Tuning forks, Iconic Men, and Masculine Resonance

Written by Father Bill 17 Comments

Men, in some ways, are like tuning forks.The citation for heroism for Major Bruce Crandall’s Medal of Honor (see a couple of blogs ago) highlights a peculiarl dynamic that works within a man’s soul, both in crisis charged moments and also over long periods of a man’s life as well.  Consider the following words from Major Crandall’s citation:

While medical evacuation was not his mission, [Major Crandall] immediately sought volunteers and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, led the two aircraft to Landing Zone X-Ray. Despite the fact that the landing zone was still under relentless enemy fire, Major Crandall landed and proceeded to supervise the loading of seriously wounded soldiers aboard his aircraft. Major Crandall’s voluntary decision to land under the most extreme fire instilled in the other pilots the will and spirit to continue to land their own aircraft, and in the ground forces the realization that they would be resupplied and that friendly wounded would be promptly evacuated. This greatly enhanced morale and the will to fight at a critical time.

What’s going on here is something I call “masculine resonance.”  I liken it to a powerfully sounding tuning fork brought near to other tuning forks.  The sonic power of the one tuning fork generates harmonic vibrations in the previously silent tuning forks.  In the case of Major Crandall’s Medal of Honor citation, quoted above, Crandall’s heroism “instilled in the other pilots the will and spirit” to do as he was doing.  Moreover, within the soldiers on the ground, Crandall’s efforts “greatly enhanced morale and the will to fight at a critical time.” 

Such resonance among men is not a purely passive thing, as if one brave man automatically creates bravery in a bystander.  That’s why tuning forks have limited ability to illustrate the resonance I’m talking about.  Resonating tuning forks are, in fact, passive.  But, masculine souls, resonating with the power of other masculine souls, are not.  There is much to masculine resonance which comes from deliberate choice.

Beneath the mild-mannered man is the Superman!You can see this easily when you watch how very young boys relate to older, more overtly masculine males. Young boys will unabashedly mimic masculine characteristics in other males when they admire or otherwise esteem them.  Their esteem gets expressed in two ways — by overt exclamations of praise (e.g. “Wowee! Look at that! Isn’t he the coolest?!”) and by attempts to mimic the male who is admired. So, the young boy seeks to dress like, act like, speak like the iconic male he admires. Entire segments of the toys-for-boys industry capitalize on this dynamic. 

Before there was Superman, there was Superboy!In boys, the “effect” runs in one direction only: from the iconic male to the boy, who endeavors to incorporate the masculine identity of the iconic male into his own masculinity via mimicry. The same is necessarily true when the iconic male is a figure from history, or a fictional character (e.g. Daniel Boone, Davie Crockett, Superman). The boy’s mimicry focuses on things easily reproduced (dress, habits of speech or behavior).

But, this mimicry also works in adult men, from silly costuming by young adult males at a sporting event, to the more sober and serious attachments men make with other men in their professions, avocations, and spiritual loyalties.  The dynamic itself is completely natural.  The mentor-disciple relationship is fundamental for men to grow into masculine maturity, and the most elementary way this relationship works is via mimicry, as the disciple endeavors to appropriate the mentor’s skills, insights, habits of life, and wisdom.

Proverbs 27:17 is often cited as yet another metaphor for the way men affect one another.  Unfortunately, its point is often missed for the simple reason that few people today ever sharpen iron.  But, the wise man of Solomon’s day knew – as we all know – that one never sharpens iron with another piece of iron.  Instead, we apply something harder than iron to the iron blade we wish to sharpen.  We sharpen iron with flint, or granite, or some other crystalline stone.  When the stone and iron come into contact, the iron changes much while the stone changes little.  This would be a fitting picture for the way a mentor “sharpens” his disciple.

Men behaving like they do when united by a winsome leader against a dasterdly foe.When iron sharpens iron, both change.  And, so, the picture presented in the proverb shows us how men in fellowship, men in sustained community, even men in conflict, change one another through the encounter.  It may be for good, or for evil.  Either way, men bonded with one another create corporate bodies of amazing power.

There are several directions one might explore from these observations, but I’ll mention only two here, and only in brief.

First, masculine maturity arises from a man’s interactions with other men, especially other men who are more mature than he is.  Women cannot shepherd the boy across the threshold of manhood. Only men make other men. Only men can mature, develop, perfect, and hone other men. And this is true for adult men as much as for boys.

A man never loses his need for close, engaged, resonant relationships with other men. The “rugged individualist” notion of manhood we inherit from the last century is a myth that distorts, blunts, and diminishes a man’s manhood.

Second, a man seeking maturity does well to seek out his mentors, to present himself to those whose manner of life and wisdom he aspires to acquire.  He also seeks out the company of other men and chooses well the masculine company he keeps, avoiding those who will misshape him, seeking those whose virtues he’d wish to rub off on himself, cultivating relationships with men whose character support, strengthen, and protect his own character.

The most effective way that men may advance in authentic masculine maturity is through worship of God the Father through His Son, the God-man Jesus Christ, and this worship will shape men most effectively when done in the company of other men.  Our churches today never offer this to the men in their midst, which is probably a leading reason men are as scarce in the churches as they are. 


17 Comments

  1. Michael   |  Friday, 30 March 2007 at 7:37 am

    Fr. Bill, though many people like to bash “Wild at Heart,” I think much of it resonates to a certain extent with what you say here. I’m no Eldredge groupie, but his book says some very worthwhile things about gender, despite whatever shortcomings it may have.

    Thanks.

    –Michael

  2. Fr. Bill   |  Friday, 30 March 2007 at 8:04 am

    Hi, Michael,

    I concur that Wild at Heart has real problems, but I don’t think these are tied to its most fundamental concepts, viz. that men and women are different, and that those differences are not merely biological.

    While this is not the place to lay out a critique of Wild at Heart in any detail, I’d summarize my critique this way: it validates its message about the essence of men and women from pop culture and modern therapeutic psychology. To the degree it does this, it has made the “shelf life” of its message to expire with the current fashions of pop culture.

  3. Kamilla   |  Friday, 30 March 2007 at 9:44 am

    Hi Fr. Bill,

    I’d say the problems with the Eldredge’s books (Wild and Captivating) run deeper and that their fundamental concept is a flipping of theology for anthropology. While they have good things to say at points, there was something deeply troubling to me in both books that I couldn’t name until I read a couple of recent reviews of Captivating. Instead of starting with the divine image in man (being terribly un-pc here!), they start with a premise of the human image in God. They project human desires onto God rather than conforming them to God’s desires.

    I’d like to see your critique of their theology at some point.

    Kamilla

  4. Michael   |  Friday, 30 March 2007 at 9:54 am

    > it validates its message about the essence of men and women from pop culture

    Fr. Bill,

    What is interesting to me is that despite the rampant feminism dominating our society, pop culture will still routinely (inadvertently, perhaps?) demonstrate male and female core differences. The whole idea of a “chic flic” does that, for example. (“Saving Private Ryan” is not a chic flic.) So when Eldredge uses examples from ancient tales about princesses, and knights slaying dragons to rescue them, or recent popular stuff out of Hollywood (I recall he used Braveheart), he’s giving us glimpses of refreshing gender-related bedrock mostly buried under the politically correct, steam-rolled asphalt, but still there to see by those who look for it. He’s showing that people still basically think and relate in gender-specific ways, in spite of all the feminist propaganda. I see that everywhere as well.

    Despite decades of feminist brainwashing, women still love to watch things like “Dancing with the Stars.” And to the extent men like to watch it, my guess is that men and women have very different reasons for watching. Gender distinctions are inescapable, regardless of feminist fantasies. Like I said elsewhere, feminism is artificial, and against nature, really. They want the leopard to change its spots, but I think there is a definite limit to what is possible there.

    Here’s some “pop” examples of society still recognizing (despite itself) that men are the “saviors”–

    You used Superman in your story. Superman Returned with $200,069,408 in 2006.

    Elektra, the deadly female ninja, made only $24,407,944 in 2005, probably due to the male interest in seeing a scantily-dressed beauty cavort around and work up a sweat. I doubt there will be a sequel.

    Spiderman made $403,706,375 keeping Mary Jane from the bad guys in 2002, then another $373,377,893 in Spiderman II in 2004. Spiderman III will soon be out.

    Batman Began with $205,343,774 in 2005. Catwoman could only scratch together $40,198,710 in 2004, probably again from guys who wanted to see her slink around in her sliced up duds.

    So, I think society proves us right in the end, no matter how many homosexual movies Hollywood may make to try to change society.

    –Michael

  5. Fr. Bill   |  Friday, 30 March 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Hi, Kamilla,

    I’d say the problems with the Eldredge’s books (Wild and Captivating) run deeper and that their fundamental concept is a flipping of theology for anthropology.

    I’d concur that this is as good a summary critique as any.

    Instead of starting with the divine image in man (being terribly un-pc here!), they start with a premise of the human image in God.

    This is a fairly standard way of “doing theology” these days, for egals and comps alike. The problem comes when one simultaneously asserts that the affirmations about God drawn in terms of human categories/concepts are only “illustrative” or “arbitrary.” Arbitrariness in this case is what’s asserted when folks say “God wants us to address him as ‘Father,’ but that doesn’t tell us anything essential about God; only what He prefers concerning our speech about Him.”

    They project human desires onto God rather than conforming them to God’s desires.

    Agreed. But, some who “do theology” from a Truly Reformed perspective would demur that God “has” anything like a desire. So far as I can tell, they’d consign just about everything in the Bible that we customarily associate with persons — particularly anything like emotions or desires — into the sack labeled “Anthropomorphism,” and thereby rob such speech of any authentic affirmation about God’s nature.

    I’d like to see your critique of their theology at some point.

    The critique posted at Bayly’s site, provided by one of his parishioners, is a good, concise effort. For any reading this, you may find this critique here.

    But, the critique itself shows a blind spot in so much of complementarian thinking — namely, that they miss errors of the “howling” variety because they do not have a clear-sighted theology of sexuality themselves. This is the point I’ll probably draw out in a blog in the next week or so, as I can squeeze it in.

  6. Michael   |  Friday, 30 March 2007 at 1:13 pm

    > They project human desires onto God rather than conforming them to God’s desires.

    Hi Kamilla,

    And many good Christians think God is wringing His hands, wondering if someone will choose to believe in him and walk down the aisle. There’s some false teaching almost everywhere you turn in what are considered “sound” churches. Many evangelical churches have the notion that we are doing God a favor by this or that. Nothing new.

    Fish have bones. Everybody knows that. But I’m not going to say: “because fish have bones, I’m going to boycott fish,” or go the other way and pretend that the bones are not there, or that they add flavor and are healthy. They’re bones, just deal with them and enjoy the fish. Some fish taste better than others, but all still have bones. Likely, a bunch of my theology is fishy and all wet.

    Same with books. I agree totally with the problems that have been pointed out with the Eldredge books by Fr. Bill, the Baylys, or whoever. I got tired of all the harping on the “wound” idea, for one. Some things said in the books are stupid and actually made me mad. We’re all blind men trying to describe the elephant, and none of us get everything right. The Eldredges are a product of the church age in which they live, so it is amazing they got right as much as they did, if you ask me.

    It’d be like rejecting a good movie because the hero makes a tough positive decision, but his motivation is a little off. Take note of the misstep, learn from it, but don’t say the whole movie is invalid or that there are no good morals in the movie and we should avoid it. [We shouldn’t watch Charlotte’s Web, because there are talking animals, and we all know that God didn’t make animals to talk, so the movie is grossly in error. Lord of the Rings had a warriorette in it, so we shouldn’t watch that, etc.]

    The fact that the feminists hate the Captivating book so much made it worth looking into for me, especially when my wife came home with both of the books.

    I look at everything through my own grid and filter. Everyone does that. And we see different things as a result. I add my own brand of tartar sauce, which changes the original flavor. I saw in the books things that supported my worldview, which I found encouraging, since my worldview is so much in the minority. I may have actually heard him say things that he would totally deny intending to say, because I came at what he said from a certain direction which he may not have. But some of it didn’t mesh, or was off-base, so I tossed that like a bone. One of the things that annoyed me the most about the book was the idea that God says a woman is captivating no matter what others think. To me, in a do-it-yourself, sloppy-religion age, that only excuses maintaining the sloppy, individualistic, self-fulfillment mindset, which is not the way to be captivating at all. (Princesses do not choose to look like trailer trash, for example. I lost track of the number of times that “twirling skirts” were mentioned, so you can imagine I was impressed with that sort of thinking.) I saw him primarily promoting a traditional frame of reference — very rare these days. The fact that some of it may have been goofy or suspect theology did not invalidate main ideas he was trying to get across.

    A hero who makes the right choice but takes the round-about, bumpy way to arrive at it is better than one who doesn’t make the right choice at all, or just critiques from the sidelines. Feminists want to think of themselves as heroines, holding the moral high ground. And I see a lot of supposedly doctrinally “right-thinking” churches who are lost in space, frankly, on some of the basic issues Eldredge is bringing up. They are up to their necks in gender quicksand while saying Eldredge is on shaky footing. Why am I not impressed with that? He may be a little unsteady on his feet, but what do they have that’s so much better, really? If the objectors’ doctrine is so much better, then why is their gender stuff so messed up in actual practice? Just picking something apart doesn’t really improve one’s own situation. (Not talking about anybody specific I know of here.)

    Reading the book has made my wife more captivating, has helped me to be able to know how to encourage her and understand her better, and has helped her to see where I am coming from on a lot of this gender stuff as well, that my wishing her to look lady-like is inspiring to me to be more knightly, not some form of slavish legalism. I don’t think I’ve became a heretic in my understanding of God for having read the books, any more than I’ve become Roman Catholic for watching The Passion of the Christ.

    Lunch at Captain D’s was good — no bones!

    –Michael

  7. Kamilla   |  Friday, 30 March 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Fr Bill,

    I’m glad you posted the link to the review on Baylyblog. That was one of the reviews that really flipped the switch for me. So often, when I read something like that, it troubles me but I can’t quite put my finger on why. Until someone says the right thing and the light goes on.

    Kamilla

  8. Seamus   |  Saturday, 31 March 2007 at 12:24 pm

    I haven’t read Eldridge’s book, but this is in response to Michael’s statements about the film industry several posts ago. Being a student of the cinema, and particularly of the relationship between the film, the industry, and the audience, I feel that I may have some meaningful things to add.

    I think your particular argument here is unsubstantiated by the facts or the logic. It’s relying on several false assumptions.

    The first assumption is that a film’s success or failure is not solely related to its subject matter, not its execution or its advertising. From everything I’ve heard, “Catwoman” was a very poorly made film and generally didn’t get much positive press before its release. This is a better explanation for its (relative) financial failure.

    Second, you seem to be thinking that on the one hand, a male audience will respond positively to proper male and female roles (Spiderman and Mary Jane), but that on the other that they will respond positively to improper female roles as well (Electra and Catwoman). The only correlation between men liking male warriors and also liking female warriors is (that’s right) men liking violence of all kinds, which is a much more accurate characterization of male film viewers today. Keep in mind that these kinds of films (whether for biological reasons or simply cultural reasons) attract primarily an adolescent male audience, boys who are a bundle of hormones and on the cusp of adult responsibility, and who are fascinated by violence of any kind.

    Third, Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man are three of the oldest and certainly the three most well-known superheros of all time. Of course films about them are going to make more money than “Electra” and “Catwoman.” Are they popular because they’re male? It’s impossible to say…there simply weren’t female superheroes in the early days of comic books, so there is no sure way to compare. Why weren’t their female superheroes? Perhaps because the culture was predominantly masculine-oriented. Was this a good thing? That’s a point of dispute. But it does us no good to act as if the male heroes “endured” while the female ones died out.

    Fourth, Electra might not have a sequel (though who knows, it might) because it is already the sequel to the film Daredevil, which featured Electra and still made $179,179,718.

    Fifth, Batman Begins outspokenly attempted to create a female lead who was not a standard damsel-in-distress. Subsequent entries in the series promise to include another female lead who engages in actual physical combat.

    Sixth, you are taking a rather convenient sampling of successful virilist and unsuccessful feminist films to prove your point. Consider the X-men trilogy, which features a highly gender-egalitarian team of superheroes. The first film made $296,250,053, a great deal more than Batman Begins and Superman Returns. “X2: X-Men United” and “X3: The Last Stand” each made more than any of the films you listed–X3 made a whopping $459,256,008.

    I’m not so much trying to overturn your argument as a whole, as I am trying to make sure that you defend yourself properly if you want to make that argument.

    Seamus

  9. Seamus   |  Saturday, 31 March 2007 at 12:28 pm

    I’ve just caught a few typos in my reply (notably an extraneous “not” in the first sentence of the third paragraph).

    A propos, it also just occurred to me that the movie “X2: X-men United” features a woman acting in the “savior” capacity we’ve discussed in another thread. And again, X2 was more financially successful than any of the male-protagonist films you cited.

  10. Michael   |  Saturday, 31 March 2007 at 10:30 pm

    > The only correlation between men liking male warriors and also liking female warriors is (that’s right) men liking violence of all kinds, which is a much more accurate characterization of male film viewers today.

    “only”?! I certainly will disagree with you there, Seamus! That may be some of it, but it certainly isn’t all of it. You seem to be ruling out the sexy factor, which is very hard to believe. It would be helpful to know whether I am talking to a male or a female, and I am beginning to wonder, because male violence is emphasized and strong sexual attraction is ignored.

    > …these kinds of films (whether for biological reasons or simply cultural reasons) attract primarily an adolescent male audience, boys who are a bundle of hormones and on the cusp of adult responsibility, and who are fascinated by violence of any kind.

    Uh, which is a stronger hormonal drive, sex or violence? That I have to explain this makes me wonder what your gender is. Adolescent males are fascinated with sex, don’t you know.

    > Third, Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man are three of the oldest and certainly the three most well-known superheros of all time.

    I’m over 50 (a male, by the way), and I remember Wonder Woman as a kid. There were others, of course, but I wasn’t a big comic book addict.

    > Are they popular because they’re male? It’s impossible to say…there simply weren’t female superheroes in the early days of comic books, so there is no sure way to compare. Why weren’t their female superheroes? Perhaps because the culture was predominantly masculine-oriented. Was this a good thing? That’s a point of dispute.

    This has such a feminist ring to it, I’m not sure what to say. Did men retard the natural development of female super heroes,depriving girls of role models? It almost sounds like what you are hinting at. The female super heroes that there are, exist because of men’s interest in super babes. How can that be denied? It is interesting that the super babes always have delicate figures that would seem to not give them a lot of strength, but yet they can still win the day, somehow, against the thugs. Plus, they aren’t grotesque, like Hellboy or the Incredible Hulk, I notice.

    > Fifth, Batman Begins outspokenly attempted to create a female lead who was not a standard damsel-in-distress. Subsequent entries in the series promise to include another female lead who engages in actual physical combat.

    A girl superhero helping superguys doesn’t show the distinction I’m talking about (Fantastic 4, Matrix, whatever). A better comparison is with a Lone Ranger versus a Lone Rangerette.

    > Sixth, you are taking a rather convenient sampling of successful virilist and unsuccessful feminist films to prove your point.

    “Virilist films”? That’s a new one. You call the supergirls “feminist” films? Since you say they are also filled with violence, why aren’t they “virilist”? Like I’ve been saying, most female superheroes pre-date feminism. Men made them up for men. Anyway, back to your sampling statement — I thought of all the recent female comic superheroes I could — no hunting for “bad” ones. I did find it satisfying that the only ones I could think of turned out to be unpopular, but I didn’t plan it that way.

    > Consider the X-men trilogy, which features a highly gender-egalitarian team of superheroes.

    Don’t know anything about X-men. A better test of what I am saying is a Lone Ranger heroine, not a team (which are usually a male majority).

    > I’m not so much trying to overturn your argument as a whole, as I am trying to make sure that you defend yourself properly if you want to make that argument.

    As I said before, I think it is glaringly obvious that culture, despite several decades/generations of intense feminist propaganda, still resonates to male savior figures and female beauties. Women want strong men who will protect and provide for them, and men want beautiful women. Men don’t normally dream of being rescued/saved by a knight in shining brassiere (Wonder Woman), and I doubt women with any sense are attracted to 90-lb weaklings. It is clear that’s the way the world works. Men are thought strong, women are thought pretty. It has something to do with them being made that way. It is inescapable that men are bigger and stronger. You don’t see ice-skating teams with women whirling guys over their heads. Take “Dancing with the Stars” — men still lead when dancing, as far as I know.

    Feminism doesn’t stand a chance against traditional wiring, though it is trying to short circuit and sabatoge it the best it can. People who wish to make a lot of money don’t monkey with mother nature. They don’t put Romeo in the balcony and Juliet down below serenading him. People who wish to rock the boat, push the envelope, change the status quo, and re-engineer society with propaganda films will, though. There are always going to be edgy movies and trends, especially in a “break all taboos” society. But those are made with propagandist intent up front. And neither Cat Woman nor Elektra fall into that category. Million Dollar Baby, yep.

    –Michael

  11. Ralph   |  Sunday, 01 April 2007 at 8:03 pm

    Thanks for the good blog entry Fr. Bill… I’ve found this truth put into action from when I was in my early 20’s by men who took the time to mentor me in my faith (whom I looked up to and desired to be like). That’s why I’ve alwasy sought to be a mentor to other young men, and even those who are my peers, as well as continue to always seek a mentor… I think both are needed in living a God expressed life in church, family, and community of all kinds.

    I’m seeing this dynamic in our current Men’s Ministry, which I’m honored to have been asked into a role of leadership, with an opportunity to share with these men the dynamics of mentoring and being mentored… most are unknowingly already doing this, as they walk along side each other in their battles with this life.

    One of the things these men do is to move families that can’t afford movers, or are hard pressed do to circumstances beyond their control. Saturday we moved a single gal who had no means of moving herself, and in this we also had some of the High School guys help. So much more to say, and I don’t know how the following will come out as I paste our men’s ministry mission statement, but it’s refreshing to be involved in a church home that has a healthy Men’s Ministry.

    Good thoughts Bill!!

    “As Iron sharpens Iron, so one Man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17)
    Mission

    Our Men’s Ministry will strive to unite men to become Godly, encouraging each other to make promises that last a lifetime – to Jesus Christ, our families, our communities, and to one another. We are seeking men who want to see God work among the men in our church.

    Purpose

    Build an “A-Team” (Alliance Team) of Men who want to serve Christ, based upon the principles of…

    Acceptance – Accepting other men while building Godly relationships.
    “Accept one another, then just as Christ accepted you” (Romans 15:7)
    “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11)
    Authenticity – Get “Real” with other men and trust each other.
    We need Bible studies that relate to “Real” (Authentic) problems that we face every day. We want to “Connect the Dots” between what the Bible says and what happens when men are at work and the world is turning and churning.
    Accountability – Care enough about other men to challenge them to do what God is calling us to do.
    “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
    “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone…'” (Genesis 2:18)
    “but let us encourage one another…” (Hebrews 10:25)
    We will meet with one another regularly…

    to know Christ better and become more like Him, to encourage, shape and direct one another. (Romans 8:28-29; Proverbs 27:17)
    to study God’s Word, interpret our observations, and apply His truths into our life applications.

  12. Seamus   |  Monday, 02 April 2007 at 12:24 am

    Michael,

    The fact that you feel the need to know my gender seems to betray an almost Freudian insecurity about women, and a misunderstanding of men. Why do you think that only a woman could wish to defend a position that some would label “feminist”?

    If it helps you at all, I am a man. I am 19 years old. I am a student at a private, liberal-arts college, studying literature, cinema, and philosophy. I was raised in, and remain an active member of, the Presbyterian Church. I am six foot two, broad-shouldered, strong-limbed, fast and agile, with very virile long hair (rivalling Aragorn’s) and an impressive beard. I am known for my respectful and chivalric treatment of women. I
    believe violence to other human beings is a fundamental (though sometimes an excusable)
    sin, but I know, and am prepared to use in a crisis, elements of jujutsu and kung-fu, and I am a master of both modern fencing and medieval broadsword combat. I speak softly, but I am one of the most dangerous people I know if I’m carrying a big stick. Is this manly enough for you?

    I also realize that our conversation is really going nowhere, because neither of us really has a logically-indisputable perspective. You continue to rely on statements that are plagued by the “is/ought” fallacy, e.g. “the fact that men enjoy films with such-and-such a gendered message is indicative of the fact that they are biologically
    wired to respond to such messages.” My explanation of this is sociological rather than
    biological…”men enjoy films with such-and-such a gendered message, perhaps for some biological/hormonal reasons, but largely because that has been the normative social perspective for generations upon generations, and this doesn’t necessarily make it right.” I personally have some feelings that it is wrong, but these are functions of my own experience and reading and I doubt that I will convince you to consider them. The same goes for your experiences and my lack of understanding of them. In the meantime, on the turf we’ve chosen, neither of us has an infallible high ground. This is all simply a prelude to my respectful resignation from posting very many further statements on this topic, as I am a busy man and I see now that it would be fruitless.

    That being said, I have some closing points that I simply want you to consider, not embrace.

    1) Regarding violence and sexuality: No, you misunderstand, I am very familiar with the male sex drive as well as the death drive. Both are potent, but I see your point. Forgive the emphatic “only” if you believe that obfuscates the argument. However, consider the following: why would a female superhero have any attraction? Why would
    male viewers not simply demand a female damsel-in-distress? Is it some kind of fetishism? Why wouldn’t they simply watch violent and deviant pornography and get their fix that way? I think something else must be at work as well. But if not, and if it is only sex, as you suggest, that shows me only that men really have deep-seated problems in their sociological heritage, if the male sex drive has become so ogling and perverted. Such a deviancy, moreover, does not necessarily say anything about whether women should or should not act in the roles of “saviors,” which was the point of our discussion. Again, I think something else is at work. If all you can see in a female protagonist is her sexuality factor, I respectfully ask you to consider your own sexual inclinations and ask if that is obscuring your judgment.

    2) Some points on “Wonder Woman” that I’m surprised you don’t know, being a comic book
    enthusiast as you imply. The character was created by a husband-and-wife team, who were
    both feminists and wanted a feminist role model to compete with an overly masculinized
    comic-book world. The male author had this to say about the comic in 1943: “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of
    Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”

    Yes, there is some sexuality to be considered, but it’s obviously not the point. Later, the character received a renewed (and, I’d hypothesize, less-sexualized) interest during the late 1970s, at the height of second-wave feminist activism. It’s rumored, by the way, that a Wonder Woman film is coming out in the next few years, which I’m sure it would be good for both of us to see.

    3) The female character rumored to appear in Batman Begins is not an inferior affiliate, but a major villain of sorts, and also his sometime love interest. She is self-sufficient as a warrior.

    4) “Did men retard the natural development of female super heroes,depriving girls of role models? It almost sounds like what you are hinting at.” Bingo, though I’d say “masculinized culture” (which had male and female enforcers) rather than “men.” You prove my point yourself in the next sentence: “the female super heroes that there are, exist because of men’s interest in super babes.” No feminist heroes, because the masculine culture didn’t want them.

    5) Why should female “co-star” superheroes be rejected as evidence? Often they are highly independent people. Often they rank above men in authority. Regardless of either fact, they certainly exist in the film as fighters of evil and even as “saviors.” This demands at least a small consideration in your larger assessment of a film’s gender roles. You really should watch the highly successful “X-Men” series, and as you pointed out, the “Matrix” movies again–not because the films are actually that great, but because of their cultural and financial weight.

    6) Some final examples of films you haven’t considered: if you’d like to make an argument about a trend like this, you really have to be familiar with more examples. “Million Dollar Baby” was a good one. Here are some truly great ones:

    The martial arts adventure/romance “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” made an international $213,200,000 and won wide acclaim from critics and audiences. It contains two lead female heroines (both warriors), another supporting role of a female warrior, and an old-woman warrior who is the villain. The actresses participate in some of the most stunning combat sequences ever filmed. They are beautiful and strong, but not sweaty or slashed or sexualized. The male hero is a world-weary warrior who has become a pacifist
    and who fights, quietly and reluctantly, only three brief times. This is not edgy and propagandistic, nor a “taboo-breaker” — rather, it is standard fare in the Chinese martial arts genre.

    You could argue that, well, films from Eastern cultures don’t count, because they do not have a Christian heritage. But if this is a truly biological matter, as you insist, then Asians as well as Americans should have an innate respect for manly men and womanly women. They don’t exactly. Well, you might say, it’s because their non-Christian society taught and conditioned them otherwise. Perhaps. But how do we really know that it’s not the other way around, that OUR culture has been conditioned away from our natural biology?

    An even more telling example, I believe is Quentin Tarantino’s recent feminist epic, “Kill Bill,” released in theatres in two parts. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (released 2003) made $180,098,138, and Kill Bill Vol. 2 (released 2004) made $150,907,920. (The films are best considered artistically as a single opus, and thus the combined box office gross, $331,006,058, is a better figure. Vol. 2’s slightly lower monetary take is widely considered a function of its emphasis on dialogue rather than action, which people find less entertaining in today’s bloodlustful, impatient, and undereducated culture). Not only does this film follow the ultimate “Lone Rangerette,” played by Uma Thurman, who (essentially without male help and with much male opposition) completes a quest for revenge that ends in poignant self-discovery. Not only is it worlds away from sexual fetishism and exhibitionism. But it also actively, explicitly engages almost every issue of masculine-feminine
    relationships in the contexts of society, violent combat, sexuality, and (most importantly) family. It turns the fixed-gendered world on its head, not by being androgynous (showing “masculinized” women and “feminized” men, as the Matrix trilogy is accused of doing), but by demonstrating that even the most undeniably feminine of women is physically, mentally, and spiritually capable of fulfilling men’s roles, and that even the most manly of men is capable of physically, mentally, and spiritually fulfilling the role of women. Uma Thurman’s character is, I confess, a personal role
    model for me and a figure of humane empathy. She is NOT a sexual object. Women that I know love the film even more than I do. It is truly a powerful and uplifting work for me. I encourage you (and Father Bill) to see it, but fear you might not feel as I do about it.

    My point is, the success of these films cannot be accounted for by either pro-masculine content, or sexual fetishism. They force viewers, male and female, to confront their conceptions of gender roles, and audiences and critics love them for it, certainly not in spite of it.

    7) I can tell that you are 50 years old, because you aren’t familiar with the current trend in female preference for male romantic partners. 90-pound weaklings really are the rage. You don’t believe me? Quick example: The highly virile “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy had a vast male cast, but who did the girls swoon over? Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn? Sean Bean as Boromir? Karl Urban as Eomer? No, it was skinny, long-haird Orlando Bloom as Legolas and short, sweet, big-eyed Elijah Wood as Frodo.

    I sell my observations short by saying that this is a recent phenomenon. Who were among the heartthrobs for girls of your generation? Davy Jones and David Cassidy, right? Probably slightly before your era were Ricky Nelson and Frankie Avalon, correct? Before that? How about Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly–Errol Flynn, even? Let’s take it further back…I can trace it at least to the effeminate playboy Paris in the Iliad, with numerous examples of swoon-inducing famous lovers throughout the Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Romantic worlds. Female preference is nothing nearly as fixed as your estimations suggest…throughout the ages, the scrawny pretty-boy has as much (if not more) luck as the burly, dashing tough guy. The courtly lover has always been able to sneak off with the heart of the war-hardened knight’s lady. Again, this is only in the Western world…in other cultures, it’s even more complex and contrary to your biological theories.

    Again, I am not trying to persuade you. I am only entreating you to have the courage to abandon logically-unstable positions, and if you want to continue your explications of your gender theology, to focus the fight on ground that you believe you have a firmer footing on.

    Always respectfully,
    “Seamus”

  13. Michael   |  Monday, 02 April 2007 at 2:48 pm

    > This is all simply a prelude to my respectful resignation from posting very many further statements on this topic, as I am a busy man and I see now that it would be fruitless.

    Seamus–

    Chickening out? I was enjoying it.

    > The fact that you feel the need to know my gender seems to betray an almost Freudian insecurity about women, and a misunderstanding of men.

    Sure. You know all about it. No, I’ve just heard the same gibberish from feminist females plenty of times. I haven’t had hardly any experience talking to a guy who sounds like one of these male-wannabes.

    > Why do you think that only a woman could wish to defend a position that some would label “feminist”?

    In my book, real men wouldn’t defend the right of their sisters, wives, daughters and mothers going to combat to defend them. But obviously, many feminized men today do defend this idea. The Bible talks about men defending their wives and children in battle. Young men today are so passive, they can’t even keep their pants up, much less lead anybody.

    > I was raised in, and remain an active member of, the Presbyterian Church.

    Are you for artificial restricting of women from leadership in church, while making them warrior-leaders outside it? Isn’t that outdated, despite what the Bible says? Since the thread is about male saviors, was Jesus’s gender arbitrary? Could the Savior of sinners have just as easily been a female?

    > I am six foot two, broad-shouldered, strong-limbed, fast and agile, with very virile long hair (rivalling Aragorn’s) and an impressive beard.

    I always give lots of points for beards (but take off lots for long hair). The Bible says long hair on men is shameful, not virile — not my “logically-unstable” idea!

    > I am known for my respectful and chivalric treatment of women.

    Why do you do that? That’s just a bunch of societal brainwashing from the Middle Ages. You shouldn’t let an old, dead culture cram you into that mold. Besides, it is patronizing to treat women that way — makes them feel inferior. They need to open their own doors so their arms have enough muscle to defend themselves if the need should arise. You aren’t doing them any favors.

    > I know, and am prepared to use in a crisis, elements of jujutsu and kung-fu, and I am a master of both modern fencing and medieval broadsword combat. I speak softly, but I am one of the most dangerous people I know if I’m carrying a big stick. Is this manly enough for you?

    If your mind has been as feminized as it sounds, no. You describe your manly physique (given to you by God), and then go on to extoll delicate female warriorettes, which is comic. If you are only 19, you have no experience whatsoever of the old society feminism destroyed. Your whole life has been spent engulfed in politically-correct propaganda (and believe me, it shows). And the history before your time is being constantly re-written from the victor of the gender war’s perspective. So, if you think you know so much at such a tender age, don’t mind me.

    I don’t know about you, but as for me, I like a wife who can cook. That’s a more important skill than working in an office, or her having manly muscles and knowing karate and fencing. Makes real boring movies! Most men I know really like to eat. Most young women I know don’t know how to cook worth beans, because they have been taught that is slavery. Hope y’all like take-out! (Or are you a gourmet chef, too?)

    > My explanation of this [macho films versus chic flics] is sociological rather than biological…”men enjoy films with such-and-such a gendered message, perhaps for some biological/hormonal reasons, but largely because that has been the normative social perspective for generations upon generations, and this doesn’t necessarily make it right.”

    That is absolutely silly. It is the standard feminist nonsense. And according to your own definition, your own manliness is a fraud, as it is just centuries of social conditioning and not anything real, or innate. A woman could be just as manly as you, since all that you described really has nothing to do with men.

    > I think something else must be at work as well. But if not, if it is only sex, as you suggest, that shows me only that men really have deep-seated problems in their sociological heritage, if the male sex drive has become so ogling and perverted.

    Yep, which is why I don’t pay good money to see such movies as Catwoman and Elektra. Such sleasy movies wouldn’t have been made in the first half of the 20th century. People used to actually have standards of decency in the olden days, and breaking taboos was not the ultimate goal in life. (Have you seen “Blades of Glory ” yet?)

    > Why would male viewers not simply demand a female damsel-in-distress? Is it some kind of fetishism?

    An aerobics video on steriods, if you ask me. Manhood is very perverted today, and feminism is making it more so. I had to watch some of “Gone with the wind” and “Gods and Generals” to get a little old-fashioned gender-sanity back over the weekend, after this conversation. ;o) Let’s see a chic flic where Scarlett carries Rhett upstairs, or where Stonewall Jackson bids a tearful farewell as his wife Anna goes off to war. Guys sewing the flags for their warriorettes to take into battle…

    > If all you can see in a female protagonist is her sexuality factor, I respectfully ask you to consider your own sexual inclinations and ask if that is obscuring your judgment.

    (The feminists always have this holier-than-thou approach, which really gets on my nerves.) Being aware of my fallen and corrupt inclinations keeps my judgment from being as obscured as those who deny having any. Does you own statement “boys who are a bundle of hormones and on the cusp of adult responsibility, and who are fascinated by violence of any kind” not apply to you? But anyway, you miss the point. Mother Theresa could be considered a heroine and savior. A movie about her might be really worth watching. But the three I mentioned are about something else. [I saw a Wonder Woman clip online Friday (an ad from the TV show DVD) which actually said the costume was the most important thing about the character! ]

    > Some points on “Wonder Woman” that I’m surprised you don’t know, being a comic book
    enthusiast as you imply.

    Never implied that, and would in fact deny it. (I said I was not a comic book addict.) Okay, so Wonder Woman was a sexy feminist whose costume was everything.

    > The female character rumored to appear in Batman Begins is not an inferior affiliate, but a major villain of sorts, and also his sometime love interest. She is self-sufficient as a warrior.

    He’s been hanging upside down in caves too long, then. To each his own. I’d take the heroine Melanie Wilkes (in “Gone With the Wind”) any day. There have always been many female heroines; they just didn’t used to be male impersonators.

    Did you know that having a baby during the Fall of Atlanta was a pretty heroic thing? Or having a baby in a modern hospital any normal day of the week, for that matter.

    > “Did men retard the natural development of female super heroes,depriving girls of role models? It almost sounds like what you are hinting at.” Bingo, though I’d say “masculinized culture” (which had male and female enforcers) rather than “men.”

    Glad I got something mostly right!

    > You prove my point yourself in the next sentence: “the female super heroes that there are, exist because of men’s interest in super babes.” No feminist heroes, because the masculine culture didn’t want them.

    No, there were feminine heroines, but we have been talking about the super-sexualized, shrink-wrapped silicone comic book ones here. (Odd that feminism gripes about objectification of women, but actually ends up promoting it.) Women can be heroines and not be the type which appeal to men’s base nature. And there were those before feminism. Rosie the Riveter in her overalls is better than Catwoman and Elektra.

    A DVD I own and like a lot is “Charlotte Gray” with Cate Blanchett. She plays a Scottish courier working for the French underground during WWII. She always stays very much a traditional 1940s woman. She isn’t defeating men in hand-to-hand combat, but she is a heroine nonetheless, working quietly behind the scenes. She is helping save France from the Nazis. But she isn’t being violent or about to split the seams of a spandex outfit. http://imdb.com/gallery/ss/0245046/Ss/0245046/Kit203.jpg.html?hint=tt0245046

    Another movie I have is “Anna and the King,” another traditional heroine played by Jodie Foster.
    http://imdb.com/gallery/ss/0166485/Ss/0166485/1-1.jpg?path=gallery&path_key=0166485
    And Anna considered herself a feminist! Wish there were more like that around.

    > The martial arts adventure/romance “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” …contains two lead female heroines (both warriors)… The actresses participate in some of the most stunning combat sequences ever filmed.

    Yes, but like feminism, they are a fantasy. They defy gravity, and feminism defies reality as well. You are welcome to your phoney women.

    > You could argue that, well, films from Eastern cultures don’t count, because they do not have a Christian heritage. But if this is a truly biological matter, as you insist, then Asians as well as Americans should have an innate respect for manly men and womanly women. They don’t exactly.

    We need to get away from discussing the fantasy stuff, I guess. Sorry for expounding on Fr. Bill’s Superman, and the little boy imitating him. According to you, girls should imitate Superman. Why was Dumbo the elephant so popular? He could fly with his ears! Same with warrior women — they aren’t reality. Fantasy is popular because it is unreal.

    Speaking of reality, have you heard about all the female soldiers getting assaulted by their male comrades in Iraq? (Your feminized generation of males, I might add.) Feminism says that men and women are basically the same, except for incidental plumbing, and that women can do a man’s job on the battlefield. They receive the same combat training as the men, but they can’t defend themselves from those same men. There’s reality for you, not flying swordswomen fighting 6-8 men at once.

    > [“Kill Bill”] turns the fixed-gendered world on its head, not by being androgynous (showing “masculinized” women and “feminized” men, as the Matrix trilogy is accused of doing), but by demonstrating that even the most undeniably feminine of women is physically, mentally, and spiritually capable of fulfilling men’s roles, and that even the most manly of men is capable of physically, mentally, and spiritually fulfilling the role of women.

    Ugh, and I just thought it looked bad on the surface. And what is the point? Isn’t androgynism what you are lauding about the movie: men can be like women and women can be like men? Depressing.

    > It is truly a powerful and uplifting work for me. I encourage you (and Father Bill) to see it, but fear you might not feel as I do about it.

    Urp. Generation gap gag reflex, I’m afraid. What is the deal with the wedding dress, veil and sword? Kinky!
    http://imdb.com/gallery/ss/0378194/Ss/0378194/kill_bill_vol_two_ver6.jpg?path=gallery&path_key=0378194
    (You know a wedding veil is a sign of female submission from the Bible, don’t you?)

    > I can tell that you are 50 years old, because you aren’t familiar with the current trend in female preference for male romantic partners. 90-pound weaklings really are the rage. …long-haird Orlando Bloom as Legolas and short, sweet, big-eyed Elijah Wood as Frodo.

    Okay, are you saying that is good? Do you really want a BLAH unisex yellow jumpsuit utopia? So, it proves society is coming unglued at the seams. Yes, I’ve heard the trend for whimpy guys in the movies. DiCaprio was another one. Clark Gable would probably living under a Skid Row bridge today. My wife actually bought a 1960s John Wayne DVD last week [“McLintock!” 1963]. We hadn’t seen one in years. We both agreed they wouldn’t make a movie like that today.

    > Again, I am not trying to persuade you. I am only entreating you to have the courage to abandon logically-unstable positions, and if you want to continue your explications of your gender theology, to focus the fight on ground that you believe you have a firmer footing on.

    Yes, let’s skip Catwoman and Elektra. But before we leave them, I have to point out a big “logically-unstable” position of yours related to the topic of saviors. You say how violence-minded adolescent boys are, yet go on to advance feminist ideas:

    > Keep in mind that these kinds of films (whether for biological reasons or simply cultural reasons) attract primarily an adolescent male audience, boys who are a bundle of hormones and on the cusp of adult responsibility, and who are fascinated by violence of any kind.

    1) It is an inexcusably sexist statement to say boys are violent, when feminism teaches us that there are no inherent differences between girls and boys. You willingly bring up the painfully obvious facts, and then, like a good feminist, deny any serious implications from it whatsoever. If that isn’t “logically-unstable,” I don’t know what is.

    2) You say that the cause of the violence is bundles of *hormones.* Those have nothing to do with culture/societal conditioning and EVERYTHING to do with created DESIGN, yet you say you don’t know for sure where the violent trend originated! Yikes!

    3) You talk about your male physique and then you talk about adolescent violence. It is a package deal, and makes perfect sense. Women are obviously made for something else, not defeating evil by brute force. A real no-brainer.

    4) What does it take to be a savior? Jesus came to rescue His helpless sheep and destroy the works of the devil. He did for us what we could not do in our own strength. The weak are to save the strong. Women are the weaker vessels, fantasy movies notwithstanding.

    5) Why are boys/men prone to violence? It takes a willingness to risk all, to lay down one’s life, to sacrifice one’s self, to not shrink back from unimagineable evil to be a savior. It has to do with daydreaming about slaying dragons, monsters, defeating the invaders, bullies, and dictators. My 20-year-old son is in the Air Force and hopes to go to Iraq this summer. He wants to save the world from terrorism. He didn’t join the military for the benefits. Yes, it is all hormones (*male* hormones), and that is because, as Fr. Bill said, men are designed to be the saviors, when it comes to direct confrontation with evil. The outside design (build) and inside design (hormones) serve the created purpose: protector and defender of the family. Maybe female soldiers need hormone treatments?

    Thanks for the conversation.

    –Michael

  14. Seamus   |  Tuesday, 03 April 2007 at 4:16 pm

    Michael,

    This is precisely the reason I didn’t want to tell you about myself. It has allowed you to avoid confronting the issues directly and rationally, and instead levy a series of sarcastic ad hominem jabs at me personally. This neither effective nor mature, and it is certainly not loving and Christlike. Intellectually, it should make no difference who I am. My words should stand alone.

    I came here to learn from Father Bill, and from you, through honest and respectful questioning, expecting patient responses about sincere doubts I have, from those who are older and (I had hoped) wiser than I. When I found that I couldn’t help but take issue with a few of the arguments you used, I attempted to engage you in loving, cooperative discourse using the Socratic method, which I hoped would help both of us decide what we really think about the subjects. But rather than answer my questions, or use my questions to refine and sharpen your own views, you refuse to explain logically, and ask me instead. “how could you ask such questions?”

    If your philosophies cannot address my doubts rationally, in a spirit of cooperation, but instead motivate you to engage in hostile bickering and name-calling, then I have even less reason to agree with you. Be thankful that you have only tried to insult me, who forgives you for it. Your tactics will influence no one in the larger world. And, for the record, no one ever “wins” an argument, any more than anyone ever truly “wins” a war. Regardless of the possible truth of your views, your immature attitude will only cause destruction, not build a better world.

    That is the most important thing I want to tell you. Here are a few more specific points, though again, I see this is going nowhere thanks to the pugnacious attitude you are taking.

    Re: hair. I didn’t expect you to actually make a judgment about me based on my hair length. Do you really think that God cares how long a person’s HAIR is? The prophets, patriarchs, even Jesus Himself have been, throughout history, depicted with long hair. Historically, the Jews have had long hair. Samson had long hair, of course. So did George Washington, incidentally. Billy Graham grew his hair long for a period, precisely to make the points I’m making now. How long is too long? Yes, Paul spoke about it, but I don’t think he was “giving points” based on it. Perhaps he simply wanted to separate the fledgling Church from the confusing influences of the fertility cults around them in Asia Minor (which, as Ovid and other ancient writers mention, demanded that worshippers grow their hair long). In any case, this is completely a red herring and doesn’t help our discussion of female saviors. But if you have a short, rational explanation, I’ll accept it.

    Re: chivalry. I take it you’re being largely sarcastic? I do it because I care about people, which means I care about women too. If a woman holds a door for me, I will walk through it and thank her. Can you tell me what is wrong with women being physically fit? I think they probably need it for a good many “female” responsibilities as well they would for any “male” ones.

    Re: I don’t extol delicacy, I extol strength of all kinds, but the wisdom to know when to use it.

    This brings me to an important point: I have to insist to you, because I see it before my own eyes, that women are much stronger than you think they are. Even now, scientists are questioning whether men are inherently stronger. And regardless, there are certainly women who are much stronger than men. Moreover, in this age, what does strength have to do with combat? You don’t need many muscles to fire a gun, you need coordination, a good eye and steady nerves. You need even less of this to drive a tank. (Some people continue to say that women are worse drivers than men, but this too is unsubstantiated scientifically and is starting to change as society changes.)

    In fact, strength and muscular physique have been obsolete in combat since the invention of firearms, and even before…at least as early as the twilight of the armored knight., replaced by the rapier fencer. As a fencer, I know that the worst build for swordsmanship is bulky muscles. You need to be thin, quick, coordinated, cool-headed, and know how to use an opponent’s strength against them. I have been beaten by too many women fencers to say that they are naturally inferior to men in these respects.

    The characters in “Crouching Tiger” may be fictional, and the gravity-defiance may be stylistic. But the actresses are really fighting. “You can fake flying and jumping with wires and a camera,” my kung-fu instructor told me, “but not hand-to-hand combat. In fact, good kung-fu actors have trained so much that they actually have to slow down their reflexes to do a fight for a camera.” I know women who can fight like this. I also know women who can wield a katana better even than Uma Thurman does in “Kill Bill.”

    Re: my age: A good point, though I probably know more than you think I do about the past. I was not raised engulfed in politically correct propaganda. I barely watched TV as a child, and read the Bible and the classics. I was homeschooled, if you want to know. And I have been taught to treat any new information with caution and reason, and to recognize propaganda and ulterior motives.

    Re; cooking. I love food. I am deeply impressed by women who can cook. I am equally impressed by men who can cook. Do you find a problem with men cooking? Jesus cooked breakfast for the disciples on the seashore after His resurrection. “Well, that’s grilling,” some may say, “and of course men can grill.” But what separates grilling from cooking? A gas stove and a pinch of oregano?

    Re: sociological explanations. You have no logical high ground there—neither do I, I admit. But I haven’t called your words “silly” or “nonsense.” “Logically unstable,” yes, because I really don’t think EITHER of us can prove that society has conditioned us one way, or the other, from objective evidence. Both explanations have support, and both are speculative. That was my only point there.

    Re: sleazy movies in the early 20th century. Pick your battles, Michael, I’m a student of early cinema, and I know that there was plenty of sleaze in the early 20th century…even during the most censorious ages of cinema, the directors found implicit ways to sneak it in, and savvy audiences caught it. There is historical documentation of this. But in most cinematic ages, the censors were really quite lax. You’d be surprised by the naughty bits that made it in. It’s not decency that kept female combatants out of the early cinema. Decency was hardly a motivation. It was simply genre conventions, if anything. And, of course, Joan of Arc was one of the early cinema’s favorite subjects. No, I haven’t seen “Blades of Glory.”

    Re: of course I think having a baby, during the fall of Atlanta or any time, is heroic, that has no bearing on whether women can or can’t do other heroic things.

    Re: Rosie the Riveter is not pre-feminism, she was post-first-wave-feminism (Susan B. Anthony et al.) and proto-second-wave-feminism (the 1960s and 1970s societal-rights-for-women movement). I think Rosie is better than Catwoman and Elektra as well, overalls are an empowering choice of clothing (see also Uma Thurman’s costume in Kill Bill). My point has been, however, that the sexualized heroines may still have had a feminist influence, in spite of the fact that men liked them for other reasons as well (and I still think men liked them for a few other reasons in addition to the sexual ones…I don’t see a reason to oversimplify that.) I am not pro-sexualization, in any case.

    Re; fantasy, see my comments on women’s physical strength. And not all fantasy is escapist, sometimes it’s highly topical and allegorical, which makes it both poignant and popular.

    Re: comic books, I’m sorry, I misread the comic book statement. I had guessed that you were an enthusiast since you had been following the recent superhero-film renaissance.

    Re: assault in Iraq. That is sad about the women in Iraq. I am not responsible for my generation, any more than you are. They didn’t receive the same training, the boys were encouraged by society from birth to be “manly” and the women to be “feminine.” A sudden change in that at Boot Camp is not going to even the playing field. Also, men abuse men in war, don’t they? And women abuse women, too? And some women have abused men. War is hell, isn’t it? This is what happens when the fighting instinct gets out of hand, which happens so often in war, and which is why I am hesitant to accept the opinions of those who act as if it is the greatest arena for masculine heroism. Where does heroism pass into bloodlust? When does killing become justified? Can we in good conscious glorify fighting without accidentally promoting some iota of un-Christian aggression? Speaking of Quentin Tarantino, I am eagerly awaiting his three-part World War II epic, “Inglorious Bastards,” which addresses these concerns in the context of one of the most unilaterally glorified wars ever fought. I hope every pro- and anti-war viewer has the courage to rationally consider what it will have to say.

    Re: Kill Bill: It’s not androgyny, because it doesn’t wipe away what gender the people are. It’s simply saying that many of what one might call “roles” are, and sometimes have to be, fulfilled by members of the opposite sex.

    If you really want to be informed about this issue, stifle your reflex and watch it. If you think it best not to see it, don’t. But don’t think of it as a “generation gap” issue…the makers of this film are closer to your age than mine, after all.

    The wedding dress and sword never appear in the same shot in the film. It’s for contrast in the poster. In one scene (the wedding scene) she’s wearing the dress, after she has given up the life of the sword for a time. She is being submissive, but ultimately it’s revealed that this is the improper choice at that time. In the other scenes, she has the sword. You really should watch it if you want an explanation.

    For the record, I’ve never heard any viewer of the two films summarize them with the word “kinky” before. If you feel it is, I can accept that (that’s all I meant when I said to consider your own inclinations, in my last message). But you are not rationally justified in projecting that interpretation onto other viewers. In my experience, I don’t find it sexually exciting, and neither does anyone I’ve talked to about it.

    Re: 90-pound weaklings: No, it’s not good, in fact, it’s a sign that girls aren’t really interested in my type of physique, so it’s not in my best interest. We have John Waynes today, but they aren’t always what girls want. They weren’t always what girls wanted then, either, I know.

    Another movie I’d recommend that you see is Robert Rodriguez’s “Sin City,” which deals with the objectification of women on the one hand, their surprising strength on the other, and with the difficult roles that strong male heroes have to navigate amongst them. Any of the male leads could, incidentally, beat the tar out of John Wayne. Particularly Mickey Rourke’s character, Marv…an excellent depiction of physical force and confused chivalry run amok. You would definitely like Bruce Willis’ character, Hartigan, and I do too—he is the superego to Marv’s well-meaning id. The third hero, the Freudian ego, is Clive Owen’s Dwight, who is more indicative of the masculine-feminine dilemma we are discussing—how can male heroes stand up for women who want to stand up for themselves?

    Re: Hormones: A good point you make there, but I do have an answer for it. Boys have hormones. So do girls. Both can lead them toward violence, if that is what society allows of them/. I know boys who have sublimated the violence-drive into artistic creativity, for example, or philosophy and logic (my choices), or rhetoric, or theology. Boys don’t HAVE to be violent, but society suggests they embrace violence, and the hormonal activity helps them along at certain ages.

    Though society at large tells them not to act on them, girls have some of the same tendencies, I’ve observed…I grew up near a lot of “tomboys,” and I know several girls that, even in conservative, patriarchal, evangelical households, are drawn to violence. In some cases, this manifests itself in a strong passionate attraction to violent male figures…”my hero” and suchlike. In others, it is expressed in a reverence for female heroes and an eagerness for action themselves. Many very conservative, otherwise patriarchally-motivated girls I knew as a teenager were obsessed with Padme Amidala from Star Wars (particularly her violent actions in Episode II), with Storm and Jean Grey from X-Men, with River from the sci-fi movie “Serenity,” and others like them.

    My theological-ethical perspective on all of this is that it is wrong, for both boys and girls. The desire for violence is placed in human beings for cases of emergency. In other contexts, it’s improper and should be controlled. And really, the desire for violence is better considered as a very specific function of courage and passion, which do NOT have to take the form of violence but often do in today’s society.

    Jesus did nothing by of physical strength, but by spiritual strength. Even when an adulteress was about to be stoned, even when the mobs were arresting Him, He did nothing in physical aggression, on His own behalf, or on that of others. He used reason and love, and appealed to the humanity of His enemies. He did not try to conquer them, because His kingdom is not of this world, and that would gain Him, or us, nothing.

    Your son is applying his hormones in a time when, though killing is still a terrible sin, it must be done for the good of others. I entreat him to a spirit of humility, steadfastness, grief, sorrow, and love for his enemies, even as he commits the most necessary of all evils. But know, that we do not live in a time of dragons and monsters. Bullies are human beings, deeply flawed human beings, who can only be turned from evil by the strength of surprising, courageous love from us, their enemies. Dictators must be fought, but that is a sign of an imperfect world. In Heaven, there will be no dictators, no women and children to defend, and to prepare for the Kingdom of God, we mustn’t build our character solely by these external and temporal things. In Heaven, there will still be love, however, and our ability to love is what makes us Christians, and men. When love directs violence, it is right. But it is the love, not the courage or the glory or the virility, that redeems it.

    Thank you, and God bless you,
    Seamus

  15. Michael   |  Thursday, 12 April 2007 at 1:11 pm

    A question of manliness
    By MARTIN NEWLAND, Daily Mail

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=395271

    An article from last summer, but still interesting — complete with Superman.

    –Michael

    [starts out:]

    “There is, apparently, a resurgence of manliness in America. Superman has returned to the big screen and unshaven, testosterone-charged film stars such as Colin Farrell no longer look socially marginalised.”

  16. Michael   |  Thursday, 12 April 2007 at 2:57 pm

    > [Seamus:] It has allowed you to avoid confronting the issues directly and rationally,

    Really? So, I’m avoiding the issues and being irrational, immature, and bickering. Meanwhile you are respectfully telling us how superior and loving you are. I’m duly impressed!

    > …and instead levy a series of sarcastic ad hominem jabs at me personally.

    Thanks for telling me how bad a person I am, dude. What that has to do with the issues, I’m not sure. You still respond like a regular whining feminist, despite all the aggressive movies you idolize.

    > Regardless of the possible truth of your views, your immature attitude will only cause destruction, not build a better world. …Your tactics will influence no one in the larger world.

    “Can’t we all just get along?”

    > Do you really think that God cares how long a person’s HAIR is?

    Yes, because I’m foolish enough to believe the Bible. Do you really think God cares if men and woman come before God differently? Yep — for the Bible tells me so. Defend all you want something the chief apostle describes as shameful. Not very solid footing, though.

    > Perhaps he simply wanted to separate the fledgling Church from the confusing influences of the fertility cults around them in Asia Minor (which, as Ovid and other ancient writers mention, demanded that worshippers grow their hair long).

    Ugh, please. What fabricated nonsense. The things feminist dream up to discount Scripture. I hope you didn’t learn that in homeschool.

    > So did George Washington, incidentally.

    He was also a Freemason. Should I be a Mason, then? Should I wear powdered wigs because he did? …snort snuff? You’re missing something big with your examples: George’s hair was nowhere as long as Martha’s, I suspect. There was a distinct sexual difference in hair length in pre-feminist times. Today, a Christian man can have much longer hair than his butch haircut wife in church and it is no big deal. I have no problem with George’s tidy neck-length pony tail. Look at a $20– Andrew Jackson’s hair we would call “long” on a woman in our unisex wasteland today. It isn’t long at all, it is short. I have a problem with women with hair as short as George and Andrew. Shoulder-length hair is medium. Long needs to be a covering. (Does that help?) I don’t have any problem with shoulder-length male hair (if that means women actually have *long* hair). BUT, today it DOESN’t — there is no gender distinction to be implied in hair length today, as you yourself say: “Do you really think that God cares how long a person’s HAIR is?” Which means men end up looking like women. They didn’t look like women in Washington’s day, but they do today, because women dress like men and have short hair. I have a problem with unisex hair and extremely short hair on women, because it implies ignoring God’s word.

    > In any case, this is completely a red herring and doesn’t help our discussion of female saviors.

    Uh, you conveniently forgot you asked me a question after describing yourself: “Is this manly enough for you?” I said yes to the beard and no to the long hair. (And I got no credit for the former, either!)

    > But if you have a short, rational explanation, I’ll accept it.

    No, anything further I’d say would be gaffed off as irrational, or something. Besides, Paul’s comments are short and to the point, and his ideas should carry more weight than mine.

    > If your philosophies cannot address my doubts rationally, in a spirit of cooperation, but instead motivate you to engage in hostile bickering and name-calling, then I have even less reason to agree with you.

    To each his own excuse.

    > The prophets, patriarchs, even Jesus Himself have been, throughout history, depicted with long hair.

    (You sure are stuck on this.) If you think I consider electrically-clipped barber shop cuts the only biblical hairstyle for men, you are mistaken. Page-boy cuts on Amish men are short — COMPARED to their women, who don’t cut their hair at all.

    > But rather than answer my questions, or use my questions to refine and sharpen your own views.

    LOL — that is exactly what you are doing with the hair stuff!

    > Even now, scientists are questioning whether men are inherently stronger. And regardless, there are certainly women who are much stronger than men.

    If scientists questioned God’s creating the world, would you believe them? You seem to want women to be stronger, which is the kind of thing you keep saying that made me wonder about certain basic things initially.

    > Moreover, in this age, what does strength have to do with combat? You don’t need many muscles to fire a gun, you need coordination, a good eye and steady nerves.

    Good, then please tell me it is highly unjust to not draft 18 year-old girls, while requiring only boys register for the draft. Eighteen year-olds got to vote due to the rationale that boys could be drafted and sent off to war to be killed, so they should get a say in the leadership who makes those decisions for them. Why women got to vote under this reasoning is beyond me, other than the fact that even feminists still expect the old perks, when they are in their favor. I’ve had a hard time getting a feminist to see this is highly unjust in an egalitarian society. Since you are such a big fan of the suitability of female combatants, perhaps you will agree with me that under our politically-correct regime, females should register for the draft, and it would actually enhance our defense.

    > In fact, strength and muscular physique have been obsolete in combat since the invention of firearms

    Oh? I didn’t know that. Well, maybe the South could have won the Civil War if they hadn’t been so chivalrous, and let their ladies answer the call to arms, also spending years tramping all over creation on bad food and worn out shoes. (I have a hard time visualizing manhood being obsolete since the invention of firearms.)

    > As a fencer, I know that the worst build for swordsmanship is bulky muscles. You need to be thin, quick, coordinated, cool-headed, and know how to use an opponent’s strength against them. I have been beaten by too many women fencers to say that they are naturally inferior to men in these respects.

    Sure helps to have a longer reach (which most men naturally have over women). One of my favorites for incredulity was Kiera Knightly as an anorexic Guinevere fighting off all those tough guys in her macrame top in “King Arthur.” I’ll take Vanessa Redgrave’s Gwen anyday.

    > Do you find a problem with men cooking? Jesus cooked breakfast for the disciples on the seashore after His resurrection. “Well, that’s grilling,” some may say, “and of course men can grill.”

    Careful — you’re starting to sound like me!

    > My point has been, however, that the sexualized heroines may still have had a feminist influence, in spite of the fact that men liked them for other reasons as well

    Okay, I’ll not argue that one.

    > She is being submissive [in “Kill Bill”], but ultimately it’s revealed that this is the improper choice at that time.

    Ah, so she can be submissive! Well, maybe I might check it out someday to see what you are talking about. But there are two, which do you suggest? (I don’t think I can handle both.) I haven’t seen “Crouching Tiger,” but I did see “Hero,” so I am familiar with the surreal swordfighting women amongst the falling leaves. But speaking of being neither here nor there as to the issue of “Iconic Men,” that’s what such movies are, so we are rather off-topic. I can see you are especially fascinated by this martial arts stuff, including the supernatural varieties. The movie was very well-done and interesting, but how it proves anything, I don’t know, yet you say I can’t make a logical argument.

    Still, thanks for the discussion!

    –Michael

  17. Michael   |  Friday, 13 April 2007 at 9:10 am

    > [Seamus:] Yes, Paul spoke about [hair], but I don’t think he was “giving points” based on it. Perhaps he simply wanted to separate the fledgling Church from the confusing influences of the fertility cults around them in Asia Minor (which, as Ovid and other ancient writers mention, demanded that worshippers grow their hair long).

    Seamus, let’s get real, here. Paul is talking about the created order of men and women, which one is the head of which, which one was created for the other, what even *nature* teaches us as far as what is shameful regarding hair, who should be veiled and who shouldn’t, how to not offend angels, etc, and you are ignoring all of that and instead saying something extremely off-the-wall about not wanting to get confused with fertility cults. You prefer that vaporous explanation to all the real, hard evidence of what the passage is about — and all that just to justify your taste for long hair? If you expected women to have long(er) hair in relation to what you feel is fine for men, that would be one thing — I’d agree with you!, but I have heard nothing of the kind thus far.

    > And I have been taught to treat any new information with caution and reason, and to recognize propaganda and ulterior motives.

    Okay, then do you recognize your own ulterior motives for the hair and that fertility cult bit as pointed out above? (Was even Ovid against long hair on men, due to that reference? I didn’t get that part.) Your totally unsubstantiated reasoning makes as much sense as saying Paul told the Corinthians in the same chapter [v. 20-21] to not come to the Lord’s Supper drunk because that is the way the fertility cults worshipped. (Which means that now we can come to church drunk, because we don’t have to be concerned with being confused with fertility cults anymore.) In both cases, he never compares Christians to non-Christians. The “confusion” he seeks to avoid is not between them, but between men and women.

    > If your philosophies cannot address my doubts rationally, in a spirit of cooperation, but instead motivate you to engage in hostile bickering and name-calling, then I have even less reason to agree with you.

    I know, all *my* “irrational bickering” about what you are doing is going to make you dig in your heels, but so be it. (I’ve also noticed feminists expect us to be nice and “cooperate” with them, too. Great tactic. They want to be accepted/validated while aggressively countering our views everywhere they can. Odd.)

    > But I haven’t called your words “silly” or “nonsense.” “Logically unstable,” yes.

    Splitting hairs, aren’t you?

    > In fact, strength and muscular physique have been obsolete in combat since the invention of firearms, and even before…at least as early as the twilight of the armored knight, replaced by the rapier fencer… Moreover, in this age, what does strength have to do with combat? You don’t need many muscles to fire a gun, you need coordination, a good eye and steady nerves. You need even less of this to drive a tank.

    Perhaps women are a plus to the military because they make much smaller targets? Here’s a picture from a recent publicity article my son sent us just this week from his base’s web page:

    http://www.geocities.com/yello_armadillo/CCC/usaf.jpg

    My son is the one immediately behind the little girl on the left. (I find it very strange that anybody can justify such girls defending us in combat from murderous terrorists — firearms, or no firearms. I can’t look at the picture without being appalled.)

    I just hope our nation wakes up and repents of its madness before it is too late, though I don’t have much hope of it, frankly, when hearing people defend it all so passionately as perfectly normal and desirable.

    > Regardless of the possible truth of your views, your immature attitude will only cause destruction, not build a better world.

    And the feminists *are* building a better world with the governmental enforcement of their propaganda, I suppose…? What do you suggest I do, win them over through friendly and polite dialog?

    > My words should stand alone.

    That they do, and those are what I’m refuting. By the way, you did agree with me on some things, and I had no problem with most of what you said regarding violence, Jesus, etc., which I appreciated hearing. Thanks, though I wonder why you are so into martial arts, then. Unfortunately, a lot of those movies –“Kill Bill,” perhaps?, “Hero”? — are more about *revenge* than saving people. But God says Vengeance is his, he will repay. I believe the American Revolutionary War was completely unjustified from a true Christian perspective, though you see Christians glory in that all the time. (I quit a church I was a member of when they handed out flags at the door and dropped red, white and blue balloons from the ceiling during a Sunday morning worship service celebrating Independence Day.) Our own present government is more tyrannous than that of King George III, if you ask me, but that is another subject.

    > Re: 90-pound weaklings: No, it’s not good, in fact, it’s a sign that girls aren’t really interested in my type of physique, so it’s not in my best interest.

    See the Daily Mail article I posted yesterday, and take heart. “There is, apparently, a resurgence of manliness in America. Superman has returned to the big screen and unshaven, testosterone-charged film stars such as Colin Farrell no longer look socially marginalised.”

    I doubt they are going to program this out of women any time soon.

    –Michael

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