Hollywood’s Lack of Heroes Reflects Society Today
Hollywood is known for it’s fantasy and dreamlike quality: it’s films are meant to be an escape from reality, an escape from the mundane. How many films accurately reflect everyday life, every day people? As a lover of film (make that a lover of stories), I go to escape into another person’s life, whether it is purely fantastical or not. However, even if a film includes magic, far-away galaxies or talking penguins, it still might reflect everyday life and sentiment.
Film directors aren’t inattentive to their public or current events. Even glamorous Hollywood is linked to the economy, and as it fluctuates so do the films. A great article that I found on Daily Motion reflected this sentiment: it argues that as Americans become more worried and down, the films being produced are meant to lift them up. The author, Chris Lee, quotes a journalist as saying
“We wanted an old-fashioned leading man,” the director said. “A good-looking lad you’re happy to watch think. An oak-tree presence.
The director was referencing 2011’s new crop of superhero men, and how, in difference to previous recent years more scrawny characters, these actually look like they could save the planet. It is true that superhero movies abound: the top -ten grossing film lists for each of the past 5 years consist of a rundown of comic book characters. This shows that, in our precarious economic and social situation, Americans crave a hero.
But this also indicates that the idea of a hero might not actually exist. There might be a dozen superhero movies released each year, but they are based on fantasy, on non-realistic situations. There is no man on Earth who could turn into a spider. There is no man on Earth who could be a s big as the Incredible Hulk. Even the men who save the day in non-comic book films are part of a fantasy world which does not exist: take Pirates of the Caribbean, for example. Captain Jack Sparrow and his crew of miscreants save the day, but they exist in a fantasy world of Krakens and zombie pirates: not exactly reality.
What happened to all those save-the-day men who were catching bad guys and making the ladies drool? Chris Lee alludes to it by mentioning Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzeneggar. These men (among others) were living in non-magical world and yet still managed to save the world. Yes, sometimes the stories were a little far-fetched (True Lies) but they showed that Americans were a mighty people who could take on anything. The men in past films were strong and successful; they had families (see True Lies) and could save them from the enemy. A family? Male characters nowadays shirk responsibility and kids (Knocked Up). They can’t even save themselves from a 5 yr-old (witness The Sitter)!
Buff VS Not
Nowadays, the male characters in mainstream films are more likely to be self-mocking loser men acting like overaged frat boys. I know that I’ve read about this before (if you find the article, let me know!) Let me clarify that I too enjoy a silly comedy, but these films are telling us something about American culture. Are we lowering our standards and accepting that we are not the mighty, invincible superpower that we once were, by glorifying men who do stupid things when they’re drunk (The Hangover) or stoned (The Pineapple Express). Today’s male characters are more likely to be living in their parent’s basement at the age of 30, going to a meaningless job and joking with their buddies as though 10 years haven’t passed since they graduated college. Is this representative of what have we become? Are men nowadays helpless creatures who must be led around like children (like the weirdly-attractive Russel Brand’s addict character in Get Him to the Greek)?
This was not meant to be a critique on the male species in general; just an observation that Hollywood does, in fact, reflect what’s going on in the real world, even when it’s churning out a mindless action film or comedy. Right now, we want to escape our world of debt and uncertainty and fly with a green lantern to a distant planet, but we also want reassurance that our current, less-than-illustrious career-flatlined lives are shared by others. This is acceptable, but we have to remember that we should never settle for less than our potential. America can rebound, and it’s up to the ordinary superheroes!
(*Might I point out that, while men might have been emasculated in Hollywood, that women have by far been represented more strongly. Maybe women handle adversity and crisis better? Thoughts?)