No More Khakis
What’s on Your List?
Last month I was on a jobsite, talking to a guy about the sad fact that most TV shows and movies had stopped production because of the pandemic. We reminisced about some of the big movies that were released last year, and then he said it. “I was so disappointed in the last Star Wars movie.” Ugh.
If you’ve been in this space for more than 13 seconds, you know that I loved that movie. So, I knew I was being masochistic, but I couldn’t stop myself from asking, “Why didn’t you like it?” I should have spared myself the agony.
He proceeded to tell me that he resented the fact that “they threw in some people just for diversity’s sake,” and that the main character, Rey, was “just too….well, she should’ve been more like Natalie Portman when she was in the Star Wars movies. Pretty, not trying to act like a guy.” He went on to say it should have been more like the movies from the 70s and 80s. Give me bonus points – I didn’t punch him, and I gave him a polite smile. If you know me, you would have recognized the smile as the kind I give Kentucky fans when I’m thinking of running them over while they’re walking in front of my car.
Here’s the really sad fact about this conversation: I had heard the same opinion from two other guys. One was someone I knew, and one was a movie critic.
Can we discuss the absurdity of complaining about diversity when the original movies that were supposedly the ideal specimens for these guys were peopled heavily with, well…not people. Giant hairy Wookies, cute cuddly Ewoks, not to mention entire bars full of things I can’t even name. Admiral Ackbar had flippers and whiskers, for heaven’s sake. But throw in a few people of color and whoa! We’ve just gone crazy and gotten unrealistic.
Criticism of Rey stems from the fact that she battles her inner demons and saves the world like the man typically does in most movies. I don’t mean just Star Wars movies. I mean all movies. Even though Princess Leia had power in the original movies, she had a pure moral center, and her brother got all of the angsty hero screen time. She was a good girl and she wore a dress.
The truly revealing aspect of the criticism I heard was that the three guys who made the negative statements all had similar characteristics. All three are mid to late 30s, white, and of middle class backgrounds. I believe these similarities explain a lot about their viewpoints.
Most people equate safety and security with how conditions were when they were young. People routinely believe that the world is a scarier place now than “before,” but the truth is that it’s scary now because they’re now old enough to be aware of all of the dangers in the world. And they’re now in charge of at least part of how safe the world is – their families, their belongings, whatever. Most people subconsciously see change as unstable. Ironically, the only thing that is constant in the world is change, so people fix a certain point in time as their benchmark and see everything from that point forward as different and possibly dangerous or unstable. Star Wars of their youth reflected how the world was at the time.
Add to this perspective the fact that men, particularly men who have grown up white in the United States, have had the benefit of knowing that their wants, needs, and cultural accoutrements constitute the mainstream. They see the concerns and interests of women as secondary. As a boss of mine once said, “Can you imagine if women were in charge? All the newspapers would print would be stories about dresses and babies.” We all know that cultural characteristics of minorities in this country also are treated as ethnic items with narrow audiences. As such, Bob from Columbus would see a shiny red Corvette as something that everyone should want, but he would view a tricked out El Dorado with rims and ground effects lighting as something tacky that “those people” would have to cruise around the projects.
So the guys with the Star Wars criticism were viewing the elements of the movie as not just change in Star Wars land, but changes in their own world. And those changes might be scary. What if the interests and needs of men, mainly white men, were no longer considered above everyone else? What might happen to the world???
I say this in a rather harsh manner, but I actually have a lot of friends and loved ones who are men, including a lot of white men. (If we’re talking about my family, really really white men. Almost translucent). They are good people and not necessarily racist or sexist or horrible trash. At least not knowingly. I think this worry about change reflects the same worry most people have when faced with a different world than the one where they were comfortable, where they knew their place. These guys just happen to be sitting in the catbird seat, and they see it slipping away.
I am sympathetic to the guys who don’t realize that their preference for “the right way” is actually just a preference for comfort and control. We all want that, right? On the other hand, I started thinking about what the world would be like if the preferences of men did not dictate the ways of society, and the world could be like it is when I’m comfortable and happy. WAIT A MINUTE – THIS COULD BE GOOD. There are some things that I just get completely sick of that are the province of men, and some that are mostly popular because of white men. Could we get rid of them if we all get equality? Okay, not get rid of them, but push them into the region of small cultural niches where many of my likes currently reside? The thought was delightful. I started a list.
I had a lot of fun making my list, and I’ll share it with you. Keep in mind – this is MY list. Don’t contact me and tell me that you actually like #6, and you’re a woman. Or don’t call to tell me that men of color like most of the things on the list. This is my fantasy list in my fantasy world where Manolo Blahniks get more attention than golf clubs. In my world, there would be less fascination with marching around the world killing other people and more interest in dance-offs. You might envision a world in which there weren’t “restaurants” with burgers made of fillers on every block and instead people could get arroz con pollo on every street corner. You might wish that movies weren’t made where obnoxious, out of shape guys get the gorgeous girls and instead the curvy girl with blue-black skin and Bantu knots has her choice of all the hot guys. I suggest you make your own list. Mine made me really happy.
So I’ll share it with you. Here are all of the things I would strike down to niche status just because I don’t like them, and I get sick of them dominating our world. That’s how society should be, right? Whoever is in charge gets all the marbles? Add whatever you like.
- War movies
- Khakis with pleats
- The air guitar skills of anyone over the age of 16
- Polo shirts
- Mullets (No, they’re not gone. I worked with a guy sporting a 1985 classic last week).
- Books about Civil War battles (and Civil war weapons and that weird ironclad Civil War submarine)
- Golf pants
- Four wheelers
- Speed boats
- The Three Stooges
- The University of Kentucky
- Excessive lawn maintenance
- White socks with dark sandals
- Homebuilders who wear khaki Bermuda shorts and never get dirty and just talk on their cell phones all day and knock off early (okay, very specific, but like locusts)
- Grilling out as an art form (It’s a flame and some meat. You’re not a genius).
- Preaching about vehicle maintenance
(Note: This list was made in fun. If you think I hate men or I’m anti-white men, you don’t know me, and you didn’t get it. I’m running for President in 2024 on a platform of increased funding for good quality riding boots and an emphasis on floral education).
He sounds like he’s on the right track – we trust you to keep him there!
My son told me he likes Rey because “she reminds me of you, mom!”, so there is hope for the…
Well done! So snappy and upbeat. I’m proud to know a few awesome geotechs in the video!
Love it! I’m hearing lots of great feedback!
love it! this was so “on point”! coming from minority background, i have seen “white men” being very confused when…