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No Country for Enchanted Men

I am a male and constantly dealing with it. Sports, chicks, cars. That's basically the perfect summary of my waking hours. Not. I prefer reading, hanging with my BFFs, rocking out gently, and watching copious amounts of movies. And yet, I am still a dude. For the purposes of today's piece, it must be pointed out that those sports/chicks/cars dudes (we'll call them SCCs from here on out) also tend to watch movies. To these fellas, movies aren't totally gay or wussy. Movies are a cool way to chill with your buds in a comfortable plush environment in close proximity, throw back some brewskies, and become mesmerized by gun violence and/or dick jokes. And yet, these dudes also have brains that liked to be stimulated beyond the aforementioned guy tropes (some of them anyway).

So does my maleness, which tends to be largely absent in my life, manifest itself when I do this thing of watching moving pictures like other dudes do? Are un-male tendencies cultivated when the majority male watch intelligent films? Are intelligence and maleness mutually exclusive in the world of film (or in a larger context)? Within these gendernomic questions lie the less all-encompassing answers regarding two recent films anyway: why I found perfection in No Country for Old Men and experienced intermittent enjoyment in Enchanted. A brief explanation for each example will have to do for now - hopefully acting as a microcosm for the larger cultural studies mystery at hand.

As I watched Disney's attempt to capitalize on Shrek's postmodernism-for-kiddies success, I managed for the most part to displace all memories of Scottish Austin Powers and Smash Mouth powwows to give the fairy tale in NYC an honest chance. After all, Amy Adams is a total babe. So I let the opening animated sequence that sets up the whole little princess big city scenario engulf me with its tongue-in-cheek softness (unlike the harsh ADHD tone that muddles the strengths of the DreamWorks green ogre movies). I felt like a kid, but like childhood itself, it didn't last forever. As an underdeveloped Patrick Dempsey (McDreamy? more like McAmbivalent!) squinted his way onto the screen and a generous serving of little kid wonder was smeared over every uber-bright scene, I yearned for darkness.

I felt greedy for wanting so much out of Mickey Mouse, but I couldn't help it. I was already 75% sold on the movie due to its general ability to put an un-ironic smile on my face (despite McDumpsy) and poke at the semi-harmful fantasies the company has perpetuated throughout film history, but that's what frustrated me. It got so close to actually blending the harsh real world with fantasy, but it never really did. Once the fantastical entered the real world, the real world merely became a backdrop for jokes. Cute jokes, but still just jokes. If there was just a little more "the world sucks," I would have liked it more. I can't help it, but when I came to this realization, I felt like it had to do with my maleness. Why couldn't I just enjoy a light diversion? Why did it need to be so real? Why is my version of reality so dark? I'm a happy person, but when I want reality in film, I want it to be firmly rooted in the darkness of man.

Good can come out of the darkness of man while that darkness still surrounds him, and No Country for Old Men proved that. Sure, I didn't smile in awe as Josh Brolin gets hunted by a guy with a bad haircut as he tries to get away with $2 million that isn't his and Sheriff Tommy Lee Jones contemplates his role as enforcer of law and order. But I was entranced in the way this not-so original story was unfolded to me - the way it modestly and expansively forced us into the eyes of these characters, their choices, their blurred pasts, and their (lack of a?) future. Violence hovers above these men, and we're forced to feel haunted by the impending evil along with them. Is this a dude thing?

Movies show us basically three kinds of worlds: the one we know, the one we wish we knew, and the one we never want to know but are intrigued by (and even slightly romanticize) at a distance nonetheless. I often want to see the latter because the extremities of our society exist and feeling under the skin of the worst makes me realize what I have - the best. It's not an aesthetic flash bang of adrenaline - I don't who can still get that from watching a movie, dudes or not. It's a hypnotic suggestion that lures me in as a person, spits me back out, and I have nothing left but to appreciate what I have and what life, history, and our society has often spoiled for so many good men. I want to be enchanted, but I also want to be engulfed. Thankfully, in the world of movies, I can have and appreciate both.

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  1. Blogger DoktorPeace | 12:07 AM |  

    I also saw both this weekend, and I am also a male:

    XY reaction to Enchanted: Amy Adams was way hotter animated. Cartoon women are drawn to such perfect proportions that it's hard to imagine ever going back to the real thing.

    XY reaction to No Country (which I saw with my best bros): I decided after a day that I liked it, even though I couldn't really follow and ended up not caring what Tommy Lee's sheriff said. Still yearning for the farm life, though, I (to use your word) romanticize a simple future like this in which my most prescient moments involve sitting down, resting, and ruminating on the world in an "oh well, that's life" sort of way.

  2. Blogger Sean | 1:33 AM |  

    this just in, Chris likes movies!
    what a scoop.
    haha, i kid.

    yeah, NCFOM was radical. despite it's slower pace, it still had plenty of action-movie, male-badassery.
    for example: blowing up a car before walking into a pharmacy to steal drugs. how awesome is that?
    and the shot-gun was super-cool.
    i also appreciated how the "villain" dude had some of the best lines in the movie.
    Like that whole thing about the rule or whatever, i can't find it on IMDB, but it was great.

  3. Blogger Brigitte | 11:10 AM |  

    i LOVED No Country for Old Men. The acting was great, the directing was great, the cinematography was great...the whole thing was wonderful. And the movie was really not about violence, it was about choice. great film. oh, and i don't have a penis.

  4. Blogger Brigitte | 11:16 AM |  

    "Violence hovers above these men, and we're forced to feel haunted by the impending evil along with them. Is this a dude thing?"

    why would this be a dude thing? why must you let yourself be so completely caught up with gender roles? i'm disappointed in you, chris. even by saying that you're a guy and yet you aren't a "typical guy" you're perpetuating a stereotype. i'm sure you're being ironic and i'm having a difficult time picking it up. but still...i wish we wouldn't give in to the urge to make everything gendered.

    also, that killer was so cute...anyone else? damn! and that accent...get ready for his upcoming role in the newest Woody Allen flick!

  5. Blogger Brigitte | 11:19 AM |  

    also, why be a self-hating male? the "majority female" is just as stupid. maybe even more so.

  6. Blogger qualler | 12:39 PM |  

    I am going to have to agree with Brigitte (if only so she doesn't hit me tonight.) I was not moved by No Country as a man, I was moved by No Country as a human being. Also, Javier Bardem is so gonna be all "That's crazy!" in the next next Woody film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

  7. Blogger Nicole | 12:40 PM |  

    I happen to be a girl (which is irrelevant) and here is my opinion:

    Well, actually, I haven't seen either movie. But my reasoning is interesting...I didn't see "No Country for Old Men," even though the cinematography was supposed to be excellent, the plot nuanced, and the actors hot because I get too upset by violence. It doesn't matter how much; my mind fixates on it and it's not worth it. (After seeing "Mystic River," I was upset for a week. And I had my eyes closed for most of "Pan's Labyrinth"). And I didn't see "Enchanted" because I didn't think anyone would want to see something so blatantly happy with me...but it turns out they already did.

  8. Blogger chris | 12:43 PM |  

    sorry, my conclusion should have been more clear i guess...

    "It's not an aesthetic flash bang of adrenaline - I don't who can still get that from watching a movie, dudes or not. It's a hypnotic suggestion that lures me in as a person..."

    person being the keyword...

    my gut reaction is to make things gendered (I can't help but think every time I see a "chick" movie if I would have liked it more had I been female and vice versa with "guy" movies - even the worst ones, I enjoy a dumb shoot-em-up more than a dumb rom-com), and my intent in writing this was to talk myself out of it using these two films as good examples that have the stereotypical guy (gratuitous violence) and stereotypical girl (princess finds prince) attributes, but still manages to affect me more deeply as a person, rather than as a male.

  9. Blogger Brigitte | 2:06 PM |  

    it's still lame that the stereotypical girl movies are things like Disney's Enchanted and the stereotypical guy movie is something like a Cohen Brothers' film...clearly, when it comes to stereotypes, the guys win this round.

  10. Blogger chris | 8:22 PM |  

    no, the specific attributes of these films (gratuitous violence vs. princess finds prince) are stereotypical and at first glance gendered, not the movies themselves...

  11. Blogger nicole | 8:58 PM |  

    I feel that the stereotype-factor in film, i.e. "gendered" cinema, is superficial unless your preferences are guided by the label and not by the content. Until you start caring what other people think or worrying if your likes are in line with the majority (or media-generated majority), what you like is completely independent of gender. However, (pushes up glasses) I think every person's taste is impacted by gender bias, because we grow up with it. Maybe if I had been encouraged to see violent films by my peers and allowed to by my parents in high school, I wouldn't have such an aversion for them now. And if society judged me for wanting to see "August Rush," because of the cute orphan element, despite bad reviews, then maybe I wouldn't so freely admit it.

    In other words, it's important to try new things and not get boxed in by bias, but admitting that you like what popular culture expects one's gender to like is reasonable. Rebelling against social norms for the sake of rebelling alone is just as socially-construed an attitude as passively pretending you like the same things as everyone else.

    No one is going to trick me into seeing another violent movie masquerading as a "fairy tale" in which a character gets knifed in the mouth! I don't care how girly it is to say that;)

  12. Blogger Brigitte | 11:48 AM |  

    what?

  13. Anonymous LQ | 10:27 AM |  

    Haha, I totally agree with Nicole. I'm pretty sure she's referring to Pan's Labyrinth, and I once went on a date to that movie because I heard it was a fairytale, and I wasn't expecting the mouth-knifing, or the stitching up of the mouth-knifing. UGH.

    Also, I don't think it's accurate to say that the plot of No Country for Old Men was "nuanced" or "modest"...it's more like "nuanced nuanced nuancedness", or just "really frickin slow". I would have liked the movie a little better if Tommy Lee Jones' role actually had an impact on the movie. Same goes for Woody Harrelson.

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