‘Bear Grylls celebrates a masculinity that is useless.’ – Grayson Perry

I’m not sure this article by Grayson Perry doesn’t miss the point.

Mr. Grylls’ antics in the wilderness, remind me of Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan back in the day. Of course Tesco makes it unnecessary to eat scorpions, but that only adds to the frisson we feel when Bear tucks into bushtucker.

Once upon a time we were thrilled by a rubber crocodile being wrestled into submission, now we gawp at a guy eating insects and performing derring-do stunts. But unlike audiences of 80 years ago, today’s are treated to “infotainment” and a commentary.

Tarzan and the crocodile.jpg

We know you can do it, and it’s only rubber, but nevertheless – “go Tarzan go”

Part of the appeal here is in personifying and exemplifying masculine traits: a devil-may-care approach to risk and danger, physicality, violence, command, gangs, territory, whacking things with sticks, indomitability, tinkering, stiff upper lip, scratching one’s…etc. Though that’s not to claim these are exclusively masculine, it’s just that boys more often personify them.

I think anyone, Bear included, would struggle to express themselves on a housing estate in Skelmersdale (where Grayson met some lads), without landing in trouble.

no-ball-games

I’ve never known how to acknowledge and speak about the differences between the sexes without sounding sexist.  But perhaps it’s more interesting to grapple with how it could be OK for everyone to express themselves without stigma or prejudice whether that’s fighting a rubber croc’ (and getting paid considerably more than Jane), throwing a pot, or cross-dressing.
All three simultaneously; now that’d be TV worth watching.

Masculinity is explored in London next month at the annual Being A Man (BAM) festival.

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