Friday, March 9, 2012

American Chopper and Masculinity

Carroll's article on "American Chopper produces a recuperative blue-collar masculinity that attenuates the putative losses suffered by working-class men under the postindustrial service economy of the contemporary United States."After reading this article I googled about the masculinity crisis in America and found a blog post about the Super Bowl Commercials and how masculinity is presented to America. Carroll's article highlights the idea of the "American Dream" and the "rags-to-riches" mentality that the Tetul's embody whereas, the commercials in the blog present tropes of the alpha male, which seem almost satirical. The blog states that the men in these advertisements "seem to promote an atavistic, hypermasculinity, while at the same time suggesting that such a masculinity is absurd and even laughable." Another section of the blog post discusses how, "by 2002, the advertisements of mega media sports events began to construct 'a white male ‘loser’…who hangs out with his male buddies, is self-mocking and ironic about his loser status"--the setting of these ads is ironic because it is a hyper-masculine event (sports) and the ads show ironic tropes of vulnerable and self-conscious males.
This reminded me of the irony and knowingness that we studied with feminism and got me to thinking about females in comedy. We noted that women can only be funny if they are presented in loud and crude manners so is it possible that males can only be seen as sensitive and vulnerable in the midst of irony and satire? The fact that we even see these ads as satire shows how we view masculinity in our society; if these tropes were true and acceptable, we would not see them as humorous. Does this present Carroll's description of hegemonic masculinity as ultimately, unattainable?
Relating back to American Chopper, the idea of the unattainable seems to shine through when one considers Carroll's argument. He mentions the "mythic status of the custom motorcycle and the 'outlaw' biker lifestyle in American culture" (266), which embody a sense of this unattainable masculinity. While American Chopper presents somewhat of a fantasy when it comes to attaining the custom bike, it seems that hegemonic masculinity is coupled within that fantasy as well. This article got me thinking about representations of males in media and how they are held to just as high a standard as women when it comes to how they act and look. We are quick to disregard the possibility that men may feel offended by representations of their gender in society and it seems like American Chopper helps men to achieve a sense of belonging and if anything, a goal that resorts back to one of hard work rather than the theme of unrealistic expectations and entitlement.

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