column by Michael Alcorn

Battle of the Sexes III: Return of the Gentleman

Posted 1/25/18

“Hey, hon. You want to watch some TV?” “Sure, sounds good. What’s on?” “I don’t know — why don’t you find out?” [hits the ‘Guide’ button on the cable remote] “Let’s see …

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column by Michael Alcorn

Battle of the Sexes III: Return of the Gentleman

Posted

“Hey, hon. You want to watch some TV?”

“Sure, sounds good. What’s on?”

“I don’t know — why don’t you find out?”

[hits the ‘Guide’ button on the cable remote] “Let’s see …t here’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ and there’s ‘The Notebook’”

“Oh, ‘The Notebook’ is on? Oh, I don’t care — whatever you want to watch.”

[senses trap, hits the channel for ‘The Notebook’]

[begins to read book]

What is it about Nicholas Sparks movies? I mean, I get it: women (at least the ones in my life) love that relationship thing, that emotional thing. And Sparks movies? Well, they’re basically great love stories that make every man feel inadequate about how he approaches his relationships. Like we need that kind of help.

For me, I would watch ‘Lord of the Rings,’ or ‘The Avengers,’ or even any of the permutations of ‘Star Trek’ any day of the week. It actually got me to thinking (because I had a lot of time to sit and think during the movie) about what it is that draws me to the kinds of movies I’m drawn to, and not to, well, other movies.

And, so I started considering the movies at the top of my lists, and trying to come up with common threads or themes. Take, just for instance, ‘Lord of the Rings.’ It’s about a heroic quest against impossible odds to overcome the encroaching rise of an evil power intent on taking over the world. Some of its finest moments involve individuals making the choice to sacrifice themselves for the good of others; its core relationship is one that evolves from servant-boss to friend-brothers; and the one person destined to gain great power is desperately afraid of that power, and only takes it on because there is no other choice.

All of which answers the question “why doesn’t my wife care for this movie?” Without trying to paint with too broad a brush, these are all themes that are naturally “manly;” Nicholas Sparks, of course, more “womanly.”

By the way, before anybody gets the urge to send a letter, standard disclaimer: of course not all men/women think/act/believe the same/similar/loosely related ways, and those characterizations are in no way/shape/form intended to disparage/belittle/besmirch any men/women/Andorians who behave/think/believe differently.

And, as I’m writing that disclaimer (between the eye rolls), it occurs to me that maybe the need for that disclaimer is part and parcel of one of today’s major societal problems: so-called “toxic masculinity.” Peggy Noonan wrote a beautiful column in the Wall Street Journal this last weekend arguing that what society needs is a return to what she calls “The Gentleman.” What’s a “Gentleman?” Someone who believes in norms of behavior beyond their urge of the moment; someone who takes responsibility for themselves and the well-being of those around them; someone who is willing to sacrifice for the greater good; someone who only uses their strength to improve the world around them.

Sound like any movies I may have just described?

I believe that we have, as a society, spent the better part of the last 50 years diluting, dismantling, denigrating and redefining what it is to be a man and a woman. And, then, befuddled, we look around and wonder why men behave so badly.

Let me just put it this way: wouldn’t the world be a much, much better place if all our young men tried to model their behavior after Captain America instead of Aziz Ansari? Look, there’s nothing wrong with sensitive and funny; but we’ve spent so much effort making those the pinnacle of manhood that we’ve killed the Gentleman, causing a lot of unnatural behaviors.

I believe that who we are has a lot to do with who we model ourselves after. As romantic as all those leading men are, I think our boys need to see more heroes and Gentlemen. And, women, wouldn’t you like to see those, too?

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com

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