April 21, 2007

Men Who Rage

If you play the audio from Alec Baldwin's voicemail tirade alongside the silent self-portraits of Seung Cho, you get a perfect match. It's a vivid depiction of the rage of men that explodes all over us day to day: the rage of manhood affronted.

I'm sure many can relate to the extreme emotions around divorce and custody battles, but Baldwin's language reveals his own fragile ego that defines his own manhood. He is self-centered and sees himself as the victim of his daughter, the 11 year old "rude little pig."

You have insulted me for the last time … You have humiliated me for the last time … I'm coming just to straighten you out … coming to let you know how...angry I am that you've done this to me … you've made me feel like shit, you've made me feel like a fool over and over again.

Seung Cho blamed the world for his crimes, too:
You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.

In his column this week, Bob Herbert quoted a former prison psychologist, turned NYU professor:
What I’ve concluded from decades of working with murderers and rapists and every kind of violent criminal, is that virtually always present, to one degree or another, is a feeling that one has to prove one’s manhood, and that the way to do that, to gain the respect that has been lost, is to commit a violent act.

This bald display of testoster-rage reminds me of the 1993 Joel Schumacher film, Falling Down, with Michael Douglas. That was the story of a conservative white man, laid-off and divorced, who responds to his really bad day by shooting and killing those who pique his ire in any way. He starts with the Korean grocer who refuses to give him change. George Will called it a "catharsis film," and the producer boasted that after one screening a mass show of anger erupted as incessant horns in a traffic jam, just like in the movie.

In '93, the angry white man was a cultural trend. Clinton had just taken over, and he brought his Congress with him. The people who were into Political Correctness had won, and that put the Conservatives up in arms. We were talking about militias back then, too, gun toting groups of men from Michigan, training for a showdown with overreaching Femi-nazi's.

Some things are similar now, like the decline of the Republican party and the failure of conservatism. If one's ideology totally fails, violence might be a normal reaction. Should we now be expecting a resurgence in testosterone-fueled rage? —You know, like this NASA guy.

ps - Manly danger from the archives - Ahab's Townhouse

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