Wednesday, October 24, 2007
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.