I recently saw two new summer movies neither of which will go down in film history as anything more than a footnote. One movie was a romantic comedy and the other was a super hero action flick part of a brand of long standing movies. On the surface these two movies have nothing to do with each other beyond demanding $11.00 at the box office. They both gave me what I had expected and I was feeling neither awed nor disappointed and left feeling money well spent.
What struck me later rethinking both movies was a slow gnawing in my gut. Bear with me here as I try to put language to my thesis but first a quick synopsis of both movies.
Yesterday (2019 film) – [and by the way great music.]
To call Jack (Himesh Patel) a “struggling musician” is an understatement. He plays in coffee shops, populated only by his friends. He sings on an empty boardwalk. His childhood friend Ellie (Lily James), who fell in love with him—and his music—when he played Oasis’ “Wonderwall” at a talent show in grade school, acts as his manager, giving him pep talks, fired up by her belief in him. He lives with his parents in Suffolk, and is ready to throw in the towel when, one night, the earth experiences a 12-second blackout. During those 12 seconds, Jack is hit by a bus, and when he wakes up in the hospital realizes something weird has happened when he says to Ellie “Will you still feed me when I’m 64?” and she doesn’t recognize the lyrics. “Why 64?” she asks with curiosity. Jack races to Google, and no matter what the combination of search terms, no trace of the Beatles is to be found. Curtis has a lot of fun with how absurd it would be if you mentioned “The Beatles” to people and they asked “What’s that?” Jack makes the choice to start playing these “lost” songs, passing them off as his own.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019 film) – [and by the way great visual effects]
An American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Spider-Man. Our leading young man’s High School organizes a two-week summer field trip to Europe, where Peter Parker [Spider-Man], plans to confess his growing feelings for classmate MJ and avoid heroics. The plot then thickens and of course Peter is forced to reappear as Spider-Man to save Europe.
So what exactly do I think our 30 year old struggling English/Indian “Yesterday” singer have in common with a 16 year old High school super hero trying to just be a normal high school kid on a school field trip? Interesting question. Even more interesting is what do these two leading men have to do with sex/love addiction and the men of No More Secrets (NMS)?
Currently in NMS we have five working men’s groups with a total of 35 men. Of those 35 men, 14 of them are 30 years of age or younger [40%] with the youngest being 21 . Of those 14 men under 30 only 1 currently has a partner! Even more telling is of the other 13 in that category of men, only 5 of them have ever had a girlfriend even going back to high school. So what does that have to do with the male stars in these two movies?
In both movies, both male leads could never work up the seven seconds of the courage it takes to ask a female out on a date or even to coffee, no less express honest feelings. That’s right I said 7 seconds! Now for NMS men the addiction to porn mainly delivered through the computer has stifled any real ability to interact with females in any healthy way. Joined at the hip for them is both their fear of being rejected coupled with fear of their own sexuality. Most of these young men are virgins and have never even kissed a female and yet are sex addicts both at the same time. How about that for a reality check.
This combination has created a state of “sexual and social anorexia”, leaving them with arrested development. Both Peter and Jack could not muster up the courage to act on their feeling nor act on the ques they were given by these females. It was so hard to watch the paralysis in these two very likable male characters. Even minus any form of apparent active addiction they resembled my NMS younger men.
I do not believe that this “relational avoidance” only shows up in addicts. I believe we have an entire generation of males who have latent development in this arena. Maybe blame it on kids being on computers as young as three or early exposure to porn. Or maybe it’s the absence of a strong male role model in the home or no father at all, I’m not really sure. I’ll leave that for the sociologists to figure out. In the movies, Peter lived with his aunt and both of his parents are mysteriously gone and Jack lives in a home with no boundaries and parents who won’t even listen to him as he repeatedly tries to play “Yesterday” for them. Truth be told he is almost invisible except when he’s not living up to their expectations for him and receives family pressure to conform to the family norms.
Stay with me here, I will wrap this up. Back in the early 1990’s there was a men’s movement that was jump started by two men who wrote seminal books on the topic.
The first man was Sam Keen (born 1931) who is an American author, professor, and philosopher best known for his exploration of questions regarding love, life, wonder, religion, and being a male in contemporary society. His book about the Men’s movement entitled “Fire in the belly: on being a man” was written in 1991
Here are two quotes from that book:
“Condition a man (or a woman) to value aggression above all other virtues, and you will produce a character type whose most readily expressed emotion will be anger. Condition a woman (or a man) to value submission above all other attitudes and you will produce a character type whose most readily expressed emotion will be sadness.”
“A man who does not know how to wage a just battle, first with himself and then with others, has no values worth defending, no ideals worth aspiring to, no awareness of the disease of which he might be healed.”
The second man is Robert Bly (born December 23, 1926) who is an American poet, essayist, activist and leader of the mythopoetic men’s movement. His best-known prose book is Iron John: A Book About Men (1990), which spent 62 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list.,
Here are two quotes from Iron John:
“In ordinary life, a mentor can guide a young man through various disciplines, helping to bring him out of boyhood into manhood; and that in turn is associated not with body building, but with building and emotional body capable of containing more than one sort of ecstasy”
“I know men who are healthier at fifty than they’ve ever been before, because a lot of their fear is gone.”
When I first meet many of these NMS young men my first initial feeling is that there just isn’t a lot of man in the boy. My job, our job as a recovering community, is to help them find their adult male voice, not just stop bad behavior. I can state our objective very clearly:
- Don’t hurt you or anyone else,
- stay safe, sane and sober,
- and here is the hard one for this type of man: SAY WHAT YOU MEAN AND MEAN WHAT YOU SAY!
- And lastly be of service to somebody else.
Four simple suggestions for a happy life.
After my men graduate from NMS I encourage them to continue doing men’s work not just recovery. I recommend that they look into joining the “Mankind Project” otherwise known as the new warriors. They are not designed to stop an addiction but they do offer a different set of tools to help them continue to be a man in this 2019 world. Men do not get a participation trophy just for showing up and being a special snowflake, it does not work in the real world.
If any of this interests you or resonated in you feel free to contact me and remember misery is optional.
And by the way go see these movies, there just fun!