Entry from June 13, 2002

Roy Koczela writes, by way of the American Prowler:

Oh come on..it’s been over a month since Attack of the Clones came out. Why hasn’t James Bowman ripped the movie to shreds and predicted the imminent collapse of civilization on the grounds that people went to see it anyway? I know he went to see Phantom Menace, this one was nowhere near as bad.

Well, Roy, the way I look at it is this. The reason I haven’t gone to see Attack of the Clones is the same as the reason why I didn’t go to the latest Ed Burns movie. Life and Nothing But, I think it was called, though it disappeared so quickly that I have forgotten it already. Having watched Burns’s downward progress from The Brothers McMullen to She’s The One to No Looking Back, I decided at that point that I never needed to see anything else he had directed. In George Lucas’s case, the decline from the original Star Wars trilogy to Phantom Menace was so precipitous that it made Burns’s angle of decline look like a gentle slope. Enough! There is no criticizing such unresisting imbecility. It cannot but seem to me to be a waste of your critic’s time. But if there are a large number of requests for a review, as there were for Lord of the Rings, I shall go anyway, and report back. It is my duty.


And, speaking of duty, Parade magazine runs article by Michele Meyer on “Why Guys Don’t Go To The Doctor” As if we didn’t know! No, there is no new information here. Just as any consumer of the media over the past twenty or thirty years could have guessed, the reason is, as Joe Viscuso of Unionville, Pennsylvania told Ms. Meyer: “I learned as a kid: If you just play, pain will go away.” Or, in the more sophisticated form in which a similar idea is put by Dr Jeffrey Akman, chairman of the psychiatry department at George Washington University, “Men like to see themselves as John Wayne or Humphrey Bogart — the sturdy oak that stands up and survives, no matter what. . . Some men see an illness as a weakness and find it tough to acknowledge their vulnerability.”

Do tell! What an extraordinary thing for them to think. Nowhere in this account of what “men” or “some men” think and believe is there any attempt to explain why they might be thinking and believing in this way. It is taken for granted that it is mere foolishness and negligence when it is not craven “denial” — the psychologist’s all-purpose put-down of any view of the world that does not correspond with his own. Thus, Dr. Jean Bonhomme of the Emory School of Public Health in Atlanta is quoted by Ms Meyer as describing the life cycle of a man. “As a teenager, when he gets hurt in football, he’s told, ‘Take one for the team.’ Then, when he’s 50, he’ll say. ‘It’s just indigestion.’ Men are taught to go it alone.”

Who, do you suppose, is doing the teaching? And why would they teach anything so seemingly self-destructive? That men are so “taught” is as much taken for granted in the article as the fact that such teaching has only to be pointed out for men to acknowledge themselves as deluded, “brainwashed” perhaps, and report that pain or lump to the doctor. “Just because you haven’t seen the doctor doesn’t mean you’re any less at risk,” says another doctor cheerfully to Ms. Meyer. The article’s ideas about “What must be done” include the following: “Men should learn to share health concerns with each other.” Another in the long line of things men “should” do, a line pretty much ending up as another way of saying that men should be as much like women as possible.

Perhaps they should, but ought we not at least make an effort to understand why manly honor, which is what is at stake when men refuse to talk about the hurts or their feelings more generally, might have come into being in the first place. Is it possible that “some” men — admittedly not so many as there used to be — might also have a point in thinking that stoic endurance of pain is actually a good thing. So long as men were warriors, charged with the messy and dangerous business of protecting the community from external threats, there was obviously an adaptive advantage in encouraging men to shut up about their aches and pains and play hurt. Does this mean that the capacity for suffering in silence is therefore just something to be flushed away as soon as it can be pared off the bone of simple, unisex humanity? Nature has taught us what to admire in a man, and we won”t stop admiring it whatever the shrinks may say.

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