On Being Macho
 
            Three recent film offerings shed light, in their own unique ways, on the perplexing issue of being macho in 2010.
            “MacGruber” is an awful film, difficult to sit through both on the level of awkward, juvenile humor, and the inescapable feeling that it’s one of those three-minute comedy skits expanded to 90 minutes on the big screen, which only magnifies its internal emptiness.  A retired secret operative, MacGruber (Will Forte) has become a man of peace, working with disadvantaged children.  But when his government needs him to once more become a man of violence, in order to save the world from the dastardly villain (Val Kilmer) determined to destroy Washington , D.C. , with a stolen nuke, MacGruber barely manages to recruit an inept team to stumble in the way enough to foil the evil plot.  But MacGruber has his scruples---he won’t use a gun.  Instead, he devises homemade explosives (some of which work better than others).  Yes, we’re making fun of every save-the-world movie ever made, but underneath all the joking about machismo posturing is the clarifying question of what, exactly, is genuine masculinity, anyway, and what is mere overwrought hubris, unbridled testosterone, or juvenile prurience?  It would seem that we live in a culture that has a difficult time making these distinctions.
            Even a cartoon movie for children, like “Shrek Forever After”, explores this theme for the adults who are trying to see past the bathroom humor and animated garrulousness of the animated series so popular that this is the fourth installment.  Shrek the Ogre (the voice of Mike Myers) has settled down into a cozy house in the woods with his beloved Fiona (the voice of Cameron Diaz), and visited regularly by his good friends Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas).  It seems so idyllic that Shrek gets restless.  Somewhere in the middle of changing diapers and the mind-numbing routine of daily providing for a family, he begins to miss his old “ogre” days, when he lived large and free, people were afraid of him, he terrorized whomever he wanted, and he couldn’t be tamed by anyone.  Since this is politically-correct 21st-century Hollywood , we can’t make a deal with the devil, because that would imply religion, so instead, we make a deal with the evil, magical Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn), that Shrek could go back to being an unattached ogre, just for a day.  And then as in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” he sadly discovers what life would be like without his good influences in it.  His children would never have been born, and Fiona is some kind of grim rebel warrior-princess, who doesn’t even know who he is.  Desperate to win back her affection, because the curse has to be lifted by true love’s kiss in a mere day, Shrek soon realizes that his “ogre” (read “macho”) self was not excluded by his family life, but rather, defined by it.  Of course, this is fantasy, and we get to have a happy ending.  But it’s also as simplistic a morality play as any fairy tale ever spun.
            “Sex And The City 2” would seem an odd vehicle for a similar morality play, since originally the whole point was supposed to be four young single women completely free to explore and express their sexuality in oh-so-cosmopolitan New York City .  Ah, but times have changed.  The four amigas, Carrie Bradshaw(Sarah Jessica Parker), Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon), and Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) are older now, and their lives are different.  Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda are all married, and Charlotte and Miranda are Moms now, worrying about crying babies, the sexual proclivities of young nannies, and droning televisions in the bedroom, and suddenly their complete freedom to be who they want to be, and to be with who they want to be with (read: macho women, or feministas) is seriously jeopardized.  They manage one last adventure, to Abu Dubai, no less, where they discover that their previously-stifling domesticity wasn’t really so bad, after all.  Along the way, of course, they manage to display a ridiculous amount of high fashion, and enthusiastically dance at a gay wedding that has nothing to do with the plot.  Though they hardly know how to have an action-adventure other than to ride a camel, they are at their best when they’re talking honestly and openly about their secret fears and disappointments (if the husband ran off with the nanny, she’d miss the nanny). 
But the silly social situations hardly seem “cutting edge” these days; they’re about as racy as, well, middle-aged Moms on vacation together. 
How to retain and nourish the inner macho, and still be in meaningful relationship?  Ah, that’s the nub, isn’t it?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas