The Right Coast

March 03, 2006
Male Movie Stars
By Mike Rappaport

Kimberly Strassel, in the Wall Street Journal, writes:

This year I plan to conduct my own Academy Awards. And in my newly created category of "Best Red-Blooded Male," I regret to say that I can offer up only one nominee: King Kong.

Where have all the tough guys gone? Really, it's enough to make you cry--that is, if all our leading men weren't already doing it for me. From its earliest days Hollywood has had a glorious tradition of punch-throwing, gun-toting, testosterone-oozing leading men, and the world has loved every one of them. James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, Sly Stallone, Mel Gibson, these were men. Some were strong and silent, some artisans of broken noses and busted rib cages, some villains, some heroes. But there was no doubt that they had a reason to walk with bowed legs.

And today? These marvelous males have given way to a new generation of Hollywood consumptives, metrosexuals if you will, the most solid thing about whom are their perky cheekbones. Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Leo DiCaprio, Adrien Brody, Ashton (Ashton!) Kutcher. I make it a general rule to withhold my regard from any man I could bench-press on a feeble day, much less those who've never had need of a razor. If producers are wondering why box-office sales keep falling, they might consider that America wants something more from its men than pouty lips and foot-long eyelashes.

Where is the next generation of tough guys? They're out there. They just happen to go by the names Michelle Yeoh and Angelina Jolie. These are our new bad boys: cool, clever and deadly with a six-foot samurai sword. Still, call me a traditionalist; I like my heroes with facial hair, a deep voice and bulging biceps. Which is why, when it comes to this year's nominees for truly manly men, I'm sticking with the ape.
The last paragraph certainly captures something important. Hollywood may not be comfortable with strong men, but it loves strong women. If there is ever a fight between a beautiful, slender women, and a big strong guy, you know who is going to win: the women. I like to see beautiful women fight as much as the next guy -- well, maybe more than the next guy -- but this is ridiculous. At first, when reading Strassel's column I thought about a remake of Death Wish with a new metrosexual -- say, Adrian Brody -- in the Charles Bronson role. It doesn't quite work, does it. But then imagine it with a woman. Now, that seems to work under contemporary sensibilities. In fact, we have a sort of version, already: Thelma and Louise.