Four twisted figures of masculinity dominate the music industry


By playful nature and vocation, the music industry seems to contribute massively to misinforming young people about the reality of adult life. In particular, in the register of love songs, it offers a distorted, caricatural and harmful image of masculinity. She leaves in the minds of an essentially female audience, with no real experience of romantic relationships, the misleading idea that men are childish, weak, cutesy and obsessed. And that they are just waiting for a pretty princess to comfort them.


ANALYSIS – In the following article, I show how industrial love songs – at least those that trigger millions, if not billions of “clicks” – expose the frantic need of male heroes to obtain redress for the various wounds narcissism inflicted on them by society.

I conduct this study by the exercise of a critical hermeneutics, that is to say a search for meaning who wants to be committed and which is part of my academic duties at the Faculty of Arts of UQAM. This exercise is primarily intended to put pressure on the promoters of patriarchy as a cult professed by the music industry among an audience of girls and young women on the way to entering their active married life.

Morphology of industrial love stories

For purposes of understanding, it must first be known that content creators working professionally in the global music industry generally work from a few simple and classic dramaturgical models. From there, they integrate a limited number of male figures, mainly those who are successful with the female audience. In other words, the wide variety of love songs offered by this industry (there would be millions of them) does not result from the bubbling imagination of its creators. On the contrary, it stems from a continual recycling of the same three or four basic scenarios, which seem deliberately inspired by the romantic literature of past centuries.

The most popular plots normally adhere to the traditional narrative sequence of fairy tales. The story thus goes from an injury suffered by the male hero to its reparation, which takes the symbolic form of a woman delivered to his control.

Critical examination of industrial love songs reveals the presence of four male wounds painful and gaping enough to radicalize the claims of such a hero. It is these wounds and their attachment to a particular figure of masculinity that are the subject of the model that I put in place here with a view to informing, as well as possible, young listeners and their benevolent parents.

The wound of humiliation

It is from medieval literature (1100-1400) that content creators generally borrow the theme of obsessive and impossible love towards which the hero is forced, by chivalric oath, to practice excessive devotion: this is the model Arthurian of the quest for the Grail which I call, for my part, the christ model.

The wound that drives this tale is the public humiliation Lancelot must endure to rescue Queen Guinevere, King Arthur’s wife held prisoner by the evil Melagant.

It is on this motif that Post Malone’s song “Goodbyes” (2019) is built, in which the male hero, a lonely outlaw, is stabbed to death in the public square in front of a woman. To obtain reparation, Malone resurrects and returns to haunt her for eternal life, henceforth making it his restorative obsession.

The wound of exclusion

.We then draw from “Don Quixote” by Cervantes (1605-1615) the motif of a troubled hero whose delirium leads him to believe that he is madly loved by Dulcinea, a stranger whom he uses to fill his emotional void. and magnify himself: this is what I call the psychotic model.

From this model, the second narcissistic wound of the hero of the love songs is caused to him by his exclusion from society because of his behaviors deemed deviant. We are talking about a delinquent, a paranoid, a lazy person, maybe even a rapist, a pedophile or a serial killer.

It is the song “Room for 2” by Benson Boone (2022) which illustrates this figure of a disturbed man confining his victim in the trunk of his car. Like a modern-day Don Quixote, Boone fights imaginary dangers for her and cries out to her of his superiority in an echoless desert:

I can be all you want/I can be all you need

The wound of abandonment

It is from Goethe that we borrow the story of the “Sufferings of young Werther” (1774), an immature hero who prefers to commit suicide rather than suffer the shame of feminine rejection: this is what we identify usually as the romantic model “classic”.

The narcissistic wound that affects this type of hero results from a cruel abandonment by his mother at an age when he was still physically, emotionally and psychologically dependent on her. This is what makes him a perpetual child who now sees every woman as a caregiver, without whom he cannot survive the pragmatic difficulties of everyday life. Without it, he falls, he sinks, he drinks excessively; eventually, he drowns in his tears and degrades, at the same time, his social and material environment. Like Werther, his suffering will lead him to suicide.

This is illustrated, almost without subtlety, by the song falling, by Harry Styles (2020). The essential characteristic of this kind of romantic painting is the total absence of this woman who is accused of having abandoned her childish lover, a forever powerless being, through her fault:

I’m in my bed, and you’re not here

The castration wound

Finally, the modern myth of Don Juan (dating from the XVIIe century, but largely revived in the 20the century) provides the life story of a libertine and abusive hero who is motivated only by his own pressing needs: I classify the latter under the rubric of the machiavellian model to underline the fact that, for such a hero, the end always justifies the means.

The characteristic wound of this model is that of the social castration imposed on it by the powerful check applied to its pressing desires by the rules of propriety and consent. This contemporary hero believes he is suffering the unspeakable injustice of his psychological emasculation through the effects of an ambient feminism that he abhors. He sees it as a constant and dissuasive threat hovering over his virility, which generates in him a lively and intolerable frustration.

However, this Don Juan is not without recourse: he is an abusive seducer who has become a master in the art of duplicity, a talented manipulator who deliberately traps others in order to obtain what he desires. And it works, as The Kid LAROI wants to convince us in his song Thousand Miles (2022):

I know that look on your face, you’re comin’ my way tonight

Fortunately, this curly-haired Luciferian has the reflex to launch, before cracking down, this lucid and charitable warning:

I will never change. If I were you, I would stay miles away…/I will never change. If I was you, then I would stay a thousand miles away…

Has virility been murdered?

In their study of the male psyche, authors Moore and Gillette assert that we currently live under “the curse of pervasive infantilism.” For these authors as for me, coming out of my examination of industrial love songs, this means that patriarchy “is not the reign of maturity, but rather that of masculine childishness”, a kind of “puerarchy”. whose laws command us to murder virility in favor of an immaturity that is both touching and scandalous.

What seems clear to me, in any case, is that if we were to encounter, in everyday life, one of these heroes of industrial love songs, he would surely inspire us with fear, pity, contempt or even aversion rather than love in the marital sense of the term.

There is therefore, in my view, no valid reason for an egalitarian society to give free rein to the fantasies of these “little boys” with adult bodies. Can we at the very least hope that our creators will be richly rewarded when they write romances exalting the assumed virility of mature men, without sacrificing anything to their art while rising to the height of expectations, rights and the high potential of our invaluable princesses in the process of social maturation.

Text by Sylvie Genest, professor at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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