What Stace had to say on Monday, February 5th, 2007
Macho, Part One

My ex-boyfriend Emil and I were talking one day about why the seventies was the last era of the real man. “Truck drivers could still be heroes in the seveties,” he said.

And he was right.

Once that decade ended, we lost interest in men who make a living with their hands–except as villains or dolts, characters of fun or racist obstacles for the real heroes to get through. Occasionally we’ll see some blue-collar guys in a sports movie, dealing with father issues.

But in the 70s…we lusted after those men. Tall, lean men with hairy chests and faces, with cowboy hats and cans of beer in their hands.

That man still has a huge pull for me, growing up a child of the 70s as I did. None of them more than the man above, Burt Reynolds.

When I was eight, Smokey and the Bandit was my abolsute favorite movie (I added Conan the Barbarian not long after.) Bandit was the handsomest, the most exciting, the smartest and coolest man who ever lived. He drove an awesome car, and he drove it well. He didn’t play by anybody’s rules–but he was still a traditional kind of man.

He was the kind of man we saw all over in films in the seventies.

When and why did that change? When did men just being men stop being good enough?

I’m guilty of this, in large part. My heroes–when they aren’t medieval ass-kickers–tend to be businessmen. They’re wealthy, they’re powerful. They wear crisp white shirts and smell expensive.

They’re complex men…but they aren’t as complex as the seveties macho man. Yes, I do think they were complex. They were men facing a changing world, and their changing place in that world, the best way they could.

I wonder if a man like this might be too hard to write in a romance these days. If the compromises a 00’s woman (hate that!) would need to make to be with the 70’s man–or vice versa–might be too much for even the longest and most complex romances.

I wonder if readers would even buy a hero who worked in a factory or drove a truck anymore. The CB warrior is gone. The blue-collar guys living quiet lives don’t attract anyone’s attention anymore.

Even the concept of macho itself is ridiculed now, turned into a neanderthal stereotype only good for laughs.

But for one shining decade, Bandit and his resolute uncoolness, his Merle Haggard albums and his Coors and his cowboy hat and thick moustache, reigned supreme as the epitome of a man. When men didn’t have to wear the right brand of jeans or listen to the right satellite radio station or live in a large, leather-decorated loft to be a hero, to be sexy and interesting.

I miss him.

(Tomorrow: What is macho? I’m doing macho all week.)

19 comments to “Macho, Part One”

  1. Robyn
    · February 5th, 2007 at 5:22 pm · Link

    Hell yes.

    Remember Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl? I never forgave him for marrying Christie Brinkley, but the song was great.

    I bet she’s never had a back street guy…I bet her Mama never told her why…

    We still have some of those men here in Oklahoma, but unfortunately they come with mullets.

  2. Isabella Snow
    · February 5th, 2007 at 6:40 pm · Link

    You’re a child of the 70’s?? I thought we were the same age??

    Personally, I was never into that 70’s trucker thing. Or Bandit. And I think the reason why (and this is just a guess) is because on some subconscious level I view as them as having mediocre intelligence.

    Terrible, I know.

    I guess I was just conditioned to believe a brilliant man would not be driving a truck. And my man has to be brilliant, or I can’t get into him. Probably because I’m more into the psych aspects of sex/romance than the physical.

    Which is why people like creepy Tim Roth and James Spader get me hot, lol.

    Of course I realize that’s judging a book by it’s cover and I’m shameful! But it’s unlikely I would read a book where the hero was blue collar, unless it was a job of real power, like FBI, Fireman, etc.

  3. littlebirdblue
    · February 5th, 2007 at 9:44 pm · Link

    I was going to say firefighters and cops and soldiers seem pretty common in modern mainstream hero fiction, but what am I talking about? I wouldn’t even begin to know; I don’t read much ‘mainstream’ fiction, and I certainly don’t watch it. I am supremely unqualified to comment.

    The Heroes I think of (mostly in ss&f) tend to be androgynous, though. At least, decidedly un-macho (looking), but not suits–they’ve got to be the underdogs, or they’re just not sexy to me.

    But what is the opposite of macho? Wimpy? Girly? Sensitive?

    Do we simply mean blue-collar, here? Is this a class-issue? If so, I blame it on the ’80s. I like to blame things on the ’80s.

  4. kis
    · February 5th, 2007 at 11:58 pm · Link

    Wow, three posts. I have been away.

    I love a man who works with his hands. Construction workers, pipe-fitters, machinists, electricians. Hell, even a guy who cuts grass and shovels dirt for a living. There’s something inherently sensual about a man crafting or building or shaping something with his muscles and his hands. Ooh, yeah.

    I agree, a man in a nice suit is fine, too, but I was always more into the guy who wears that suit maybe once or twice a year. The rest of the time he’s in a t-shirt and the same style of levis he’s been wearing for the last ten years.

    I don’t agree that it’s any indication of lower intelligence. Maybe that’s because I’m a waitress who twice flunked out of university, even though I got higher scores on I.Q. tests and college entrance exams than my doctor sister who did her pre-med in three years instead of four and still got the highest GPA in the entire faculty of science, and who now dines with the freaking governor general of Canada and crap like that. (How’s that for a run on sentence?)

    And personally, I think half the problem with obesity in our society is that most of us are robbed of the ability to stay fit while working. Those high-paying, cushy jobs just make you, well, cushy. Even that construction guy stops being sexy when he’s 300 pounds from sitting in a tractor cab pulling a lever all day. The eighties was when it started. And, ironically, I think the eighties (not the seventies) was the decade that brought about the true, widespread emergence of the mullet as a viable hairstyle for men.

  5. December Quinn
    · February 6th, 2007 at 4:36 am · Link

    Sorry, Robyn, but the minute I see the words “Billy Joel” I can’t really read further without wanting to be sick. I like the “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” idea of the song, but the execution…let’s just say Billy’s not my thing.

    Oh, I’ll be writing about mullets!

    I was born in ’73, Isabella, so yeah, I was a child in the 70s and the 80s.

    I agree with you about a man having to have brains, but I think the 70s was the last decade where people didn’t automatically assume that a manual laborer was stupid. There’s nothing shameful about being turned on by brains–I don’t like stupid men, either. I just don’t think a man has to be a scientist or businessman to be smart, is all.

    Maybe because I ended up with a GED and no college, and I know for a fact I’m not stupid? Even though before I started writing I was a customer service rep, a bartender, and a housewife?

  6. December Quinn
    · February 6th, 2007 at 4:39 am · Link

    No, lbl, I do see a lot of cops and firemen. But I guess I just miss when a man didn’t have to have a high-powered job or a heroic one, he could just have a job, you know? Maybe I miss the anti-hero?

    It’s not a blue-collar thing at all. It’s an attitude, and acceptance that I think is missing today. We see what a man should be so differently now than we did then.

    The opposite of macho? Hmmm…good question.

  7. December Quinn
    · February 6th, 2007 at 4:42 am · Link

    Yes, kis, you have.

    I agree, watching men work with their hands is HOT. I remember a high-school boyfriend who was a whiz with his hands, he could fix or build anything. It was way sexy.

    Funny, I think both of our experiences have taught us that education doesn’t equal intelligence, not by a long shot. I’ve known people with Master’s degrees who were so dumb I wanted to tear out my hair. I’ve known PhDs without a shred of imagination or wit.

    And I agree as well. We used to be more fit because our lives required it. Kids played outside and men and women were more active on a daily basis at home and work. Sad.

    And like I said, I will be discussing the mullet!

  8. Bernita
    · February 6th, 2007 at 6:09 am · Link

    Seems some stereotypes have just been replaced with other stereotypes.
    I have no patience with anyone who needs to call an electrician to replace a lightbulb.
    The sauve businessman is fine – IF he also is capable of some hands-on physical skill – and not just in the sack.

  9. December Quinn
    · February 6th, 2007 at 7:43 am · Link

    So true, Bernita. Although his skill in the sack should not be undervalued. :-)

    No, a man should be able to do things with his hands. Otherwise, he’s just a girl with bigger muscles and a penis.

  10. BernardL
    · February 6th, 2007 at 8:25 am · Link

    I’ve liked quite a few of Burt Reynold’s action movies, but I thought his stunt man movie “Hooper” was pretty good too. It was funny, and he was a natural as a stunt man.

  11. Ann(ie)
    · February 6th, 2007 at 9:17 am · Link

    Huh. I can’t get over the fact that you have an ex named Emil.

  12. December Quinn
    · February 6th, 2007 at 9:48 am · Link

    I loved Hooper, too, bernardl! Another of my childhood favorites, although I haven’t seen it in years. Wonder if it holds up as well as Bandit?

    He was indeed named Emil, Annie, and he was an awesome guy too.

  13. Ann(ie)
    · February 6th, 2007 at 11:09 am · Link

    I have…

    James, Chad, Eric, Daniel, Kyle, Jeff, Chris, and David on my roster of exes. I’d feel deprived, but I kept the exotic one. My husband’s name is Andres.

  14. Anonymous
    · February 6th, 2007 at 2:36 pm · Link

    I think that “macho man” has faded out all through fiction, not just romance. I believe he quite possibly gave his “android death speech” (heh heh, does DQ remember where THAT came from) in John Carpenter’s “THEY LIVE” from 1988, Ithink?!?! Rowdy Roddy Piper, construction worker/road man who is the hero of that film (as a matter of fact, he died in the end of that movie!) That’s the last one I remember!


  15. Isabella Snow
    · February 6th, 2007 at 3:40 pm · Link

    Feeling a little hostility over here!

    Few people aspire to be a truck driver, whether they are intelligent or not.

    For me, its not about what he could have been, its about what he is. I overcame great odds in my life to be as successful as I could be – and I expect the same or more from the men in my life.

    Anything less and I lose interest.

    A brilliant mind can accomplish anything it sets out to accomplish – and if a brilliant mind is content to sit still and does not strive to achieve or become more than they are – and that goes for *any* occupation – I would never feel on par with them and I would lose interest quickly.

    And I can’t apologize for that.

  16. Jenn on the Island
    · February 6th, 2007 at 4:02 pm · Link

    Born in 74 so I totally know what you’re talking about. The first naked man saw had a hairy chest and a moustache. (Single mom who didn’t hide her Playgirls well enough and an extremely nosey kid)

    The mention of Rowdy Roddy reminds me of Jake the Snake. He was my first celebrity crush. I still love watching professional wrestling. It’s absolutely inspirational! And growing up in Calgary, I even got to have one of the Hart brothers as a substitute teacher. Ah, the days of muscles and mullets (I still wonder where that term came from…)

    Good thing you have a mullet blog in mind, it seems to be coming up often…

  17. Jenn on the Island
    · February 6th, 2007 at 4:47 pm · Link

    Crap, how did that end up on there twice…

  18. December Quinn
    · February 6th, 2007 at 5:18 pm · Link

    “Android death speech” is familiar, and I know I should know it…but I can’t remember?

    No hostility on my behalf, Isabella. You’re actually agreeing with my point perfectly, which is that the manual laborer came to be seen in a different light after the 70s. I totally agree with you about brains. A man without them doesn’t interest me at all, not one bit!

  19. December Quinn
    · February 6th, 2007 at 5:20 pm · Link

    The funny thing, Jenn, is I’m not a particular fan of hairy (although I dislike it less than I used to.) I just find it interesting how male archetypes and what we find sexy has changed so much, and I miss the days when it was simpler. Seems like we didn’t judge based on money so much then? I don’t know…I’m just trying to figure some things out in my own head, I guess.


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