Tuesday, January 10, 2012

TV's Bad Boys and Violence

TV is more violent than ever before. Violent deaths, assaults, and other brutality fill the screen. At a time when TV has never been more oriented towards the female viewer? What gives? The answer of course lies in the type of violence. Women viewers in general don't like the masculine violence, seen in movies like "the Wild Bunch" or any realistic combat movie and series (such as HBO's "Band of Brothers.") Women DO like violence that establishes the main male character as dominant and therefore sexy. And it seems that Hollywood is happy to oblige, almost to the point where it has become an exercise in picking middle aged, not particularly sexy character actors and making them hot-damn! sexy symbols on TV. Call it TV producers inside joke.


Cue the Sopranos James Gandolfini. Not exactly a Brad Pitt look-a-like, his characters brutal and violent behavior, including the on-screen murder of a pleading woman (the secret informant girlfriend of his protégé) made him more not less sexy. As did later murders of his protégé, and numerous other characters. Bryan Cranston ("Walter White") of Breaking Bad is not exactly the stuff dreams are made of either. But the characters arc from nebbishy suburban husband to super-bad nascent drug kingpin and killer took him from chump to champ, in sex appeal. You see the same thing with Rescue Me's Dennis Leary, playing a "bad" firefighter who does awful things (like rape his ex-wife onscreen) and becomes even sexier. Showtime's "Dexter" about a "good" serial killer (who only kills other serial killers, sadistically) is par for the course. The whole point is that the characters brutal violence makes him more sexy not less, to the female audience (which is who watches Dexter, mostly). Michael Chicklis in "the Shield" is another such character. Boardwalk Empire's Steve Buscemi who portrays a character that is on-screen violently brutal and murderous, is probably the outer boundary of physical unattractiveness combined with physical dominance to see how "sexy" and physically unattractive a character can be and still play among the female audience.

Quite clearly, producers and writers are well aware of the female audience's desire for brutal and unrestrained violence among "sexy" and "bad" male characters. And they are giving the audience what it wants, full throttle. Sexy bad boys not limited by anything, not conscience, mercy, ties of family, patriotism, anything. Damien Lewis in "Life" played a guy who could be brutal but had definite self-imposed limits when it came to revenge, and a bit of compassion. No doubt those character qualities made the show a failure with the female audience. Playing a variation of the same character (one long and unjustly imprisoned) but with no patriotism, conscience, remorse, or even independence (he is dominated by a stronger, more charismatic jihadi) … the character has gone over like gangbusters.

Why is this? Well like the demand under Prohibition for ever more of the hard stuff, because casual drinking legally was impossible, the demand for "sexiness" in brutal dominance including the ultimate taboo, murder, being violated left and right, is nothing more than a reflection of the lack of sexiness in men around them. If most men were "sexy" then women would not want this hard-stuff.

Ultra-machismo Mexico and Columbia produce telenovela after telenovela that feature hard-working, often "ugly" women who become beautiful, powerful, and successful and snag that Alpha male. Who is the traditional "Fabio" type of character, strong and successful, but not violent. Ugly Betty is well within the range for that type of entertainment, wildly popular throughout Latin America. Men in those countries are plenty violent, women there don't need a fantasy of violence to get their thrills. They can see decapitated bodies, others hung mutilated off bridges, to what the real violence is. Instead their fantasies run towards being rich, famous, powerful, and with a devoted but hot/desirable husband who is "sophisticated" (think Fernando Lamas, not Lorenzo Lamas).

You can see this at work in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" where gee, give Apes the power of human intellect and speech, and they are "superior" and rule because modern (White) men are just too wimpy to fight back. Yeah, right.

Ordinary White women in sheltered, suburban America, have no idea of what any man is capable of, and tend to judge off superficial posturing. Equal and status-quo feminism in the workplace, in schools, in larger society, leave most women judging wrongly that only a few men are sexy, because they posture overtly as dominant, violent, or both. Hence the hunger for fantasy dominance through ultra-violence. Not impersonal violence showing people blown apart, but personal violence showing the male character is one without any limits and able to dominate other people and make it stick.

If we ever hit sustained, violent hard times (which is likely, to my horror, I am a comfortable middle class American, with much to lose) then obviously the female audience won't demand fantasy violence. They'll have real ones at their doorstep, or more, every day. Even if America degrades, slowly, as the "best option" then things will soon sort themselves out. Women who face being hassled every day by gangs of illegal aliens congregating on street corners for day labor, do not find fantasy violence arousing. Nor do women who live in real fear of being assaulted, robbed, and killed, at home or going to and from work. Nor indeed do women who must deal paying the rent or buying food or buying gasoline to get to work.

The desire for fantasy violence comes from the illusion of control, safety, security, and stability. Seen on First World Problems:

“Exurban growth has led to people I used to think of as hillbillies being socially promoted to mere hicks.”


[Yes elites HATE HATE HATE the "hillbillies."]

Not enough "sexy men" in the cubicle next to you? Too much deferential "niceness" and boring behavior? Not enough dominance and control in the men around you? THAT is a First World problem, soon to go away with the First World itself.

Look for this sexy bad boy killer trend on TV and movies to go away. Soon.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The real first world problem is there are way too many third world people here

Jeff Burton said...

Boy, you watch a lot of TV. Better you than me.

Anonymous said...

I think that guys fantasize about playing out some of the roles that men play that women lust after as well.

Anonymous said...

You do not need violence to keep women in check.
More than 100 years ago we had very benevolent gun laws and real poverty (people could starve) but still murder rates were lower than now and people were safer they are now (we are still very homogenous society).
The tool that kept women in check was called "consequences". You could become a single mother with the hottest thug but anyone whould have considered you a trash. No welfare to subsidize, no state to protect. Such kid usually ended up in poor-house - very bad life start.

DW said...

Good post, whiskey. I wrote about something similar to this a couple days ago on my blog. The illusion that most women have for bad boys is that they never really experience the consequences of going for them, unlike in the real world that is about to get a whole lot tougher.

ceciilhenry said...

Many very interesting articles here.

Women (like anyone) tend to undervalue and ignore what they can take for granted.

Today that is safety and 'respect' from men for their every whim.

Its hard to appreciate what you take for granted and don't understand how it came about-- such as a safe and responsible society of men capable and consciousness in their behavior.

That's BORING.

Agree strongly that the big first world problem is the presence of the third world here.

Mr. Tzu said...

Yes first world problems abound.

The TV's bad boys could be women's version of what porn is to men, with better scripting (and sexy men damn it).

Mrs. Pilgrim said...

Mr. Tzu: There's a term for it. "Emotional porn", in fact. Romance novels, especially bodice rippers, and other such unrealistic entertainment fall under this category.

Anonymous said...

Your comparison of white women vs latin women ideal males is interesting, but what about black America? there's plenty of violence running around in black America, yet to be successful/dominant, the ideal man must be quite violent as well.

Anonymous said...

(Cliff Arroyo)

"there's plenty of violence running around in black America, yet to be successful/dominant, the ideal man must be quite violent as well"

That's why they talk about black 'dysfunction' rather than black 'happy fun paradise'.

Black America is currently display number one on what happens to a group of people who collectively shit on beta males (also known as 'unsexy creators and sustainers of civilization').

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