Saturday, August 25, 2012

Working Class Hero

I'm so grateful to Anne Helen Petersen at The Awl for helping to explain why I'm drawn to Jeremy Renner's good old-fashioned, brawny, American maleness.  I love the through-line she draws from Brando to Springsteen to Renner.  I, for one, welcome these manly-men as a respite from the carefully groomed metrosexual, the self-conscious hipster, the soulless financial titan, and the wan computer geek.  I'm also glad that after years of outsourcing to the blokes from Australia (Russell Crowe, Eric Bana, Hugh Jackman, Joel Edgerton, etc., etc.), America may finally be getting back into the business of Man-manufacturing.

Perhaps the one element Petersen misses, however, is the emotional resonance of the Brando/Springsteen/Renner archetype.  There's a thoughtfulness and a personal pride that elevates them above their calloused hands and begrimed skin.  The most attractive American working class heroes never give an indication that they are limited to physical pursuits or suffer from mental failings.  I'm not interested in just gobbling up the eye candy or descending into some brutish romance novel stereotype.  Brando, Springsteen, and Renner, through their characters as well as public personae, display intelligence, curiosity, and empathy.  (For this reason, I don't really agree with her inclusion of Channing Tatum who is probably a nice boy but who doesn't seem to have too many gears turning upstairs.)

Don't get me wrong, I've still got love for the nerds.  But in these final days of summer, during a political season of calculated name-calling, I'm deliriously happy to dream of a Man who is proud of the product of his own hands, who can build his own house, and who will smash the face of any asshole who tries to take it from him.

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