Men on Chapel Street.

Even though I live quite close to Chapel Street in Melbourne, I try to avoid going there as it is not my scene at all.

The other night I ventured as far down as I’ve been in years, to Lucky Coq, on High Street, for drinks with a friend.

The outing reminded me of the last time I’d been that far down, which was back in 2008 for a uni project. Odd, I know, but stay with me.

One of my final units was a media subject entitled Men & Masculinities. I was hesitant to take on the course, but it was my final year and I’d already done all the good ones. Aside from my inept teacher, the unit was really fun, and some of the topics I studied have influenced me to this day.

The reason my study group and I trekked to Chapel Street was to examine the different types of masculinities we observed there. With the National Institute of Circus Arts and the multitude of gyms and boutiques located there, I was expecting to see a lot of buff, fashionable men concerned with their appearance. In short, I expected to see the “metrosexual” in his natural habitat.

After a bit of rummaging through my hard drive, and a quick Google search, I managed to find the articlean interview with Professor of English, Sociology & Women’s Studies at the University of California, Toby Miller, by Jenny Burton and Jinna Tayby which I used to establish some theories about men on Chapel Street.

Keep in mind that these observations were collected two years ago, and I have tried to keep my notes as close to the originals as possible (present day annotations in italics). A lot of the subject matter discussed then has entered our current vernacular; or at least, the vernacular of this here blog, and the ones I frequently read.

Metrosexuality.

“… The phenomenon of the new man, which tends to annex beauty to the wider theoretical works of fashion, with grooming making fleeting, untheorised appearances.”

That’s not so true anymore, as fashion and grooming are becoming as equally important to men who want to look good and take pride in their appearance. Even something as simple as shaving is classed as grooming, and most men we observed on Chapel Street were clean shaven, or at least were doing something different with their facial hair (such as “designer stubble” and goatees instead of a full beard). [Had it been November when the study was done, perhaps I would have seen some mo’s out there?]

“Is the metrosexual a middle- rather than working-class phenomenon?”

I think typically the metrosexual is viewed as upper- to middle-class, and we certainly did see men of these demographics whom you could call metrosexual. However, the working class (tradies, construction workers) could also be seen as metrosexual, because even though they were engaged in manual labour and had “hard” bodies [muscly; evidence of working out], they were still well-groomed and took pride in their appearance.

“Taking pleasure in one’s body, nurturing it, caring for it, protecting it from the elements and so on kind of loosens those old bonds of conventional masculinity, which forbade these behaviours for men and made them taboo.”

The theory here is that men taking pleasure in their bodies and wanting to look physically attractive, for example by going to the gym, is taboo. Do the men we see going to the gym look ashamed of, thereby succumbing to the taboo, or proud of, their hard or soft bodies? (Hard bodies at the gym; soft bodies in certain subcultures like emo, punk, grunge etc.) I wasn’t expecting to see men ashamed of their bodies, especially in a trendy, affluent place like Chapel Street. However, older, out of shape men were a bit more self-conscious than their younger, better-looking counterparts because they tended to look at the ground when they were walking and didn’t make eye contact as much as the more confident men.

“Given all the effort women make to look okay, it seems only fair that men should have to go through something approximating to that level.”

As we expected, there weren’t really any significantly out of shape, badly-groomed or badly-dressed people on Chapel Street. The women took great pride in their appearance, both in their body shapes as well as how they dressed and groomed themselves. This was echoed in the male population, who all were well-dressed, mostly in shape, and well-groomed. In that respect, it could be seen that men are taking a leaf out of the females species’ book.

“… I think it’s [metro sexuality] pretty peculiar to Australia.”

The typical Australian man is seen as a “blokey bloke” in footy shorts and a bluey, doing manual labour and playing sport recreationally. The younger generation of Australian men are challenging this stereotype by being well-dressed, well-groomed and having more unconventional jobs (according to the stereotype) like consulting, fashion, etc. There wasn’t a typical “blokey bloke” that I saw on Chapel Street; even the construction workers, who have the most “Australian” occupation, weren’t physically reflective of the stereotype. In terms of metrosexuality being unique to Australia, it’s true in that a lot of younger men are taking care of themselves, but false in the way that Australia isn’t the only country that has metrosexuals: the US does with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the abundance of men in the media who take pride in their appearance and endorse beauty and fashion products, like George Clooney endorsing watches, and Matthew Fox from Lost is the face of a new L’Oreal beauty range for men. I’m not so sure about the UK, because on one hand you’ve got really metrosexual men like Hugh Grant and Jude Law, but on the other there are quite scruffy men like Rhys Ifans, who was engaged to Sienna Miller, and the downright disgusting, like Pete Doherty.

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

“… One way to analyse Queer Eye [for the Straight Guy] is as a professionalisation of queerness; a form of management consultancy for conventional masculinity.”

This can be seen in some of the shops on Chapel Street (and Church Street). We saw gyms and health food stores selling protein shakes, etc. in clusters, as well as a beauty salon specifically for men on Church Street.

“… Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is actually about re-asserting, re-solidifying very conventional masculinity.”

Because it separates the “queer” guys, who are fashionable, neat, well groomed, from the “straight” guys, who are messy, unkempt, in need of “styling” by the “queer” guys. Men on Chapel Street challenged this idea. You could speculate about which men were straight and which men were gay, but the stereotypically “straight” ones weren’t messy or “blokey”. There were a lot of business men who needed to look tidy and well-groomed for their jobs, but there were also construction workers whom you would think were typically very masculine and therefore untidy, but even they were taking pride in their appearance, both in terms of their physically hard bodies as well as their grooming.

Sport.

“… While it’s still about toughness, sport is equally about beauty, with the NFL now marketing its players as sex symbols.”

While there weren’t really any “sports” men on Chapel Street (apart from the circus/dance performers), the masculinities we observed were as much about being physically attractive to attract a mate as they were about looking tough and hard-bodied.

Eating Disorders.

“… Clearly there are big problems with eating disorders and performance enhancing drugs amongst men… These are partly narcissistic, psychological worries to do with an image to the outside world in general… Male beauty consciousness is primarily a marketing creation… Do men use toiletries and cosmetics because advertising tells them to?”

There were a lot of advertisements on Chapel Street that would support this notion, specifically the ad in the window of a gym/health food store that promotes an unachievable body type for most men. There weren’t as many hard bodies as we expected to see, however the ones that we did see in no way reflected the extreme ideal that that specific advertisement promoted. The men who worked in fashion stores on Chapel Street succumbed to the ideal that that specific store promoted.

“… Eating disorders, insecurity about looks and image, men now being oppressed by the ‘beauty trap’ and so on, but for me this doesn’t allow for the possibility that this may also be a good thing for individual men and conventional masculinity, allowing men to indulge in some self nurture.”

The men on Chapel Street who were well-groomed obviously took pride in their appearance, and weren’t ashamed of the fact that they looked after themselves. The majority of men looked healthy, which therefore supports the claim that male grooming and “metrosexuality” (men taking care of themselves) is a good thing.

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” Episode.

Elsewhere: [Media Culture] Metrosexuality: What’s Happening to Masculinity?

[MamaMia] Male Models: Inside Their Straaaange World.

TV: What Once Was LOST, Now is Found?—Lost Finale

lost-eye

Last night was the television event of the year; the Lost finale.

And lo and behold, the theory most Losties held from the very beginning, that the island was some kind of purgatory, was semi-correct.

According to this article from Jezebel (because I need some outside sources to help me come to grips with the [trademark] confusion of the show), the sideways world we became familiar with this season was a “bardo”; a phase experienced by the deceased “between dying and rebirth” in Buddhism.

The article asserts that the sideways world was the bardo and the island the real world, however, it also states that Lost viewers can also draw their own conclusions. My conclusion is that the island was limbo, with Jacob and his brother acting as sort of archangels or guardians of the island to maintain the balance between good (the golden life force of the island) and evil (the smoke monster).

While Jack was initially chosen to replace Jacob as a guardian, he then passed the torch onto Hurley, whom I think is a much more fitting choice.

Hurley is then the new Jacob, and Ben his Richard, whom we see grow a grey hair and thus is able to move on and finally age.

Speaking of Ben, I never really bought him as the villain when he was introduced in season two as Kate, Jack and Sawyer’s hostage holder . He’s more like the misunderstood, not-so-bad guy; the one you love to hate. In the end, he was just a sad, “selfish and jealous” man who didn’t want to move on from the island, and now can’t.

Keeping in theme with the bardoa “place that the Losties had created to reconnect with each other after they had all died”all (and by all, I mean only the ones most relevant to the current plot) the Oceanic 815 passengers reunited, with Charlie, Jin, Sun, Sayid, Rose, Bernard, Libby, Shannon and Boone, and Juliet, Daniel Faraday, Charlotte and Penny all making appearances, in addition to Ana Lucia serving as police escort last week, and Frank found alive after the submarine blast.

The aforementioned Jezebel went full speed ahead with their Lost coverage in the lead up to the finale event, publishing an article on the top 10 already solved mysteries (Richard’s agelessness; the whispers of souls trapped on the island; the “donkey wheel” that Jacob’s brother built and Ben turned to move the island; the identity of Mocke/Smokey/whatever; Jacob’s “anointing” touch; the temple that housed the Kool-Aid that turned Sayid and Claire into zombies; the golden life-force of the island; the list that resided in Hurley’s guitar case; the “loophole” that protects twins Jacob and the Man in Black from killing each other, and their origins as twins), “10 questions to let go” of (Walt; Vincent the dog; Rose and Bernard; the creepazoid Other who tried to steal Claire’s baby, Ethan; Alex’s boyfriend Karl; the “food drops to the Hatch”; “Black Rock Journal”, which I, for the life of me, can’t remember in the show; the reason for Jack’s father Christian Shepherd’s numerous appearances on the island; and “why them?”) and “10 questions that must be answered” (what is Widmore’s deal?; why are all women doomed to miscarry if a child was conceived on the island; the statue at the foot of the island; Claire and Sayid’s zombie-esque transformations; “the sideways universe”; the revelation that the island was under water in the first episode of this season; who is Desmond?; who is Eloise Hawking?; what’s the go with “Jacob’s army”?; and the name of the Man in Black). Disappointingly, barely any of these mysteries were wrapped up in the finale. (Desmond, Vincent, Rose, Bernard, the reason for the parallel universe, why Hurley, the Kwon’s etc. were “chosen” and, surprisingly, Christian Shepherd’s role were the main arcs, with the rest going by the wayside.)

The willingness of most of the original cast, including Dominic Monaghan, Sonya Walger, Elizabeth Mitchelland Ian Somerhalder who were all working on other projects (albeit mostly flops; the ill-fated FlashForward and V, respectively, while Somerhalder’s Vampire Diaries enjoys more success), to return for the finale hints, perhaps, at a Lost movie to continue the saga. A much needed continuation of the saga, I might add.

In other news, the performances on the parts of Matthew Fox (Jack) and Terry O’Quinn (Locke), in particular, were stellar, and I loved how the focus was on the Darth vs. Luke, Lennon vs. McCartney, Lauren vs. Heidi-esque feud between those two characters as to what was best for the island and its inhabitants.

Also, the Jack/Sawyer/Kate love triangle was brought to a close, with Kate choosing Jack, and Sawyer pairing back up with Juliet. Kate was kickass in killing Mocke, whom I think was eliminated far too easily and early in the piece.

Ultimately, like any good series, it was as much about the bond between the characters and the “shared human experience” as it was about the hard-to-follow, unbelievable and sometimes downright convoluted plot points. But, all in all, while I liked the emotional aspects of the episode and the reunion of the Jack, Locke et al, especially with the disclosure of Christian and Desmond’s true purposes, I was very disappointed in the culmination, which I’m sure a lot of other Losties are too.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Lost Finale Recap: Case Closed.

[Jezebel] 10 Questions Lost Needs to Answer.