Last night I watched the first episode of the TV show, Flaked. Big mistake. The best I can tell, this is a show about a 40-year-old recovering alcoholic, tooling around Venice Beach, on his borrowed bike (actually, I have no idea if the bike is borrowed–it just felt like it didn’t “fit” him somehow), chasing skirts, and raising hell with two other overgrown teenagers equally bent on playing “how low can you go” with nary a limbo-stick in sight
The story goes like this: Main Man is walking down the street with Thing 1 talking about girls. Actually, Thing 1 may have been on a long board, but I can’t be sure. I was too distracted by Main Man’s spray tan–a hue so bright it cast shadows of objects in its path.
Anyway, Thing 1 is in love. With a twenty-something-year-old (of course). And he’s boning up on his Frida Kahlo to impress her. (Now this might be the only “real” part of the story because which 20-year-old doesn’t love her some Frida!). There is some side chatter about how Main Man moved in on another girl (also 20-something) that Thing 1 was in love with–a girl he met at a recovery meeting run by Main Man, no less (yay, integrity!). There is some mumbling about how that was so wrong, how it violated the “bro code.” (Isn’t there a bro code about spray tan? And if not, shouldn’t there be one? At least some sort of regulation about tone and intensity?), but all is promptly forgiven because, let’s face it, we always forgive our rakishly, handsome friends.
Cut to a scene where recovery-meeting-girl is topless (of course) and riding Main Man while he lies back and accepts her gyrations (as is his birth right).
But enough of that (For now. There will, no doubt, be more topless and more gyrations in episodes to come. This is, after all, a Californication knock off, isn’t it?)
It’s time for Main Man to “accidentally” meet and lock eyes with Frida Kahlo girl, whose name, incidentally, is–get this–London!
London. The 21st century equivalent of SanDeE* from L.A. Story.
London has no interest in Thing 1 or Thing 2. Oh yeah, there’s a Thing 2. He’s in love with London, too, and brings his best game (bargain basement poetry and an achey-breaky-mullet-meets-Garth-Algar-shag) to the party. But no dice.
I don’t think she takes her eyes off Main Man even once, not a flicker, to look at Thing 2. And this is so believable because don’t all Kate Hudson look-alikes find men 20 years their senior (orange men, jobless men on borrowed bicycles) irresistible?
This is the point in the show when I think to myself, Where have all the men gone?
The last 10 shows I’ve watched (even the good ones) have all featured males who were, for want of a better word, weak.
Scandal: Presidential Weak, So-weak-he-had-to-be-taken-by-the-hand-and-walked-out-of-his-father’s-house Weak, Satan Weak
How to Get Away with Murder: Aging-husband Weak, Sweet-boy Weak, Gay Weak, Entitled Weak, Dude-bro Weak
Good Wife: Weak Willie, Weak Eyebrows, Let-me-not-be-strong-or-they’ll-kick-me-off-the-show Weak
Bloodline: Sociopath Weak, Psychopath Weak, On-the-straight-and-narrow-path Weak
GoT: Weak-in-the-head, Weak-in-name, Weak-in-hand, Weak-in-stature, Weak-in-soul, Weak-in-spine, Weak-in-conscience, Weak-in-the-nuts
You get the idea.
The last time I saw a show with a man who was not weak or a drug dealer or a sociopath was, well, Josiah Bartlett from West Wing. That was a looooong time ago.
Where have all the men gone?
Now I’m not saying that strong men don’t exist. They do. In fact, that’s just my point–why aren’t we showing more strong men on TV? Why are we fetishizing male weakness?
It used to be that peter-pan-guy, and guy-who-can’t-keep-it-in-his-pants, and can’t-hold-down-a-job-guy were the targets of our collective scorn and social sanction. Now they’re our heroes, role-models for our own boys and men. Or if not role models in the hey-I-want-to-be-this-guy sense then at least role models in the hey-it’s-ok-to-be-this-guy sense–social “sanction” in its contronymic sense.
Now I’m not saying that we should shame men who are (for want of a better word) weak–I fully understand the corrosive effects of shame and believe they far outweigh any (perceived) benefits of public shaming–but neither should we hold up (however lightly) such behaviors as par for the course. Furthermore, if we are going to portray human frailty, then surely we can do so more responsibly, more fairly. What purpose does it serve to linger on weakness without giving equal time to how we climb out of it?
Because that is what we do.
Most of us, at one time or another, have had to face our weakness and have had to struggle to find our strength. Why not also show that?
Why not have President Grant, just once, make a decision on this own?
Why not have Sam Keating, any husband for that matter, resist the cute co-ed, prefer the mature, accomplished, interesting wife?
Why not have The Hound struggle with the decision to kill? Maybe even refuse to kill?
THIS is what our sons need to learn how to do–to climb out of weakness, not wallow in it because it’s “okay.”
Yes, it’s okay. But it’s more okay to be strong.
And I don’t mean the kind of strong where President Grant throws his weight around and sends his country to war for love, or where The Mountain smashes a guy’s head in with his bare hands, or any number of “displays of strength,” but real strength, such as
My boss is an asshole, but I’m going to stick it out because I have bills to pay. OR
I will end one relationship before I begin another. OR
I will defer gratification. OR
I will reach out for help through my recovery. OR
I will treat women the way I want to be treated. OR
I’m going to tell the truth because lies beget lies. OR
Better yet, I will tell the truth because I live my life in such a way that I have nothing to lie about.
Why aren’t we showing more of these guys?
They exist. I know because I’m married to one, my brother-in-law is one, heck, I could name five guys in my neighborhood who are strong men. So why aren’t they also on our screens?
Please tell me. I want to hear your theories.
Where have all the men gone?