Masculinity of the Month: Mel Gibson

The last few ‘Masculinity of the Month’ posts I’ve done, have been somewhat or mostly approving of the type of masculinity represented. This month, less so.

Or Not.

Mel Gibson as an actor (and it seems increasingly, it seems, in real life) embodies a spectacularly retrogressive type of masculinity. His films are almost to a fault, of the single-minded bloody vengeance type – and his personal life, as has been extensively covered in public, appears to have large doses or racism, misogyny, and general hate and anger.

I’ve got to say I’m not hugely surprised by any of this, and I think that the example of Mr Gibson is not particularly out of the norm, except in that he is famous and his comments are on record, meaning it gets press coverage. But what’s kinda nice is that this is getting coverage, and the coverage (except for the usual suspects, like Australia’s finest far right columnist) is pretty condemning of Mr Gibson’s actions, and more importantly, attitudes.

So, what do you think, does the criticism of men like Mel, and to a lesser extent, Tom Cruise, mean anything significant in terms of broader shifts of what is acceptable masculine identity, or is it oppressive hegemonic business as usual in man land? Does the tarnishing of once great masculine icons represent genuine change, or just the cycle of fashion?

Explore posts in the same categories: Masculinity, Masculinity of the Month, Misogyny, Violence against women

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2 Comments on “Masculinity of the Month: Mel Gibson”

  1. Nio Says:

    Oh man, those are some really good questions.

    My first instinct is that the criticisms of him are a sign of positive, if painfully slow, change that is far too slow moving to be fashion. Actually, it’s kind of nice to have your perspective here that most of the media is condemning his behavior, because I had mostly only seen the more misogynistic spectrum of responses to him. I wonder how much the media condemnation reflects the viewpoints of average people.

    Geez, I want to comment more on this but it’s well past me bedtime. Good entry, was shocked for a brief moment when I saw Gibson as Masculinity of the Month but yeah!

  2. figleaf Says:

    I’m not a giant fan of the kind of hyper-masculinity idealized in movies like Tom Cruise’s Top Gun or Mission Impossible or Gibson’s Mad Max or his renditions of Hamlet or (behind the camera) Jesus. In fact I’m pretty dour on the whole enterprise of masculinity as acting into a constructed ideal.

    That said I seriously, seriously doubt that either Cruise or Gibson as actual people have fallen out of favor because of what Kim Du Toit sneeringly and wildly-incorrectly labeled “The Pussification Of The American Male.”

    Instead they’ve fallen out of favor because as actual people their behavior is alarmingly out of character with even the most regressive versions of idealized masculinity. If the same had happened to the hypermasculine John Wayne or Steve McQueen they’d have gotten the same brush-off from the public in the masculinity-idealizing 1960s or 1970s. Actually something like that did happen when similarly hyper-masculine Marlon Brando’s or Howard Hughes’ personal eccentricities became difficult to ignore.

    I think Gibson’s a good call for Masculinity of the Month. Not least because in his case, ironically, the more moderate, more nuanced, and more approximately human characters he played in, say, The Bounty, Year of Living Dangerously, or Air America were more realistic men than Gibson himself evidently ever was.


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