3. The comic book movies sit atop the box office with the assorted progeny of Judd Apatow, whose slacker comedies don’t make much room for chest-beating either. Considering how many of the scenes involve people sitting around on couches staring off into the middle distance, it’s not exactly a take-charge-and-beat-them genre.
4. In this year’s crop of critically beloved, Oscar-bait movies, there have been a lot of slackers, too: Inside Llewyn Davis follows a cranky loser, Her a sad loser, Nebraska a man out of sorts trying to find his way back through a single-minded dad. I happen to think that this is a highbrow reflection of how many (straight, white) men really relate to the Judd Apatow type but find his movies shallow.
5. The Oscar-type movies that don’t deal in these loser types are pretty explicit in their critiques of masculinity: Dallas Buyers Club explicitly challenges its main character’s homophobia in the text of the script. Even something that looks as alpha-male as The Wolf of Wall Street throws a lot of shade at masculinity along the way. It’s at least trying to hold up the behavior depicted for our acid contempt. The men in American Hustle are wandering around wearing hairpieces and hot curlers.
6. All of this being the case, the aggregate result is pretty depressing to me. Here I have traced a pretty robust selection of male archetypes currently available in movies. Most, though not all, of the movies I have listed are directed and written by men. It is not surprising that men are interested in their own lives. It is not even something worth getting angry about. The explanation, in large part, is simply who gets money. But it is deeply strange to see people claim that their absolute dominance, in every sense, of the film industry is on the wane. It isn’t. If anything, it’s likely we’re getting a richer swath of male archetypes because their grip is tightening.