There are many stellar events these days celebrating the empowerment of women, but I keep running into powerful women at these occasions who seem perplexed by the fragility of the male ego.
That’s understandable. A recent spate of films and books leaves you wondering whether it’s the guys who need the empowerment lunches rather than the girls.
Lena Dunham, age 26, just won five Emmy nominations for her series, “Girls.” Julia Louis-Dreyfus has a hit in “Veep.” Tina Fey’s “Bossypants,” is still a best seller. The moving tributes paid to the late Nora Ephron reminded us of her brilliant take on the war between the sexes.
By contrast, “Ted,” the hottest comedy around, features a guy talking to his teddy bear. Joel Stein’s hilarious new book, “Man Made,” focuses on the author’s “stupid quest for masculinity.” Morgan Spurlock’s latest doc “Mansome” depicts the pitiful state of metrosexuality. And, let’s face it, the protagonists of both “Dark Knight” and “Spider-Man” suffer from pathological insecurity, which is unseemly for superheroes.
Little wonder that powerful women have become disdainful of powerless guys. Dunham seems so secure in her craft that while she is intimidatingly successful as a professional, the TV character she created for herself is a total loser. Plus she’s uninhibited about putting her naked, pear-shaped body on display almost every week. Not surprisingly, all the male characters on her show are even bigger losers, most with onanistic fetishes.
In his book, Stein (who writes a column for Time) confesses his own insecurity about his ability to raise his little boy. Stein acknowledges that when he was a kid he listened to showtunes, designed stained-glass ornaments and rarely ventured outside. As a result, he worries that his own kid may be destined to be “a disappointed contestant on ‘Antiques Roadshow.’?”
To buttress his qualifications for parenthood, Stein decided to create some true tests of masculinity. Thus he trained with a football team, volunteered with fire fighters, went deer hunting, drove a Lamborghini and even went a couple of rounds with a martial arts pro — an exercise that left him feeling like he’d “had rough sex with two male lions who lined their den with Brillo pads.”
Stein was prepared to do even more — riding with the Hells Angels, joining a drug gang, getting waterboarded — but his wife talked him out of it.
Spurlock, who made his reputation by overeating (“Super Size Me”) probes male insecurities in “Mansome,” which co-stars his aggressively hetero executive producers, Jason Bateman and Will Arnett. The guys hang out in a spa, sample a wide range of grooming and anti-aging products and otherwise display manifestations of metrosexual panic. Their semi-desperate actions underscore why “manscaping,” in all of its iterations, has become a billion-dollar industry.
Reviewing all this, it’s little wonder that some women are asking serious questions about their male counterparts. Sure, vastly more men than women are still becoming film directors or corporate CEOs, but the gap is narrowing. More women than men are now entering law schools (though that may be a step backward).
OK, I’ll lay it on the line: There are clearly more competent, self-reliant and intensely busy women around than men. That’s one reason why the guys have all this time to write wimpy books.
Column Calendar: Monday: Peter Bart Tuesday: Cynthia Littleton wednesday: Brian Lowry Thursday: Andrew Barker/David S. Cohen Friday: Tim Gray/Ted Johnson