I begin my wholly ill-considered project of laying-out a cultural typology of men, the fit and the misfits alike, with the least palatable of subjects. Those of you who have been following along may already have inferred that there is a kind of American masculinity that is not to my taste. A more noble image will follow, I assure you, but there is no getting away from the ugliness that is, for want of a better description, American Macho.
American Macho carries his abundant girth like a badge of honour, and is clad in overlong chinos, a baseball cap and running shoes (never used for their express purpose). He may have biceps of considerable proportions, because fitness can be reduced to the power of the arm. He shouts before thinking, but perhaps never thinks. He is the one bawling ‘You’re the man!’ at golf tournaments and letting off falsetto whoops at concerts, and he will be seen giving standing ovations for mediocrities, if not everything. He thanks God, publicly, when he wins a bowling tournament, or an eating contest, for this is God’s purview. American Macho is highly opinionated about all matters, but utterly uninformed; yet he will never concede a point. He has never travelled, and possibly does not have a passport; yet he claims to know how the world should best be run. He knows to the very fibre of his being that America is the best country on the planet, but he does not know why (for he knows no history, and has not been out of his own State). He will, nevertheless, fight you on this point. His politics are staunch, this way or that, but can be expressed only in the same terms as his love for his favourite baseball team. American Macho does not know how to cope with America’s new reality, and cannot see past his own back yard. American Macho blindly worships the flag, the greenback and the American way of life (which he defines as the freedom to be self-interested). American Macho is all these things, but he is also simply a jerk.
There, it is said. I suppose the image will please no one; it certainly does not please me. I propose no remedies for American Macho, for his antidote is American Manly, and we may trust that American Manly will prevail. But first we must describe the American man who sits between the two, and perhaps comprises the majority type. I shall return, therefore, with what will doubtless be an equally controversial description of Homo Americanus.
Single Image - Kilts in New England, 1971 - Photograph from our personal archives
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