AAAY! We got some Tough Guise over here!

My biggest issue with Tough Guise was the leaps in judgment that were made. Several points were valid and really make you think about the portrayal of not only masculinity but also how different ethnicities are portrayed. Where I have to disagree with the documentaries assertion was when he tried to use Rocky as a way to bolster his argument about the media attempting to portray white males as the superior group. The guy says he loved Rocky and always saw it as an inspirational story and then throws in under the bus to make his point. Rocky is a movie about the Italian Stallion (yes he is white, but he is Italian first and foremost), a guy down on his luck who decides to become a great fighter. In the movie he winds up challenging Apollo Creed, the reigning champ and a black man. So yeah, if you oversimplify the movie it’s a white man versus a black man, but that is only a part of the movie, its more about the triumph of human will (there’s a reason why the scene where he finally is able to finish his run with the trek up the steps without stopping is so inspirational). Not only is the point of the movie not simply White vs. Black, but in the end Apollo Creed wins, in an split decision, the inspirational part is not that a white man triumphed over a black man like the documentary seems to suggest, it’s that an average guy put the work in, and was able to survive (emphasis on survive) 15 rounds with the greatest boxer in the world. Not only does the white man lose but over the course of the next three movies they become friends, to the point where [spoiler alert] Apollo’s death in the 4th movie spurs Rocky to take on the film’s bad guy Ivan Drago from Soviet Russia.

We see this a lot in documentaries with something to prove, as opposed to ones that go out on a search to cover a topic. You can twist and manipulate most material to make a point; here he does it by boiling down a movie franchise (with 4 films at the time the documentary was made) to white vs. black, when it is supposed to be the triumph of the human spirit, that just happens to involve a few fights between a white man and a black man.

Despite these occasional reaches in argument the documentary did make several good points. I think the one that stood out the most was the creation of the tough black man by the media, where our view of the black men is largely generated by the media. Creating a vicious circle where life imitates art (and art is used there loosely), more than art imitates life. The media is basically creating caricatures of black people and those displays are being viewed as accurate representations which hurt black culture in the eyes of the public and gives poor images for black youth to look up to.

Both videos successfully make the argument that most of our perceptions of certain groups of people are shaped by the media, whether they may hold some sort of truth or not it is our exposure to media that drives our perceptions. Men are inundated with images of tough, muscular “manly men” while women are portrayed as the weaker sex, and are basically told that they should be the submissive gender (in subtle and not so subtle ways).

Both videos point out the dangers of these portrayals, with Tough Guise the negative aspects of invulnerability that often accompany the portrayals of “real men” are discusses, and in Killing Them Softly she discusses the horrifying effects that the media’s portrayal has on the psyche of females. We often see media where the tough guys can get away with anything (see: every action movie ever), this is an unrealistic portrayal of life no matter what race, gender, creed, etc. the character is, yet it is one that tragically, some males latch on to. In Killing Them Softly we learn that self-esteem in girls plummets when they reach adolescence, while boys do not, and it is because of the expectations created and cultivated by media.

Interestingly enough the Tough Guise documentary does not apply to today’s world as much as Killing Them Softly does, or at least in my opinion it doesn’t. Unfortunately women continue to be sold these unrealistic images, while men are getting off a little easier when it comes to body image. Men are rarely judged on what shape they are in, yet women are in nearly every form of media, that oh so common question about what a politician will do about taking care of her kids if she were to be elected. Women are painted as mothers and wives first, they are often displayed as objects in advertising (for instance the woman being portrayed as a beer bottle in Killing Them Softly, where she was branded with the product’s logo). With men the pressure to look a certain way seems to be lessening, we are still being sold images of manliness but what constitutes manliness has certainly changed. Old Spice sells their products through comedy, they imply that using their product will result in a body a woman desires as opposed to saying you need a body in order to grab a woman’s attention. Bottom line it seems to be getting better but only if you are a male, yes publications are making moves to convey more realistic portrayals of women but on the whole women are still being given the short end of the deal.

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