Thursday, January 22, 2004

Terrence O. Moore of the Claremont Institute has an interesting essay about "The Sons of Murphy Brown" and how they are either "Wimps" or "Barbarians." He begins:

"More than a decade ago the nation was in a stir over the birth of a fictional boy. The boy was Avery, son of Murphy Brown. Television's Murphy Brown, played by Candice Bergen, was a successful news commentator who, after an unsuccessful relationship with a man that left her alone and pregnant, bore a son out of wedlock. The event, popular enough in its own right, became the center of political controversy when then Vice President Dan Quayle in a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California lamented that the show was "mocking the importance of a father." Suddenly the nation polarized over this question of 'family values.' But the controversy over Murphy Brown's childbearing soon died down. The characters on the show became more interested in Murphy's hairstyle than her baby, as did perhaps Murphy, who eventually found a suitable nanny in her painter so she could pursue her career without abatement. The show was off the air before Murphy's son would have been seven. Vice President Quayle was not reelected. Eleven years later, it is worth pondering what might have happened to Avery had this story not been just a television show. More to the point, what is happening today to our boys and young men who come from 'families' not unlike Murphy's and who find the nation as divided now as it was then over the 'values' by which we ought to raise them?"

What does Moore think happened? Two things, some became "Barbarians" and some became "Wimps." The essay describes the differences, here is a sample of how they differ in relating to the opposite sex:

"... the wimp may take an interest in the opposite sex. But his approach to dating and relationships is different from the barbarian. The barbarian has simple appetites. His ideal is the Playboy playmate or the winner of a hot legs contest at Daytona Beach, and his ultimate aim in any relationship or encounter, whatever he may say, is sex. As an athlete, the barbarian is a hero of sorts. He walks with an unmistakable air of confidence. The wimp, on the other hand, has more complex reasons for wanting women. Although sex is certainly one of his desires, more than sex he needs affirmation. He desperately needs a girlfriend to boost his self-confidence. Having someone else notice him will somehow show the world that he is not a total loser. The wimp also needs someone to hear his laments, to commiserate with him when he is feeling down, to discover his secret self. Since he has few qualities or achievements to recommend him, he seeks to appear 'interesting' or mysterious. Initially, the wimp might seem amusing to an unsuspecting young lady and very different from the insensitive jocks and rowdies she has known. Ultimately, however, the wimp seeks to draw her into his web of melancholy and self-pity. The story always ends unhappily since romance cannot be based upon pity or the thin facade of personality. He might mope and whine his way into a woman's bed but will find excuses to avoid 'commitment.' The wimp will begin the relationship by saying, 'You're the only one who understands me' and end it by saying, 'You don't understand me at all.' The truth is that there is not much to understand."

He explains how we came to this, mostly from changing the way we raise our boys at home, in school and in society as a whole. He closes with this about what Murphy Brown's son may be going through now:

"So how is Murphy Brown's little Avery doing? He is 11 now. He has grown up under an overbearing mother who has occasionally brought men home, though none has stayed. While Murphy has pursued her successful career, Avery has been showered with material possessions to give him something to do during the long stretches of the day when he finds himself at home alone or left to an indifferent nanny, finished with his half hour of easy homework, which his mother will check over and often redo for him after they have eaten the pizza or take-out Chinese she picked up on the way home from work. Every time Avery has a problem at school or in the neighborhood, Murphy solves it for him with the same decisiveness she demonstrates at the network, thus proving to her son and to herself that she is a good mother.

Avery has posters on his wall of Eminem, Kobe Bryant, and Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit. He is becoming interested in girls but is still too shy to say much to them. Still, he has learned a lot about women on the internet, and his favorite rap songs tell him precisely how to relate to women and what women want. His mother, for her part, has told him a lot about the value of "respecting people." Avery has never been hunting or fishing. True, Avery and his mother used to have fun times at the park and on trips when she could get away from work, but now he is beginning to pull away from her when she rubs his head in an affectionate way. They are not as close as they used to be.

The next few, crucial years of Avery's life will determine what kind of man he will be. Will he rest in wretched contentment with the ease and luxury provided by his oft-absent, deep-voiced mother, or will he rebel with other boys his own age, raised much like him, by finding his own rites of passage in drugs and sex and acts of petty delinquency, or worse? Will he become a wimp or a barbarian?"

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