servitude (a la Hefner, who wasn't motivated by a sincere desire to liberate anything but his own libido).

What I could wish for, and what Grim almost uniquely among male writers has so often blessed his readers with, is an honest attempt at balance; at seeing the world through different eyes. That's a tremendously difficult thing to do, but it is also a noble endeavor.

Grim and I don't always agree, but I love that he will engage on difficult topics without one sided blaming and simplistic narratives. We may never see things the same way - after all, he is a man and I am a woman. But my life is so much richer for the male friends I have been privileged to know.

We need each other, men and women. And we are none of us blameless.

"As, notwithstanding all that wit, or malice, or pride, or prudence will be able to suggest, men and women must at last pass their lives together, I have never therefore thought those writers friends to human happiness, who endeavour to excite in either sex a general contempt or suspicion of the other.

To persuade them who are entering the world, and looking abroad for a suitable associate, that all are equally vicious or equally ridiculous; that they who trust are certainly betrayed, and they who esteem are always disappointed; is not to awaken judgment, but to inflame temerity."

- Samuel Johnson

Posted by Cassandra at March 8, 2012 05:19 AM

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Comments

The blog princess has wondered many times why members of the Oink Cadre (including her esteemed spouse) don't even see the omnipresent negative female stereotypes in popular culture. Men simply don't notice them, even when they're obvious and in-your-face.

"Omnipresent?" Look, my exposure to "popular culture" is decidedly (read: blessedly) scant, but, really, are "female stereotypes" universally negative? I mean, there's Snooki, but there's also ... um... Okay, I just ran out of popular culture references, but I'm sure that there's some positive female stereotypes out there! (Need a little help here guys.)

Posted by: spd rdr at March 8, 2012 10:15 AM

I don't think I meant that there aren't any positive female stereotypes.

More that the negative ones are very common.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 8, 2012 10:24 AM

This follows a long discussion at the Hall, in which I initially had a lot of trouble conveying that I thought the gender issues were a distraction -- a mask -- for the underlying moral issue. (Since you have apparently taken from my comments that I find it disquieting that a heroine might not wish to marry, this distraction was apparently quite successful: I would have no objection to a fairy tale about Joan of Arc, who did not marry nor wish to marry.)

Since you've bolded the gender issue in the quotes, I have a fear that we may end up going around again on the distraction rather than getting after the underlying issue. Of course, you may simply wish to discuss the gender issue and not the moral issue; that's certainly fair, and since this is your place, you have every right to discuss what you prefer. In that case, I'd just like to make sure everyone understands what I think the issue really happens to be.

Here is the quote from the discussion that seemed to explain the issue most successfully:

True love was itself an innovation at one point: it was the fairy tale that taught us that it was all right to violate social conventions and duties for true love. The queen could raise a low-born man in order to be her consort, if she loved him (this is the story of Mary Tudor, in fact; but it was a fairy tale first, in Marie de France's Lanval).

Think of how this works in societies that never had the story: say, in Afghanistan today. True love means nothing; or it means an honor killing if it is acted upon.

Self-love, on the other hand, is a plausible candidate for the root of all evil. In fact, Immanuel Kant makes it explicitly that: what he calls "radical evil" is any occasion in which self-love is put over duty. You may be inclined to say, 'So what do I care what Kant thinks?' It's a good question, but I can tell you that Cassandra in particular ought to care, because most of the positions she's fought for over the years are his: I suspect that many of her teachers were deeply influenced by Kant.

I'm not a Kantian myself, but the argument against self-love is one of his more plausible moments. It's his distillation of Christian morality: greed, envy, pride, 'coveting' of various kinds, the love of money, gluttony, these all have the common root of self-love. It's all about setting aside your duty to do what is right or what is just, in favor of doing what pleases yourself.

The myth that true love justifies breaking social standards is thus qualitatively different from the myth that self-love justifies breaking them. I do not jest when I say that Lucifer is the most obvious mythic model for the one who takes great gifts for an entitlement, and defies the order that brought them those gifts because they feel entitled to more yet. We might feel that God would have forgiven Lucifer if he had done it for love; but Lucifer did it only for himself.

Posted by: Grim at March 8, 2012 10:32 AM

So what you're saying is that it would be only be fine for Merida to defy her parents to marry someone that she loved?

Otherwise, she must marry whoever they say she must marry even if the selection criterion is something dumb like an archery contest?

You're right. I'm confused. You keep saying that gender is irrelevant here but I'm having trouble thinking of an example where a young man would be in the same position ... which suggests that gender isn't really irrelevant.

Finally, it's not clear to me from the tiny bit of trailer you showed that Merida's problem is self love. She's a kid, and the plot centers around the fact that she needs to be taught a lesson.

It's probably accurate to say that I really don't understand what you're getting at.

I don't understand what bothers you so much about a trailer that tells us very little about the actual movie. I thought I understood when you asked the question about MGTOW but from your comment it seems that wasn't it at all.

In which case I just wrote a very long post to answer a question you didn't want answered :p

D'oh!!!

Posted by: Cassandra at March 8, 2012 10:49 AM

OK, I've unbolded the text you say wasn't your main point.

So let me address what I hope *was* your main point:

...the love story has been replaced, in our age, by the story of the 'hero' in love with herself. Prince Charming, whatever his flaws, was driven by love for another: his service, and his sacrifice, were for a beloved lady he valued above his own life and for whom he would suffer any pain and dare any peril. The modern 'hero' is focused on her own fulfillment, resisting every duty to her family or her society as an injustice that interferes with her personal journey of self-actualization.

Who says every fairy tale has to be a love story, though?

The Emperor's New Groove isn't a love story, and we don't expect there to be one just because the hero is a guy.

So why does there have to be a love story here? Why can't the story be about the theme I suggested: the talented but brash young hero who needs to learn a little humility (and his/her place in the world, which isn't as the center of the universe)?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 8, 2012 11:01 AM

*looks around, kicks up some dust from the ground, decides to admit*, The part about popular culture lost me...

BTW, what's a snooki?
*the hun imagines it must be something covered by Southern Blue laws, or Cadillac health care coverage policies, or sold in Walmart*

Posted by: bthun at March 8, 2012 12:03 PM

I think Snooki is what two married people do when they zip themselves up in the same one of these.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 8, 2012 12:14 PM

I don't blame women for our current societal ills - I blame the 60's.

Posted by: Dan Irving at March 8, 2012 01:21 PM

Cass:

Let me try to respond to all these good points you've raised.

In which case I just wrote a very long post to answer a question you didn't want answered :p D'oh!!!

Well, in fairness, I did say right before that MGTOW part that I could see that the gender issue was more interesting to you and T99 than the moral issue; and so, I was happy to talk about that instead if you wanted. And I am! I just want to make sure that everyone understands what I was really on about.

Otherwise, she must marry whoever they say she must marry even if the selection criterion is something dumb like an archery contest?

The strangeness of the rule is a feature of the fairy tale that I think Chesterton explored in a useful way: it stands for a whole host of things that we do not fully understand, but which prove to be fundamental to human happiness. Chesterton wrote:

"In the fairy tale an incomprehensible happiness rests upon an incomprehensible condition. A box is opened, and all evils fly out. A word is forgotten, and cities perish. A lamp is lit, and love flies away. A flower is plucked, and human lives are forfeited. An apple is eaten, and the hope of God is gone.... Remember, however, that to be breakable is not the same as to be perishable. Strike a glass, and it will not endure an instant; simply do not strike it, and it will endure a thousand years. Such, it seemed, was the joy of man, either in elfland or on earth; the happiness depended on NOT DOING SOMETHING which you could at any moment do and which, very often, it was not obvious why you should not do."

I'm having trouble thinking of an example where a young man would be in the same position

Tam Lin may be such an example. He was kidnapped as a child by the Queen of Faerie, and kept by her until against his will; he expected, when she was ready, that he would be given as a tithe to Hell. He was saved only when a young woman who loved him came and clung to him, even as he was turned into a pillar of ice and then of brazen metal. The rule here was: unless she refused to let go of him, he would be lost.

Think Lightning McQueen or the Emperor Kuzco.... Who says every fairy tale has to be a love story[?]

Some may not be, though "Cars" is -- what allows Lightning McQueen to take Radiator Springs seriously is Sally. It's only because of her that he really becomes attached to the place, begins to see the quality hidden behind the poverty and dust, and eventually roots there.

Still, there's no reason that every fairy tale must be a love story. However, this particular trailer is framed in terms of marriage: the girl asserts that she is going to "shoot for my own hand." This is the reason I take it to be about self love rather than love of another: the claim amounts to "I shall marry myself," which is very much the MGTOW claim.

I don't understand what bothers you so much about a trailer that tells us very little about the actual movie.

Well, I haven't seen the movie. It may explore the moral issues in ways that aren't suggested by the trailer; we'll see.

The trailer is how they're marketing the movie, though, and it tells its own story. That story is that life is really about pursuing your own happiness, obtaining your own goals, and not about what your parents or society may think is your duty. If they impose a duty on you, they're wrong and you should resist it defiantly.

I think the female lead allows that story to be told because it's a story that fits in very well with the story that we're telling girls right now: you shouldn't be 'punished with a baby' (never mind what the baby may want), but should go on to success and fortune on your own terms.

I think that basic message is wrong, although I understand the reasons why it is currently being pushed. It's certainly not the message I try to convey to my son. He needs no encouragement to pursue his own goals and defy authority! What he needs is training to resist self-love and think about others.

That's why a fairy tale about Joan of Arc isn't a problem: she isn't defying the rules out of self-love, but out of love of another -- in fact, love of God. It could be love of country.

It just shouldn't be love of self. Encouraging people to put self-love first is a problem. I think we agree about that.

Posted by: Grim at March 8, 2012 01:51 PM

MGTOW, OK I'll cop a plea. Yes, I had to look it up. I then found myself enmeshed in some rather delusional thinking. The forum on whether you should still live at home with your parents was particularly funny. As near as I can tell many of them believe that when women comment to them about still living at home it's a trap of some sort.

I wonder if some of these young men (ahem, cough) have actually asked their parents their view on the matter.

Posted by: Allen at March 8, 2012 01:55 PM

I would like to think that most men (or women, for that matter) don't blame the opposite sex for everything that's wrong with today's world, Dan, so I appreciate your comment.

It may be that the Internet works like a big funnel that makes it easier for disgruntled people to find each other and the ones with a more balanced view of things just try to stay out of their way :p

What I can't figure out is why the repetitive emphasis on birth control/feminism/women working and going to school in increasing numbers? What do these folks want to see happen?

They never do quite say.

Do they want to go back to the days when women couldn't vote and didn't have the freedom to make mistakes? I suspect that's not something men would ever agree to if it were suggested that their freedom should be limited for the sake of social harmony, and rightly so.

Grim often speaks of the shift from marriage as a kinship bond to marriage as a contract between two willing people.

I tend to think that we don't want to go back to the old way (and that it looks rosy in retrospect but few of us would wish to live that way). Freedom is problematic, but until it becomes untenable I don't get the suggestions that we should all be less free, or perhaps more accurately that women's freedoms should be limited, without any concrete suggestions about how that should be accomplished?

I guess I'm just mystified at the gigantic blind spots in what passes for "analysis" these days. I can't stand idiots who blame men for everything that's wrong with the world, so it's hardly surprising that I don't think any more of the "blame women/feminists" crowd.

I'm often dismayed by modern culture, but at the same time I don't quite see a top down solution, and the explanations I see in conservative blogs and columns seem absurdly oversimplified.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 8, 2012 02:03 PM

Still, there's no reason that every fairy tale must be a love story. However, this particular trailer is framed in terms of marriage: the girl asserts that she is going to "shoot for my own hand." This is the reason I take it to be about self love rather than love of another: the claim amounts to "I shall marry myself," which is very much the MGTOW claim.

I don't think we know enough about the movie from just the trailer. Another Pixar plot summary framed it as the struggle between a girl and her mother. She turns Mom into a bear by accident and then has to figure out how to make her mistake right. Oops! :)

MGTOW, OK I'll cop a plea. Yes, I had to look it up. I then found myself enmeshed in some rather delusional thinking. The forum on whether you should still live at home with your parents was particularly funny. As near as I can tell many of them believe that when women comment to them about still living at home it's a trap of some sort.

Part of what I'm reacting to here is some of the themes on Instapundit and Dr. Helen. They are both very into this whole "it's women's fault if men do X or Y" or "it's not fair to hold men accountable for their own decisions because feminists aren't held accountable".

Which is debatable, but I do see their point. I have criticized feminist double standards so many times that I've lost count, but I don't see where compounding one wrong with another helps us any. Fix what's wrong, don't foment even more identity politics and gender-based dysfunction.

The thing that's so bizarre to me is that men still predominate in positions of power. So if the MGTOW crowd believe the law treats men unfairly, why don't they do what the women's movement did (lobby to change it)?

I think we'd have a healthier society, frankly, and I'd welcome the debate. Of course they'd have to make their case based on something more compelling than pure self-interest :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 8, 2012 02:13 PM

I read Grim's post and enjoyed the commentary, and it just struck me while reading this post here that there is a similar male "anti-hero" story to Brave's plot - Prince of Persia (the remake video game).

The Disney movie softens up the video game story, but the basic idea is that a spoiled brat of a prince, arrogant but skilled, sets off a chain of events that destroys the world around him through magical means. He has to humble himself and fight to set things right, and in the process goes from "anti-hero" to something somewhat more admirable.

I didn't mind the plot in Prince of Persia, and don't mind it as outlined in Brave.

I think some of the dispute is over whether we should take the movie trailer by itself , or only interpret it in terms of the entire movie.

Going only by the trailer, it's about a girl who defies tradition and duty because she doesn't like her choices, and I find myself agreeing with Grim's point that that's not a vision of beauty to pursue or emulate.

Posted by: SirHamster at March 8, 2012 03:42 PM

I will agree to that extent :) In the trailer she doesn't seem like a positive or admirable character, but then we have almost no context either.

The "spoiled royalty" is a fairly common theme - that's why I saw the trailer a bit differently. That's what it brought to mind right away.

At any rate, communication is always difficult online so I can sympathize with Grim's trouble getting his point across to T99 and me. It really did seem, though, that a big part of the objection was that she didn't want any of the suitors (egad - would you?) and that she was skilled at archery. That's the way it came across to me.

It also occurred to me that we are more forgiving of brashness in young men than we are in women, just as we're more forgiving of timidity in young women than we are in men.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 8, 2012 03:48 PM

Cassandra, I honestly don't take many feminists, and some of their male counterparts, seriously. Both seem to have arrived at the same destination by dubious means. They appear to want many of society's rewards without paying any of the associated costs.

On the other part your dead bang right. If the law is discriminating in one form or another based on gender then I can take that seriously.

Posted by: Allen at March 8, 2012 03:51 PM

I'm sure that this is a dumb question, but can anyone tell me why a "man going his own way" would join a "movement" of "men going their own way?" I mean, if you're really are going you're own way, then you don't need/want a movement following a round, and if you're do need/want a movement to follow, then you're aren't going you're own way.

I know I'm right. I always am.

Posted by: spd rdr - negative male stereophone at March 8, 2012 05:22 PM

can anyone tell me why a "man going his own way" would join a "movement" of "men going their own way?"

I am thinking maybe it is the male equivalent of women all going to the Ladies room at the same time?


Posted by: Cassandra at March 8, 2012 06:10 PM

And yeah - I realize I'm going to pay for that one :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 8, 2012 06:16 PM

can anyone tell me why a "man going his own way" would join a "movement" of "men going their own way?"

Whether I'm right or whether I'm wrong
Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
I gotta be me, I've gotta be me
What else can I be?


Moooooooooooo !

Posted by: Zigman Schadenfreude at March 8, 2012 06:19 PM

All I know is that all this talk of "self love" is making me feel positively tingly.

Posted by: Onan the Barbarian at March 8, 2012 06:24 PM

*drops flagon of spirits, hastily dusts off robe of sack-cloth, hoists self to feet and says*,
Hmmm... Sounds like it's time for a confession!

Posted by: Tuck, Friar at March 8, 2012 06:34 PM

That story is that life is really about pursuing your own happiness, obtaining your own goals, and not about what your parents or society may think is your duty. If they impose a duty on you, they're wrong and you should resist it defiantly.

I think the female lead allows that story to be told because it's a story that fits in very well with the story that we're telling girls right now: you shouldn't be 'punished with a baby' (never mind what the baby may want), but should go on to success and fortune on your own terms.

I think there's a big difference between deciding whether you want to fulfill a duty you were born into and had no choice about, and deciding whether you want to fulfill a duty you committed to through your words or deeds.

I also think that to assert people must fulfill any duty deemed to be theirs by society or their family leads to some thorny issues. Women in Saudi Arabia. Slaves anywhere. Rebellious American colonists in 1776.

Posted by: Elise at March 8, 2012 06:39 PM

Elise:

I think there's a big difference between deciding whether you want to fulfill a duty you were born into and had no choice about, and deciding whether you want to fulfill a duty you committed to through your words or deeds.

An old post about this has to do with the limits of duty to country. Socrates argued for quite a few -- enough that, if Plato is correct, he chose to die rather than to escape because he felt a duty to submit to the law.

We tend to argue for fewer, but not none. The general scope of the argument is that the society (or family, both of which are operative here) bore you and raised you, educated you and provided a general framework in which you enjoyed all the good things in life that you have enjoyed. It has some reasonable capacity to place some requirements on you in return. We usually recognize jury duty, for example; we used to recognize the draft. These run the gamut from existential threats to everyday duties that require something from us as part of upholding the common peace and lawful order.

In America, we all have equal rights, and therefore equal duties; but it is not out of order in a state based on nobility or monarchy to assert that those who enjoy special privileges have additional duties to uphold the order that has granted them those gifts.

I also think that to assert people must fulfill any duty deemed to be theirs by society or their family leads to some thorny issues. Women in Saudi Arabia. Slaves anywhere. Rebellious American colonists in 1776.

Let's distinguish between "any" and "every." We've already shown one case in which some duties may be laid aside -- true love (which is quite relevant to women in Saudi Arabia, who have no such right). In fact we've shown two or three: love of God (Joan of Arc) or love of country might justify violating the rules.

So the argument isn't Socrates' (either here or in the "Limits of Duty to Country" post cited above). The argument is that some duties exist that are binding; others may be violated, and even rightly violated, given the right kind of reason. Self-love, however, is a bad candidate for "the right kind of reason."

Posted by: Grim at March 8, 2012 06:59 PM

"I'm often dismayed by modern culture, but at the same time I don't quite see a top down solution..."

Obviously there are two solutions to your problem:
One - you aren't drinking enough,
Two - you're not drinking with the right people,
Three (three! solutions) you're not drinking enough with the right people.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at March 9, 2012 08:59 AM

In America, we all have equal rights, and therefore equal duties...

Eureka! Utopia!

:-)

Posted by: spd rdr - at March 9, 2012 10:40 AM

"Going only by the trailer, it's about a girl who defies tradition and duty because she doesn't like her choices, and I find myself agreeing with Grim's point that that's not a vision of beauty to pursue or emulate."

If her choices are to be handed off in marriage to whichever guy wins an archery contest, then I have to admit I'm on her side in defying tradition and duty. I like the idea that she say, "OK, if whoever is the best archer gets to decide whom I marry, then I'll prove to be the best archer, and I'll make the decision for myself. Yes, it's a dumb way to award this decision-making power, but I'm not the one who made the contest up."

As Elise says, there are the dumb things others sometimes try to hornswoggle you into doing, and then there are your true duties. (Sometimes it takes a war to sort those out.)

And Grim, not every decision people make to preserve their integrity or their dignity is fairly equated with self-indulgence -- even if the decision falls short of being burned to death for holy motives. Girls are people, not trophies.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 9, 2012 02:55 PM

Girls are people, not trophies.

I believe that was my point in response to your first comment on this topic, at the Hall. I wrote:

"It leaves open the question: what if the boy had shown up who really could out-shoot her? Is her claim to her freedom really limited to her ability to succeed in a competition, or is -- as I have always understood -- a right that she need do nothing to prove or establish?"

Posted by: Grim at March 9, 2012 03:45 PM

"If her choices are to be handed off in marriage to whichever guy wins an archery contest, then I have to admit I'm on her side in defying tradition and duty. I like the idea that she say, "OK, if whoever is the best archer gets to decide whom I marry, then I'll prove to be the best archer, and I'll make the decision for myself. Yes, it's a dumb way to award this decision-making power, but I'm not the one who made the contest up.""


But why is it so obviously dumb? As princess, hasn't she benefited from the system in place? For instance, did her father win her mother's hand by such a contest?

Is tradition something where we take the benefits (be a princess!) and reject the costs (be married off as a princess)?


But to clarify my point, I think her reaction is natural and even understandable (arranged marriage to weirdos, yuck!) - but it's still not a beautiful ideal. Voluntarily sacrificing self interests for the sake of her family/society would be a beautiful ideal. Finding an innovative solution that gets her out of the arranged marriage, while still satisfying her parents (and even the suitors!) would also be an admirable good - she'd be respecting her duties to the best of her ability.

Who knows, we might see the latter in the movie ending. I've generally liked Pixar films.

Posted by: SirHamster at March 9, 2012 04:44 PM

Perspective matters.
Givens: I can't watch the trailer. Something about choices having consequences and so I don't get high speed internet capable of it. So I'm going by the plot synopsis off of IMBD. I'm also working off the assumption that the trailer shows off the narcissm because that's for some reason edgy and cool these days(gawd help us, for Rand has been misunderstood so poorly).

The synopsis I read is that the girl throws off tradition, isn't wed, this causes mayhem, and she spends the rest of the film putting things right. Not quite the Odyssey but definitely a theme from it---Odysius' pride leading to pain and suffering that others must endure(depending upon which version you read). Is it more likely bratty? Oh f' yes. Unseen in fairy tales and moral tales of yore? Nope. It's been done witha male lead before. Or how about Achilles being such a whinny punk that Patroclus DIES for it(matchless warrior wanting to go his own way, petulantly). Theseus and Madea, anyone? I'll toss obligation to the winds because I think I see someone hotter, and, oh, oops, now that silly git I abandoned on an island has killed my kids, dayum. BTRT(been there, read that).

Yet, I do see something to Grim's initial grumping. A) The super-chick is now almost standard. Starting with Buffy and going forward you can't have a chick who isn't the better of men or it's denigrating seems to be something that is now a given in fantasy/sci-fi. You have to have a 'Buffy'. B) Marketing is stupid. To get a film to its target audience(tweens, not Grim or Cass or myself) you have to play to them and their psychology. Hence, you get somethign that plays up narcicissm galore. As Le Donovan, lest I take Big Tribble With Leggs' name in vain, would say, 'Sometimes it ain't about you.' Is it a film made for girls, who these days would take glee in 'thumbing their nose at patriarchy'? Most likely.

Now, returning to plot. Likely it turns out that she spends the rest of the movie repairing a selfish choice. That's textbook fairytale. It's been done recently as well, with the Spiderman films of the early oughts, where Uncle Ben dies because of a selfish choice.

Now, do I agree with Herr Grim of what the film is? Nope. I do see something to why it annoys him: it's taking beloved tradition, things he's spent years instilling in proto-warriors to make them adults, bled for and sacrificed for, and treating them less than revently. I would be pissed too.

Would a redemption story play well today if it were obviously about a male? Dunno. Paulie did poorly. Wasn't there a reboot of Arthur(original with Dudley Moore) that tanked? Could they make a true to the source Heracles without it being panned because it focuses on the dude? Wasn't 300 booed from The Left over just that(the Hoplites go to fight while the women stayed home, how demeaning to women!). Maybe he's a point. On this point I don't claim to know but there's support for it. Not sure it's all encompasing/vector space spanning, but it's there.

Back under my rock.
Ry

Posted by: ry at March 9, 2012 06:39 PM

Oh, and I don't blame the 60s. I blame George Lucas, he who foisted Han Solo onto us. I trace the trouble to that. Now everyone thinks Han Solo is cool and Luke a douche bag. Grim, seemingly, wants to live in a world where Luke is the adored one, not the anti-hero. So do I. So do I.

Another thing RBBH just goaded me into is the 'shojo' concept: works of fiction written and made specifically to play to the sentiments and tastes of girls(ages6-16). There is a counterpart, shonen, which caters to boys. Compare and contrast Sailor Moon with that of Naruto, or Bleach. Wildly successful are the two styles. They've made gazillions of dollars making shojo films, like Escaflowne. Gotterdamrung has not occured in Japan as a result.

Okay, really now, back to hiding under my rock.

Posted by: ry at March 9, 2012 06:53 PM

I contend this blame that must be assigned (BTMBA) is not so much due to a general rebelliousness birthed by an over-indulgent Greatest Generation of parents upon the consequence-free Boomer types during the '60's as much as it is Tommy Smothers fault.

Oh? OH?! OH YEAH! Well Mother always liked you best!

How many times do you hear variations of this theme in the news, on CSPAN, at the local hoosegow on a Friday night, in Congress, and of late, the White House?

Then again, putting a man on Mars could have started it too...

Posted by: S.J. Lee at March 9, 2012 08:55 PM

Then again, putting a man on Mars could have started it too...

:)

re: Han Solo, I once read that charismatic characters attract us because of some duality in their nature. Solo seems like one thing on the surface, but you sense that underneath there's something else (a responsible guy, maybe?).

But I agree with your point wrt Luke.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 10, 2012 07:01 AM

Grim -- agreed. The princess's trick doesn't work except in the fictional context of her happening to be the best archer around. Then the literary device works because, although there's no particular advantage from strength when it comes to accuracy in target practice, everyone assumed that only men would compete at that game, until she forced them to re-examine their assumptions -- while at the same time introducing the novel idea that the decision to be made about her future mate might be a prize that she could claim for herself by her excellence in the very competition that everyone else claimed was relevant and reasonable for that purpose.

As for whether she should relinquish her princess status if she didn't want to play by its rules, I suppose so. I wish more little princesses would, too. Princes as well, for that matter.

As for Han vs. Luke, I'm afraid Harrison Ford is just prettier than Whozit who played Luke and disappeared without a trace afterward. On the other hand, I'll take Darcy over Wickham any day, even on initial acquaintance, so score one for the appropriate husband material.

It's not so much about whether the attractive hero is rebellious as whether he has a spine and a head on his shoulders. These are traits rarely demanded of the traditional princess, but any character that has them is going to play the role of rebellious spoiler at some point in most plots.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 10, 2012 11:38 AM

I gotta say I find the the issue fascinating as I am reading the "A Game of Thrones" series where the marriages of children are bought and sold to secure military power whether it be for conquest or defense.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 10, 2012 12:14 PM

As a friend of mine says, "I've had the ass ever since I figured out I was a fall guy for DNA." It's even worse when you're a fall guy for your clan's ambition for your shared DNA.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 10, 2012 03:17 PM

"As for Han vs. Luke, I'm afraid Harrison Ford is just prettier than Whozit who played Luke and disappeared without a trace afterward."
Nope. Dude went on to a very successful career in voice acting. He *is* the voice of The Joker, and always will be. Mark Hammil rulez.

I dunno, Cass. WRT Solo, that is. Too many people I know simply like him because he's 'bad @55' and shot Greedo first. As he becomes the 'nicer guy' people say he punked out---his attitude shifts in Empire and Retun of TJ. Maybe it's because I have a self-destructive streak but I prefer the completely selfless hero of Luke over the materialistic Solo.

Posted by: ry at March 10, 2012 06:00 PM

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