The film “Tough Guise” explores the construction of masculinity. One of the themes is that the current masculine ideal is someone who is “tough physically and emotionally”. Physical toughness is shown as being physically imposing. Mental toughness is shown as being emotional repressed. This narrow definition forces men to only show certain aspects of their characteristics or simply fabricate a different personality altogether. It can lead to violence and emotional problems. Another theme in the film is that this image is perpetuated and advanced by the media. Those who work in the media are mostly men and this image is created in response to the women’s movement, civil right’s movement, and LGBT movement. Suddenly white heterosexual males felt their place in society was being threatened, so they constructed this image of hyper-dominance.
An interesting point made by the film is that this new masculine ideal and backlash against the progressive movements had a big impact on politics. It was at this time that right-wing social conservatives became popular again. They portrayed American as being wimpy and needed a “real man”. This led to the political success of Ronald Reagan. He campaigned on the image of being a cowboy type of character which fit the media’s definition of masculinity very well.
Discussion: In class, we discussed a lot about the media’s huge involvement in constructing femininity. It almost seems silly that the media can hold such influences in our lives: constructing the roles of femininity and masculinity. Nonetheless, they have been very successful in selling these images despite the huge amount of problems it creates for male and females. What do you guys think needs to be done to get the media to stop imposing such rigid images?
Jhally, Sut, Susan Ericsson, Sanjay Talreja, Jackson Katz, and Jeremy Earp. Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity. Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 1999.