I was thinking about what to blog tonight and I ran across a thought-provoking post on one of my favorite blogs I was motivated enough to comment on the post. Listed below are the blog and my response.
Where is manhood headed? It's a thought that's been in my head for a few days. My Dad pointed out this trend to me, and I think it's worth exploring. Consider the history of TV 'men'.
First you have a Ward Cleaver...Clean, wholesome, boring as a watching a brick move (they don't move). He had no personality whatsoever, but was portrayed as a good father to his boys. A father who wore nothing but suits, but a good father. He was well respected.
Moving on, we have Bill Cosby, of the Cosby Show. Bill (or 'Cliff' on the show) was infinitely more real and complex than his predecessor Ward. He was a good, and had some weaknesses (hoagie subs, primarily), but was still a cornerstone of the family. He was a man who, in spite of being a minority, became a doctor who worked, hard, help provide for his family, and was loved and respected by his children. And every prominent jazz musician somehow found his/her way to his house...which made him even cooler.
On to Ray Barone, of Everybody Love's Raymond. Ray's a guy who doesn't help around the house, gets yelled at by his wife, pushed around by his mother, and ridiculed by his brother. He is good at his job, which brings in a paycheck...but other than that, he's portrayed as the Butt (with a capital 'b') of the entire joke of the show: 'ray's an idiot, but everybody love's raymond anyway'.
The formula worked, so every network starting ripping it off. Hence, Jim Belushi of According to Jim. Another family provider who's an idiot. Sure, he loves his wife, but hates 'feelings', 'girly stuff' and loves sports. Oh yeah, and the difference between Ray and Jim: Jim is a 'fat' idiot. He too can't do anything right, is always making mistakes, and always seems to get himself into hot water with the wife.
Take the kids out of the equation, and add a few more pounds, and you've got Kevin James in King of Queens. Working man dork, forced to live with his father-in-law, and always subject to the wrath of his wife.
All of this leads to a progression of TV Dads being portrayed as the man in THE prophetic comedy, The Simpsons. Homer Simpson is the epitomy of dumb, fat, lazy, men.
Now, don't misunderstand...all of the characters above (with the exception of Ward Cleaver) are friggin' hilarious. But it begs the question: Will the real men please stand up? And don't get me wrong...I'm not talking about men who boss their wives around and command authority out of fear. Rather, I'm talking about Biblical Men...Davids, Solomons, Pauls, Timothys, Peters, Johns (not that kind of 'johns')...men who made mistakes, but owned up to them. Men who loved people passionately. Men who weren't afraid to cry. Men who worked hard. Men who didn't exist simply to bring home a paycheck.
Can it get worse than Homer Simpson? Absolutely...and there's a term for the frightening new future of the man: HIMBO. A himbo is a male version of a 'bimbo' (a disgustingly derogatory term). HIMBOs are attractive, young men who exist simply to be arm candy for the new, young, hip, power women of Hollywood's elite (Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, etc.)
While I applaud the fact that women are being empowered (though I'm not really sure if the women listed above are truly 'empowered'), I lament the destruction of manhood. Can't we have both? Can't we have powerful, gracious, loving, smart, intelligent, women and men? Why does our culture always have to exalt one at the expense of the other?
What can the church do to equip, encourage, and empower both genders? I find it interesting that, though men hold the keys to the power of most churches, women are the backbone...serving, teaching, leading. A few men may make the decisions in church polity, but by and large, most men are simply bored in church...not investing themselves, and thus, somewhat warranting their TV stereotypical portrayal.
I've had more than a few conversations with friends about the trend in the media to portray family men (and men in general) as idiots. I know that's generally not a reflection of men I've had the pleasure to know. My father, and a great many other men I know, do not fit this stereotype, but rather the opposite. Having been born an observer of people and trained as a social scientist and behavior analyst, I wonder about the effect of media on our behavior and thinking. Is media setting our expectations for the performance of men in strategic areas of social behavior, church, and family life? Or is media a reflection of what we've become as a society? Why is this stereotype so acceptable and viewed as funny? Are married/family men one of the few "safe" things we have left to joke about?
This begs the following questions:
How can followers of Christ teach truth against such a pervasive viewpoint? How can we model the Bible's teachings about masculinity in a relevant way?
The Promise Keepers movement along with John Eldrege's work have encouraged me as a step in the right direction to answer these questions. Unfortunately, in many churches men are not leading other than by proxy. This is a vital matter of prayer for those of us who wish to see Christ's church celebrate its Creator.