I finally finished up watching the series Justified. Binge watching is my preferred method of watching these things nowadays, but it still took me two months to watch the whole series. I guess I’m a slow watcher. Admittedly my taste in TV shows is pedestrian. I just don’t expect TV shows or movies to be art or anything close to art. They are intended to entertain the average person. Against that standard, I’d rank the series highly. It was not quite as good as Breaking Bad, but it was better than Sons of Anarchy, which went on too long and ended ridiculously.
I somewhat expected the same result as I entered the final season of Justified, despite the very good writing of the first five seasons. These long form dramas seem to lose their footing at the end for some reason. My hunch is the creators come up with a great idea that works over a single season. They get picked up and put together a few more seasons and then run out of ideas or they can’t figure out how to bring it to a close. That was not the case here as the writers wrapped it up in a sensible way that worked with the rest of the series.
I don’t want to give anything away, in case I’m not the last person on earth to have watched the series, but what struck me about it was how the main character was a man from start to finish. By that I mean he was what we used to expect from leading men on TV and in movies. He was not racked with guilt or morally compromised. There were plenty of forks in the road where the main character had to figure out the right course, but there was none of the brooding and self-doubt we see in the modern leading man.
That’s not typical today. In fact, it’s rare. I mentioned Sons of Anarchy and that’s a good example of the modern leading man. The hero of that series is always racked with guilt, doubt and Lord knows what else. The rebooted Batman, the one I watched anyway, is mostly about the hero’s battle with mental illness, instead of his fight with the threats to society. That’s the model for the modern leading male. They are emotional cripples struggling to keep from leaping off a roof. Even James Bond has been turned into a head case. The last one I saw had him dealing with mommy issues.
Of course, male leads today almost always look like a pillow-biter’s wet dream. Steve Sailer has pointed out that most casting directors in Hollywood are effeminate gay men. The others are middle-aged women so the casting of male leads tends toward the fantasy male that appeals to old maids and queens. The result is steroidal freaks, who look like they spend all their time at the YMCA working out, among other things. That’s something else that’s changed. It used to be that a male lead lacked the sort of vanity that leads someone to steroid up and use “product.”
Tastes change and styles come and go so it may be nothing more than that, but I was struck by how out of place Justified seemed compared to modern dramas. The main character is a normal looking man, middle-aged with some gray around the temples. He’s not a cartoonish looking brute or a mentally unstable pretty boy. His physical confrontations happen within the laws of physiology, as well as the laws of physics. The striking thing is that he is a genuine tough guy in the old time sense. When it comes time to face off with the bad guy, he faces off with the bad guy.
The classic western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, addresses the issue of traditional male in the modern world. John Wayne is the classic tough guy who operates on the edge of society, protecting society, but never quite part of it. Jimmy Stewart is what passed for the beta male hipster back in the day. Wayne settles things the old fashioned way. Stewart settles things in court arguing the law and morality. The movie never resolves the tension between the two male roles in society, suggesting there is no resolution, just a balance and a tension.
The near total lack of traditional male leads today probably reflects the fact post-scarcity America has lost the will or ability to do the hard work of civilization. Maybe it’s simply no longer necessary. The people making TV and movies seem to think that’s the case. Hollywood is, after all, the agit-prop of the ruling class. The people in charge want docile males, who are willing to be bossed around by women in Lycra jumpsuits. For the same reason the schools dope up the boys, Hollywood promotes the ideal male as being the Stepin Fetchit for the womyn’s studies department.