Saturday, July 22, 2017

Men Are Better than Roger Ebert

"Help me, you tear down my reason
Help me, it's your sex I can smell
Help me, you make me *per-fect*
Help me become somebody else"

NIN - Closer

Have you heard?
Women are better than men.
- or so Roger Ebert informed us as a last public service the year before dying.

Though their heyday mostly comprised the late '80s and nineties, many of you might've seen the film critics Siskel and Ebert doing their thing, or if you're not old enough might still have seen them parodied as emblems of their profession. Many have since attempted to copy the perceived key to their success, with two commentators of divergent personalities meeting halfway so that their famous "two thumbs up" represented not only an accumulation of scored points but an intersection of desirable qualities. Gene Siskel was the more coldly cerebral and critical of the two, leaving it to limbic Ebert to like the nice things, goodness aside. While I could stomach the dyspeptic Siskel to some extent, Ebert's jowly bonhomie always aroused an instinctive wariness in me. While reading The Fountainhead I semi-consciously appended his face to Rand's subversive, underhandedly scheming villain Ellsworth Toohey, and until now I thought I was being unfair.

The article, in a nutshell: he watched a piece of feminist propaganda, gave it nine thumbs up a la Homer Simpson, and decided to pile on with his own diatribe proclaiming the evils of y-chromosomes and his abject devotion before the manipulative sex. Supposedly, in the movie, a mixed Christian / Muslim village in Lebanon stands on the brink of sectarian violence. It's not the fault of religion of course but of those stupid, evil, brutish, primitive men (of course) and of course it's up to the elevated, pristine, angelic women to rule and civilize their lowly counterparts. Granted I've never seen the flick but, cinematography, directing and other technical aptitude aside, I'm pretty sure I could swallow the same chauvinistic garbage in any Lifetime Channel movie of the week.

I don't normally indulge in the forum war line-by-line quote dissection routine, but I guess I can make an exception for dead film critics.

In Ebert's words:
"The women [...]conspire to distract the men from their foolish chest-beating. They stage fake miracles. They sneak hashish into their diets. In a bold masterstroke, they import a troupe of exotic Ukrainian dancers who are touring Lebanon.
Enough about the movie, except for this simple mind experiment: Can you imagine a movie in which Muslim and Christian women start fighting with religion as their excuse, and the men band together to import go-go boys? Not easily."

True, I can't. Mostly, I can't imagine that movie being made because no movie studio would subject itself to feminist lynch mobs by even the most lighthearted criticism of femininity. We'd also need a new plot, since (as Mr. Ebert had apparently not noticed in his seven decades on the Flying Spaghetti Monster's green earth) men and women don't value sex in the same way. Yes, when it comes to strictly sexual jealousy, men are more apt to mate-guard, to beat other males away with a stick.

However, if you're asking whether I can imagine a world in which men subvert their own desires to feed women's own power-games between each other, then yes. I can imagine men paying for and sitting through tedious social events just so their wives can display their social status to each other. I can conceive of a world in which men torture themselves by legally-enforced monogamy and work to pay for oversized houses for their wives to play out their nesting instincts, in which men subvert their sexual instincts and mentally torture themselves their entire lives trying to fit themselves to female romantic ideals, to unending displays of devotion, to providing and protecting. None of this will of course make for a very novel Sundance movie plot, because we're already living it. Bo-oo-riiiiing.

More striking than his basic premise however were some of grandpa Ebert's smattering of supporting arguments and side comments, like:

"[Women] are far less involved in violent crimes, and crime of all sorts."

Does "less involved" include "less likely to profit from" or are women simply better at pushing men into risk while grabbing the spoils and maintaining deniability? Do mafia wives not share their husbands' mansions? How many ex-wives and sugar babies is every cut-throat corporate climber financing? How much of a convenience store robber's take goes to supporting his baby-momma?

"I believe that a great many things can be explained by the process of evolution, and differences in the sexes are certainly included. We are the descendants of primitive hunting and gathering societies. Men are better are hunting, and women are better at gathering. Men are taller, heavier, stronger. They're not in the child-rearing business."

Well, I guess that shows what movie critics understand about evolution.
Actually, mammalian males have a tendency to devote more energy to their offspring than most of the animal kingdom, and even among mammals human males show an astounding amount of parental investment. This stems from the debilitating effects of our long infancy and goes hand-in-hand with another weird-ass quirk we acquired somewhere between "homo" and "habilis": our females actually compete with each other for mates-as-providers. Not nearly to the extent that males compete for females-as-breeders, but that it happens at all would shock the mores of any self-respecting hen or doe. Thus, while a woman might tolerate a stripper shaking her tits in her husband's face... as long as she then quickly exits, stage whicheverway... they'll still scratch each others' eyes out if they perceive the slightest long-term encroachment, and it's men who get drafted and weaponized in women's turf wars, not the other way around. While women compete for men's service, men compete much more fiercely to be condescendingly permitted to serve women. Men are taller, heavier, stronger, largely so they can play their role as proxies, as a woman's muscle.

"One obvious reason for larger breasts, therefore, is to send a signal to prospective mates that they are promising candidates for motherhood. You may not realize this when you see a crowd of half-loaded guys in a lap-dance joint, but in some primeval sense they're looking for mothers--perhaps their own."

Jesus fuck, that has got to be the most half-assed pop-psych I've seen in years. Is it not obviously self-defeating? Do we even need to get into all the signals men send as high-quality workhorses, providers of resources for women? How many $3000 suits did Ebert own, I wonder? And if those men are looking for mothers, then how much more obvious is it that a woman looking for a dependable lifelong mate to interpose between herself and the world, she's also looking for a daddy figure to take care of her? What he says next though is a lot more interesting:

"Women know things like that. Dogs understand humans by closely observing us. They follow our eyeliners, and discover what interests us. Women understand men in the same way. They observe the whole man, while men tend to focus more on secondary sexual characteristics and signals of availability. This is why a woman is more willing to marry an ugly man than a man is to marry an ugly woman. The woman is looking for reliability, responsibility, bread-winning. The man is looking for boobs."

This one paragraph encompasses so much of our nature, as individuals, as a society, as an instinct-driven species. Women observe men the better to manipulate them. Men avoid acquiring the same understanding, the better to be manipulated by women. Men who delve into self-serving motivations of women are less likely to let themselves become trapped, less likely to be permitted by women to pass on their genetic material. They become less represented in the gene pool. The men who embrace their sacrificial role give their offspring a better chance at the social status which ensures continuation of the bloodline, at being rich enough to dodge the draft. We inherit male slavishness at the same time we inherit female control. Thus, among other mental afflictions, we hear this same willfully ignorant refrain in every corner of our society: that female instinct is somehow less instinctual than male instinct, that the mindless instinctive drive to ensnare a bread-winner is somehow more elevated than the mindless instinctive drive for boobs.

"Consider the role of the sexes in modern times. Men no longer need to be powerful and violent in order to hunt bison, walk behind a plow, tote that barge or lift that bale. In a society where the hunting and gathering is done by corporations, they need to be smart and work well with others.[...]
These are areas in which men are not necessarily better equipped than women. A great deal of male drive is fueled by testosterone. A man wants to defeat other men and become the leader of the pack.[...]
Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the financial industry. Investment bankers do nor sow, and neither do they reap. They make nothing but profits. They create those profits through the stock ownership of companies that do make and sell things, but at their level they hardly care if they're making tractors or dildos."
In the same breath, Ebert lambastes men for being ill-suited to polite modern society and blames men for polite modern society, ignoring the sheer femininity of the system he describes. The corporate world is one of hiding behind legal fictions, taking no direct action, unable to meet one's competitors in direct conflict, prevented from taking individual public recognition for one's victories. Every corporate profiteer, male or female, is a scheming, manipulative trophy wife hiding behind a towering steel-and-glass husband of an office building protecting her from repercussions and providing her with social status. No matter how much men overcompensate, there's nothing in the methodology of the investment circle-jerk to give Conan the Barbarian a hard-on! It's rather what happens when men try to adopt indirect, communal, manipulative feminine tactics.

I'd think someone as observant of cultural trends as Mr. Ebert should have spotted the glaring archetypal mismatch there, but then this is not a matter of true ignorance but willful ignorance. Neither am I accusing him of being some sort of fanatical ideologue. He did not create the system, and I doubt he gave his article half the thought I've given this attack on it. He was, however, emblematic. For over twenty years, his show occupied a spot at the very center of American pop culture. His job as not king or knight but high priest of the celluloid temple was to tell others what to think. Ebert imbibed zeitgiest by the reel, day in and day out for his entire career, and when he regurgitated it, little wonder it turned out to be our society's "egalitarian" feminist consensus: man bad, woman good; men should shut up and serve women. Pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain.

What you have to ask yourself now is how many articles like Ebert's you've absorbed during your life. If it had been titled "men are better than women" ... well, Ebert's name would've been Hitlerized in a second. Yet any bullshit you care to spew, no matter how un-analyzed, no matter how blatantly abusive, receives a chorus of applause so long as it's abusive toward men. From the cradle on, through film critics and awards speeches, overinflated statistics and political pandering to the female vote, on every channel, in every pop song, in every general education college course, we've absorbed the absolute dogma of male original sin, the aching need to genuflect before primitive she-ape entitlement.

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