The only male role model alternative to the image of the macho aggressive superhero in mainstream media is the “slacker” who shirks responsibility, according to a study by psychologist Sharon Lamb, of the University of Massachusetts.
In a presentation to an American Psychological Association (APA) meeting, Professor Lamb shared the results of her study of 674 boys from age four to 18 – a study to find out what they read and watched on TV and movies. Her team at the university then analyzed the different types of male role models the boys were exposed to, and found two main examples – the aggressive superhero and the slacker who does not even try.
According to her, the superheroes of the past showed a vulnerable, human side, allowing boys to see a “real people with real problems”, while nowadays, the macho, aggressive character is the norm.
“There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday. Today’s superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence; he’s aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity.
When not in superhero costume, these men exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns.” – Lamb
These hyper-masculine heroes leave some kids to choose the polar opposite: the slacker. The slacker is the ‘lovable loser’, the funny guy who’s going nowhere fast.
“Slackers are funny, but slackers are not what boys should strive to be; slackers don’t like school and they shirk responsibility. We wonder if the messages boys get about saving face through glorified slacking could be affecting their performance in school.”
So where do we go from here? Where are the alternative role models in mainstream media?
Wouldn’t it be awesome to see a strong male role model with authenticity, integrity, strength, compassion, and vulnerability? Too much to ask?
Image: Esparta at Flickr