Adam Sandler movies, HBO's Entourage, and such magazines as Maxim and FHM all trade in and appeal to one character?the modern boy-man. Addicted to video games, comic books, extreme sports, and dressing down, the boy-man would rather devote an afternoon to Grand Theft Auto than plan his next career move. He would rather prolong the hedonistic pleasures of youth than embrace the self-sacrificing demands of adulthood.
When did maturity become the ultimate taboo? Men have gone from idolizing Cary Grant to aping Hugh Grant, shunning marriage and responsibility well into their twenties and thirties. Gary Cross, renowned cultural historian, identifies the boy-man and his habits, examining the attitudes and practices of three generations to make sense of this gradual but profound shift in American masculinity. Cross matches the rise of the American boy-man to trends in twentieth-century advertising, popular culture, and consumerism, and he locates the roots of our present crisis in the vague call for a new model of leadership that, ultimately, failed to offer a better concept of maturity.
Cross does not blame the young or glorify the past. He finds that men of the Greatest Generation might have embraced their role as providers but were confused by the contradictions and expectations of modern fatherhood. Their uncertainty gave birth to the Beats and men who indulged in childhood hobbies and boyish sports. Rather than fashion a new manhood, baby-boomers held onto their youth and, when that was gone, embraced Viagra. Without mature role models to emulate or rebel against, Generation X turned to cynicism and sensual intensity, and the media fed on this longing, transforming a life stage into a highly desirable lifestyle. Arguing that contemporary American culture undermines both conservative ideals of male maturity and the liberal values of community and responsibility, Cross concludes with a proposal for a modern marriage of personal desire and ethical adulthood.
Columbia University Press
Country of Publication:
13 July 2010
Professional and scholarly
Introduction: Where Have All the Men Gone? 1. When Fathers Knew Best (or Did They?) 2. Living Fast, by (Sometimes) Dying Young 3. Talking About My Generation 4. My Generation Becomes the Pepsi Generation 5. New Stories, by New Rebels 6. Endless Thrills 7. Life Beyond Pleasure Island Acknowledgments Index
Gary Cross is professor of history at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of a number of books on the history of American popular culture, including The Playful Crowd: Pleasure Places in the Twentieth Century; The Cute and the Cool: Wondrous Innocence and Modern American Children's Culture; An All-Consuming Century: Why Commercialism Won in Modern America; and Kids' Stuff: Toys and the Changing Worlds of American Childhood.
Reviews for Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity
[A] perceptive, eloquent book. * Publishers Weekly * Gary Cross slides through twentieth-century culture in loping, eloquent paragraphs. He gives us informed wrynessÂ as when he observes that the patron saint of modern manhood has morphed from Cary Grant (mature) to Hugh Grant (not)Â and then tells us what it means. -- Dan Zak * Washington Post * [A] thoughtful journey through the male-strom of modern masculinity. -- Kay Hymowitz * Wall Street Journal * An interesting take on the history and development of boy-men... Highly recommended. * Library Journal * A thought-provoking read for men and women of all walks of life. * Futurist * Cross contributes important lessons to gender and masculinity studies in this roller coaster ride through an intersection of biography and history... Essential. * Choice * [This] copiously researched, subtly argued, and lucidly written account of modern immaturity... serves as a needed hair shirt for the regressive adult. -- Christopher Benson * Weekly Standard * An important contribution to our understanding of major shifts in cultural values in the second half of the twentieth century. -- Lisa Jacobson * H-Childhood * [E]xtremely readable, informative * The Family in America *