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Does Kevin Jennings Believe Sonny Corleone Embodies Western Ideal of Masculinity?

Commenting to my post expressing my determination to read Kevin Jennings’s published books to see if he really advocates “a radical revisioning of school curricula to fit his ideological agenda,” one reader offered “Including ‘LGBT themes’ in school curriculum is hardly radical.”  I responded that “it all depends on how those themes are introduced.

If he subscribes to the politically correct nostrums that define much of gay discourse today, then his advocacy would indeed be radical.  And now a blogger has unearthed a 1998 essay Jennings wrote that strongly suggests he does indeed subscribe to such nostrums, having such a twisted idea of the Western idea of masculinity that he must have stopped reading the Iliad at line 228 of its first book (if he ever got to the book at all).  Or never studied why Herakles had to undertake his celebrated twelve labors.

You see, Jennings seems to believe that an adolescent older brother was capable of “passing down the code of masculinity he’d been taught

We need to own up to the fact that our culture teaches boys that being “a man” is the most important thing in life, even if you have to kill someone to prove it. Killing someone who calls you a faggot is not aberrant behavior but merely the most extreme expression of a belief that is beaten (sometimes literally) into boys at an early age in this country: Be a man—don’t be a faggot.

No, Kevin, it’s not.  When you think it’s not “aberrant behavior” to kill someone who calls you names, you miss the whole point of Western masculinity.  The lesson which the Greek heroes needed learn (many of whom through the actions and words of the goddess Athena) is not to react with disproportionate force, but to react in just measure.  At the outset the Iliad, Achilles, filled with youthful braggadocio (likely similar to that of Jennings’s brother) draws his sword to strike Agamemnon dead in outrage at the disrespect the Mycenaen King showed him.  But, the owl-eyed goddess sweeps down from the heavens in order to restrain him.

To become a man and realize his destiny, a hero must learn to restrain his battle fury, channeling it into just causes.  And that is the essence of Western masculinity.  A frenzied reaction (like that of Achilles before Athena’s intervention is the antithesis of the Western ideal.)

Perhaps, we should not fault Jennings for his ignorance.  Bereft of myth, as all too many of us have been since the educational reforms of the 1960s and 1970s, we have, in large measure, lost sight of the Western ideal of masculinity, aggresssive action tempered by concern for its consequences.  And the answer to that loss is not more politically correct mumbo jumbo, but a restoration of the classics to their proper place in school curricula.

But, he might get a glimpse of it if he focused less on the violence in many Americans films and more on how that violence is expressed.  The unrestrained passion of Sonny Corleone (James Caan) seals his doom, while the more calculated schemes of his brother Michael (Al Pacino) secure his success. The Godfather may not be the best example to make my point, but it does show that, even in this aspect of the American imagination, the American notion of masculinity does not countenance a mindless, frenzied reaction to a taunt.

If Mr. Jennings did not have such a jaundiced view of his own national culture, he might better understand that.

(H/t Gateway Pundit)

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25 Comments

  1. Jennings had his nose buried in Testakles.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — October 13, 2009 @ 2:15 am - October 13, 2009

  2. At least Jennings got one thing right, I don’t want to be a faggot, why would I want to be a bundle of sticks?

    Comment by Young Padawan — October 13, 2009 @ 2:22 am - October 13, 2009

  3. [Jennings] We need to own up to the fact that our culture teaches boys that being “a man” is the most important thing in life, even if you have to kill someone to prove it.

    To me, that sounds like yet another instance of demented left-wing projection. Certain American subcultures may (may) teach such machismo; and they happen to be subcultures glorified by left-wingers, e.g., gang culture (as it exists among various ethnic groups that leftists glorify and/or seek support from). It was certainly not what I was taught.

    I was taught that honesty and integrity are the most important things in life; the things that make you human and thus (if male) “a man”.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — October 13, 2009 @ 2:38 am - October 13, 2009

  4. Awesome post.

    It’s not the idiot who taunts kids with slurs or bullies kids on the playground who represents Western manhood, it’s the boy (or girl) who stands up for those kids.

    If I can suggest an alternative film that makes the point…Shane. The American ideal has always been a man who defends those in need, even at great personal cost.

    Comment by John — October 13, 2009 @ 2:53 am - October 13, 2009

  5. John, I agree. Shane embodies the American ideal of manhood; that hero understands restraint, but recognizes that violence is often necessary to secure justice.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — October 13, 2009 @ 3:10 am - October 13, 2009

  6. …if it’s acceptable to kill someone who offends my honor by calling me a ‘faggot’, what about those who call me a ‘teabagger’? Is Jennings behind me killing them, too?
    What about “Reichwinger’? ‘rethuglican’? ‘chickenhawk’? ‘racist’? ‘breeder’?

    Comment by DaveP. — October 13, 2009 @ 5:45 am - October 13, 2009

  7. Not Gay, but read your blog regulary. The idea to kill to be come a man is beyond comperhension. I wouunder if there is a bigger picture. Holder will not prosecute the new black panthers. If the Muslims immigrating here and the American black panthers join with the splinter groups such as street gangs and new black panthers and others, they could become a formidable force. Don’t know, just an observation.

    Comment by James Mercer — October 13, 2009 @ 7:04 am - October 13, 2009

  8. Although it never happened to me in my family, and for you Dan, it may not have happened to you, but I am familiar with personal stories of young boys being ‘beaten’ into becoming straight by parents and family members. Youth have often been belittled for effeminate affect, girly notions and even for showing emotions ‘big boys don’t cry’.

    I think from this short passage, Jennings is just relating the fact that boys were taught to -man up- through beatings and to beat up on folk.
    Boys taunted about being a fag were told to beat up the bully.

    I really don’t think Jennings is advocating violence, but rather expressing an idea of what some gay folk have had to endur, just to fit in.

    you know, resistance is futile.

    Comment by rusty — October 13, 2009 @ 8:18 am - October 13, 2009

  9. #6
    You clearly misunderstand the quote. Jennings is not advocating that position, he is stating the logic that is imposed on many of most of our youth.

    I find Dan’s points to be absurd. Jennings is talking about what real kids in the real world are exposed to, not what the lessons found in Greek classics are. And Jennings is obviously correct, except maybe for certain elite circles where some of you apparantly were raised. I know in my neighborhood, when I was growing up in the fifties and sixties, the climate was exactly as Jennings describes. I didn’t read Homer till high school.

    And there was nothing “left wing” about the environment I grew up in, to the contrary – more Archie Bunker right wing world.

    Comment by Tano — October 13, 2009 @ 9:29 am - October 13, 2009

  10. this post is so weird. maybe because i don’t see the relevance of “classics” to modern understandings of masculinity. and your point about restoring classics to school curriculum is just plain silly.

    beyond that, i think you miss jennings’ point. i don’t think he’s expressing a personal opinion when he states that killing someone in retaliation for being called a faggot is aberrant. in the context of the whole article, he’s talking about how extreme forms of violence have become normalized by their frequency. this article should also be read in the context of the time in which it was written; in spring of 1998, there was a series of school shootings (e.g. columbine) committed by bullied students. far from aberrant or isolated, these shootings were practically en vogue.

    Comment by Chad — October 13, 2009 @ 11:13 am - October 13, 2009

  11. In the linked BGLAD article, Jennings writes:

    “Real men” don’t show their feelings, and those men who do are faggots—which is the last thing any real man would want to be. It’s a lesson I have spent nearly three decades trying to unlearn.

    This tells me three things:
    1) Yes, Jennings has subscribed that jaundiced view of culture.
    2) He realized it is wrong, and has tried to self-correct.
    3) His experience of our culture is much the same as mine was when I was very young.

    To another point from your post:

    You see, Jennings seems to believe that an adolescent older brother was capable of “passing down the code of masculinity he’d been taught“

    Why would an older brother be incapable of passing along such a thing?

    Have you been reading other material from Jennings which reveals what he thinks of the western masculine ideal?

    Comment by DRH — October 13, 2009 @ 12:29 pm - October 13, 2009

  12. And Jennings is obviously correct, except maybe for certain elite circles where some of you apparantly were raised.

    Actually, no. Jennings is correct in the sense of fellow indoctrinated gay leftists, who were all taught that maleness was evil, that men were inherently violent and awful, that the male gender identity was the source of all of society’s problems, and that men need to be “put in their place”.

    GPW is absolutely correct. The Western masculine ideal is of strength and power tempered with the strong sense of responsibility. In the Bible, even as it tells wives to be subject to their husbands, it makes it clear that husbands should love their wives as Christ did the church — which means they should willingly die in their place — and as they do their own body, cherishing and nourishing it.

    As for “elite”, I would hardly call my childhood that. However, my parents and community did make their values clear and did hold people responsible, which tends to do wonders for managing out-of-control behavior. Apparently that was beyond the liberal enclaves in which Tano was raised.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — October 13, 2009 @ 12:30 pm - October 13, 2009

  13. It seems you may have missed Jenning’s point completely. Or you are intentionally trying to distort the point he was trying to make.

    Comment by Mark L — October 13, 2009 @ 12:39 pm - October 13, 2009

  14. I wish more gay men were masculine in the sense you describe, like Shane, say. While not exclusively male attributes, I wish more gay men idealized responsibility, maturity, integrity, responsibility, loyalty, and all those things we see on Bonanza. I dislike the gay subculture for its shallowness and amorality–if there were ghettoes and parades of men who were loyal, strong, brave, and mature, I’d buy a condo there.

    I wish more gays were attracted to MEN.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — October 13, 2009 @ 12:56 pm - October 13, 2009

  15. A lot of us were picked on for “not being man enough”. But it doesn’t mean I think killing gay people is NOT aberrant. Of course it is.

    Some people get the wrong idea that being assertive means to be a jerk. Its why “nice guys” think women want jerks, they don’t want jerks, they just want assertive men who don’t act like boys.

    Some guys become adults and never learn that, and think the world is full of unfair bullies who get rewarded for being mean.

    Sounds like Jennings has a lot of pent up issues, and is projecting them on the entire populace.

    I think he should go read No More Mr. Nice guy by Robert Glover. It’s for straight men, but it’s exactly what he is talking about, and something anyone who feels like him, like always victimized because you’re too nice or not a masculine stereotype, can really be helped by reading.

    Comment by plutosdad — October 13, 2009 @ 1:06 pm - October 13, 2009

  16. Mark L, what then is Jennings’s point? If I missed it, please point out the error in my analysis.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — October 13, 2009 @ 2:01 pm - October 13, 2009

  17. Mark, you can’t understand Daniel’s point unless you realize that some subgroup’s idea of masculinity is not the whole of Western Culture’s ideal… and, of course, that many of these subcultures and their representatives have been grotesquely stereotyped, such as the NRA (Charlton Heston was proudly present at King’s March on Washington) and John Wayne movies.

    Sticking to Hollywood, Jimmy Cagney was a Golden Gloves boxer and a dancer. Gentle Jimmy Stewart was a bomber pilot. Ronald Reagan opposed a no-gays-in-education law in 1976. Only in Kevin Jennings’ mad imagination do we forget these shining examples.

    BTW, Daniel, I’m looking you up on FB, if you don’t mind.

    Comment by Peter Buxton — October 13, 2009 @ 6:31 pm - October 13, 2009

  18. “The Bible” doesn’t tell wives to be subject to their husbands. Paul tells a specific group of wives in a specific context to be subject (whatever that means) to their husbands. This can serve as a divinely-inspired case study, but it’s not a law handed down from God. Paul also commends Phoebe as a deacon and Junia as an apostle, so, for Paul, the context is very important.

    The More You Know. . . .

    Comment by Ashpenaz — October 13, 2009 @ 6:45 pm - October 13, 2009

  19. Dan, I somewhat agree with you here. Sure, it is aberrant for one to kill another in retaliation for being bullied, called fagg&t, or whatever. But violence does sometime occur as a result. Sometimes it’s a measured response, sometimes not. And sometimes killing does result, as in Columbine. As well as a boy who rather have killed another boy, than live with any inference that he might be gay, because the boy he killed made a pass at him (which in turn, was in response to bullying).

    Most of us grew up with the values that you are talking about. But things are different at the schoolyard. We’ve all known schoolmates who were absolute pricks, but were as pleasant as pie when they meet your parents, etc. Somehow, despite our values, school ends up being what Jennings described, except to a lesser degree. And while some people were able to handle the bullies with measured responses, others just kept on getting their asses kicked, with increased humiliation. Some, like me, were weaklings that managed to avoid the bullies, probably by making subtle alliances.

    The question is, when becoming adults, which values won out. The one taught by your parents, or the one learned at the schoolyard.

    Ashpenaz, I thought Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe were cool gentlemen, but there was plenty of amorality and immorality on that show as well. The Cartwright’s had to deal with a lot of sh&t.

    Plutosdad, you make a good point. But I find it hard to believe that the women who do go after jerks preferred them because they were at least assertive. In fact, my observations have been that as soon as the nice guy showed any sign of assertiveness, it was back to the jerks. I think many times, it has to do more with wanting something that you can’t have. And no longer wanting something you are able to get.

    Comment by Pat — October 13, 2009 @ 7:06 pm - October 13, 2009

  20. Kevin Jennings conclusion regarding culture is awfully narrow and appears (to me) the result of his own nuclear family’s problem with his “gayness.” It seems to me that some of the conclusions that angry gay men draw from their personal experiences in their families lead them to false conclusions about everyone else (Society). If anger arises from too much testosterone, than who is being more of a “stupid man?” Thank you Dan for a more intelligent, more cogent presentation of the issues.

    Comment by killiteten - Native Intelligence — October 13, 2009 @ 9:33 pm - October 13, 2009

  21. There was amorality and immorality on the Ponderosa, but the Cartwrights were the moral compass for their community. Their understanding of masculinity was standing up for the right, the weak, the oppressed, etc. They valued truth, honor, integrity, and all those Boy Scout things. Could a gay group be the moral compass of any community? Does the gay community foster anything like integrity, maturity, responsibility, inner strength, loyalty, self-reliance, and concern for the needs of the less fortunate?

    Comment by Ashpenaz — October 14, 2009 @ 1:19 am - October 14, 2009

  22. Ashpenaz, the Cartwrights seemed to be an oasis in the desert of immorality and amorality. And I don’t know about the gay community or any other community, but there are plenty of individuals, even gay persons, who do exhibit the attributes you listed. If your point is that this happens less often in the gay community, compared with others, perhaps. I’m not sure how to test such a claim.

    Comment by Pat — October 14, 2009 @ 7:09 am - October 14, 2009

  23. I just think that if Bonanza had been about 4 gay men sharing a ranch together, it would have been a slightly different show. And they probably wouldn’t have been the moral center of a corrupt community.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — October 14, 2009 @ 1:56 pm - October 14, 2009

  24. Hey Miss Rita -NDT- Beads

    Here are some manly bears doing a little prayer for you. . .

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Lp3s4ygDw0

    Comment by rusty — October 14, 2009 @ 3:44 pm - October 14, 2009

  25. It certainly would have been different, Ashpenaz. I don’t think gays were positively portrayed in the 1960s on TV. And certainly times were different in the 1860s. It was probably a big step even then for the Cartwright’s to defend Native Americans and Jewish Americans (for just being Native American and Jewish). Anyway, Bonanza is a good show.

    Comment by Pat — October 14, 2009 @ 6:23 pm - October 14, 2009

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