We live in a culture that controls people through a grim hierarchy. Anyone who’s ever been bullied in school knows exactly what it looks like, and how it seeks to keep us in our places; the folks at the top work to establish dominance and power. They are the ones who succeed, because the game is rigged in their favor. When you add onto that hierarchy the place of women in it, where it was only about fifty years ago when women couldn’t buy a house or get a credit card without their husband’s permission, it makes sense for women to make alliances with men who are bullies. Men who are bullies can protect women from other men who target them. The bully who is known to you if far less scary than the one who is not. Fetishizing that behavior when your choices are limited is not surprising.
–Kameron Hurley on why we keep writing “alpha males”.
Hurley also makes the point here about rewatching an old 80s movie and being startled by how, well, progressive it seems compared to today’s media. To which I say: yes.
We’re so used, I think, to imagining progress as “inevitable” that, as a culture, we’ve failed to notice mainstream media–particularly visual media like movies, TV, and videogames–are so much more conservative now than they were twenty or thirty years ago. This hit me the other week when I watched the old Hellraiser films for the first time. While they’re still problematic, they were quite startlingly progressive in the way they depicted female friendships and sexuality (in this latter case; yes, she’s the antagonist/villain, but her “start of darkness” is portrayed way more sympathetically that I think you’d get nowadays).
So… yeah. Something happened in there. Something we didn’t notice. Push back, I say! Push back!