Video summary of "Tough Guise"

Below is a summary of the classic 1999 video, "Tough Guise," featuring Jackson Katz, who examines the relationshop between images in popular culture and the social construction of male identies in the United States -- of which media messages play a large role.

"Tough Guise 2," produced by Media Education Foundation (MEF) in 2013 is available (check to see if it can be previewed at the MEF website -- also check for video clips on YouTube). The newer version updates the version summarized below.

MEF saidabout the 2013 version (check MEF to see information about any subsequent versions):
"Katz argues that the ongoing epidemic of men's violence in America is rooted in our inability as a society to move beyond outmoded ideals of manhood....
Katz examines mass shootings, day-to-day gun violence, violence against women, bullying, gay-bashing, and American militarism...
... (and) provides a stunning look at the violent, sexist, and homophobic messages boys and young men routinely receive from virtually every corner of the culture, from television, movies, video games, and advertising to pornography, the sports culture, and US political culture."

Katz' 2006 book, "The Macho Paradox," is also a way to supplement aging examples seen in "Tough Guise."

Another EXCELLENT video about violence -- explaining how America easily gets into war, and then stays in it -- is "War Made Easy," a video that features Norman Solomon and focuses on the war-propaganda cycle.

The video, "Beyond Good and Evil," is insightful as well.

The original "Tough Guise" has a strong connection to CULTIVATION THEORY -- AND Katz's assertions about any answer to the problem of violent masculinity including intervention in the CULTURAL ENVIRONMENT (students should note and understand this concept).

The video identifies several cultural developments in the last decades that are in part responsible for the current levels of date rape, domestic violence and school shootings.


"The Wizzard of Oz" is cited as a metaphor of how men wear a mask that is a diguise of being tough -- a tough guise.

Katz asked young men what it meant to be male and got replies like, strong, physical, independent, in control, powerful, athletic, tough, tough, tough, stud.

And, when men don't conform, they are called, pussy, whimp, emotional, bitch, queer, fag.

Lots of pressure to conform to the role -- including, and especially men of color.

Media are crucial to constraining men to seeing violent masculinity as the cultural norm -- there is a growing connection in society betwen being a man and being violent (lots of statistics about men being the violent ones -- 85% of murders are by men; 95% domestic violence is by men; 99% of rapes in prison are by men, etc.)

Abused boys tend to grow up to take on that role.

What's going on?

Part I -- Understanding Violent Masculinity

Men perpetrate 90% of the violence in society, and society (in media especially) tends to focus on the subordinated groups, not the dominant ones.

The invisibility of masculinity is played out  -- media say it is "kids killing kids" -- not that it is boys killing boys and girls, not girls doing the killing -- and so must be tied to masculinity.

Examples of New York Times, etc. support this.

Katz says that if you don't say it, you leave out the important element in the subsequent discussion -- and notes that when women are violent, it is almost always an important part of the story (examples from the longer version are Lorena Bobbit, who cut off her husband's penis; and movie, "Thelma and Louise").

Katz says we need to make it visible -- Making how violent masculinity is visible is the first step to seeing how it operates in the culture.

Katz says the images of men and masculinity has changed over the last 50 years to have men be more physical and aggressive (ex. Superman, Batman, Star Wars figurines, GI Joe -- with bisceps increasing from 12 inches in the 70s to 26 inches now -- also lots of changes from on-screen tough guys like Boggie to Connery to Eastwood to Stallone to Arnold -- with more aggressive acts and bigger guns.

Women are the exact opposite -- for the most part to a more thin look [a good supplemental video is Jean Kilbourne's "Slim Hopes: Advertising and the Obsession with Thinness" -- available in Wilson Library]

Images are not an accident -- heterosexual white males for the most part are in charge of the content that is produced.

In the longer version, Katz says the development has historical context that is embodied in the backlash to the threat by movements such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Movement and the Gay/Lesbian movement the cultural, social, economic power held mostly by white males.

In that version, he cites Susan Faludi book on the subject -- "Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women"  and gives examples of how the tough male role is pushed by people like overt feminist-bashing Andrew Dice Clay,  Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh.

He also cites inceased celebration of violence in pro sports, action games and slasher films.

He connects this to a male backlash against women's economic and social gains and gay liberation.

Violence harms the victims, of course,  but it sends a message that men better not try any new type of masculinity as well.

The anti-war sentiment in the Vietnam War gave rise to the claim that we had lost our masculine pride and represents the macho attitude that the whimpy anti-war movement was the problem (ex. Rambo)

Katz uses examples from "Rocky," Ronald Reagan (in the longer version), and John Wayne to develop the rise of the tough guy role.

He cites Richard Myers' "Cool Pose" as support for how the tough guise men adopts comes about because of social and cultural pressure -- coming to us through mass media.

He says that social and economic structures have systematically changed reality, leaving only the pose.

Citing media examples, Katz says it should be no puzzle that young white boys are acting black, since it too is an act and they also can take on a black, urban pose.

Thus, masculinity is a pose, a perfomance, learned in our society and culture [and taught in large part by media -- the teacher function].

We must ask ourselves why and how this happens -- and the consequences -- and what can be done.

Part II -- Violent Masculinity

This section explores the construction of violent masculinity and the connection to violence and suggests some answers

Katz links violence to an American society, he asserts, that constructs masculinity around domination and violence.

 This segment features the social consequences of the pose -- school shootings, constructing violent masculinity, sexualized violence, invulnerability -- but also provides hope.

 Near the conclusion in a section called "Better Man," Katz says America has made some progress and features some older examples from sensitive, more human men like Avery Brooks ("Deep Space Nine"), John Singleton, Ed Almos ("Stand and Deliver"), John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Garth Brooks, etc. and media content such as Singleton's "Boyz in the Hood,"  "Saving Private Ryan" and "Good Will Hunting," and leaders such as King, Mandella and Mahatma Gandhi.

The 20th Century was the bloodiest in history, with lots of posturing and gay bashing.

Katz says it will take a different kind of courage to break out of the role of tough guy posturing men are pressured into so that society can keep making progress. And, courage must be seen as the act of resisting taking on the tough-guy pose -- and change will be difficult because violent masculinity is a cultural norm in America and tied to social, political and institutional institutions

Some possible solutions:

1) Katz says we must change the "cultural environment" (ala George Gerbner in "Killing Screens") -- to begin, men must have the "courage" to work with women and speak out. They need to see a more honest portrayal of male vulnerability. Then, they can also join with others -- such as in gay/straight alliances -- but change must happen on a personal and institutional level (media are institutions, along with the typical ones like schools, etc.).

2) Girls and women must show they value men who reject the tough guise.

3) People must work to break the media controlled by rich, white men who control the existing stories -- and include MORE STORIES about men as humans not trapped by the guise.

Note: The Michael Moore movie, "Bowling for Columbine," may be a useful resource for those who are interested in this subject.

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Reviewed 2018