To what will or must you react?
In Louie C.K.’s television program Louie, the episode “Bully” features an exchange between two males in the presence of a female, which acts as a messy examination of the mixed expectations that men and women have of men. While Louie is on a first date, he gets into an exchange with a high school bully. The bully threatens Louie physically and says that unless Louie asks politely he will hurt him badly. Eventually, Louie submits and the bully leaves. The following dialogue shows how this affects the relationship between Louie and his date:
LOUIE: You didn’t really want me to fight that guy did you?
WOMAN: No, no. You did the right thing, of course…
LOUIE: Hey, look I’m getting this weird feeling like you’re looking down on me for what just happened.
WOMAN: I would never want a guy to fight, of course, it’s so stupid, I’d be pissed if you did…being violent is just the dumbest thing ever, and who cares what you had to say to get the guy off your back…But…I mean if I’m being totally honest, that was a turnoff, I’m sorry I can’t help it, I don’t know…its like a primitive thing or something, I mean you see this guy just totally debase himself, just to be safe, it’s a turnoff.
LOUIE: You know I’ve got to criticize you a little bit for that, cuz that’s why there’s wars and stuff you know, women like you that choose stupid strong people over the weak and the gentle.
WOMAN: Look, okay, I’m a grown woman, and my mind is telling me that you are a great guy… but my chemistry is telling me that you’re a loser.
The scene seems to make the simple point that today a man is expected to restrain himself, in observance of civilized nonviolence. And yet, when such a man is challenged by violent dominance, the only recourse is submission. Such a submission absolutely compromises the past definition of masculinity’s associations with protection, physical power, and dominance. While Louie’s point is simple, its underlying origins are highly complicated. It seems to focus to a question of natural masculinity versus civilized masculinity. Let us assume that in nature, a man had to be strong. And that now, he must be smart/civilized. While we like to think a man can be both, the scene makes the point that sometimes the latter undermines the former. So what should Louie do in this situation? How does the modern man preserve both his natural and civilized masculinity in the face of uncivilized challenge? Can we ever reach a point where sexual attraction is not based at least partly on “chemistry” (one’s “natural” sexual attraction requisites)? And what if the Date was being bullied? What would be expected of her as a feminine woman?
The clip is only available on Netflix at around 6:00: http://movies.netflix.com/WiPlayer?movieid=70179977&trkid=2361637&t=Louie#MovieId=70179977&EpisodeMovieId=70153453