The problem with stereotypes is that they are usually complete and total garbage. The stereotypes about men are usually just that. No two men define masculinity the same way. Many are desperate for every woman to love them, while at the same time compelled to explain their own jokes to them on Twitter. But despite the vast spectrum that is man, some extremely specific ideas of what a man is supposed to be continue to persist. And they are on full display in Hollywood. Let’s examine what we believe are the 5 stupidest stereotypes about men.
5. Real Men Are At Least 6 Feet Tall
You can be the most handsome, witty, charismatic male on Earth, but if you’re one inch below average height, you lose. Movie makers will desperately avoid revealing that awful truth to the audience, lest they vomit in the aisles with disgust. If shortness is acknowledged on screen, it’s as a punchline — a hilarious inadequacy that either leads to constant, desperate attempts at comedy, or a life of crime as a bad guy’s sidekick. They are nothing more than incomplete souls crying out from children’s clothes.
The average height of an American male is 5 feet 9.5 inches tall. Tom Cruise is famously 2.5 inches shorter than this average, but we only know that because our own insecurity demands we find a flaw, any flaw, in this old man with 2 percent body fat and chiseled features that become only more handsome with age. Yet you’d never know he was a tiny man from watching his movies.
Mark Wahlberg is 5’8 and Zac Efron is 5’8. Sylvester Stallone is barely two apples high. And yet every time they’re in a movie, they are looking all the normal people in the eyes, filmmakers forcing them to stand on little boxes to hide that they are grotesque, undersized genetic failures.
Is this weird prejudice with filmmakers or audiences? Would we refuse to be inspired by a hero who possesses every other positive trait on Earth if he was short? Do we really believe that a man cannot have courage, humor, charm, muscles, wealth, confidence or sexuality until his body extends to a 72nd inch of height? It’s not like we expect the hero to defeat every bad guy by slam-dunking a basketball.
So, apparently, the only trait that matters is the one you can’t do anything about.
4. Being Smart Is Useless Unless You’re Also A Thug
In the 1980s, we didn’t care if our burly action heroes could say anything coherent. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme talked like a moose trying to describe the peanut butter in its mouth. We didn’t care, though, because their swollen pecs and rattling machine guns did all the talking for them. Heroes weren’t paid to be smart; they were paid to kill bad guys and walk silently away from exploding gas stations.
These days, the good guys can’t just be musclebound meat-sacks. They need multiple PhDs and a particular set of skills for every occasion. Ethan Hunt can speak 75 languages while maintaining sexy abs. Jason Bourne can predict his opponents’ every move ten steps in advance. Even the biggest, dumbest superhero, the Hulk, spends most of his movies as one of the planet’s leading scientists. It would be nice to think that the message is “Even nerds can be cool!” But these guys don’t win by being nerds. Usually, the real heroism comes in the form of a punch to the throat.
Remember those Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, in which Sherlock uses his brilliant mind to beat the snot out of guys in shirtless pit fights? That was weird, right? But at least it shows him fighting as a hobby, to get good at it. In the new Star Trek movies, Mr. Spock uses his Vulcan logic to form plans like “Hold my beer while I go beat that guy up.” Take Tony Stark out of the Iron Man suit, and he can still beat the hell out of a mansion-full of henchmen in Iron Man 3.
In fact, if you’re in a Hollywood film and you realize you’re only brilliant, we have some bad news for you: You’re not the hero. In fact, you’re probably the obnoxious sidekick nerd. Check to see if you’re Simon Pegg or Seth Green. If you’re not, we have more bad news: You’re probably the villain.
The message is clear: Brains are fine, but only if you use them to invent better punching. And if you use your mind exclusively for non-punching endeavors, you’re either ridiculous or evil.
3. Broken, Tortured Men Are Sexy
There’s something sexy about a dead-serious man willing to do anything to get the job done. We love men who ruthlessly cut through criminal organizations while brooding about the atrocities they’ve been forced to commit. Even the supposedly goody-two-shoes Superman now scowls as he struts out of exploded courthouses filled with charred corpses and jars of pee.
They are almost never seen eating, but always drinking. If they’re in bed, they’re having nightmares about those they’ve lost (or, you know, having sex). They are emotionally cold and distant when they’re not being glib. This is all done in the name of emotional complexity, but can we still call it that when every character is the same? Why can’t Superman be a morally sound hero who genuinely wants to help people? Struggling to protect those weaker than him is a perfectly legitimate mission. Did they think we couldn’t relate to him unless he cried in an ice cave like he’s in an Evanescence music video, or that he’d look like a sissy if he didn’t destroy an entire city and snap Zod’s neck in front of two children?
Every action movie seems to be in an arms race to give their stars the most severe PTSD or the highest number of dead loved ones. It used to be we that showed how grizzled a cop was by how old the Chinese takeout was in his filthy refrigerator. Now it’s measured by how many times he flashes back to his family getting tied to chairs and set aflame. John Wick is a boring retired dude until a pair of tragedies utterly destroy his life, at which point he expresses his grief through numerous therapeutic sessions of Gun-Fu. Mad Max’s defining character trait is that he never smiles, jokes, or shares anything about himself – telling a comrade his name is treated as a shocking breakthrough. At every turn, the message is the same: You’re not a true man unless you’re a tortured shell of a man.
2. Prison Rape Is Funny
Jokes about female rape are still circulating out there (though not as many as were a few years ago, thank God). But it was always rare, if not unheard of, to see a movie play a violent male-on-female sexual assault for laughs. But if the victim is a male and doing time? It seems there is nothing funnier.
It’s this reprehensible nightmare of a thing, yet Hollywood cannot get enough of prison rape jokes. Realize that every time anyone ever joked “Don’t drop the soap!” they were hilariously referring to a criminal raping you. Jokes about it are so acceptable they show up on SpongeBob SquarePants. They hang the entire plot of Get Hard on it. If Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart had negotiated their contract to get paid $15 per rape joke, they could have tripled their multi-million-dollar salaries. This is a real, horrible phenomenon.
The unspoken implication is that these victims deserve it. Really? Is our “civilized” society OK with a justice system in which one of the punishments for selling weed or stealing a car is the possibility of being violated? Even if Congress codified that into law, even if we decided that rape is a suitable punishment for tax evasion, it would still be super-weird to joke about it. And if the victim is himself a rapist, you’re trivializing the very thing he’s guilty of.
1. Men Are Disposable
In the real world, human life is a precious thing to be protected by all means. In a movie, lives are snuffed out as punchlines. Human bodies get blasted into pieces any time a film needs to pick up the momentum, and when we say “human,” we specifically mean “men.”
Yeah, we talk about how filmmakers and moviegoers are desensitized to violence, but that’s not true – it’s only violence against men. In Batman v. Superman, Batman bursts up through the floor and pounds the crap out of a group of thugs. It’s pretty fun, right? Now imagine it was a warehouse full of women. Everything else is the same. They’re still armed, still up to no good, but every time Batman crushes one of their collar bones, it’s a woman’s voice screaming out in pain. Imagine every painful grunt is a female voice. Imagine if the heads Batman smashed into the floor had ponytails and eye shadow.
We’re not even sure that sequence makes it into the theater. Somebody at the studio would get Zack Snyder some counseling as soon as they saw the script. It’s not because women would be no physical match for Batman, because nobody is a match for Batman. He is tearing through those guys like a rat terrier loose in a hamster cage. The fact is, that kind of violence toward women would hit you in the gut. When it’s dudes, it’s either awesome or hilarious.
You can do this with any action movie. Imagine watching Return Of The Jedi, only every time a Stormtrooper head is bashed in by an Ewok, you hear a female scream. It would be chilling — the cops would kick in George Lucas’ door and assume he has a crowd of female corpses in his freezer. It’d be equally weird if he had, say, given the battle droids in the prequels Jennifer Tilly’s voice. And remember in The Two Towers when Legolas and Gimli are whimsically counting out their kills? Can you picture that being the same kind of fun if those were female orcs?
In fact, find any movie in which a human death is treated as slapstick, make the victims female, and you are left with a video suitable only for a serial killer’s crawlspace. Indiana Jones once comically shot three Nazis with a single bullet. If you can’t watch the clip, there’s a little comedy music cue that plays as their bodies slump aside. Imagine all three are women. At the very least, it becomes deeply uncomfortable.
And no, we’re obviously not demanding Hollywood show more women getting butchered to make it equal. We’re not demanding they show us fewer dead dudes. We’re just saying that we’ve been conditioned to react a certain way to on-screen brutality, and the difference between dread and hilarity is usually whether or not the victim has a penis. That’s weird, right?