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Masculinity Is Dead, Say Goodbye To Cigars - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
April 6th, 2008
11:12 am

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Masculinity Is Dead, Say Goodbye To Cigars
There were times I wished my Mom or Dad would just smack me in the mouth and get it over with. But tragically, I didn't come from that sort of family. I came from a family that was very big on therapy, and EST, and reading Dr. Wayne Dyer - so the most frightening words in my family were "Let's talk about this."

This meant we would go in a room, and sit Very Seriously, and talk for three to four hours about our feelings. Everything you had ever said would be flayed out, dissected, and poked from every angle. Your motivations would be questioned, your defensive reaction catalogued, your concomitant sadness wisely nodded at; nothing you could do would allow you to escape The Talk until you had been properly drained of all life and could discuss, dispassionately, the very core elements of your life and how they were not syncing up with the things you claimed you wanted to do.

It was exhausting, and it demolished your self-esteem to see how much you lied to yourself and others.

But then I remembered Charlton Heston.

The annual "Planet of the Apes Week" on the Channel 7 "4:30 Movie" was what I lived for. This was in the days before VCRs and DVDs, so if you missed "Beyond the Planet of the Apes," well, that was it until next year. And so my ape-lovin' friend Bryan and I eagerly planned our week around watching those damned dirty apes and nuclear explosions and social allegory that we utterly didn't get until years later because it came wrapped in a candy shell of machine guns and fistfights.

Charlton was The Man. Because unlike a lot of the other dopey heroes out there, who never talked about anything, he had depth. Oh, he had it in that vainly struggling 1970s way, where he was really still saturated with a lot of chauvinist innuendo and he talked just a bit too much about sticking it to The Man... But unlike every other macho dude with a gun, Charlton understood that the best way to fix things was to talk about them.

But unlike my Mom and Dad and Uncle Tommy, Charlton also knew when it was time to just smack a fucker in the mouth. And in the movies, that worked.

I idolized Charlton, because he was strong and noble and took shit from no one, but he still dated hip black chicks and smoked weed and was goddamned Moses, for Christ's sake. He was the perfect blend of paralyctic 1970s New-Age psychocracy and old-style 1950s manly action. In every film, he was clearly more bad-ass than anyone else in the goddamned country, but he'd still try to talk things out. And if that didn't work, then he'd punch you in the goddamned face.

He was comfortable in his own perfect skin. He had that blaring white grin that always looked like it had a cigar in it, whether he did or not, and that grin told you that he liked you, he really did. He didn't apologize for having sex. He always had the moral compass firmly in his hand, and it pointed straight at him, because he knew how fucked-up mankind was - himself included.

His movies are indefensible - which is to say that I won't ever attempt to convince you they're good. But he was the biggest star, and he still burned his starpower on science fiction "message" films - movies like Soylent Green, which attempted to deal with the issues of overpopulation and ended up in a catchphrase. And Omega Man (a.k.a. "The 'I Am Legend' That Didn't Quite Work"), which talked about loneliness. And of course his greatest work Planet of the Apes, which was all about society and how cruelly we treat things we don't believe.

Sure, these movies had all the subtlety of a hammer pounded into your cranium. But this was the 1970s, for God's sake! We didn't even invent "subtlety" as a concept until somewhere in the latter half of "The Godfather." In those days, your movie had A Message and you sounded it like a foghorn because your public was a bunch of popcorn-eating cretins who'd never see this damn film again and you had to make sure they GOT it.

And I love them. The celluloid in those movies are threaded through my veins, winding through my system shot-by-shot.

And I love him.

Yeah, he's an NRA dude. I don't care. His politics aren't part of what he taught me when I was young - namely, that it's okay to laugh off the crazy overtalking sometimes. It's okay to just be proud of who you are, and assume that you're okay sometimes; sure, you need to keep an eye on your inner turmoil, but you can do it with the light hand of Charlton Heston.

I'd have all the insight in the world. My family's talks were, ultimately, worthwhile. But would I have the courage to get up here on LJ and tell you guys, "Look, here's how it's gonna be?" Would I be able to unashamedly tell you of my wild sex stories and my silly puns and my crazy life?

Without Charlton? I don't think so. In my time of need, he was broadcast across the airwaves, showing me that men could be strong and not overbearing, loud without shouting down. Charlton Heston was every lesson about masculinity I needed to know back then - and though it's mutated a bit over the years, that brawny chest and gutturally-spouted lines will always be the seed of everything I know about how to be a Guy with a capital "G."

Tonight, I'm going to get a bottle of Scotch, somehow. I'm going to find a cigar. And I'm going to look up at the sky, and quote old Heston movies, and smile because the old man is gone and isn't that a shame?

You damn apes. You damn, dirty apes.

(29 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:norda
Date:April 6th, 2008 03:23 pm (UTC)
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I've tried to recreate Ape Week every year with our traditional Thanksgiving viewing of PotA and KING KONG, because I too was weaned on The 4:30 Movie.

Like you, I'm taking what I loved about Charlton and leaving the rest. And now I want a cigar.

[And I want to smack some fucker in the mouth, but that's another story.]
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From:suburbfabulous
Date:April 6th, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
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CHANNEL 7 PEOPLES IN THE HOUSE.
(Granted, I grew up just a half-hour's drive from Steinmetz, and there were 11 billion people within signal range, even then, but STILL.)
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From:norda
Date:April 6th, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
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I'm from Lawn Guyland.

I may have owned a house in Massachusetts for ten years, but I will always identify as a displaced Noo Yawkah.

The worst punishment I could receive for not getting my homework done was to be forbidden to watch The 4:30 Movie.

I'm only half-joking that I double-majored in English and Anthropology in college because of The 4:30 Movie.

IN THE HOUSE!
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From:suburbfabulous
Date:April 6th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
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Lawn Guy Land! Our OTHER breakwater!
(Thanks for that, FYI.)
I was similarly punished. I majored in Journalism in college because I wanted to cover the events on Monster Island (which, as we know, is the perfect place to stash giant monsters so King Ghidorah can attack them all at once...)
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From:tormentedartist
Date:April 6th, 2008 03:38 pm (UTC)
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Would I be able to unashamedly tell you of my wild sex stories and my silly puns and my crazy life?

Well, your life was crazy... now its pretty normal. But this is fine, because without that layer of normalcy and stability you might not be able to relate your past quite as well. And besides you have to leave the party sometime.
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From:merle_
Date:April 6th, 2008 03:48 pm (UTC)
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*sniffs* I killed him!

I wonder if they'll bury him with a gun in his cold, dead hands. That would be cool.
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From:suburbfabulous
Date:April 6th, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
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You should punch somebody.
Then again, I've always thought that.
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From:batshua
Date:April 7th, 2008 01:59 am (UTC)
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Potatoes.
(Deleted comment)
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From:theferrett
Date:April 7th, 2008 01:10 am (UTC)
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I knew there was a reason I liked you.
(Deleted comment)
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From:ravenblack
Date:April 7th, 2008 01:05 am (UTC)
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I liked Omega Man better than the Vincent Price one, but not by a huge margin, and I agree that they are both better than the Will Smith version. It is a bit of a travesty that the one which takes the name is the one which translates the spirit the worst.

I suppose "the 'I Am Legend' that didn't quite work" functions as a descriptor for Omega Man though, provided Smith's I Am Legend is concurrently described as "the 'I Am Legend' that didn't even come anywhere close to working".
(Deleted comment)
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From:meyerweb.com
Date:April 6th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
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Gotta say that when I heard, my first thought was, "I guess we can have his gun now."
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From:naamah_darling
Date:April 6th, 2008 05:37 pm (UTC)
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God, I remember being sat down for those lectures. Aggravating.

I feel bad about Charlton, man. He was such a cool guy. I don't really believe in traditional divisions of masculine/feminine anymore, but he helped define men for me in a way that I liked back when I still did believe in it, and he has always remained emblematic of a Certain Kind of Guy to me.

It's odd. I went to a gun show yesterday, which of course got me thinking about him, and so when I heard that he'd died really really late last night (or early this morning) I felt . . . very strange.
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From:bradhicks
Date:April 6th, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC)
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There's a recurring argument I have with all of my younger friends that starts up all over again when some event reminds me that manhood is dead, that it went out of style, and I can't stop myself from saying it out loud. Even though the best book on the subject I've ever read is by a woman, one with spotless feminist credentials, Susan Faludi's Stiffed: The Betrayal of Modern Man, I have no luck explaining to anyone under the age of 45 that larger than life media heroes like Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Johnny Cash, Charlton Heston, and maybe even the early Harrison Ford are about an image of manhood that means something, that puts the good in that awful childhood insult from our fathers, "be a man, damn it."

At its best it means do what's right and necessary, whether it hurts or not. Know your limitations, know how injured and flawed you are, but don't freakin' whine about it as if you were entitled to have less pain in your life. Be able to take a hit or two and keep going, be able to survive being cheated without thinking that means you should cheat, too. As Faludi documents, the generation that grew up after mine expects men to solve their problems the way women want, to become second-rate imitation women, expect everything to be about feelings and talking things out instead of about work, effort, teamwork, perseverance.

But the pendulum never stops swinging, the wheel never stops turning. Nothing goes out of style forever. Someday there'll be men in America again. But yeah, for now, whenever one dies something important goes out of the world.

Edited at 2008-04-06 06:31 pm (UTC)
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From:norda
Date:April 6th, 2008 06:39 pm (UTC)
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I have no luck explaining to anyone under the age of 45 that larger than life media heroes like Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Johnny Cash, Charlton Heston, and maybe even the early Harrison Ford are about an image of manhood that means something, that puts the good in that awful childhood insult from our fathers, "be a man, damn it."

At its best it means do what's right and necessary, whether it hurts or not. Know your limitations, know how injured and flawed you are, but don't freakin' whine about it as if you were entitled to have less pain in your life. Be able to take a hit or two and keep going, be able to survive being cheated without thinking that means you should cheat, too.


I'm with you all the way on this. And I'm a woman. A 45-year-old woman, as it happens.

I want to be like this. I want the men AND the women in my life to be like this.

It's getting harder all the time to find anyone, of any generation, who understands this.
[User Picture]
From:kisekinotenshi
Date:April 6th, 2008 10:04 pm (UTC)
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Actually, I agree with you, and I'm only 22. Of course, I kind of think more women should be that way too, but that's a losing battle.
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From:cynicalcleric
Date:April 6th, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC)
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So the song "Capital G" is actually a celebration of manilness, where G stands for Guy? ;)

it demolished your self-esteem to see how much you lied to yourself and others.

I really wonder if the world would be a better place if alot more people were forced to see their lies and delusions laid bare on a regular basis.
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From:cynicalcleric
Date:April 6th, 2008 06:48 pm (UTC)
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BTW your salute to Charlton Heston is interesting in that it reminds me of what I think is a subtly defining aspect of my life growing up: I had no heroes. There were no athletes or film stars or musicians that I looked up to that did things in their cultural or personal lives that inspired me or shaped the way I live.
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From:practicallyfame
Date:April 6th, 2008 07:02 pm (UTC)

my bad joke

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This morning, in a very not-sober state, I heard the news about Charlton.

My response? "well, we can have his gun now".

This coming from someone who 1. loves Charlton Heston and 2. happily (and responsibly) carries a gun around.

[User Picture]
From:meyerweb.com
Date:April 6th, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)

Re: my bad joke

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You're not the only one to make it (see above). When I dropped that one on my wife, she said after a moment, "You're a very disturbing individual". Ahhh, love.
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From:harper_knight
Date:April 7th, 2008 05:19 am (UTC)

Re: my bad joke

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That's pretty much everyone's response, on both sides of the gun thing. Just because its funny.
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From:delosd
Date:April 6th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for saying goodbye to Mr. Heston in what seems the right way. I'm glad to hear that so many people saw him the way I did, and remember him the way I do. Hear, hear.
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From:thetathx1138
Date:April 6th, 2008 11:32 pm (UTC)
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"Soylent Green" is an absolutely superb film, I feel, partially because even with the ending blown there's still an amazing amount of good stuff there. Ditto "The Omega Man." Sure, they're a bit '70s at times, but honestly they've aged no more badly than movies from when I was in high school, and everyone in Hollywood was convinced in the future, we'd all dress like rejects from a NIN-ripoff.
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From:corwinok
Date:April 7th, 2008 03:16 am (UTC)
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I have to say, this is the best eulogy for Charlton Heston I've seen. Well said, sir, well said.
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From:happydog
Date:April 7th, 2008 04:36 am (UTC)
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Sure, these movies had all the subtlety of a hammer pounded into your cranium. But this was the 1970s, for God's sake!


Exactly right. And let's face it, Heston's Science Fiction films of the 70s were the gold - er...cubic zirconium standard. I mean, Sean Connery's Zardoz? Nah, not even in the ball park.
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From:gkingsley
Date:April 7th, 2008 02:28 pm (UTC)

RIP Chuck Heston

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Oh Moses, how we will miss you.

I was subjected to the same sort of family talks - except that I wasn't allowed to defend myself *at all*, and there was usually a bottle of Crown Royal getting demolished as I sat, trapped, listening to my many faults get played over and over in increasingly slurred tones. I used to wish fervently that my mother would just smack me and get it over with so I could go to bed.

And so, for a lot of the same reasons, I also adored Charlton Heston, Yul Brenner and movie stars of that style and generation, and still do. Manly, strong, stoic yet deeply emotional - lessons about manliness that I certainly lacked at home.

It drives the Imaginary Husband batshit when any of the Planet of the Apes movies are on, because I watch them - Every. Single. Time. And he just doesn't comprehend their brilliance. I don't try to convince him that they are anything but bad 70's club-to-the-head Message films disguised as bad science fiction (I just remind him that he loves "The Warriors," and that shuts him right up).

So I too will be lighting a candle for Chuck, and sending up a prayer that there's a shooting range in heaven, because I think he'd want it that way.
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From:suzieboz
Date:April 7th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
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The annual "Planet of the Apes Week" on the Channel 7 "4:30 Movie" was what I lived for

That thing is so nostalgic that its actually written up in the Film Snob book I have as something that you must have either partaken in or at least knew about but couldn't get the TV away from someone else.

Even though I have the boxed set, I still watch it on TV when it shows up (commercials and all and you know how I feel about commercials!)
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