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.)