Sunday, December 2, 2012

Andrew Sullivan, Relationships, James Bond and Why Rich Cohen is Awful

Let me start by saying I like reading Andrew Sullivan.  I like reading him not because I agree with him, but because he's just a great thing to read.  I think he's good to read because he's been writing the same kind of thing since the 1980's, and its turned into blog posts, and he's gotten really, really good at writing them, regardless of the subject matter.  And as some one trying to make my writing better its very helpful to read.  But more importantly, how could you not want to read this guy?  He's a public intellectual British ex-pat, who is gay, shaves his head, has a a silly beard, stiles himself as a "conservative", sees the guiding force in life as the writing's of the British Enlightenment, was a huge proponents of Bush's war with Iraq but now spends a lot of time criticizing Israel and he's also a devout Catholic.  Whatever he writes it's guaranteed to be more interesting than whatever stupid copy about white men not being manly enough David Brooks wrote last night.

So anyway, it's all fun and games until Andrew Sullivan starts writing about relationships.  Then we really start going down hill.  The whole thing began as a reference to a column by the Washington Posts' Richard Cohen.  In it Cohen complains about how the new James Bond is too muscle bound and sexy looking in his British swim suit.  This all come's to a head as Sully declares war.  And by that I mean starts talking about steroids.

The male body changed on screen because of steroids. Arnold started it all, essentially requiring men to be as physically ravishing in movies as women generally are. Advertizing took the baton, with Marky Mark leading the charge, followed by Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber filling the airwaves and magazine ad pages (remember them?) with physically enthralling super-men. Over three decades, the increasingly sophisticated results are everywhere. Not so long ago, you'd be able to point out the guys in the gym who were obviously on roids. Now, you're lucky to spot a body that hasn't been transformed by steroids.
Ummm okay, but then it get's worse, now we learn about how steroids and free weights will get you women, and is a good thing for some reason:

But how are you going to stop vain and competitive and sexually driven young men from trying that out? Their movie stars are now all ripped muscle comic book characters. Why would they not want to preen more around their peers, get more attention from women, more street respect from men and far more sex? The phenomenon is global, huge in places like Afghanistan and Turkey, and buttressed by Hollywood's ancient desire to sell sex on screen.

The new male is here to stay. And that is largely because it's hotter. Get used to it.

First of all this seems to be an example of a big Sullivan failure.  That is he makes a good point but makes it for the totally wrong reason.  Richard Cohen has been writing this kind of terrible stuff for years, the fact that you need Daniel Craig with his shirt of to get this is less than satisfying.  You should disagree with Cohen because he's wrong about everything, not because you think the new more beefy nitty gritty Bond is better that fashionable secret agent man of the Connery years or the suave gentleman Bond of the Roger Moore era of the action packed Bond that Brosnan played.  At the same time Ta-nehisi Coates wrote a giant thing about how the hard boiled private eye's of the 30's were bad about gender relations for some reason and even Alyssa Rosenberg piled in to make an epic case about how heterosexual men can be weird, or something, and stuff.  Alyssa wrote a good piece except she uses as a model of about how men and women should interact, wait for it, characters from David Lynch's "Twin Peaks".  Umm I don't think that is a good example and I think anyone whose been to the Black Lodge might make poor relationship material in general.

The problem here is that people are demanding that their ideals be ascribed to everyone's relationships.  So the key to getting women is doing steroids andlifting free weights for four hours a day.  Because you're interested in people with pumped up muscles.  Or you want someone who thinks pulp fiction from the 50's is bad in someway, because of how the characters talk to women and flirt with their secretaries.  But there are lots of reasons people get in relationships.  Oh I'm sure that some people think that steroids and free weights will get get you women and make prime relationship material.  Just like being a rich jackass probably works for other dudes. But it's not universal.  Every relationship is different, that's because every single relationship is composed of different human beings.  Who will be different.  To some people religion is a deal breaker in a relationship, to others it's no big deal.  To some people inter-racial marriage is a big deal, to others it's irrelevant and to others it's a hurdle to overcome.  This is because people are different, your view of culture is in no way universal.

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