May/June 2000 (Vol. 15, Issue 3)
Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity
(1999) 86 min. or 35 min. $275 either version (35 min. version available to high schools for $150). Media Education Foundation. PPR. Color cover. ISBN: 1-893521-09-5.
Many programs released over the past few years have offered self-evident observations about America's violence problem--especially the disturbing uptick in deadly school violence--but Media Education Foundation's Tough Guise, hosted by Jackson Katz, is the first title to make my relatively media savvy mental wheels turn. Pointing out that we evade the roots of the problem in the very terms we use to frame our discussions (almost without exception, newspaper and magazine articles about the rash of school shootings have referred to "kids killing kids" or "children killing children" rather than the more telling and 100% accurate "boys killing kids"), Katz also makes a compelling argument that the increasingly cartoonish image of ideal masculinity being created by the media doesn't bode well for a peaceable future. In 1962, G.I. Joe's biceps measured (to scale) a respectable 12.2 inches; by1998, the army boy toy's biceps more than doubled to 26.8 inches. Or take the growth of heroes and their guns: in the 1950s, the diminutive Bogart carried an inconspicuous firearm; in the 1990s, the hulking Arnold Schwarzenegger wielded guns almost as big as Bogart himself. Add in the phenomenonal success of no-holds-barred wrestling, the overwhelming popularity of violent videogames, and the less than sportsmanlike attitudes of many contemporary sports stars, and--Katz rightly points out--the concept of violent masculinity becomes not an aberration, but rather a cultural norm. Although I don't agree with Katz on every particular, his general arguments are very persuasive. Illustrated with movie clips and quotes from popular slasher films to inane Howard Stern comments, Tough Guise offers strong statistical and analytical evidence regarding the very real crisis arising from the widespread depiction of inaccurate and unhealthy stereotypes of male masculinity. Highly recommended. Aud: H, C, P. (R. Pitman)