Old Hollywood and dead chivalry
On Friday nights I become a cliché. Sipping pinot grigio and lustfully losing myself in Jimmy Stewart’s endearing stammer, Cary Grant’s suave compliments and Gene Kelly’s sensual dance moves. But the end result is always the same: the credits roll as I let out a heavy sigh and think, why can’t real men be like this?
Ironically, at that very moment I’m sure most men are not wondering what happened to the chivalric code but are now benefiting from its demise by going to clubs and using pick-up lines that would make Clark Gable face palm in his grave.
Yes, this subject has been beat to death. Chivalry is dead and men suck. But before we go blaming science or men’s “innate” visual nature that apparently makes them need to visit strip clubs and watch pornography, I have to question the merits of this macho-man image and the representations of masculinity that are resisting a much needed transformation.
In a world that has become overrun by concerns of femininity and the representation of women in the media, the concern for men’s self-esteem has been overlooked. The naturalized standards of masculinity depicted in contemporary movies often sends the message that if you aren’t bedding attractive women every night and ignoring their phone calls all day, you’re not a real man. It’s better to be a cold sociopath than show any inkling of true emotion.
It’s difficult to understand how cinema has so drastically shifted from depicting men who seek marriage and finding “the one” to a stream of films about friends with benefits. Similarly, modern day chick flicks like Made of Honour show promiscuous men choosing to settle down only after they’ve completed their womanizing phase.
Are we really supposed to be happy that Barney Stinson is finally getting married after years of treating women so disgustingly?
Even Humphrey Bogart, who rarely gets a happy ending in his films, makes selfless choices for the benefits of the women he loves, proving that men of old Hollywood are not only perfectly romantic but treat women with respect.
I always thought that getting into a serious relationship would make me less bitter about the modern day man and to some extent it did. Yet, I still found myself struggling when my boyfriend didn’t respond to things the way I wanted or eloquently expressed his love like Katherine Hepburn’s various suitors in The Philadelphia Story. While there is something inexplicably alluring about the elegance of a black and white love affair it sets a trap for imaginative girls who tend to romanticize what love should be.
As Rosie O’Donell’s character in Sleepless in Seattle so profoundly states: “You don’t want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie.”
So while you don’t need to lower your standards — in fact some girls need to do the opposite — at some point you have to become more realistic about how men express their emotions. So today’s young girls can go ahead and obsess over Ryan Gosling or Reynolds.
I will be glued to TCM hoping someday soon both men and women will learn to appreciate the artful finesse of wooing.
Maybe men will never wear cravats or express their love with the sophistication of Cary Grant but if you can find somebody who will dress up as Jimmy Stewart for Halloween and treat you like his leading lady, he’s probably worth giving a chance.
After all, there is nothing better than the real thing.