Monday, February 12, 2007

Finer things lost on American Visigoths?

Steve Sailer recently highlighted commentary from one of his readers, who'd been ruminating on the coarseness of America's favorite male activities:
A big example of this is dance. I have been involved in ballroom dancing for a couple of years and, at the top, the male ranks are completely dominated by Russians. In Soviet times, playing chess, dancing ballet, doing gymnastics were not seen as gay at all. So, parents make sure that their sons (and daughters) learn to dance and sing and appreciate the finer things.

I think the difference is class. In Europe, opera, ballet, waltz, etc are markers for the upper class. If your son studies ballet, that signals that you are wealthy and cultured. In contrast, in America, we don't have class markers of that type. What seems upper class there seems soft and effeminate here. Americans strive for middle class (albeit, comfortably upper middle class) and there is then no place for opera or ballet. Football is a proper middle class activity for a boy. Ballet may be a good thing for a young aristocrat, but in America, there is no aristocracy. If your son studies ballet in America, that signals that you are trying to "turn him gay" or that something isn't quite right.
Maybe. The ascension of a virulently anti-homosexual hip-hop culture and dysgenic demographic trends are not helping.

But another major difference between Americans and our European brethren is the stateside appreciation of and respect for money-making, and the competition that drives it. As much as waltzing is antithetical to sufficient masculinity in the American man, a fat paycheck is the essence of it. Virtually all of the 'finer' European pursuits the reader refers to are financial deadends. They are expensive and time-consuming without offering much recompense, financially or socially.

There are upper class status markers in the US that are, while relegated mostly to an elevated elite, not viewed as being sexually suspect. Many are in the financial arena--self-directed equity and fund trading, real-estate speculation, activity in the futures markets. Others, like daytime golfing (in additon to aiding in career advancement), have a competitive element to them that the 'finer' European pursuits lack. Opera and ballet aren't interactive. Even the most stupefying of American male pastimes--watching sports on TV--involves the speculation and sparring of the fantasy leagues and weekly work pools.

I think Steve's reading too literally into the 'that's gay' phenomenon:
In the distant past, a man who dressed stylishly and enjoyed art, theater, and sophisticated music would have been praised as a "gentleman," but today his sexual orientation is automatically called into question. The average person's "gaydar" has become so sensitive that a long list of traits associated with civilized living are now assumed to be prima facie evidence of homosexuality.
Among Gen Yers, these stuffy pursuits are bemusing and again, boring. It's not that they're on an intellectual plane that most teens and twenty-seomthings cannot reach. It's that few would ever voluntarily choose these 'finer' activities, and they've consequently become the pursuits of social pariahs. The contemporary use of the word "gay" is usually synonymous with the word "undesirable", not the word "homosexual".

Their abandonment does not necessarily signal an abdication of civilization, or a refusal to relish the pleasures it brings. To the contrary, the truly epic narrative that is the Warcraft universe renders The Marriage of Figaro or King Lear shallow and simplistic by comparison.

The phenomenal Final Fantasy series constantly features moralistic interplay and character interaction with so many nuances and subtleties that A Tale of Two Cities appears drearily straightforward. The heroic characters the player controls are considerably less masculine--with males often appearing androgynous to the untrained eye--than the average Joe. But the titles are firmly in the masculine mainstream.

What about historical recreations? Want a fictional representation based loosely on the rise and fall of the Third Reich? Squaresoft was there more than a decade ago, with the tale of an Empire taken from the old Kaiser and handed over to an egomaniacal soldier who builds a cult-of-personality that makes him the most powerful man in the world (your role essentially begins as a member of the underground irredentists in lands that are falling to the Empire--a sort of budding French Resistance). Of course, you might instead choose to pick up a title that explicitly engrosses you in WWII.

Chess is okay, but most of a Yers' cohorts get a lot more excited about the C&C III, which, like chess, is a game contingent entirely upon making one's own moves and responding to those of an opponent, but surpasses the old board game in strategic complexity within the first five minutes.

These activities are not scoffed at as belonging to the realm of faggy-ness. The arts aren't dead, they've just moved into the virtual world. And in many ways they've become a lot more cognitively demanding.

The old high arts are antiquated. They're not interactive or competitive, and are time-consuming and disparate (Dragon Warrior VIII, for example, features a world-class score performed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, a fantastic moral war, a glut of religious criticisms that'd make Shaekspeare blush, and a battle system to be mastered all-in-one). Today's creative geniuses have left the theatres and the music halls and have re-located to studios in Redwood City and Tokyo.

I'm glad. Broadway puts me to sleep.


daveg said...

This was an interesting post.

Anonymous said...

One good reason to learn how to dance and cook and have an appreciation of art is not to make any money but because women like it. Knowing some of that stuff is like money in the bank. I don't particularly like ballet or most plays, but lots of women seem to. So you have to sit thorugh Swan Lake. Its not going to kill you. Many theatres have bars in them nowadays, the Met too. How else do you think I got through the Ring Cycle? If there is no bar, a tasteful flask tucked into your sports jacket can take the edge off those arias.
Stuff like art, museums, plays, dance is essential so that you can show you really have a "sensitive" side. Yeah, you like video games and football, but you you are also a bit on an intellectual. If you can talk about art and theatre, that is great too. So don't learn this stuff to enrich yourself, do it for the play you'll get.

crush41 said...

Hehe, that's some fitting pragmatic advice. I'd rather earn my intellectual stripes through taking what I read online and bantering it about on long walks in parks. Too bad it doesn't always work out that way. And living in the center of the country doesn't help--nothing comparable to the Met for hundreds of miles.

Anonymous said...

It doeasn't matter where you live. Just about every city has a college or university or some sort of small theatre. That kind of stuff is all over the place. Most have museums too. Ballroom dancing classes can be had at just about anywhere. You can even use the fact that you have no major cultural institutions in your area to your advantage (which I doubt you don't, but then again, I don't know where you live, somewhere in the MidWest is the best I can do. By the way, I consider colleges and universities "major". Most have great museums or collections of one kind or another). Just say that you appreciate the smaller venues more because they allow you to get close up the real "theatre experience" and it is more "intensive" and "authentic" than the Met or whatever. You're obviously no idiot. I am sure you can do better than that, and I just dreamed that up at work. But long walks in the park are a real good move too. Take babes hiking too, just be sure to learn about some of the flora and fauna in the area, geologic history, that you can be knowledgeable(I happen to like that kind of nature stuff for its own sake, so it isn't a bother for me).

Anonymous said...

Hate to break it to you, but in my social circles, Final Fantasy and Warcraft are considered not a little 'faggy.' And my friends are generally intelligent, ultracompetative, or both (bankers, traders, and Ivy grads, for the most part).

crush41 said...

I'm in the KC metro area. We have the Nelson Atkins Art Museum, and Lawrence (home to the University of Kansas) has several neat museums.

I'm more partial to the wildlife, especially the birds. I'll work on the still-life though!