Saturday, June 25, 2005

Barbarians in Pink

When the French fashion industry speaks, the conservative commentariat of America takes notice. This article, defining the Fashion Group International's vision of the New Man of Europe and America, has earned "outrage of the day" status on most of the conservative blogs, online magazines and talk radio stations this week:

PARIS (AFP) - Macho man is an endangered species, with today's male more likely to opt for a pink flowered shirt and swingers' clubs than the traditional role as family super-hero, fashion industry insiders say.

A study along these lines led by French marketing and style consultants Nelly Rodi was unveiled to Fashion Group International during a seminar Tuesday on future strategy for the fashion industry in Europe.

"The masculine ideal is being completely modified. All the traditional male values of authority, infallibility, virility and strength are being completely overturned," said Pierre Francois Le Louet, the agency's managing director.

Instead today's males are turning more towards "creativity, sensitivity and multiplicity," as seen already in recent seasons on the catwalks of Paris and Milan.

Arnold Schwarznegger and Sylvester Stallone are being replaced by the 21st-century man who "no longer wants to be the family super-hero", but instead has the guts to be himself, to test his own limits.

"We are watching the birth of a hybrid man. ... Why not put on a pink-flowered shirt and try out a partner-swapping club?" asked Le Louet, stressing that the study had focused on men aged between 20 and 35.

Sociologists and other experts spent three months analyzing some 150 magazines and books and 146 Internet sites, as well as interviewing a dozen experts from Europe, the United States and China.

The traditional man still exists in China, Le Louet said, and "is not ready to go". But in Europe and the United States, a new species is emerging, apparently unafraid of anything.

"He is looking for a more radical affirmation of who he is, and wants to test out all the barbarity of modern life" including in the sexual domain, said Le Louet, adding that Reebok with its "I am what I am" campaign had perfectly tapped into this current trend.

This is all-too-easy fodder for culture war broadsides aimed at the ever-devolving wimpiness of European manhood, and the commentariat has not disappointed. Three of the top four Google hits for "Pierre Francois Le Louet" are from, RightNation.US and Here is a gem from a character named iluvfreebeer at

EuroPeon fagolas continue to push their agenda of feminizing men and turning them into sphincterfiles. Homosexual activists are quickly joining Islamofascists as the greatest threats to civilized society. I'm starting to think the Patriot Act should be ammended to cover these fanook dirtballs. As Archie Bunker once said so eloquently, "England is a f a g country." That goes for most of the rest of Euorope as well.

For a more enlightened analysis, Likeks takes a sensible and highly humorous view, as usual:

"We are watching the birth of a hybrid man. ... Why not put on a pink-flowered shirt and try out a partner-swapping club?" asked Le Louet.

Perhaps because you’ll look like a florist ad and contract the clap? There’s your modern lap: FTDs and STDs. I hate to break it to these theorists, but it does not take guts for a young man to want to have multiple sex partners. It takes guts to settle down and have a family and rein in the roaming libido.

Sociologists and other experts spent three months analyzing some 150 magazines and books and 146 Internet sites, as well as interviewing a dozen experts from Europe, the United States and China.
The population of China, the US and the EU is – what, almost two billion? Twelve experts. That’s a ratio of one expert per 150 million people.

The traditional man still exists in China, Le Louet said, and "is not ready to go". But in Europe and the United States, a new species is emerging, apparently unafraid of anything.

Except the Chinese man, who will kick his ass if they look at him the wrong way.

"He is looking for a more radical affirmation of who he is, and wants to test out all the barbarity of modern life" including in the sexual domain, said Le Louet, adding that Reebok with its "I am what I am" campaign had perfectly tapped into this current trend.

All the barbarity of modern life. Got it? Modern life is barbaric. The plucked and shaved and moussed and hair-dyed fellow flouncing down the walkway with the Patented Serious Model Scowl is ready for some barbarism. Like what? Black belt with brown shoes? I am what I am. It worked for Popeye, as an unapologetic expression of being a short squinty sailor who stood foresquare against Blutoism. Here it’s an excuse for being a selfish fop who, without family or any other civilizing instincts, never considers that he might end up in some Clockwork Orange world having his teeth kicked out by some hooligans dressed in the height of modern fashion, sampling that delicious barbarism.

But the search for new markets is also driving research to profile the new European consumer -- the theme of the debate held by Fashion Group, which unites some 6,000 fashion industry professionals.

The answer is not simple, as culture and changing demographics make it hard to pin down the typical European, especially with the growing population of elderly.

But even though society is changing, Jean-Pierre Fourcat, a director with consultants Sociovision specialising in discerning social trends, believes there are some common threads.

"There is an increasing desire for people to be in charge of their own lives, and an intolerance for any lack of autonomy," he told the debate.

All of which must take place within the construct of socialism, of course.

"We are also moving into a different situation. We no longer need what we are used to, rather we need what is new.”

Never heard that before. Aside from the Carnaby Street fashion revolution, the hippie look, the back-to-nature look, the disco-era styles, the broad-shoulder Izod look, grunge, and other attempts to shove down the public gullet a style that comes complete with a philosophical outlook, we’ve never heard that people want something new and different for their different new situation. Finally:

"We have to help people to create their own look. And we absolutely must help people to dream, and if we help people to dream perhaps the world will be a little bit better," he said.

The world will not be better because men wear their suspenders backwards The day I ask French fashion consultants to help me dream is the day I start drinking so much coffee I never fall asleep. To paraphrase Bart Simpson: Can’t sleep. Clowns will dress me.

Before gleefully jumping on the pigpile, lets put a little perspective on the significance of this article. This is a press release by a FASHION MARKETING FIRM, not a declaration of principles embedded in the EU Constitution! This is the sort of self-serving fawning over impressionable, narcissistic consumers that you would expect from fashion trendmakers. No need to raise the bulwarks against a concerted onslaught on our vital, manly fluids by the One World Government vanguard. As silly and preposterous as it is, a listen in at a brainstorming session at just about any major advertizing company in New York, London or Tokyo would yield a load of claptrap nearly as vacuous.

Having said that, there are real cultural issues at play here, although this New Man is nothing new. In America, it dates back first to the 1950's and Hugh Hefner's Playboy Philosophy. Hefner's "movement" was more about men ditching their responsibilities as husbands and familial providers in exchange for a worry free hedonism.

In the Seventies, this philosophy took a different twist with the Sensitive Male movement in the wake of Vietnam, the Woman's Movement and the Sexual Revolution. Men were expected to disavow their male competitiveness, their desire for social, sexual and political dominance as institutionalized in their roles as carreer climbers, soldiers and heads of families. In place of those archaic, patriarchal roles, they were invited to explore their "feminine side" through taking on roles as caregivers, expressing their pent-up "inner child" in encounter groups, and establishing caring, supportive partnerships with women as co-equals.

In America this new role for men began to break down in the late Eighties and early Nineties with the re-appraisal of post-Vietnam military defeatism following the Gulf War, and the realization by men and women that women really don't desire wimpy men.
Post 9/11, the Sensitive Male was decisively laid to rest in the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York. On that morning men who took responsibility for others like the firemen who rushed up the stairs of the burning towers, and men who agressively fought against those who preyed on the innocent, as the passengers who rushed the hijackers on Flight 93, earned a premium in society's eyes.

So what to make of this New Man, this Barbarian in Pink? Is he a new phenomenon or just a marketing play by greedy clothing firms trying to cash in on a fleeting trend? Probably a little of both. The rise of Responsibility Man after 9/11 was an unplanned and unwelcome setback for those who preferred the diminished social role for men. The radical Muslim upsurge was like a bloody gauntlet thrown in the face of a complacent, tame western society. The resurgence of American manhood in reply put the European male, who would rather opt out of the fight, in a bind. How can he project a dangerous, manly image to those who would doubt his manhood without actually changing his daily routine of unattached, uncommited hedonism?

The Urban Barbarian trend may very well provide a temporary ego boost to these reluctant males. It is a mask that can assuage his insecurities for a period of time, allowing him to put off the tough decisions for a later time, when his expanding paunch and balding scalp will no longer allow him to pull off the barbarian act with conviction. Hopefully America will have won the War on Terror by then, and made the fantasy of a peaceful world order viable again.

Which may answer the question why there are so few children being born in Europe. Without children, there is noone to ask the uncomfortable question "what did you do in the War, daddy?".

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Revenge of the Stupid

Don Feder unloads all phaser banks on George Lucas and his lefty ideology in his article for, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Stupid:

What can you say about a movie whose most engaging character is a two-foot tall, pointy-eared, green alien? "Star War III: The Revenge of the Sith" is heavy on special effects but sparse on drama, romance, and emotion.

It’s also filled with director George Lucas’s muddled thinking. And, yes, it’s science fiction in the service of Michael Moore’s worldview.


Let us then consider the film’s quasi-spiritual/political overtones.

What the heck is the Force, anyway? A New Agey invisible power "that binds the universe together," we were told way back in 1977. What of a Supreme Being, morality, the eternal battle 'twixt good and evil?

Apparently, ordinary people can’t wield the force (or connect with it – like, say, the God of the Bible?). The Force is the province of an elite (the Jedi or their counterpart, the Sith) who learn to control it – allowing them to bend minds, foretell the future, project a force field and defy gravity.

When Lucas tries to go beyond that, he’s caught in the quicksand of ideas – and quickly sinks below the surface. Apparently, the Force embraces both morality and moral relativism – self-defense and flower-child pacifism.

In his climatic battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin growls: "If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy." To this Obi-Wan sadly replies that "only a Sith Lord deals in absolutes." So the Jedi are relativists, who discern shades of grey where the less enlightened see black and white?

But then, so are the Sith. During his seduction of Skywalker, Chancellor Palpatine says Anakin needs to embrace the Dark Side of the Force, thus rejecting the "narrow, dogmatic" views of the Jedi, whose conception of the "good" is just a point of view.

Only an evil Sith Lord deals in absolutes, meaning there are no absolutes, right? (Is Obi-wan absolutely sure of that?) Then why do Ewan McGregor’s character and the other Jedi knights act as if they were operating in a moral universe – protecting the innocent, trying to stop a power-mad politician from destroying freedom, etc.?


The politics of "Episode III" could be called "Revenge of the Kerry Crowd." The film is anti-Bush polemic at its dumbest. It’s the war on terrorism viewed through a lens.

You don’t need the mind powers of a Jedi master to get what’s going on here. Newsweek’s movie reviewer David Ansen trills, "It’s hard not to feel that Lucas’s engagement with the story has a contemporary urgency, as line after pointed line invites us to see a parallel with today’s wartime climate."

The New York Times review by A.O. Scott contains the following: "’Revenge of the Sith’ is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, About how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean ideology undermines the rational exercise of power. Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders At one point, Darth Vader…echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, ‘If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy.’" This refers to Bush’s post-9/11 admonition to foreign leaders, "Either you’re with us, or you are with the terrorists." (Only Sith Republicans deal in absolutes.)

"Revenge of the Sith" combines pacifist cliches with leftist paranoia about a conspiracy that uses war to extinguish liberty.

Speaking of the Republic’s struggle with the rebellion, Padme ruefully comments, "This war represents a failure to listen" – the cry of the Dean Democrats. (If only they’d given sanctions a chance. Just imagine what Hans Blix and the UN weapons inspectors could have done to disarm General Grievous.)

But this begs the question: Listen to whom – about what? What was Osama bin-Laden trying to tell us that we failed to hear? (I want to kill you and annihilate your civilization, in the name of Allah, the most merciful.) What was Hitler trying to tell us? (I want living space. And I’ll kill anyone who gets in my way.) Khrushchev? (We will bury you.)


Blathering at the Cannes Film Festival (something celebrities do well), Lucas said he conceived the Star Wars saga in the early 1970s, when the Emperor Nixon threatened to extinguish the republic. (Actually, it was the Democrats who used Watergate as an excuse to usurp executive power.)

But, according to its creator, the Star Wars’ message just keeps getting more relevant – honest Jedi.

Lucas discovered that, like hack directors, history repeats itself. Lucas: "It tends to follow a similar patterns. Threats from outside leading to the need for more control; democracy not being able to function properly because of internal squabbling." (Aside: Try to imagine a democratic government without internal squabbling.)

When asked whether there were intentional parallels between the storyline of "Revenge of the Sith" and the Iraq war, Lucas replied" "When I wrote it, Iraq didn’t exist. We were funding Saddam Hussein and giving him weapons of mass destruction (light sabers? Death Stars?). We were going after Iran. But the parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we are doing in Iraq are unbelievable."

The only "unbelievable" parallels here are that Lucas opposed Vietnam and opposes Iraq. You see, going to war against thugs who are intent on subjugating on us represents "a failure to listen" and results in the death of liberty.

Actually those recurring patterns Lucas discerns are a bit more complicated. American liberty was forged in the fires of war. (Did the Revolutionary War represent a failure to listen to George III and the Tories?) The French Reign of Terror was less a response to a perceived threat from abroad, than a typical ideological attempt to establish utopia by eliminating unassimliable elements.

Nazism wasn’t the Weimar Republic’s reaction to an imagined foreign menace. The violence was internal. If the Republic had dealt with it by applying force against brown and red revolutionaries who were creating chaos in the streets, the Third Reich never would have happened.

The Cold War wasn’t an attempt by wicked anti-communists to use the perception of a foreign threat to diminish liberties. The threat – Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua and Soviet expansionism – was all too real. Over the past century, American freedom (control of our lives, income and property) has receded thanks to the advance of the welfare state – which Lucas and his Hollywood friends adore – and not due to war.

That about nails it right on the head. Star Wars was an amusing franchise when it was treated as traditional "Space Opera" escapism, with no need to draw historical parallels to our own time. As social and/or political commentary, it is as muddled, inane and stupid as they come.

Feder lists most of the major banalities, but one that he misses is the whole idea that Annikin is the "chosen one" who would bring "balance" to the Force. Now, if the Jedi have chosen the "light" side of the Force (although you never hear a Jedi name their side of it, only the other, "dark" side), then why would they want to bring balance to the Force? Wouldn't they want to destroy the dark side, and shift the balance to the light side?

Lucas, through his characters, is displaying the same kind of vacillation between moral dualism and relativism that has characterized the Left. At one moment they make a choice between right and wrong, and fight for their choice. At another moment they disclaim their choices through the language of "balance" and never dealing in "certainties". It is as if they cannot really describe what it is that they believe in or are willing to fight for, rather they blur their ultimate goal away using such comforting abstractions. When faced with a moral abomination like the Taliban, they are unable to either deny its evil, or justify any direct action in bringing about its downfall. They hate war so much that they would find a way to characterize totalitarian states oppressing their own people as being in a state of "peace".

It is fitting that Lucas would end his epic (in episode VI, the Return of the Jedi) not with Luke Skywalker killing Darth Vader, but by appealing to his humanity through an act of weakness and vulnerability. Apparently that is how we should have been dealing with Hitler and Hirohito and Saddam Hussein all along, by crawling up in the fetal position and calling out "father". By acting out in anger, we only feed the dark side of our own natures. I'd love to see George Lucas write an alternate history of the 20th century from his Jedi point of view. I'm sure that we could have saved ourselves a lot of pain and suffering.