I didn't know until I saw the trailer yesterday that Seth Rogen had been cast as the newest Green Hornet. That's right, the schlubby guy who usually plays the semi-amiable slacker in films like Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin has been cast as a superhero and I can't figure out if we're supposed to take this film seriously or not. But that doesn't matter because I'm offended no matter what.
Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Sean Connery...These are men who belong to a time in movie history in which men were men and didn't have to cater to a feminist media that assumed that men needed to be marginalized in order for women to feel that they were being treated "fairly." They were a breed of men who never heard of terms such as "manscaping" and wouldn't be caught dead with highlights in their hair. They might have been actors and not ditch-diggers, but they understood that the portrayal of men in popular culture matters and, I'd like to think, wouldn't appreciate the current trend of reducing men to bumbling goofballs.
I was born right about the time that the feminist movement was just building steam. The more radical events took place before I was old enough to understand the impact it could, and would, have on male vs. female dynamics in modern society. I was somewhat indoctrinated to believe that it was all good-- after all, what could be bad about women asserting their equality? It had been a long time coming, right? But like any movement, there is always a pendulum swing and I fear we are reaching a nadir in which men are becoming used to be given short shrift in their most common portrayals and we, the audience, are no longer discriminating enough to understand that it is giving us a warped idea of what it actually means to be a man.
The age-old argument of whether entertainment is a reflection or influence on society has led to countless debates on the merits of censorship. But like anything, the truth often lies in the middle and pop culture is an excellent barometer of where we stand culturally at any given time. I shudder when I look at today's offerings because it doesn't offer much to be optimistic about. Reality TV is probably our biggest cultural wasteland at the given moment. I don't mean the fairly benign variety like "Deadliest Catch" that follows real people going about their business, but the fabricated reality of shows like "Jersey Shore" that follow the hyped-up antics of people who answer to ridiculous names like "The Situation" and think the pinnacle of achievement means having six pack abs. This guy would be less than a gnat to James Bond. But there's something undefinable about guys with gym-rat bodies that appear on reality shows that seems to be emulated in the newest crop of boy-men who are being sold to audiences as the next big thing.
I have been scratching my head over the "Twilight" phenomenon ever since I heard a 40-something year-old friend gushing over Robert Pattinson and declaring she belongs to "Team Edward." Ick. But how can we expect any woman to appreciate the attributes of a real man when she is bombarded by images of men who can't tie their shoes without a strong, capable woman to show him how? Is it any wonder we're being subjected to the current phenomenon of the "cougar?" I don't have any particular bitterness toward guys like Seth Rogen, but when you see a guy like that, the overfed underachiever who could never, ever get a girl like Katherine Heigl in real life, you can't help question the thinking of casting him in the role of "The Green Hornet." This isn't a case of Superman pretending to be Clark Kent. It isn't even in the same realm as the campy 60's version of "Batman." The most likely argument will be that Rogen is the "everyman"-- a guy that meant to be relatable to the audience. But that doesn't hold up when you think of the men who filled that role in the past. Jimmy Stewart was the quintessential everyman but he would never have presented himself as the rumpled goof-off that has become a current mainstay.
Nowadays the scripted patter recited by guys like Vince Vaughn is given more weight than the old-school values of rolling up your sleeves and getting the job done-- and that's kind of sad. Is it any wonder kids are rolling out of college thinking they're entitled to the same wage as the guy who devoted 20 years of his life to the same job? It's an irrational irritation I'm sure, but I dislike that the bar is being consistently lowered when it comes to our heroes. As I watch the trailer for "The Green Hornet" I think we've forgotten that the biggest part of being heroic is being exceptional and we're running out of men who fit that criteria in our entertainment; and I think the prevalence of political correctness has contributed to the erosion. I'm not a psychologist, a sociologist or any other "ologist," I'm just a blogger with an opinion. But we've become so concerned that allowing men to be exceptional somehow takes something away from the women starring opposite them and that really bothers me. If women want to be treated equally then we need to to hold ourselves to a high standard, not expect the men to lower theirs. It isn't hard to look like you're the smartest person in the room when you're only competing against overgrown adolescents. It's a vicious cycle that brings us all down and leads to a kind of passive aggressive resentment that I believe has contributed to a hyper-sexualization of women, and the idea that the only way to to be equal to women is to treat them with snarky indifference. How are we better off here?
There will always be a place for the Seth Rogens of the world just as there was a place for the likes of Jerry Lewis or Benny Hill, but I think it's a mistake to push for an overlap between their characteristic casting and what have been more traditionally masculine roles. We're already looking at a grim future of action movies starring children like Talor Lautner so I'd like to enjoy my action flicks with men like Daniel Craig while I have the chance. Not the vastly underwhelming Seth Rogen.