Men will be boys - it's safer that way

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED

With the rate of male anorexia up and Tom Hanks wanting to be a child in an adult's body (Big) and finally managing it (Forrest Gump) and Macaulay Culkin an approved male role model and Kenneth Branagh flaunting tousled hair, all the better to be cute as well as classic, and the Western sperm count in freefall, the writing is on the playpen wall - in crayon, of course: the boys are back in town.

Cue Sabrina: Boys, boys, boys, boys. Boys like Brad Pitt, Christian Slater, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise,and Ethan Hawke, boys with different names but the same cupcake countenance: broad and open and, gosh, defenceless, with big, honest eyes, snub noses and full lips that idly promise sensitivity (actually self-absorption) rather than rugged sensuality, the stock-in- trade of such square-jawed "old" faces as Mel and Arnie and Sly - men's faces, mature faces, dinosaur faces being superseded by something that seems both unformed (how do you read a surface apparently unmarked by experience?) and ... fake. As well it might: this is, after all, the artificial face that 36-year-old Michael Jackson underwent several torturous surgeries to possess - imitation innocence via the knife and a denial of all the adult obligations a man was once traditionally supposed to tote.

Yet this isn't a face in the crowd. It is the crowd. Take That, East 17, Boyzone, Boyz to Men (not to be confused with the gay delivery service), even Damon from Blur and Brett from Suede, mistakenly identified as androgynous darlings but actually boys who just wanna have fun, what with huge, lolling heads perched on almost pubescent bodies, and their determined laddish larkiness: Park Life! Let's all go on the swings!

Look, it's even happening on thefootball pitch, one of the few arenas left to aggressive masculinity outside of war and Friday night poker. Two words: Ryan Giggs. How his minders squealed when he had his curly locks shorn, obviously thinking that this traditional rite of passage into the adult world would alienate the fans. But no. Being a thing of beauty, Ryan is a boy for ever and now resembles a barely weaned baby skinhead - he comes to us not gung-ho but defanged, an adorable cuddle bunny, a figure forever stuck between Neverneverland (clock the cover of his see-Ryan-kick, see-Ryan-jump autobiography) and ... what?

Not manhood, whatever that is in the time of Loaded and Escape for Men (Escape from Men, surely?). That altered state used to rely upon entering the workplace and earning a wage: a man's work is never done and so on. No longer. The Eighties, shifts in labour patterns and post- feminism put paid to that; women are ascendant in education and employment, leaving men all dressed up with nowhere to go. Except to raves, wearing baggy outfits that resemble romper suits that went wrong in the wash and a baseball cap on backwards because Mummy wasn't there to put it on the right way round.

It's camouflage, sweetie. If you're an endangered species, it's wise to adopt a pleasing, protective, not to say helpless demeanour. And what could be more helpless than a boy, no matter his age? Check out Hugh Grant (32), all bumbling sweetness in Four Weddings and a Funeral - the shy public schoolboy as sex symbol, shocked by the fact that his beloved has slept with 30-plus partners. Or you might prefer the class cut-up, an attention-seeker la Jim Carrey, a hyperactive ankle-biter roaming the planet in a 31-year-old body, making puns, making faces, making Pee Wee Herman seem as butch as Sean Connery. Or maybe a tough kid? A Marky Mark, or an entire band, say, MN8, who claim that they've "Got a Little Something for You" ... and make a big fuss about it, grabbing their crotches and wiggling their butts, as if they had that very morning just discovered their penises, which may be the truth. Which might also explain the recent outbreak of male nudity (peruse La Reine Margot, Color of Night, Les Parents Terribles et al); you know how little boys are about showing off their little somethings.

Of course, it had to happen. After the New Man and the Lad, Boy is only logical - a combination of luxury purchase (he's not a basic essential) and puppy (like a dog, you'll be keeping him - figuratively and possibly literally). It's the Nineties and Boy knows his best chance of survival is to be a good-looking consumer item you want to cuddle. You can spend endless nights discovering his inner child, safe in the belief that you have finally found someone who really needs you.

And he really, really does. You're the person who gives him permission to be irresponsible. A man might make a stab at accountability, but a boy isn't expected to, is he? A boy would be stunned if you even suggested it. Nearly as stunned as the Menendez brothers were at their trial for the cold-blooded murder of their parents. Referred to as "the boys" throughout ("the boys" are in their mid-twenties), Erik and Lyle couldn't quite grasp that the law saw them as grown-ups, even if they saw themselves as well below the age of majority. OK, they'd been naughty, right, but c'mon: they were boys, weren't they? Everyone knows boys can't help being bad.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

    £60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

    AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

    £600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

    E-Commerce Developer

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice