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Author Topic: Newt Scamander--Fantastically Masculine?  (Read 708 times)

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Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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Newt Scamander--Fantastically Masculine?
« on: June 01, 2017, 07:44:06 PM »
This Youtube essay explores the unconventional masculinity of Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them.  It's essentially film criticism and/or literary discussion.  I found myself agreeing with pretty much everything the essayist put out there.  I'm wondering what my fellow E writers think about it (it's about 15 minutes long):

« Last Edit: June 01, 2017, 07:45:40 PM by HannibalBarca »

Offline Marduk

Re: Newt Scamander--Fantastically Masculine?
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2017, 08:03:06 PM »
Full disclosure to begin with: I've not seen Fantastic Beasts and, prior to this video, had no interest in it. I've certainly had my curiosity piqued though!

With that said, I agree with the fundamental spirit of this analysis - it is rather unusual and satisfying to see a softer form of masculinity portrayed in mass media and equally expected and disappointing to see mainstream media not embrace it - but I feel that McIntosh has, like many critics who interpret media through a progressive lens, made a CRUCIAL mistake in his analysis that while small greatly undercuts the utility and instructional capacity of his thesis.

Early on in the piece McIntosh cites society as having "been conditioned by Hollywood" to expect traditionally masculine uber-heroes. It's a very tiny but disastrous blip. The reality, as I see it, is that it was none of Hollywood, broader media or even socialization that conditioned humanity into expecting these things from men. We've only been socialized in the "human" sense for fifty thousand years at max and producing anything resembling art, in the modern sense, for ten thousand at best. Strange as it may seem to say it that's not nearly enough time to formulate and embed a compulsion as primordial as "what our gut, INSTINCTIVE expectations of men are." Our expectations of men, our understanding of what heroic masculinity - read as "best example of a man" - looks like were forged by billions of years of evolutionary bloodshed reaching back to our non-human, non-mammal ancestors. Hell, reaching back to our FISH ancestors. The reason people viscerally reject "non-Alpha heroes" in fiction is because animals have been rejecting non-Alphas as a survival mechanism since before dinosaurs went extinct. The reaction is visceral because the compulsion is visceral. It's an instinct. Truth be known? If it wasn't for the invention of agriculture and subsequent rise of civilization humanity would STILL be rejecting "soft masculinity" in a broader societal sense and via female sexual selection both. Advocacy for the validity of "soft masculinity" is, in a sense, the luxury of having torn ourselves out of the food chain and the evolutionary bloodsport that requires aggressive masculinty.

Now, does the fact that our understanding of masculinity is "pure and natural" absolve us of a responsibility to challenge regressive attitudes towards gender roles? Of course not. It INFORMS it. That's my fundamental problem with this thesis and - as someone with quite a bit of overlap with progressive moral philosophy - with many works put out by progressive analysts. Social constructionist perspectives are valuable and important but when applied as an axiomatic premise to issues where they're not completely valid compromise our ability to resolve that issue. As another example, take racism. If you interpret racism to, incorrectly, be a social construct then you may be able to treat the societal symptoms of racism but you will never resolve the underlying and primordial disease of racism; the evolutionary mechanism of familial nepotism having significantly less outlets in a modern world in which we're not beset by wolves at all times and our overclocked monkey brains frying due to it and extrapolating that instinct in a new way.

So... yeah... I hope that didn't get too abstract and pretentious! TL;DR: I like Jonathan McIntosh's thoughts on this and agree that the character of Scamandar is refreshing and cool but he's incorrect about the source of societies expectations of masculinity, in my view, and it's VERY important to be precise in identifying the causes of problems if you're going to solve those problems.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2017, 09:51:04 PM by Marduk »