Monday, September 21, 2020

Seeking MAN-na in the Desert

Robert Horton with guest in 1959 Wagon Train episode.
I've asked myself why I love westerns so much--Wagon Train, Rawhide, Bonanza, Wanted Dead or Alive, and so forth. I didn't used to. But now I arrange my day to ensure that I can sit down in front of the television at 4 p.m to watch another adventure in the life of that wagon train forever headed west.

These are solid stories that present a serious dilemma that the players must resolve within the hour. In them, deciding the wrong way will have serious repercussions. And if the wagon train crew drag their feet and do nothing, that will end badly, too. The situations call for tough decisions without second-guessing and shillyshallying.  In short, it provides the perfect showcase for truly manly behavior.

This would not be remarkable if we weren't suffering today from a dearth of manliness. Too many men in skinny jeans who know what brow waxing involves. And yes, we can argue that decades of radical feminism have driven men into this androgynous state. Indeed, a study in 2013 caused a stir when it found that women on the Pill felt attracted to less masculine-looking men than did women who were not on it.* Given the massive use of that contraceptive in the U.S. since the early 1960s, this may explain what we're seeing.

But it's high time for real men--there are still some left--to lead the way back. Many women are starved for men who dress like men, walk like men, listen and laugh and display confidence. Men who are willing to take responsibility for their decisions and get on with it. Men who are not afraid to support a wife and children and understand the value of having a family.

A frequent theme in Wagon Train episodes is drought. The train finds itself halfway across a wasteland with another several days still needed to put it behind them, and they've heard there is no water anywhere around. That's how I feel these days about real men. We are decades into this drought of masculinity, and no one knows how far we still need to go to emerge from it.

In the meantime, I advise watching as many westerns as you can. Sit your children down to watch them. Boys need to see what good manliness looks like, and so do our girls. It doesn't matter that we are no longer engaged in the struggle to cross the wilderness and settle the West Coast. These lessons in wisdom vs folly, bravery vs selfishness, patience vs impulsiveness can all be transferred to life in the 21st century. 

Let's get on with being real men and real women. Hitch up that team, strap on your water barrels, and "Wagons, Ho!"

*More about the study in this Huffington Post article.