I am happy to announce a new project which has just launched:
This new site is an online collection of the stories and novels I have written. They are currently being serialized thrice weekly, and are also available as e-Books.
Please have a read and see if you enjoy my tales of fancy.
Multiplicity is an odd comedy from the last half of the 1990s which actually surprised me in several ways. I assumed it would just be a zany comedy about a guy’s life spinning out of control when his clones run amok, but it is actually much more complex than that. It digs into numerous gender issues in interesting ways.
One thing which is important to note is that Multiplicity hails from the hay day of feminism. The female lead, Laura, is a classic 90s woman: a mother of two, she is now desperate to return to the workforce and so wants her husband, Doug, to work less so he can share the brunt of childcare.
What I find most intriguing is that, near the end of the film, they actually question the independent-working-mom mentality a bit by saying how confusing it is to “want to be independent and be taken care of.”
But, even more fascinating is the movie’s interpretation of the correlation between male gender roles and personality traits. Doug’s clones embody different sides of him, manifesting themselves in isolation to show what they are like alone.
The first two clones effectively represent Doug’s Yang and Yin.
Two is the Yang, the masculine. He is gruff, brash, work-obsessed and less-than-sensitive. He is every male stereotype.
Three is the Yin, the feminine. He is polite, neat, detail-obsessed and almost-overly-sensitive. He is every female stereotype.
Now, as you might guess, Two is the clone who takes on work as a construction contractor, while Three is the ‘domestic’ clone, tending to the home and children. This, I think, shows a distinct view on gender roles.
The message is thus: the Realm of Work belongs to the Masculine. The Realm of the Home belongs to the Feminine.
However, I don’t think the movie is trying to reinforce traditional gender roles. As I wrote above, it shows the different ‘realms’ as belonging to the masculine and feminine, not to men and women themselves. Basically it’s saying that masculine people work and feminine people tend house, but that men aren’t necessarily the masculine ones and women the feminine.
It shows men and women breaking out of traditional roles and taking on traits associated with the other gender. Really, the movie challenges traditional gender roles by not only showing a working mother, but exploring what it is like for a man to become homemaker (at least to some degree). It questions the very definition of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and weather their qualities are exclusive to men and women.
The overall implication seems to be that a yin-yang balance does exist within men, that they are capable of working and parenting, if they can find that equilibrium. At its core, the move is about understanding yourself and balancing all the different parts of you life.
One other thing I find potentially ironically humorous is how the movie portrays the ‘house-husband’ clone as overtly feminine. Really, this could be seen as a bit of a warning to working wives: leave him at home, and your husband will act like more of a woman than you do.
This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Recent data (such as here and here ) has shown that, despite all of the progress women have made into the workforce, often with the support of men, those same women still haven’t adapted to the idea of being the sole breadwinner. Both those articles discuss how working women tend to resent stay-at-home-dads, either for a lack of respect for an unemployed husband or because the women see themselves as under-performing as women by not running the home.
Women might actually have some catching-up compared to men when it comes to doing away with old gender roles.
They say they want to be liberated from the home, but are they ready to surrender it?
As is a tradition in my house, we watched Independence Day this Fourth of July. A fun movie, and I love that the military refused to help if Area 51 was mentioned, and it got me thinking on this kind of catastrophe movies in general.
Looking at some well known ones like Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and Armageddon, you can see a common theme (besides the near-destruction of humanity): dads & kids.
All three of these examples feature important father-child relationships.
In Independence Day we have David and his father, Russel and his three children, the President and his daughter, and Steve and his son (in-law).
In The Day After Tomorrow we have Jack Hall and his son, whose relationship is central to the story, as well as mention of several other family bonds.
And in Armageddon we have the strained-but-loving relationship between the hero, Harry Stamper, and his daughter, as well as the renewal of the relationship between the less-than-law-abiding Charles “Chick” Chapple and his son.
These are all powerful, positive father-child relationships, showing the ups and downs of parenthood and all the challenges men and their children can face (and I don’t just mean DOOM FROM SPACE!).
These are all wonderful themes to see in the media, most of these relationships seeming quite honest. They involve flawed individuals, but the faults of the fathers are not over-emphasized and they aren’t constantly being railed on by their wives (where present). But what I find so interesting is that these sort of characters seem to gravitate toward, or maybe even spring out of, these sorts of ‘end of the world’ hero films.
I don’t know why this is the case. Maybe it is just the movies appealing to a primarily male viewing base. Maybe it is done to sympathize the heroes.
Or maybe there is something about these kinds of do-or-die situations which, even when fictional, bring out the hero in men, so that they can put everything on the line to save the world and their family.
Maybe deep down we still have a sense that, when the clock is running down and everything is on the line, there is nothing a man cares about more than his children.
Food for thought.
I am happy to announce that I have started a new blog here on WordPress:
This new blog is about sexism (male and female) at large in our society, including but not limited to the media.
I will still be posting here as I find pieces of media worth discussion, but my more general (and in some cases ranty) thoughts will be going up on The Armchair Chauvinist.
(If the name confuses you, make sure to visit the About page for The Armchair Chauvinist).
Happy reading and thinking.
I’m not going to be talking about the fifth Harry Potter film as a whole, although I do have some gripes with it, but then I also like several aspects. I just want to talk about one scene, which is a scene often repeated across the spectrum of western media, long before Harry made it to the screen:
The ‘I let her win’ boy-vs-girl fight.
In this case, it’s Ron Weasley Vs. Hermione Granger in a training match (which is silly by the way, since both characters are supposed to be on different skill levels, and were such from the very first film. You don’t train your school football team against the NFL).
Anyway, back to the scene. As we often see, a boy and a girl square off, usually in some sort of sport or sparring, in this case with wands. Sometimes the male comes into it cocky and sometimes not, but in either case he will almost undoubtedly be soundly thrashed for all to see.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with showing a girl beating a boy, but as I’ve discussed before, there is something wrong with this becoming the assumed, even under the guise of positive reinforcement. Especially since the reverse would probably lead to the boy being shown as a jerk if he gloated over his victory, while the girl is never a jerk.
The real problem is what happens after the match. I many cases, especially if there were other men present, the male competitor will try to maintain his ‘misguided macho pride’, as many a feminist has put it, by claiming that he ‘let her win’. This will be met with half-sympathetic nods from the men, and ample triumphant snickering from the women.
This kind of scene builds a mindset which says “boys think they’re better, but they definitely aren’t”. And that’s not a healthy philosophy, for anyone involved.
Now, some might claim that such sequences are put in by male filmmakers who don’t like seeing boys losing to girls, but that’s a false notion. If these directors and writers were trying to be just a bit masculist, they would actually allow the male to come away with dignity intact. Instead they make fools of themselves by refusing to recognize the victory of their opponent (however unlikely).
No, this sort of scene is an attack on the media’s perception of masculinity. They are portraying these men (usually boys really) as ‘Straw Misogynists’, whose only function is to think girls can’t beat boys and then to be proved wrong. Apparently a girl’s victory isn’t good enough unless she is overcoming someone who thinks less of her. Just winning isn’t enough it seems.
Again, this isn’t inherently bad, but it is so prevalent as to become insulting. That, and it almost seems to be an attempt to maintain some sort of deranged status quo, wherein girls are equal to boys, but aren’t treated as such. This perpetuates/maintains the female’s status as victim and the male’s status as oppressor while still allowing girls to be routinely victorious.
However, this isn’t just bad for men. While sometimes it seems like feminist groups want women to remain eternal victims, that’s bad policy. This practice continues the belief of female inferiority, and even if it is constantly debunked, that base mindset will still persist, which will keep women from being respected for real.
Every time someone congratulates a woman for doing something “as good as the boys”, they are reminding everyone that women are inferior, that their bar of excellence is lower, and that they should never be expected to be able to perform.
The media needs to stop painting men as chauvinists, since most really aren’t. And they need to start show women as actual equals, not continual underdog heroines, or underdogs they will forever remain.
But then men wouldn’t go easy on them.
Women would be on real equal footing with men.
Is that what people want?
Is that what women really want?
Finding Nemo, one of the movies from the famed filmmakers at Pixar, is an aquatic adventure story set in the depths around Australia. It is a touching story of a widower and his only son, although both happen to be fish.
However, the cold blooded nature of the stars does not subtract one bit from the warmth of this family film which beautifully portrays the relationship between a father and son, as well as all their growth.
The namesake of the film, Nemo, is a young fish who never knew his mother. Since Nemo has a damaged fin, his father is very protective of him. Over protectiveness seems to be a common trait among parents, especially fathers, and this is the source of the conflict Nemo has with his father, Marlin.
Marlin, a widower before his children were even born (hatched), is a fantastic father figure. At first he is over protective, but that’s not entirely a bad thing, and once Nemo goes missing he sets out on his quest to find his son. Marlin demonstrates amazing dedication to his child, never wavering in his determination to find Nemo, no matter where in the ocean he may be. He faces all perils and all challenges to find his boy. Anyone who says men like to abandon their children should pay close attention to Marlin. They could learn a thing from this fish.
Beside Marlin, the importance of fathers is also praised in Finding Nemo by the character Bruce, the great white shark. A reformed carnivore, Bruce laments at the fact that he ‘never knew his father *sobs*’, further reaffirming the importance of fathers to children.
Come to think of it, Crush the turtle is also a good father figure. Something of a foil to Marlin, he allows his son to be very independent, letting him seek his own boundaries while also always being there when needed and encouraging his son in his exploration.
Through the movie, Nemo and Marlin both grow tremendously, Marlin as a father and Nemo toward his…well, ‘manhood’, if only in the fish sense.
Marlin must come to grips with the fact every parent must face, that their children are growing up. However, I greatly prefer how Finding Nemo shows this to many other portrayals. Often the analogy of children ‘leaving the nest’ is used, signifying the children separating from the parents. However, Marlin simply comes to understand what Nemo is capable of and to trust his judgment. There is none of the forced separation which is so common in American families.
It is not so much letting go as coming to be mutually holding on to each other.
Nemo also has to grow, to find his own limits and confidence. Being the impetuous youth, Nemo does not lack guts in the start, but he does have to find his self-belief, overcoming his fears to be able to do his best, taking a step toward being a good adult.
Through the whole movie, Marlin and Nemo show a deep bond which never wavers, even when they get angry with one another. Marlin never stops looking for his son and Nemo never stops trying to find a way to return to his father. It is a heart warming depiction of father and son which will remind anyone of how dedicated fathers are.
The Titanic is a tale of amazing power which has continued to carry great strength almost a century after the mighty ship sank. To be honest, the only film version I have seen is the 1953 edition (Yeah, yeah. Don’t ask.), but what I want to talk about is one of the things which is at the core of any and all re-tellings of the story of the Titanic:
The men of the Titanic are famous for their willingness to forfeit their own lives so that the women and children aboard might live. It is one of the most noble displays of chivalry in recorded history, proving absolute selflessness on the part of most of the men, and it is this general concept of male sacrifice for women which I want to talk about.
The idea that the lives of men are somehow less valuable than women is pervasive through American (and probably western if not global) media. In almost any instance, if escape is limited, the women go before the men. Sometimes the character discuss the correctness of this, but most of the time no one complains (not that I can blame them).
Most people accept the idea that men should put themselves in harms way to save women because, (a) it is an ancient tradition, and (b) it seems to make some intuitive sense. Women are the ones who bear children, so, as feminists like to say when you ask them about male sacrifice, it is only natural for women to be ensured safety at any cost.
However, as is the case with so many concepts of modern gender politics, the math on that theory just doesn’t quite work.
The problem with the idea of women being more important to the species arises when you realize that western society is quite thoroughly monogamous. That is to say that any given person only has a single spouse at a time, and our society is usually pretty strict about this. For that reason, each and every woman needs a male all to herself in order to breed. That’s where the math stops working for the ‘women are more valuable’ theory.
Let’s look at an imaginary sample population of humans (this is all hypothetical). We have 20 people, 10 male and 10 female. This is the adult population, all of child bearing and rearing age.
Now, assuming everyone gets along well, each adult is part of a happy mating couple. 20 adults, 10 couples each of 2 adults. That’s how a monogamous society works.
Now, let’s say someone dies. If a woman dies, she can no longer bear any children, so the community loses that production.
However, since they are monogamous, if a man dies the same thing happens. A dead man leaves a woman with no breeding partner, so society loses that production.
This same idea applies to our own society at large. Adults form mating couples, one female to one male. If we were polygamous, then few men could mate with more women, so a decrease in male population wouldn’t be such a problem, but in our society a loss of an adult of either gender reduces the number of maximum possible mating couples by 1.
Of course, in a real society not everyone is coupled up. There are always unmarried women and men. However, the goal of the species, from a Darwinian view, is to breed as much as possible. Since the speed of reproduction is limited primarily by the speed at which women can bear children, our goal would be to make sure they were all breeding as much as possible.
Now, in a polygamous society, that would be done by ensuring that literally every woman was married, often many to the same man. But in a monogamous society, each woman needs her own man. And since humans are naturally picky, it can be hard to get every woman matched up with a man she likes. Therefore, the more men we have, the more likely each and every woman will find an acceptable mate.
Therefore, a surplus of males can actually help breeding, while surplus females go to waste in a world of monogamy. A scarcity of females would actually increase the likelihood of the remaining women breeding, since they would have plenty of men to choose from.
Not to mention the fact that widowers are more likely to remarry (and therefore keep breeding) than widows.
But that’s just a counterargument. Naturally, or at least I think naturally, we should all work to have all humans valued equally, regardless of chromosome configuration.
Nonetheless, the sacrifices men make are truly noble and deserve a heart felt salute, but the concept which drives such behavior is obsolete in the modern world and should be done away with for the betterment of all. The math just doesn’t work, so retaining such traditions is, if I might be allowed to say so, like hanging onto a sinking ship.
Of course, there is some logic to men being quicker to die since there are more boys born than there are girls (105 to 100, global average). Or maybe that isn’t to account for war, but for women’s tastes.