Magazine article Insight on the News

Men Misbehave and Beat the Rap

Magazine article Insight on the News

Men Misbehave and Beat the Rap

Article excerpt

Men Behaving Badly is a metaphor for the nineties. Bill Clinton joins a pantheon of less than savory celebrities who fit into the category: Marv Albert was good 'til the last bite; Woody Allen dumped Mia for her daughter so he could be his own grandpa; a long roster of athletes who spit, gnaw, rape and run threatens to overwhelm even the glorious stories of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Cal Ripken Jr.

Art imitates reality and nature in the movie In the Company of Men. It's a postmodern morality tale of men behaving badly, showing how two angry guys court a lovely deaf woman for the sole purpose of ditching her as soon as one of them seduces her. Their aim is to get revenge on her for every woman who ever tempted them.

This is not the first time we've seen misogynists at work as seducers, but what makes the movie especially horrible is that the man who hatches the scheme and seduces the girl gets away without punishment. There's no justice, poetic or otherwise, for his cruelty. In fact, "Chad the Cad" has no moral awareness for what he has done. He even prospers at the office, rising in status and power.

Neil LaBute, who directed the movie, defends his perspective by saying that many men today get away with vile behavior, especially toward women. He wants an audience to be deprived of the satisfaction of a moral resolution to make them -- and us -- experience the depths of moral callousness running amok in our society.

The film has a simple story: "Boys meet girl, boys crush girl, boys giggle." It's the giggle that's important. These men have not grown up. The girl is like a fly in the hands of wanton boys who pluck her wings for sport. In this scenario Peter Pan, the boy bachelor of the eighties, has morphed into a character out of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, the book about boys without rules, whose rituals descend to the perverse.

What's particularly disturbing is that the guy who woos and wins the girl not only is handsome but intelligent and charming in his seductiveness, making the object of his affection feel feminine and special. (Sound familiar?) He compliments her on her clothes, he sends flowers, he murmurs sweet nothings.

Equally chilling is his ability to get his male friend to go along with such a heinous plot, a feckless Lothario who is fascinated with the macho ruthlessness of the other man. The movie got critical raves for tapping into an aspect of the sexual zeitgeist.

Now at a theater near you is Your Friends and Neighbors, another movie by Neil LaBute about assorted matings in and out of marriage. …

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