Manliness as I see it

One thing I have been reflecting on is the concept of manliness, my idea of it, and how I find it in culture and mythology. Today, manliness may be associated with conventional concepts of “macho” or “machismo” and cliche ideas of masculinity and gender, some may even consider the concept of manliness terribly outdated, but I don’t believe so, just that we might be seeing manliness the wrong way. For the sake of this post, I just want to talk about my concept of manliness as I feel it, and where I find what seems manly to me.

First, my idea of manliness: Manliness isn’t really about image, though it is often conveyed aesthetically, or how much muscle you have, and it’s certainly not about one gender dominating the other. Manliness for me is about character, virtue, actions, and the awe they inspire in men. Think about it, there are tons of fictional “manly men”, who probably have muscle mass, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t complete tools, or plain mockeries of what virtue and character means. Manliness to me means not engaging in manipulative behaviors, it means not being weak-kneed (let alone with a woman), it means being direct and decisive and doing what you think is right without any doubt in your soul, all with dignity and not oafishness. Since these virtues can definitely be shared by both men and women (I don’t see why not anyway), manliness has to be more than that; those same virtues combined with a masculine sense of awesomeness. In the end, manliness is something you just feel, and it’s not easy to define.

A prime example of said awesomeness, a kind you can only find in the 1980’s.

In action movies, there’s of plenty of protagonists you might consider manly, but these days all I keep seeing are gritty lifeless action heroes who I’m not sure even fight for what’s right. We certainly don’t seem to get enough of the guy with the flamethrower these days. In the 1980’s, and to some extent the 1990’s, we had action movies with protagonists who not only irradiated male awesomeness, but you could tell they were fighting a good fight. They have no concept of doubt or weakness of will, they go in there and get shit done, all without the grit and lifelessness of modern action heroes. You can probably tell I admire those old movies for that reason and various others. Probably the best example, though it wasn’t made in the 1980’s, is Demolition Man, one of those action movies you don’t expect to actually be clever. All I need to say for this post is that Sylvester Stallone’s character, John Spartan, simultaneously hunts down the baddest criminal of his time and unscrews the oppressive, order-oriented, pussywhipped future LA (a.k.a. San Angeles), and on top of that he’s got some wisdom to dispense on us, wisdom that I understand very well, incorporate into my beliefs and values, and try to live by.

In terms of mythology, I actually see Satan as one of the manliest characters in any mythology. Think about it, in traditional Christian and Islamic lore, Satan rebels against the will of the god Jehovah (also called Yahweh, known as Allah in Islamic lore), he disagrees with his plan for the world, and he refuses to bow down to the first man (who, let’s remember, was just a newly created human who has accomplished nothing yet). In doing so, he faces a path of thorns and darkness so that he remains an individual. Where most people would just blindly obey Jehovah, he offers servitude to no one, no matter what happens to him. That marks the Satan figure to me as a sign of manliness and courage, because he stands up for his freedom from subservience no matter what path he walks or how he ends up being thought of as. Even if he’s not considered manly, he should still be considered courageous.

Satan from Paradise Lost, illustrated by Richard Westall

It’s actually rather difficult to go on more about mythology and manliness without sounding corny, so I won’t be bother doing so. So I’ll just talk about something different.

In video games and gaming culture I find manliness expressed not necessarily as virtue but as that masculine awesomeness that leads me on into the idea of manliness itself and into a love of male gaming culture. Don’t get me wrong, the orchard of modern shooters with lifeless gritty protagonists is not what does this for me. It’s actually to do with the video game culture presented to me by ScrewAttack, and not to mention the games that I play. Or damn, old games themselves. Dynasty Warriors certainly inspires manliness through the vein of both virtue and the pure thrill of the being the warrior, which of course really connects to me. The old Shin Megami Tensei games actually feel kind of like old action movies, and they certainly evoke in my mind ethical manliness in the way that games that make you think about your own ethics generally do. Then there’s games like Devil May Cry or Asura’s Wrath. You need play those games and feel it for yourself.

And don’t forget your daily dose of heavy metal to complete the circle.

Through all this I try to illustrate what goes through me when I think manly, though a lot of it is the same as what I think when I think awesome. Like I said before it’s just something you have to feel, you can’t always define it so well.

And now, to close this post, I present one of my favourite parts of the movie The Running Man, solely because this part is as silly and farcically masculine as it is really cool.

And one last thing, I’d like to extend a late Happy Independence Day, since I was distracted from celebrating it during my holidays. And besides, there’s few things manlier you can do than stand out to tyranny any chance you get, any way possible.

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