Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Power in the Modern World

My husband made a comment the other day that kind of stuck with me. We were having a conversation about one of my husband's friends who, though a nice guy, is the type who does a lot of physical posturing. You know, always talking about how he's sore from hitting the gym and how he could kick another guy's ass. I'm sure you know the type. My husband shrugs it off most of the time but one day he got kind of annoyed and commented that in today's world it isn't the physically strongest guy who is the most powerful anymore, but the guy who makes the most money. Huh. He's right of course, but it's something I never consciously think about. We haven't lived in a hunter/gatherer society in a long time and providing for ones family hasn't involved hefting a spear in a long time. I think when women are younger we are attracted to physically powerful men, probably a subconscious desire for good breeding material-- yeah I'm sure that's it. But as we get older we do focus more on a man's ability to provide-- even though women are proving more and more capable of bringing home good money. The reason I bring this up is because in most popular entertainment we still seem to revere the physically powerful man. I can understand why, Bill Gates probably wouldn't be that exciting as a superhero, though he does more to benefit mankind in real terms than most superheroes. But if you look at our entertainment, we don't feature the heroics of the average man duking it out in the boardroom. Again, I get it, it's not as entertaining as watching Jet-Li kill someone with his little finger. But it is interesting to me that we find physical prowess to be so attractive still. It doesn't really earn that much to be musclebound anymore. Construction workers can make a decent living but we generally don't think of the guy who's fixing the road as a powerful person. When you go to the gym how often do you look at the bodybuilder admiring himself in the mirror and think, jeez, this guy couldn't possibly have a job if he spends that much time in the gym? Heck, just look at the modern farmer. Here's a guy who provides actual sustenance for the rest of us but in today's world typically leads a meager existence. Sometimes I have a hard time wrapping my brain around that. We need the farmer but he needs a government subsidy to avoid going broke. Spiderman is the only comic book hero I can think of that addresses this conundrum well. I don't even know if it's something that comes up in the comic books, but I love the fact that in the movies Peter Parker struggles with his inability to support himself financially and save the day. That's real. Batman kind of sidesteps the issue by making Bruce Wayne incredibly wealthy. By doing so he's able to indulge the boyish fantasy of being the biggest, baddest dude on the block and shower the ladies with lavish gifts. Truthfully, I think Bruce Wayne's financial clout could realistically do as much, if not more, than all of Batman's gadgets to combat evil; but the gadgets are much more fun. And have you noticed that as women gain power financially and politically we're seeing a lot of physically amped-up women in our entertainment as well? I've never seen so many women so well versed in kung-fu in my 15 years of martial arts training. Even the Bionic Woman is a bad-ass version of her old self. It's as if we need to believe that women are physically stronger now that they have proven to be a power in the financial world. I mean, look at my avatar. I picked the image because it was striking, but she is also incredibly strong-- and holding a gun no less. I have no idea what that says about me and I'm not going to think about it too much either. Movies that are futuristic in nature often seem to go back to the idea that the physically strong will be the ones who survive. So many movies are nihilistic in nature with Armageddon scenarios and the guy who wears a suit everyday ends up being superfluous. I don't know if this is because down deep we think this will be the case someday, or if we just can't get rid of the primitive instinct of physical might trumps all. I don't really have a big point to make in this post, it's more in the nature of observations that's all. Power comes in many forms. But money seems to be the biggest source of power in the modern world regardless of what our entertainment tells us. I'm sure my husband's friend could beat Bill Gates at arm wrestling. But really, why would Bill bother? He can just hire someone to do the arm wrestling for him.

16 comments:

weenie said...

Interesting post! Perhaps it's just what women find attractive? I know some of my single girlfriends say that they would only go for guys with money but personally, I find muscle (but not the extreme bodybuilder type) more attractive than lots of money. Of course, finding that muscley type who also has money is the hard bit!

Beefeater said...

I'd have said it's confidence-in-the-circumstances - being relaxed - that makes a person attractive in the sense I think we all mean. Both physical strength and wealth can (but don't, necessarily) impart that to a guy, as can raw intellect and probably a whole host of other things. There's also simple good looks but perceptions of these can vary from person to person.

Asara said...

I can see it now, the next issue of Superman. Lois: Clark!!! You're the nerdish type with glasses, you have to help!! There's a virus loose in the subway, if we can't stop it in time, all of the trains will explode, and Metropolis will sink into the ground!

And Clark runs up to the roof, rips his shirt open, and flies off to the subway office, where he sits down at the controller computer.. and scratches his head. On the screen, "To begin, press any key". With a completely confounded look on his face, he looks up at the expectant office workers and asks (in classic Homer J. Simpson fashion), "Where's the any key?"

Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, I'm niether well muscled nor wealthy. But I have a lot of hair. When will women judge men on what is important. Their hair? Sigh!

SQT said...

Weenie

Of course we all need to be physically attracted to the person we're with, I just think as we get older we tend to realize that the physical side will fade.

Beefeater

It's all totally subjective isn't it?

Asara

That is hilarious! Where would we be without our computer geeks?

Charles

I don't think it's just women. My husband works in an industry where everyone knows how much business the other guy is doing and they judge each other accordingly. The guy (or gal) who makes the most money is given the most clout. My husband could go to the gym and beef himself up, but it would have no impact on his perceived power at work-- though it may increase his leverage at home. ;)

Avery DeBow said...

It's all just the monkey parts talking.

SQT said...

Lol

Well, I guess you distilled it all down to two words Avery. Monkey parts.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A good fun post!

ShadowFalcon said...

The fact spider-man was a geek was his whole appeal to me

Lee said...

I'm still attracted to physically powerful men, but I've found those bodies are often inhabited by pathetically stupid brains.

*sigh*

Kate S said...

Guess I'm the odd woman out. I've always loved the nerdy guys, and the less-than-beautiful ones.

I read a book once where Isabel Allende described her mother as someone who loved ugly men. I went, "Yes!" :)

Not to say I can't appreciate classical male beauty, I do, but I've always had a soft spot for the oddballs. And the brainier the better - to me, that was the power and the aphrodisiac.

SQT said...

I dated the pretty-boys when I was younger-- but that got old quick. I'll take a guy with brains and a sense of humor any day.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Allow me to quote from "Rome", the miniseries that ran on Showtime: "Who doesn't like a large penis?"

SQT said...

When did Alex start posting as Stewart?

Kate S said...

I hear you, SQT.

By the way, Stewart, I read somewhere once that the Romans (not modern age) actually preferred small penises. They were considered the ideal for masculine beauty. Maybe they didn't research that movie well enough. :)

I'll not go into the alleged reasons for that.

Sorry, Sqt...

texasboyblue said...

I think that there are all kinds of power; physical, monetary, intellectual, sexual, political, etc. Think of a human endeavor, and some will exercise more power in it than others. And, there will both those, on both sides of the gender line, that find that exrcise attractive,