I’m in my 30s now and like any honest man I never have stopped searching culture for signs of authentic manhood. I like my fellow brothers today are bombarded with conflicting messages about what it means to be a man. Despite this, I’m learning more about what it means to be a man since getting married and having kids. Prior to both of those huge components of life, I felt more like a boy wandering in a jungle full of loud and confusing imagery telling me what it means to be a man. But these scenes of life I encounter tell me there is more beyond the curtain.
My wife and I recently watched (twice) Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011), starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone. I must say that I haven’t laughed so hard at a romantic comedy in years. Yes, I’m a fan of the greats like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Say Anything, and Sweet Home Alabama. Most guys do love those movies whether they admit or not.
In Crazy, Stupid, Love, what is so amusing is that a 20-something so-called man is giving a 40-something advice on picking up women. And on top of that, he is giving him advice about what it takes to be a real man. Ryan Gosling’s character is highly quotable in this role:
“I’m going to help you rediscover your manhood. Do you have any idea where you could have lost it?”
“The war between the sexes is over. We won the second women started doing pole dancing for exercise.”
“I don’t know whether to help you or euthanize you.”
“Be better than the Gap.” (commentating on Steve Carell’s style)
I laughed so hard at the last line in the theatre but then paused to looked down at my jeans and realized they were from Gap. Good grief.
Despite the movie’s humor, it raises many questions about how men should act and view themselves. Without ruining the movie, it probably left more questions about this issue instead of giving us answers. Maybe that wasn’t the point of the movie. In our lives we are confused by the extremes of man; the angry brute who only will watch and participate in Ultimate Fighting, the passive male asleep at the wheel of life not willing to engage in life, or metrosexual who worries more about himself, his looks, and won’t commit to any woman. If we as men are not careful, we will get lost in the extremes of post-modern manhood. What Crazy, Stupid, Love shows us is a glimpse of the transformation process to become a man. I can’t judge either character too harshly because they are in this process.
I take comfort knowing that like them I don’t have it together.
So where do I go now? I join Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling’s characters in this process. All I know is that I’m not going to sit down and wait for things to happen.
I’m challenged to do (and not wait for) the following:
- Pursue genuine friendships with men.
- To seek mentors I admire who are older than me.
- Study the great men of history.
- Be humble about my successes and failures.
- Share the wisdom I’ve acquired with those younger than me.
- Pray like Christ, the best example of man.
What about you?
What does it take to be a man in your point of view?