It wasn’t too long ago when women squealed as they watched pretty boys like Rob Lowe, Tom Selleck and Tom Cruise peel off their shirts in front of the big and small screens. Posters of these bronzed men with perfectly coifed hair lined the bedroom walls of many teenage girls.
The dashing actors were magnets at the Box Office, and studio executives knew the secret to their money printing machine was finding more good looking men who exhibited chivalry and charisma.
But here we are today. Tony Soprano might be charismatic, but chivalrous? Fogetbout it.
Tony Soprano was crude, crass and coarse. He talked like a sailor and demeaned women like they were his servants.
It’s hard to imagine how women would have reacted if a shirtless Tony Soprano shared the big screen with Rob Lowe. Women would have squealed alright, but most likely in disgust as the 300-pound, flabby physique exposed his hairy chest.
As a writer for the New York Times, Anita Gates makes a living observing society and the roles people play. She believes television executives, who directly influence our opinions through their programming decisions, are partially to blame with the sudden infatuation of macho men. Gates has observed how a growing number of TV comedies are depicting men as rude, crude, sex-obsessed, self-absorbed and immature.
If you watch closely, you’ll see popular television programs, like “Rules of Engagement,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Two and a Half Men,” and the classic “Friends” all have a character who is remarkably similar to Tony Soprano. The men are self-assured to the point of egocentric, gregarious, emotionally shallow, and sexually driven. Some women could easily argue the men are sexually obsessed, yet they still love their favorite men on TV.
“Anyone who watches television regularly could get the impression that one of the two sexes on this planet is not only dimwitted and uncouth but darned proud of it,” Gates wrote in a New York Times television critique. “Maybe this glorification of the dumb started with the research. Men, as any pollster can tell you, do watch football — a contest in which, its fans point out, the best men really do win and it’s all about sheer ability, not politics or personality, at least during the game itself…. So what do the programming experts decide? Rather than developing or buying series that might appeal to those fascinations with ability, victory versus defeat or good versus evil, they give us shows about men watching football and wrestling. And doing little else. Now little boys across America want to grow up to be just like them.”
Think back to high school. These were characteristics exhibited by all of the popular jocks wearing those coveted letterman jackets.
They drove fast cars, strutted down the hallways, boasting of their conquests while they gave high-fives to their shorter underclassmen. No wonder they were dating the cheerleaders. These buff high school guys didn’t care what people thought. Perhaps women have always loved these macho men, until they got their hearts broken by one in high school.
28-year-old Jennifer Myers remembers the first guy she fell in love with at the tender age of 16. As Myers looks back today, she says her boyfriend treated her like crap. He called when it was convenient for him, meaning when he was drunk and horny, and he never showed any chivalry. She had to open her own door when she slipped into his red 1987 Pontiac Firebird. And he never gave her flowers. In her words, he was a “shallow 18-year-old prick” who only cared about satisfying his own sexual urges. Yet for some crazy reason, she couldn’t get enough of him day or night. In her typing class, she found herself writing him love letters.
“I don’t know where that guy is now, but I would imagine him working in a place like Wall Street,” Myers said. “He had so much testosterone in his six-foot frame it’s hard to imagine him working anywhere else but some competitive field where men eat other men for lunch.”
Myers, who is single living in Manhattan, hasn’t dated a man like that since college. But today, as a more refined and experienced woman, she wonders if she would fall for his slick moves at her current age.
“That’s a hard question,” she said, as she paused for what seemed like an eternity. The silence was broken with her probing herself with another question. “Would I want to be with a guy today who treated me like crap and didn’t care what people thought? No. Would I want to be with that macho man who bossed people around and didn’t take shit from anyone? Yes, every woman wants to feel like a man will fight for her honor, regardless of what political correctness teaches us.”
Myers believes it’s the take-no-prisoners approach that most women find attractive with macho men.
She says they exhibit confidence and strength that makes women feel like they are with a knight in shining armor. He might be emotionally unavailable underneath that steel armor, but Myers says most women have this underlying belief that they can change a man, and somehow make him better.
“I loved Tony Soprano. He was so vulnerable underneath that tough guy fixture,” Myers said. “I wanted to put my arms around him because he was just a big guy with emotional problems, trying to make it through life. He said what he wanted, even if it offended others. He might have killed people for revenge, but his family always knew they were safe and protected. And that home, it was a mansion. What woman wouldn’t want to live in a house like that? What woman wouldn’t want to feel protected?”
Maybe that’s why Tony Soprano didn’t die in the series finale. The show ended with Tony sitting in a diner with his family, ordering food from a waitress. He didn’t bother to wait for his daughter, Meadow, who was running late for dinner. No, classic Tony ordered French Fries, some of the unhealthiest food, while his daughter ran to the table. But Tony didn’t care. He lived in the moment, oblivious to another man who seemed to be watching his every move.
Then the television went black. Every one of the 12 million people watching that hot summer night wondered if their cable went out in the most climatic moment of television history. They wanted to know if Tony Soprano finally met his fate, or if he evaded death once again. Would the macho man live to see another day?
No one would ever know if Tony Soprano lived or died. It was a cruel joke on Soprano fans, but perhaps the show’s creators knew the world wasn’t ready to see the life of Tony Soprano end. He was like the cowboy from a black and white Western movie, riding off into the sunset with his damsel in distress behind him, clinging to his waist.
Maybe these macho men have always been around us, and we are only now becoming aware of their presence through the power of television. You have to assume the cave man didn’t care what women thought of their behavior, and if you doubt that observation, just turn on the cartoon, the Flintstones. Everyone loved Fred Flintstone, even if he did boss around his wife, Wilma and his best friend, Barney Rubble.