Friday, May 23, 2008

The modern male meets Hillary Clinton

Sometime in the early 1990s, while Hillary Rodham Clinton was in the White House, the modern American male became helpless, clearly chronicled in various sitcoms where the husband, a bumbling oaf, is saved time and again by a capable, omniscient wife. Think of the show "Home Improvement" which ran from 1991-1999. By the time Tim Taylor was done blowing up garbage disposals the metamorphosis of the modern American male was complete. Why the Tim and Jill Taylors of the world want to play these roles is beyond me. For men, perhaps, its a chance to delay adulthood and responsibility in a world that has no pity. For women, maybe, its a long-awaited turn at the head of the table.

Go to a modern romantic comedy and the male "lead" is a stoner, a guy who parties late and sleeps until noon, a man child needing a mother to get him on the right track. The female lead is usually a woman who is so serious and professional she very little time to let her hair down. Apart they are both flawed, but put the two together and you have movie magic.

And so we have the 2008 Democratic campaign, staring white men who just can't seem to find a job, and a woman so professional and ambitious she'd impress Miranda Priestly. The men and the woman have been brought together out of necessity and survival, massing into a Volton-like mech that vows to crush anything in its path.

Many have already hailed, rightfully so, Clinton's campaign as a breakthrough, even if a loss. It has changed forever how America will view the professional woman, and how one woman, so deeply despised among traditionally macho men, won them over and got them to follow. Pundits are amazed at her ability to break through and connect with those working class white voters, but rather than pouring over poll data, all they had to do was watch a few episodes of "King of Queens." Hillary Clinton has effectively done in the real world of politics, before our very eyes, what Hollywood has been doing for years in sitcoms, movies, and commercials. The circuit is now complete.

The modern American male is a long way from "It Happened One Night" in-which Clark Gable played, not only a guy with a job, but an ambitious reporter in search of a story. Clark Gable's Peter Warne was driven to put food on his table, to carve out his niche. He was the one so motivated he didn't know how to have any fun. But he also didn't live in our modern times, in the decline of America; the uncertain, tenuous economic climate stocked with ready-made scapegoats in the form of cheap foreign labor. With an environment like that--where working harder gets you less, where you could very easily wind up with a pink slip after years of service, what is today's guy to do but throw it to the wind and look for someone who will believe in them and champion them no matter how bad it gets?

Hillary Clinton stood by her man, Bill, after he was done showing Monica Lewinsky the ropes around the White House. That's some serious loyalty. Guys like that. Eight years later she has vowed, on behalf of a white working-class coalition, to go to Washington and fight for them, and then fight some more. And the modern man could not be happier. It's the role they were born to play. It's the just-couldn't-do-it-without-you-honey association, which seems to have been clamoring for their own firey Jill Taylor to do the laundry, make dinner, take care of the kids, handle the finances, and go to Washington and kick some foreign and domestic ass.

It's all a farce of course. Fighting from the White House wont get Hillary any further than it did in 1993 and 1994 when, after rolling up her sleeves and working with a Democratic majority in congress, her approval ratings plummeted from the high 50s to the low 30s. No matter. Jobs have been lost and there's palpable anger and incapacity. There's helplessness. No one knows what to do, but Hillary will do something for somebody. She has been criticized for gauging the national mood incorrectly. I think she's right on, she just found it too late. All it took was a little less Meryl Streep and a little more Patricia Heaton. A little less ball busting and a little more we're-in-this-together. A little less "get off your ass" and a little more "I've already taken care of it."

The modern man has evolved.

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