American men aren't tough enough for Hollywood

by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Wednesday, April 6, 2011, at 3:30 pm

If you're looking for a man to be cast as the lead role in an action-packed Hollywood thriller don't expect him to be an American, says Amanda Fortini. Because Americans raise weak and wimpy men Hollywood producers have no other choice than to look for Europeans or Australians.

In a recent Details Magazine article titled, "Why All of Hollywood's Toughest Stars Wear Stilettos," Fortini says:

"For years we've been on first-name terms with our male action stars: Sly. Bruce. Jean-Claude. Ah-nold. But until recently, you could count the memorable female action heroes in mainstream American movies on one hand: Sigourney Weaver as the smart, self-possessed Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise; Linda Hamilton as the reluctant, super-buff Sarah Connor in Terminator 2; Uma Thurman as the barbarously vengeful Bride in Kill Bill: Volumes 1 and 2. Women were usually on the receiving end of the action-rescued, ogled, or swept off their feet-but now they're often the instigators. In addition to Hanna (Saoirse Ronan plays a teen assassin; Cate Blanchett, the agent trying to capture her), there's Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch, a hyper-stylized tale about a group of young women (Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, and Vanessa Hudgens) who must battle samurai and serpents to escape a mental hospital."

There was a time in Hollywood when women were swept away and rescued by strong leading American men. Those days are apparently over. Part of the explanation for why American women today dominate action hero roles is that in America women are simply tougher than men. Americans raise boys to be soft. Fortini highlights that "some blame squishy, effete American culture for the mysterious lack of plausibly masculine specimens." Movie producer Joseph Papsidera, who cast the last two Batman movies, says that "American men aren't men on the screen."

Moreover, "Kids are raised like veal," Pasidera says in the article, "chalking up the problem to excessive coddling." Fortini notes that Philip Noyce, the director of Salt, who's currently "looking for some masculine man" to cast in a new ABC pilot, says "the best candidates he's seen have been Australian." According to Noyce, Australians "grow up less protected and with the ability to express themselves physically in daily life, which makes them more in touch with their athleticism."

Wow. Is it that bad? Are the toughest "men" in America actually women? Or is that America's tough men do other things than become actors? Fortini concludes that the action hero movie, "notorious for its chauvinism has become an unlikely advertisement for feminism." Does Fortini have a point? I'm not sure how to explain the trend but it's true that we are much more likely to see an American man in a comedy movie acting like a buffoon than an action thriller cast in one of the tough roles now given to "tough guys" like Angelina Jolie.

Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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