Men will be boys - it's safer that way
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED
Friday 03 March 1995
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trade of such square-jawed "old" faces as Mel and Arnie and Sly - men's faces, mature faces, dinosaur faces being superseded by something that seems both unformed (how do you read a surface apparently unmarked by experience?)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.
Life & Style blogs
Alexander McQueen at auction: What makes a really great piece of fashion?
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
No female ejaculation, please, we’re British: a history of porn and censorship
Stressed nurses are 'forced to choose between health of patients and their own'
Pornhub: Kim Kardashian's sex tape is the most-watched porn video of all-time
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...