So there I was, about a week into my binge of Western films sat in my lounge with my cowboy hat on, beef jerky at my side, a can of beer in my hand (I don’t like whisky) and chowing down on the cream of the crop starring the man of men (before men started to hit the gym and carrying machine guns with one hand) Mr Clint Eastwood.
I decided to check out some of Mr Eastwood’s more unfamiliar back catalogue and stuck on ‘High Plains Drifter’. All the stereotypical events seemed to run their course smoothly as a lone stranger (Mr Eastwood himself) trots into a small town and enters the saloon for some refreshments, some less than savoury residents take offence to this and proceed to harrass the stranger who predictably ends up shooting them in a stylish and “Fuck yeah!” way without batting an eyelid. Enter the pretty female character, obviously set up as the love interest……….actually no as after a brief exchange of harsh words from the lady the stranger then drags her into a barn and rapes her! Yes, rapes her! The hero, the good guy, the protagonist of the whole film within 10 minutes of the opening credits had committed one of the most heinous crimes known to the human race.
This was no “playing hard to get’ fumble either, this was full on rape with kicking, screaming and all the rest further cemented by the fact the lady in question tried to shoot him for it later in the film while in tears. To add insult to injury the scene was shot to make it look as if the young lady was starting to enjoy it halfway through!
Some may say it’s not the worst thing that has ever appeared on screen these days but this was made in 1973 at time where the western genre was still held highly in regard with the good guys always being good guys through and through. I came to the end of what was undoubtedly a great film but also a very awkward watch due to the fact that I was unsure of who exactly to root for as there seemed to be absolutely no reason for the rape or no resolution or turn of character at the end. The Stranger went out exactly the same way he came in, a rapist.
Having both starred in AND directed the film too there is no doubt that Mr Eastwood was fully in charge of all the decisions made on the film and the rape scene was a definite choice. Having known his work and how he likes to be controversial it struck me as a bold move by Eastwood to show a more realistic side of the old west as gunfighters and strangers, although having the power to help a town with baddies, probably wouldn’t be all morals and manners and rape was a very common thing back then. It also served to change the mindset of the viewer who could have so easily gone into ‘Western’ autopilot and taken the glamorisation of people killing each other as something cool but throw in a horrible scene like that and it brings in the questionable character of someone who can kill so easily.
The other side of the coin is that it perhaps reinforced the age old and quite frankly disgusting notion that all women are objects who simply cannot resist a powerful man and that they are all secretly ‘begging for it’ and all it takes is a little persuasion then they’ll love it once it gets going.
This is unfortunately still quite a common train of thought in this day and age by men and one can simply put it down to being a prick but there are environmental factors at work too with masculine conditioning STILL happening in this day and age.
I learned long ago that being macho was a lot of shite. It’s simply nothing more than insecurity for little boys who are scared of being called gay by their arsehole pals and would in fact go so far as to commit horrible crimes (such as rape) in order not to lose face. Not to sound snobby but these people are more often than not the type of neddy runt that everybody hates. A meth head padawan with a malnutrition frame and shaved baldy head who will not even think twice about taps aff at the slightest fart of sunshine through the clouds and he type of clown that everybody knows would square go his own shadow if his ‘crew’ were around but wouldn’t utter a peep if on his own.
Of course this is generalising, macho bullshit exists everywhere. The corporate world is full of the power ego super freak who see woman as nothing more than just another thing to be dominated over or conquered like some sort of business takeover deal that see’s employee’s wages cut or even fired. Also, the regular guy with 2.4 children in the suburban house who meets his neighbours with a smile at church every Sunday is beating the shit out his wife because she questioned his choice of tie and he couldn’t be seen to lose face over that so he taught her a lesson.
These less than savoury gender roles are often ingrained at a young age by equally clueless parents and often it can be the threat of violence that drives the ignorance message home. Equally are the Christian mentalists who indoctrinate their young into the hate spouting pseudo moral warriors they are while ignoring the rest of their ‘good book’ as they call it and just go out their way to make life difficult for everyone. I understand my views maybe be somewhat harsh and if I have offended anyone then fuck you!
So what are men supposed to do these days? is it wrong to look up to gun toting retro idols such as Clint Eastwood or Arnold Schwarzenegger? Is it wrong to chase the image of the buff dude a la Van Damme for yourself? Of course not, it’s fantasy and liking a stereotypically masculine image does not make you a prick, it’s your actions that define you
There is no getting away from the fact that generally (and I use the term loosely here as there are far more gender identities out there than just male and female these days) men and women are different. Equal but different and that should be celebrated. Of course androgyny and any other form of gender identity should also be celebrated too if that is what you are drawn towards, let’s be clear about that as taking the best of both worlds seems like a pretty intelligent way to go.
It’s also rather humorous that with the macho struggle for masculine validation within image it is ironic that the male gay scene often far outdoes it’s straight counterpart yet is usually the main source for insult. Aside from the sport of bodybuilding where else is the male form so wholeheartedly celebrated with facial hair, style, physique all more often than not looking infinitely more masculine and developed than their hetro brothers. In that respect, the bullshit insults of ‘wee bufty’ don’t really stand up to much and really are just a bunch of fat straight guys trying to make themselves feel better by making shit up to call one another because you know, complimenting another man makes you a total bender!
It’s sad that even in this day and age the male rubbish meter is still quite high. What man in their life hasn’t heard the terms “just deal with it” or “fucking man up”. House husbands are not a rare thing but they are STILL looked down apon as lazy or work shy by both men AND women as if the standard stereotype of the male breadwinner is still in full effect and the simultaneous message of that is ‘women are crap at providing’.
It hits those suffering from mental issue hardest though. Depression is a terrible, terrible affliction that shows no outward signs but eats away at your confidence like a horrible cancer. Some days you know you just have to get on with it but can’t and you dare not tell anyone for fear of being branded weak or worse if you have a family that you will be accused of letting them down and your reasons labelled as excuses by those who simply don’t understand that illness goes beyond a bandage or a stookie. Confidence is everything in this world, it enables us to do may wonderful things with the utmost creative drive but take that away by conditioning to conform to something that either doesn’t quite fit or harbours unrealistic expectations and we as humans will naturally try to compensate for it, often in the worst ways possible.
Being the dinosaur that I am I’ll still watch my westerns, I’ll still quote the entire script from Commando with my pals, I’ll never wear skinny jeans, carry a man bag or wear eyeliner, I’ll still buy horrible clothes that look like they’re from a trucker’s suitcase in the 70’s and I’ll never be particularly PC either and you know what, that’s ok! Why? Because I’ll also never say it’s not ok to do any of those things, I’ll always support everyone’s right to be who they are and I’ll happily drink in a rock bar, a gay club or anywhere else that there’s no idiots. Admittedly I’m a bit of a grubby old wizard that grew up watching He-Man and Rambo but I like to think of myself as slightly more enlightened than my fellow grunts of that generation.
Of course it works both ways and there are those out there that see even my kind as some sort of obsolete relic and I have actually been questioned, nay accused about my relatively old school attitude by snydey hipsters posing as spokespeople for the gender identity crew sometimes simply for the way I dress which pissed me off more that the genuine people out there were being misrepresented by these conformist wanks.
I think if we all just stepped back and stopped expecting things of each other due to accident of birth or otherwise then the world would be a slightly better place!
“Opinions are like assholes…….everybody has one!”
– Clint Eastwood