What is the main thesis of this film?
The main thesis of the film Tough Guise questions the image of masculinity portrayed in our media and valued by our society. There is also an absence of any other male identity in the realm of manhood. Is such image destructive? In fact, it is. Men and young boys were socially pressured to take on the role of the tough guy even though they are really not all that tough mentally and physically by putting on a tough guise. In the end, not only they are hurting themselves, but they are hurting others such as victims of school shootings. Perfect examples and reason behind school shooting tragedies are explained from one of our readings, “What Triggers School Shootings?” by Kimmel and Mahler (as cited in Thio, Calhoun, and Conyers, 2010).
What were the main arguments in support of the thesis?
The tough guy image is repeatedly being shown towards the male gender from youth to adulthood, which is difficult to avoid since the image is embedded in our culture. The body measurements of action and hero figures are getting more and more macho which is not realistic at all. Growing up, these boys also face on-going criticism from fellow peers by calling each other “gay” or “fag” whenever a boy acts feminine. By labeling the boy with such labels, he will either try to get back into the “tough guise” or become self-destructive (which may lead to depression and suicide). Additionally, the media constantly portrays unrealistic images of buff men as male heroes that will conquer all and will never back out from problems. Because of these iconic heroes, boys and male adults will try act tough just like the heroes which creates a problem because not every guy is tough; there is a huge spectrum that defines what is a man. Race also plays a huge factor in the universe of manhood in the media. Minorities are ridiculously always being portrayed as the violent gangster guy, an abuser or batterer towards women (which also includes white men), or fighters (Asians being ninjas). The media is teaching men that violence can solve problems, but in fact, it creates even more problems.
How does the thesis of this film relate to the course?
Hypermasculinity is destructive and unrealistic because there are many ways to be a boy or a man, but sadly, all those other images besides acting tough are deviant. Acting “manly” is not the only definition of being a man, just like how there is a huge spectrum between the gender binaries. You can be totally feminine, a tomboy, a regular guy, or a macho man. All kinds of gender should be allowed. Again, the media and our culture only allows and glorifies one inflexible image for men: the tough guy. The film also touched upon how the media uses masculinity to devalue social movements such as the civil rights movement, women’s right, and the LGBT movement. Such riots are threatening the dominant group (including the media), which is why subtle or even overt messages are present in movies or music to remind the population that the deviants are still subordinate of the norm: the white culture. This reminds me of the reading “Images of Deviance” by Pfohl (as cited in Thio, Calhoun, and Conyers, 2010) that talks about how the dominant group transforms the messenger into a deviant person in order to lose credibility in his/her words. For example, the media constantly makes fun of feminism and as a result, sexism still exists and feminism is still not being taken of seriously.
Which arguments/points did you find the most convincing?
I find the segment about the backlash from the media (or the dominant group in our society) very convincing. Because of all the social movements that are happening gradually, the dominant group’s values are being threatened. Even though many of these social movements have been accepted, there are still some issues that remain. Making fun of homosexuals or feminists in movies is a good example. The general population laugh about it and might start pondering “wow, these women are crazy!” or “gays are so funny”. These minority groups are slowly losing their credibility. In the end, the dominant group still won. The battle between these groups would be a great place to start talking about control theory.
Which arguments/points did you find the least convincing?
Our professor will probably not like this, but again, I don’t have any criticism for this film. I found every point well made and explained. Everything in the film makes sense to me because I originally held these views and arguments too. Violence and masculinity are destructive.
On another note, a fellow classmate criticized how the buff male image has pretty much retired from the media and replaced by more regular looking men. I somewhat disagree with his statement. Though the physical appearance may have slimmed down, the actual mass is still larger than the average Joe, and what matters the most is that the "soul" of masculinity still lives on. The pride, the dominance hierarchy, the violence, the blood, and respect are still strongly present. For example, the TV show "The Walking Dead" embodies much of these values and it even annoys me at some point (the show is still entertaining, though).
Choose one argument, point or question that most stands out for you. How would you study this point? Briefly design a research study around that point.
I want to find the root of all evil.
I wish to conduct a study and find when boys start to learn about masculinity. I know it’s probably around the age when boys start to develop cognitive abilities, but I would like to know how it happens exactly. Is it the television in their room? The cover of their children’s book? Their parents, perhaps? I will be using boys from age 0 to 12 as my sample. Also, it would be interesting to compare my results with others from a different culture and see how “masculine” the United States is in comparison to other countries. Also, finding traces of masculinity in girls and femininity in boys would be interesting as well. However these results may not be real because the children might lie in order to act like their gender.
Thio, Alex, Thomas C. Calhoun, and Addrain Conyers. 2010. Readings in Deviant Behavior. 6th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.