The Evolution Of Man
I recently overheard a wise man in a pub ask his mates the age old philosophical question – Who do you reckon would win in a fight, Wolverine or the Terminator?
It’s a tough question. The Terminator is an indestructible super robot from the future programmed to terminate. But Wolverine is an indestructible super mutant from the past, with crazy knife hands and the best mutton chops in history. Hard to split them. But one bloke was adamant Wolverine would win; saying his mate Professor Xavier would devise a cunning way to re-program the Terminator to be less terminatey.
It’s hard to fault that logic; and the other blokes unanimously agreed that while it would make a shitty fight scene, re-programming the Terminator was a sound strategy. It appears that in a post Sky-Net era the attributes men value are changing. Where brute strength and dogged determination were once the making of a man, now we’re also finding a place for other qualities, like intelligence and friendship.
So what does modern masculinity look like and how has it evolved recently?
Consumer psychologist and advertising guru Adam Ferrier has spent his career crafting campaigns that both; reflect our existing perception of masculinity and help to shape it into the future. Ferrier says the predominant versions of masculinity we see in the media are still the “tough guy” and “the boofhead”; and the messages men receive around vulnerability are still either “suck it up” (tough guy), or “laugh it off” (boofhead).
Ferrier acknowledges advertising has a strong role in reinforcing old school stereotypes of masculinity. Companies and brands are driven by the bottom line and are going to take the simplest route to connecting with the consumer; and generally that is reinforcing the status quo.
But despite the laziness of overpaid ad execs, the modern day perception of masculinity is slowly changing. Just a few years ago if a bloke dared to drink a ”fancy beer” it was almost like he was announcing a plan to have gender reassignment surgery; but now the craft beer revolution has swept Australia.
A different type of male role model is also emerging. Sonny Bill Williams is a footy superstar and a national heavyweight-boxing champion, but on his days off he visits refugee camps to advocate for humanitarian causes. He embodies the evolution of modern masculinity – a man possessed of great physical strength, unafraid to embrace his emotions.
Of course, masculinity (like femininity) is not a static concept. In Elizabethan England the dominant men wore frocks and make-up. In the 70’s the coolest man on the planet was David Bowie, who wore more diamantes than your average prom queen. And right now in Scotland, there are blokes wearing skirts who could crush your skull with their bare hands; you’d have to be a mad bastard to tell them they’re not “real men”.
So if masculinity is ever evolving, where is the next generation going to take it? What will it mean to be a man in the future? Maybe masculinity will be measured by the number of Instagram followers a bloke has; and photos of kale smoothies and bathroom selfies will be what really defines a man (#PleaseGodNo).
Or maybe someone will engineer an indestructible super robot that causes an epic war between humans and machines and plunges the world into darkness. In those circumstances you’d certainly be looking around for a man who embodies the old school values of masculinity – strength and dogged determination – to protect you.
But maybe, if we’re lucky and we work hard for it, masculinity in the future will be characterised by love and compassion as well as strength. Maybe the next generation of men will be measured not just by how much they can bench press, but also by how much they love their partner, their family and their mates.
Because if even the Terminator can be reprogrammed to love and protect, then surely real men can too.