by Lewis Manalo
Seeing as how you’re not one of those namby-pamby metrosexuals, waxing your eyebrows and fasting so your abs looked ripped like Jesus and you look like you ought to be in a Nautica ad, seeing as how you’re a real man, I’m assuming you haven’t lowered yourself to watching Jon and Kate Plus Eight on TLC. If you have, it’s because some broad managed to con you into giving her the remote control when there wasn’t any hockey or Ninja Warriors on, and I feel sorry for you having to live through that experience.
Jon and Kate Plus Eight is a reality show about this family where the parents first had twins, then had sextuplets. For Jon the show is about Kate hen-pecking him into submission until he treats her kids the way she wants them to be treated. With patronizing pats on the face and his wife saying “sometimes I forget how young he is,” Jon gets treated like the ninth child who just happens to be old enough to take care of the other children. Constantly interrupted in his on-camera interviews, Jon is the daddy who is the joke: one emasculated, little bitch for 4 million viewers who I hope to the gods are all women.
But as you’re not some noodle-armed poltroon, I’ll assume that you have seen Taken (2008, dir. Pierre Morel) starring Liam Neeson as ex-spy and all around badass Bryan Mills. I’ll assume that you already own this awesome flick on DVD, BluRay, or whatever newfangled tech you kids use. You already know that being Bryan Mills means being a highly-skilled, relentless, and ruthless eater of souls. But being Bryan also means being the guy who has no family life because he spent all his time protecting said family from the international bad men who go bump in the night. It means having his wife replace him with a pencil-necked, asexual businessman who’s very good at making money. Not being good at being rich, Bryan Mills has nothing to offer his family except for his capacity to do glorious violence to foreigners.
Can you see Bryan Mills with a set of twins and a set of sextuplets, hen-pecked into submission? Hell, no, but why else do you think he’s lost his family? Looking at these two extremes of this crappy reality TV show and this escapist, xenophobic action film highlights for us that there is no clear and satisfying role for men in the contemporary American family. A father can either be the family’s little bitch, like Jon Gosselin, basically being the second mother to Kate’s primary caretaker role, or he can be the über-provider, like the stepfather in Taken who gives teenage Kim a freakin’ horse for her birthday. (There ain’t no bitch-ass ponies for this girl.) The idealized Alpha Male, Bryan Mills, is excluded from family life and belittled until he’s inevitably needed to lift something heavy. I mean, kill.
With mothers in the workplace, the father no longer has a corner on the market of the role of traditional, primary provider. Plus, with all the science involved in getting Kate Gosselin pregnant, I’m not even sure how necessary Jon or any other husband is to the whole process of conception anymore. And now that she’s got her kids, where does he fit in? Does Kate even need Jon anymore? She’s got nannies out the wazoo. Tabloids already theorize that the couple is no longer together in real reality, and Kate speculates on her split from Jon on the cover of People Magazine. Pretty soon the show will be called Kate and Eight, Plus Jon on the Weekends.
In many societies, especially the Western ones, human beings no longer need two parents to raise their children. Women have taken over both the role of the father and the mother, and society has applauded them for it. Single mothers are praised. Guys, we’re just here to provide the sperm and to kill spiders. Is it any wonder that men don’t hang around in a family?
Plenty of statistics have provided correlations pointing to the great emotional harm that comes with being raised without a father, but is Oedipus — I mean, Junior — messed up just because he doesn’t have some man around to hate? What are the statistics on children who grow up screwed in the head because their father is around? Human beings are set apart from other animals in that they recognize paternity. Even those apes closest to us in the animal kingdom have no idea where babies come from. They know fucking, and they know babies; but they never caught on to any correlation. As late as the early Twentieth Century, Trobriand Islanders had no concept of paternity either. The result was something akin to free love and matriarchy. And not surprisingly, the kids were happily free of any Oedipal complex. (See Bertrand Russell’s Marriage and Morals.)
So what is the role of a man in today’s family if his wife has taken on the role of provider and he doesn’t want to be a second mother — or a little bitch? I think politicians like Eliot Spitzer and John Edwards can offer us the best examples of what men become under these circumstances. As “cheating” husbands they have garnered a lot of criticism from the press and religious groups. But who other than our politicians are supposed to be examples of American family values?
Let’s assume for a moment that when St. Paul wrote “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” and “it is better to marry than to burn” (I. Corinthians 7:1, 9) that he was wrong. Despite how these phrases from I Corinthians form the foundation of much of the sexual ethics of the Western world, it’s not that great a stretch of the imagination to assume that doing the hippity-dippity is a good thing.
If you’ve blocked out all the ethical traditions that have come to us from St. Paul, then there’s no superstition preventing you from deducing from the many “unfaithful” husbands in the media that humans are not monogamous. If you take a step further and look at the many American families where the mother is a working, independent woman, the logical train of thought concludes that there’s no economic reason to sustain the status quo of monogamy either. Why be faithful to the mother of your children if monogamy is not natural or necessary? She doesn’t need your money. You may or may not have a positive or negative effect on your kids’ lives whether you’re there or not. Love your wife? Great. Why not love another woman, too?
The role of men in today’s family? None, really. Relish that fact, fellahs. Society has provided men with a choice. You don’t have to be either Jon Gosselin or Bryan Mills. You can be Mel Gibson and bang Russian pop stars. If a man in America no longer has a clearly defined role in the family, I say he has no role other than to provide the seed. So go ahead, provide the seed for as many women as want it. Women don’t really need you for anything else (unless there’s some jar they can’t open). Want to be a good father? Teaching your football and your fart jokes, you’ll just get in the way. Women wanted liberation, and they got it.
And guys, they gave it to us, too. So grab a box of jimmy hats and hit the town. Unless you can kill like Bryan Mills, humping like a crazy monkey is the only thing you’re good for.