I don’t know much about Charlie Brooker: I know he’s on TV in some capacity (but I haven’t had a TV for about five years), that he writes a column in the Guardian, that he co-wrote the desperately muddled, unfunny Nathan Barley with Chris Morris. People I rate seem to rate him so when I saw a photocopy of an article from Monday’s Guardian on a colleague's desk I picked it up and read it.
I was surprised by how trite it was.
I’m not going to start casting aspersions on the entirety of his output on the basis of one piece, but the essence of it was: men are eternally and immutably deluded little boys, only women attain any real maturity. Ladies, take over and save us by relegating us to the playpens where we belong (and where we secretly long to be) so we can sit around masturbating, whooping senselessly and smashing each other over the head with our toys.
There is of course sufficient ironic hyperbole to offer a get out clause, but the germ of what’s being riffed on remains the same: men just don’t grow up and need women to shepherd them. This facile, shame-faced pseudo-feminism is everywhere in the culture at the moment. Check out your local video store for Family Guy season seven or Role Models, or hey, pick up Platform by Houellebequ for that matter.
Men either remain a grotesque third child for the women to rebuke and teach lessons in “responsibility” to, or if they are capable of adulthood at all it’s only once they get into a domestic situation with a suitably forgiving (but also Hot and Smart!) wife/mother. Indeed, the deeply conservative gesture in ostensibly risky and outrageous films like “Knocked Up” is that maturity is exactly that: acceding to the inevitability of the family unit. But don’t worry guys you’ll still be able to like, act retarded and shit with your buddies at the weekend. Essentially what she actually digs in you anyway is your being a “boy”, she kind of disapproves but finally can’t help but laugh and love you for your irresponsibility ('cause really she’s too serious and career minded at the end of the day and you’re the perfect antidote when sometimes she needs to be reminded to laugh at herself a little), so you won’t have to change too much either.
Who is this version of being male supposed to serve? It hardly seems to serve women’s interests given that even in the most matriarchal societies ie Norway women still do a disproportionate amount of the housework and child care. Women, take over and then you can have the additional strain of looking after us men too, but don’t worry we’ll kind of grovel around abasing ourselves so you get to feel morally superior. But is it really in men’s interests either, a deliberate cleaving to some kind of half-life, an ontological stuntedness: we are and must always be little boys. Why read books and stuff (you know you don’t want to!) when you can sit around comparing hot actresses and playing practical jokes on your friends?
Being a man is ridiculous, being a father even more absurd. Be a helpmeet or a friend, be a partner, kow-tow to your wife and child at all times, don’t be disciplinarian, learn how to compromise, learn that you need to put other people first for a change. You always fuck up anyway. Just look at the world financial system, if women had run it, it would have been nice and fair and honest, women are the Good Daddy, the Real Daddy, women are what men could be if only they weren’t always boys, the system needs a women’s hand on the tiller: then it will REALLY work, really be an ETHICAL capitalism.
More than that, women are basically the Universal Parent, the figure whose love can always be relied upon, whose forgiveness is guaranteed, ( Nobomommy, maybe). Because just as we know that for example, women are sexually much more faithful than men and don’t have men’s nasty lusts and wildly roaming sexual fantasy life ( which makes them ethically better i.e. less likely to break up the family unit) so we know that basically they’re just not as competitive and ego driven as men and are much more into “collaborating” and “communicating” both of which are unequivocally good things and must produce beneficial societies. They’re just more level-headed than men and all that stuff about them being screaming, irrational hysterics who disrupt the settled order and unto whom one should take one’s whip was plain wrong. Women, specifically women in what might be called their Bourgeoisie Late Capitalist formulation are going to save us and we men can regress even further, from men without chests to kids without brains.
Of course Brooker wants it both ways, part of the sucking up to the Holy women by treasonously revealing the essence of men is the implication that our Charlie is the Holy (if not, you know, wholly) the exception. Ironically, at the foot of the page Charlie tells us not to be discouraged by the Loaded style cover to McMafia ( the book he got halfway through this week: well, he is a man!!!!) while dishing up a wittier form of archly Loaded content.
The knee-jerk response to my objections is to say, oh so you want the fierce Victorian Patriarch back do you? No. Oh so you want militant feminists kicking your door in every time you sneak a Jazz mag out from under the mattress? Neither.
But I am sick to death of this stuff.