Radix Journal

Radix Journal

A radical journal

Tag: Hollywood

Why I Can’t Stand St. Patrick’s Day

I’ve always instinctively disliked St. Patrick’s Day. Growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I was inured to the multicultural calendar of ethnic holidays I didn’t resonate with or understand….

I’ve always instinctively disliked St. Patrick’s Day. Growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I was inured to the multicultural calendar of ethnic holidays I didn’t resonate with or understand. But no one ever expected me to actually celebrate Rosh Hashanah—or wear T-shirts that read “I’ve got a little Jewish in me” or pinch anyone not donning a yarmulke. At one point, I started wearing Orange on March 17 . . . though the message was seemingly lost on most everyone I encountered.

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Evolving Before Our Eyes

In Chapter Four of _The 10,000 Year Explosion_, Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending discuss the astonishing speed of genetic diffusion for skin lightening in Caucasians. The single most important gene is Solute Carrier 24A5, and the authors state that the skin lightening variant arose only about 5,800 years ago, yet now has a frequency of 99 percent in Europe and is found at significant levels as far away as Ceylon. Subsequent research has shown that it’s probably a little older, but as Cochrane and Harpending suggest, either way, the variant must have had a huge selective advantage and might have spread so rapidly that, at the most accelerated stage, a particularly old farmer could have noticed the change in appearance in his own village within his lifetime.

Watching the recent film Gangster Squad, my thoughts went something like this:

What is it about the Ryan Gosling’s character that doesn’t quite work? The Josh Brolin and Sean Penn characters—they work. And it’s not that Gosling’s a bad actor and that his looks are unappealing. But somehow, he just doesn’t quite fit 1949. What is it?

Even his suit doesn’t seem right. But it can’t be that—Hollywood must have experts in costuming working on style and tailoring. And I can suspend disbelief on Gosling’s perfect dentition; almost no one had perfect teeth in 1949, but now the entire middle class does. No, it’s no one feature, but the gestalt. I just don’t feel cops looked like Gosling in 1949.’

I’ve had a similar thought watching many period movies: times are changing in fundamental ways.

In Chapter Four of The 10,000 Year Explosion, Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending discuss the astonishing speed of genetic diffusion for skin lightening in Caucasians. The single most important gene is Solute Carrier 24A5, and the authors state that the skin lightening variant arose only about 5,800 years ago, yet now has a frequency of 99 percent in Europe and is found at significant levels as far away as Ceylon. Subsequent research has shown that it’s probably a little older, but as Cochrane and Harpending suggest, either way, the variant must have had a huge selective advantage and might have spread so rapidly that, at the most accelerated stage, a particularly old farmer could have noticed the change in appearance in his own village within his lifetime.

The Gangster Squad is set in 1949—not so long ago, but over a decade before I was born, so I’m not quite the equivalent of that long-lived farmer. Also, there’s the time-travel aspect of film: I suspect a long-lived Bronze Age farmer could have noticed the skin change, but in reality I doubt he would have, because he was brought to the boil too gradually in a pot of lightening skin. But in a film set in 1949 and released in 2013, I can erase those 64 intervening years all at once. It’s as if that farmer, dreaming of his youth and the dusky charms of his maiden field companions, woke to find the fair-haired son of the local warlord showing a particular interest in his great-granddaughter.

It all got me to thinking, once again, about the evolution taking place within our lifetimes. There are a few items people wonder about.

First are the trends that “everyone knows”—those that, like Darwinism itself, we all think we understand. Increased race-mixing may be the most obvious. Whenever I get “race-realist” with my scientist wife, her reaction: ‘It’s all going toward one mixed brown race and there’s nothing anyone can do.’ And if I take that to my scientist father, his reaction boils down to ‘Whites deserve it in the end.’

That’s how it is with scientists; they are self-selected for incredible patience; the key segment of any experiment, no matter how creative, is one of passive observation of external nature; and scientists tend to orient to the geological scale of time. All this leaves them with little faith in the long-term power of will.

I doubt modern race-mixing is quantitatively so different from past upheavals, say, with the great migrations in the wake of Rome’s decline. For that matter, the Roman expansion must have spurred a lot of miscegenation, and the rise of sailing before that. To genes, planes are no faster than boats. Sure, migrants can now get to a new country within hours instead of months. But any descendants they have there will still require several generations, at least, to become truly comfortable. Geographic determinism got a bad rap under race-denying Jared Diamond, but that’s because he left a step out. Diamond believes geography determines culture, but it clearly should be geography determines genes determine culture. Race-realists should note the primacy of geography either way. Mountains and plains are not going away any time soon, are still important, and will re-assert themselves still more if the jet and the air conditioner run their course.

Something else race-realists all think we know is the dysgenic aspect of demographic transition theory. Leading edge dogma now is that a group of gene-based qualities, basically those that select for a prosperous farmer, have been favored reproductively since the dawn of agriculture; but with the maturation of the Industrial Age, they no longer are. Among these were relatively high intelligence, more patience through delayed gratification and impulse control, the capacity for hard, sustained work, and relatively low aggression. Essentially, high paternal investment. For 10,000 years in the earth’s temperate zones, these qualities led to having more children on average; but they no longer do. That change is the basis of demographic transition theory, with much speculation about widening IQ gaps, smaller elites and benighted mobs.

But I want the personal touch. Here’s one: I confess to being occasionally so masochistic that I listen to NPR. And the morning of this writing, I was tuned in to an interview with a blogger well-known in “popular genetics.” I’d never heard his voice before. My immediate impression was how feminine it sounded, not to the degree of the overt gay accents commonly heard on NPR, but very different from the deep, reassuring voices that were the rule among male radio personalities until very recently. The topic of the conversation was the genetics of the fetus his wife and he were expecting. Not absolute proof of heterosexuality, but good enough for me.

I see the “metrosexual” voice as something of a milder version of the gay accent. A portmanteau for the ability to pick out distinctions like the latter is “gaydar.” It’s interesting that the validity of gaydar (and its nearly instantaneous, gestalt aspects) have been scientifically validated, though mostly visually. (It’s even more interesting that the original research into gaydar failed to validate it and subsequently, more careful research did—one wonders whether the first group had an ideological motivation.) Yet auditory recognition is typically more implicit and indescribable, more gestalt, than visual. If you find it hard to describe a friend’s face in detail, trying to describe his voice is really dancing about architecture. Yet you can instantly recognize both. And some kinds of 10,000-hour people, like old-school sonar operators, find that even when they have simultaneous video and audio versions of the signals they are trying to distinguish from background noise, it is the audio that tells them the most, but in ways that are almost impossible to describe, ways in which there is no substitute for experience.

Seeing Ryan Gosling in a period movie and wondering whether faces really looked like that only seven decades ago is fraught with all kinds of bias. So is concluding that the metrosexual voice is evidence of a feminization that is partly genetic. Nevertheless, I think it is. Mike Judge nailed it in Idiocracy: the 100-point IQ of Joe Bauers, the definitively ordinary hero, becomes ingenious in the idiocy of the future, and his middle-of-the-road voice becomes correspondingly “faggy.”

If I’m right, then evolution toward more pliant husband material, originally reflecting higher paternal investment, is not over in the developed world. Women are continuing to choose softer men, or at least men who are far from being natural masters, to breed with. Many will argue that the metrosexual voice must be all cultural, that it burst far too quickly on the scene to reflect anything genetic. Maybe they’re right, but I like my version. I bet that old farmer’s wife tried to convince him the young folk of the day were just spoiled by a soft new culture, and didn’t spend enough time out working in the sun.


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Beauties in Beast Mode

These women are becoming more like men–physically, emotionally and in many cases, chemically. In the process, these manly women are distorting our perception of what women are, and what men should want from them. They are female fighters, lifters, soldiers, Crossfitters, bodybuilders, competitive athletes, movie stars, and the countless women who flock to trainers trying to emulate them.

Why Are So Many Men Applauding Masculine Women?

The professional feminists who scold us from the headlines of Time, Salon, Slate and The Atlantic aren’t exactly breaking gender stereotypes. They specialize in nagging, moral hygiene, and high melodrama. Feminists claim there’s a WAR against them every time they don’t get something they want, and when they’re not playing victims for sympathy or dreaming up new ways to say they’ve been raped, they’re busy gossiping about celebrities and giggling about pretty boys like Ryan Gosling. They would naturally object, but most feminists are, truly, basic bitches.

Beyond the feminist world of words and micro-aggressions, there are women–who may or may not identify themselves as feminists–who are not just verbally, but physically and aggressively challenging gender roles and overcoming sex differences.

These women are becoming more like men–physically, emotionally and in many cases, chemically. In the process, these manly women are distorting our perception of what women are, and what men should want from them. They are female fighters, lifters, soldiers, Crossfitters, bodybuilders, competitive athletes, movie stars, and the countless women who flock to trainers trying to emulate them.

Feminists will claim and celebrate the successes of these manly women, but it is often men–masculine and hierarchically-oriented men–who are coaching and pushing these women to become more masculine.

Check out the photos in this article about women and lifting from women’s blog XOVain. Notice who’s spotting her? Behind every strong woman, there’s some guy telling her she’s a strong woman.

From regular gym-bros and NRA members to prominent trainers, fitness writers, and successful athletes, the guys most likely to complain about the pussification of men consistently pole-vault over each other to promote, defend, and generally fawn over any woman willing to handle a barbell, a ball, or a rifle.

Why are so many guys who are disgusted by effeminate men so supportive of masculine women?

I’ve been thinking about it for a while–every time I see men I know share some “strong is sexy” pic of a broad shouldered woman with an 8-pack. I wonder about it every time I see them point to a woman who is obviously taking male hormones as an example of a “real woman.” And I have to peel my palm off my forehead every time some tough guy turns radfem and starts telling any man who questions this that he is just “threatened” by “strong women.”

Exactly how manly do women have to be for us to be sure men are “secure with their masculinity?”

I’ve talked about this with a bunch of guys, including some strongmen, martial artists, and powerlifters, and here are some of the reasons why I think so many masculine men are encouraging women to be more like them.

Men are Being Solipsistic

Men are judging women as if women were men.

Guys have been taught from an early age, thanks to the scolding of feminist educators, that there are no “male” virtues, only human virtues. Men are naturally drawn to the old masculine virtues of strength, courage and mastery. They place a high value on traits and behaviors that men have always valued in each other. So, instead of letting women be women and appreciating the differences between the sexes, men are imposing their own idea of what is good on the women in their lives.

Radical feminists would, somewhat ironically, call this sexist and oppressive, because it is men telling women how to behave based on their own preferences and biases.

Why is a woman only a good woman if she acts like a man? That’s the patriarchy talking!

Men who appreciate manly excellence are doubly impressed when a female shows interest or aptitude in a manly sport or pastime. It’s not uncommon to see some alpha male type overlook 100 guys working just as hard and performing better to fawn over a female marksman, lifter or fighter because, well…“isn’t she something?”

It’s also easier to give a woman special attention, because you don’t have to deal with man drama–that whole push/pull, dick-measuring thing men do as they perpetually work out their chimpanzee hierarchies.

Men Don’t Actually Like Women

A dirty secret about men is that a lot of them don’t really like women. They like looking at women naked and they like having sex with women and they may even fall in love with women, but for the most part, they don’t really like women.

I’ve had a lot of heterosexual men tell me that they almost wish they were homosexual, because they find most women irritating and they feel like they have almost nothing in common with them. This actually seems to be the case more frequently with extremely masculine men, and it makes sense that they would have less in common with women. A male psychotherapist who works primarily with men in the military called me recently to talk about men and masculinity, and he mentioned hearing this from a lot of his clients too.

Actually, as I was writing this, a buddy of mine was texting me about this girl he was trying to talk into having sex with him. He was pretending she was interesting, but the truth is he just thought she was hot. Men do this all the time. His last text read, “I think I already hate her.” He went on a date with her later that week.

Feminists would call this “misogyny,” but I’d call it “normal.” It’s normal to want to hang out with people who are more like you, who have the same kinds of aspirations and who have similar interests. So it seems like when a lot of these guys fantasize about a perfect woman, they fantasize about some kickass chick who likes sports and guns, who won’t ask them to watch chick flicks or talk about the last episode of The Bachelor or say that everything is “amazing.”

Men Today Want “Activity Pals,” Not Girlfriends or Wives

Men and women used to understand that they were different, and that they would spend time apart doing different things. Men learned to love their women as women, and enjoyed them for who they were on their own terms, but they didn’t need or expect to have the same kinds of relationships with their wives that they had with their best pals.

Feminists have preached for decades that men and women were supposed to be “equal partners” in everything, and that seeped in and contributed to the idea that husbands and wives were supposed to want to do everything together.

But this desire for women to like and do “guy things” is as much a product of modern life as anything else–especially in America. Americans work a lot of hours, often odd hours, and it takes a lot of time and energy to maintain any kind of relationship.

Most men used to work with other men all day long, and work time has been “guy time” since men were hunting aurochs. Male friendships were forged and maintained in the process of aggressing against animals or nature or other men. As Lionel Tiger theorized in the 60s, that’s how men “bonded.” Today, most men get few if any opportunities to do “guy things” at work. Most corporate jobs are actually pretty emasculating. Most men also work with women, so work time usually isn’t “guy time.”

Because any relationship requires an investment of time and energy, it is difficult for a lot of men to maintain strong male friendships as working adults. If they want a girlfriend or a wife they’re going to have to invest a lot of their free time in building and maintaining a relationship with her, and there are only so many hours left in a week. If a man enjoys sports or working out or shooting guns, getting a woman to enjoy those things too probably means he’ll get to do them more often, and as a couple, they will likely spend more money on those activities. A lot of guys come to the conclusion, consciously or not, that if they want to do guy stuff and have a girlfriend, it would be better to find a girl who either already likes doing guy stuff or who can be encouraged to like doing guy stuff.

It’s like the dad who wants a son but ends up with a daughter, so he makes the best of it and teaches the daughter to do all of the things he wanted to teach a son to do. Some tom-boys are born, but a lot of them are made by dads in the same way that mothers sometimes make their sons into girlfriends. We’re not supposed to blame parents for this–we’re supposed to call that a myth and say “that’s just who they wanted to be”–but humans are heavily influenced by peer affirmation, and if you spend an unusual amount of time with your father or mother or boyfriend, you’re probably going to end up a little more like them.

Men want guy friends and girlfriends but girlfriends demand a lot of time, so some men end up slowly turning their girlfriends into guy friends. Women who want boyfriends who actually seem to like them and give them a lot of positive affirmation and attention end up learning to like doing things their boyfriends like doing.

I’m not looking to blame anyone for this–for the most part it just seems like modern couples are making the best of their situation.

There is a point, though, where making your girl into your bro gets out of hand. When you’re telling other dudes to “check out your wife’s sick lats” or bragging about how she could out-lift them and probably kick their asses…maybe you need some guy time before you and your wife end up shaving each others’ chests.

Unless that’s what you’re into.

Men are Fantasizing about “Shieldmaidens” and Sci-Fi Supergirls

Even as progressive Hollywood writes a tough-talking, man-tossing supermodel superhero into almost every action movie, and Marvel makes Thor a woman, much of the far right is also fapping away to fantasies of bosomy blonde Valkyries and sexy shieldmaidens. It’s difficult to tell how prominent a role women warriors played in Germanic cultures, but some scattered information is being played up to flatter women and encourage an absurdly modern feminist inclusiveness among so-called radical traditionalists. There have always been tales of female warriors, but they have generally been exceptions to the rule, and the women who fought successfully alongside men probably looked more like Brienne of Tarth than a sword-wielding succubus from a Heavy Metal magazine cover.

If men really want a co-ed warrior caste of eugenically bred, chemically enhanced, man-jawed super-persons to transcend the human condition and prepare our race for interstellar war with the Klingons, then they need to be more honest about that, and work out some of the contradictions and inconsistencies in their worldviews.

I’ll admit I’ve toyed with the seemingly eugenic notion that it would be better for everyone to be terrifyingly strong, fast, smart, and aggressive.

Leave it to a man to think up something like that.

It has some merit and appeal, but like all utopian dreams, it seems likely to decay rapidly when exposed to human nature. As with today’s military, the newspapers would get their carefully curated success stories even as internal morale and brotherhood failed, and women would hide behind sterile double-standards as they used sex to manipulate their male peers. The idea that women would be better and better off if they were encouraged to become mentally and physically more like men–but with men with shapely breasts and tight round asses–is just more sci-fi male solipsism.

Something in men tells them that might is right, and something lower tells them that women are hot, so I guess it makes sense that a lot of young men would decide that hot ‘n mighty women are the pinnacle of human perfection. I’d like to blame this on a post-feminist world of sexual confusion, or even ronery Asian animators, but Robert E. Howard was writing sword-swinging chicks into Conan stories back in the 1930s. The sexy warrior woman is an ancient archetype that’s long held a place in the pornographic pantheon of male fantasy. We’re just at a patch in history where it’s easy to lose perspective and imagine the exotic anomaly as a new norm.

Men Can’t Get Enough of the CrossFit Butt

The CrossFit butt sold more average men on weightlifting for women than a decade’s worth of oily blondes pumping iron in muscle mags.

You’ve seen the photos. You know what I’m talking about.

It makes perfect evolutionary sense for men to fixate on the rear-mount impregnation point padding of healthy young females. Some black men have a thing for gigantic Hottentot hindquarters, and I know some white guys who go for the Rubenesque Jell-O butt thing, but it makes sense for the majority of men to want that perfectly rounded, unblemished rear end that signals youthful fertility.

Women today are marrying later than their predecessors, if at all, and by the time they decide to settle down and have kids, they’re probably been sitting on their asses in some office eating those muffins from Starbucks for a decade or so. The prevailing wisdom says the only way women can keep that perky posterior is to do squats. Lots and lots of squats. When women object that grunt and thrust power moves like squatting seem a little…butch…men who normally hate feminists find themselves talking about breaking down gender boundaries and “reimagining our idea of female strength.” Because, well, “dat ass.”

Men Know Where The Money Is

Guys get into the fitness industry because they like training. Some got turned on to training when they used working out to transform themselves or to work through a rough part of their lives, but many more trainers, gym owners, writers and fitness entrepreneurs are just jocks who decided to try to do what they love doing for a living.

The bug, or the feature, depending on your perspective, is that unless you’re selling supplements or you’re a big shot with a name and a book or a new program, the real money is in marketing to women. Especially if you’re a trainer or a gym owner.

There are two obvious reasons for this.

First, the men who are most willing to give up everything and train to be elite athletes also tend to be young guys with little if any disposable income. Kids who pin their hopes on something as chancy as becoming a professional fighter or an extreme athlete often come from broken homes on the wrong side of the tracks. People with a lot of disposable income to spend on expensive gym memberships and personal training tend to be older, and most men over 30 have either figured out how stay in shape on their own or have let themselves go to focus on making money. Men are sexually objectified now more than they used to be, but plenty of wives are happy with a doughy husband as long as he brings home the dough.

Second, the body is a machine, and if a man cares about his body, he will tinker with it until he figures it out. Most men will buy books and talk to other guys at the gym and read websites and watch thousands of videos and argue furiously for endless hours with other men on the Internet about which technique or program is the best before they will pay a personal trainer to hold their hand and walk them through a basic routine. A lot of them would probably really benefit from a few sessions with a trainer, but it’s kind of like…asking for directions. Men want to figure it out themselves. Women generally prefer to be shown.

So, most male trainers end up counting reps for middle-aged women. Unless you’re at an elite level coaching professional athletes or entertainers, that’s the job. Go to any Globogym and see who is training who.

Most male trainers, no matter how jacked they are, no matter how much they can squat, no matter how much Hatebreed or Metallica or they listen to, eventually realize that they are in the female empowerment business. And to keep doing it day in and out, a lot of them probably convince themselves that’s a good thing. Who doesn’t like empowerment? It’s their job to lure cardio bunnies off their ellipticals and out of their Zumba classes. They sit through countless consultations listening to housewives tell them they’re worried about “getting too big” and masculine looking.

Of course these trainers know that noticeable hypertrophy is something they had to train for specifically, even as men, and there is no chance that a woman in her 30s, 40s or 50s will “accidentally” get yoked. With a lot of work, they might get the backs of their arms to stop jiggling and maybe even get something approaching a CrossFit butt.

These women want to look like taut TV and pop stars whose aging bodies have the support of top trainers, plastic surgery, Botox, human growth hormone, Clenbuterol, Adderall, and possibly Oxandrolone or Stanozolol–the testosterone derivatives especially popular with female bodybuilders. It’s rumored that the last two are also frequently used by female CrossFitters, and may well be responsible for many of the inspirational photos trainers use to motivate their female clients.

This leads to an important consideration. If men take female hormones to gain the characteristics of females, we call them transsexuals. If women are be told to admire women who take testosterone and testosterone derivatives to gain the characteristics of men, aren’t they being encouraged to look like borderline transsexuals? Is the fitness community’s “ideal woman” really a vascular tranny with the 6-pack, biceps, and modified rear end of an 18 year-old dude? What does that say about this brave, new post-feminist bonobo culture? Why the double standard?

As personal trainers work with their clients, they help feminine women overcome their natural resistance to increasingly heavy resistance training by pointing to these strong, empowered, masculinized women as examples of a reimagined femininity. They sweet-talk their clients and make them feel good about themselves, because that’s what keeps them coming back and paying for the pleasure.

“Don’t be afraid of your own strength.”

“You’re stronger than you realize.”

“Women can be strong, too.”

And, as they shape them into fitter versions of themselves, whispering words of encouragement in moments of vulnerability, guiding their movements with a firm, caressing hand, carefully watching the form of every hip thrust, a lot of these trainers are setting up their next job perk.

Most male trainers end up banging a choice selection of their most loyal female clients. I watched one CrossFit coach take home one after another for months. I delivered fitness equipment to private gyms for years and watched the dynamic between these guys and their attentive, blushing clients. It’s become a fairly well-known phenomenon since then. It’s like bagging cougars in a zoo.

I’d bet many of the memes and slogans about women, strength, and training that “strong women” repeat and reformat and post to their Pinterest accounts and Facebook pages are the echoes of trainer game. We see this “Strong is the new skinny,” “Lift Like a Girl,” and “The myth that women shouldn’t lift heavy weights is only perpetuated by women who fear work and men who fear women” stuff over and over again because some guy, somewhere, was trying to fuck another man’s wife.

Trainers are the worst offenders, but it’s not just trainers. Almost every testosterone-fueled, hardcore, shit-talking lifting or fighting blog or site that I’ve read and enjoyed has posted some go-girl female empowerment article about “strong women” in the past year or so. They use them to drive traffic, expand their audience, avoid butthurt from a handful nagging female readers and clients, bathe in female affirmation (“likes” and “shares”), and probably to get laid. Almost none of their hero-worshipping fanboys will object, because they know they’ll be called insecure cowards, fags, micropenised misogynists, and anyway, “Look! There’s a hot girl lifting weights!”

Redefinition, Sex Roles, and The Flip Side of Feminism

The problem with this is not that some female outlier will shatter our illusions by being stronger than some men.

The differences between the sexes are on curves–they’re not mutually exclusive. The fact that strength is and has always been one of the defining virtues of masculinity does not mean that all men are stronger than all women. It just means that most men are stronger than most women, and women don’t have to be strong to be considered womanly, whereas the same is not true for men. It doesn’t matter if some atypical woman who realizes she’s not like other women decides she’d rather play with the boys. That’s probably been happening for all of human history.

The problem isn’t at the extremes, it’s about using the extremes to redefine the middle.

The strong men who stand up for their “strong women” are usually also the first guys to complain about the way American society is promoting effeminate men. They’re the first ones to mock the pajama boys and the Justin Biebers and limp-wristed hipsters. They’ll happily scoff at flamboyant feather boa-ed fruitcakes, metrosexuals, goths, and emo-kids. They’ll call other men “pussies” and “vaginas” all day long.

These guys think that men should act like men and women should act like women…until it comes time to pander to their female audience, or they need a gimmick to make a little extra money, or someone calls them sexists or misogynists–which is like being called a racist, only slightly less terrifying. Then suddenly strong is the new skinny, and no one should tell a woman where she should be or what she can do. Girl power!

Most of these jocks and tough-guys would object to being called feminists, and dismiss them as fat, ugly, whiny bitches.

But if feminism is about anything, it’s about eliminating socially prescribed sex roles. Feminists would argue that people are just people, regardless of their plumbing, and no one should tell women how to be women or men how to be men. No woman–especially women, because in feminism women are more equal than men–should be told she shouldn’t be somewhere or do something based on the fact that she’s a woman. Feminists also say they believe that feminism helps everyone, because it means men shouldn’t be told how to behave or where they should go or what they should do.

Feminists are conveniently selective about how they apply this, but we’re not talking about them right now. We’re talking about big, tough dudes who don’t think they are feminists.

The guys who I’m talking about would be the first ones to make fun of the male feminists in the “I need feminism” photos.

If it’s not OK for men to act like bitches, why is it applause-worthy when bitches act like men? Applauding masculinity in women is just the flip side of the feminist project to encourage effeminacy in men. The net effect is the same: the progressive negation of sex roles.

This glaring hypocrisy is something men need to think about honestly.

It’s not a hypocrisy of progressive men, who already call themselves feminists, and are all for Mr. Milkers and women fighting wars.

It’s a hypocrisy among otherwise socially conservative men, men of the right and far-right, men who believe that men today are by-and-large an embarrassment to their forefathers. I see it among readers of mine, who agree that the way of men is the way of the gang, who agree that masculinity is about strength, courage, mastery and honor, who rant about feminism, who are concerned about fatherlessness and a lack of male mentors, who worry that male testosterone rates are dropping globally, who are angry that there are no initiations for modern men, or men’s only clubs, or places where men aren’t constantly policed by the interests of women.

I see these same guys, guys who I generally like and agree with about most issues, turn around and cheer for female UFC fighters, for women who enter strongman competitions, for female powerlifters, for any girl who handles a gun, for sexy stock car racers, for chicks with vascular arms, 8-packs, and man shoulders. I see them encouraging every woman who enters a previously male space and simultaneously complaining that there are no places where men can be men anymore.

What, gives fellas?

Decide what you really believe.

If you believe that everyone should be manly, and unmanliness should be discouraged in men and women alike, that’s a novel position. I’d like to see a man who actually believes that work it out on paper.

If you truly believe that no one should tell a man how to be a man or a woman how to be a woman, be honest about it and stop playing both sides to look cool. Call yourself a feminist, or at least a men’s rights activist, since MRA’s believe what feminists believe, but realize that feminists aren’t being completely fair or honest.

If you believe that men should act like men and women should act like women, except when it’s convenient or profitable for you, then at least be honest with yourself. Pick up a piece of poster board and write, “I need feminism when it gets me attention, money or poon.” Then face the mirror and understand what you are.

I believe that sex differences run deeper than some obvious reproductive plumbing. Males and females have had different roles for most of human evolutionary history, and our brains, hormones, and psychologies have adapted to work differently. Different things draw our interest, different things make us happy, and we need different things from each other. I believe that gender is a total life experience, “from cradle to grave,” and that while it is possible to masculinize women and emasculate men, no normal female can ever really know what it is to be male, and no normal male can ever really know what it is to be female. It’s as degrading to females to think of them merely as handicapped males as it is to think of men as females with “testosterone poisoning.” I believe that the most feminine thing a woman can do is nurse her own baby, and the most masculine thing a man can do is face death in battle. Modern life degrades both masculinity and femininity–turning motherhood into a part-time job that women are supposed to squeeze in when they aren’t doing the “important” work of making money in some corporate career and turning masculinity into a video game that men play alone.

I’ve come to the conclusion that masculinity is the product of both nature and nurture, and that most men need to be surrounded by other men who will challenge them and hold them accountable to reach their full masculine potential. Without that brotherhood, the majority of men will become increasingly weak, effeminate, insecure, withdrawn, and apathetic.

By most accounts, that’s exactly what is happening to men in America.

I am not a feminist. I believe that sex roles generally increase human happiness, social stability, and are necessary for a thriving culture. Men should tell men how to be men and women should tell women how to be women. I think it’s great when men “police gender” and call each other pussies and push each other to be stronger, braver, and more competent.

And I am absolutely certain that the regular presence of women in male spaces short-circuits this process. The introduction of females into a group of men will always change the culture of the group, weaken male friendships, chill male speech (because men talk differently to each other than they do to women), and turn men against each other.

Encouraging a woman to do something men do and inviting her into one of the few surviving male spaces is a feminist act that is ultimately, if not immediately, harmful to men and masculinity. Men should call out men who do it, instead of congratulating them for being so “open minded” or being afraid to be called “sexists.”

There’s nothing brave about being “gender inclusive” in America. It’s like being “anti-racist.” It’s the safest, most establishment position you could possibly take. The President of the United States would pat you on the back and call you a “good boy” for doing exactly what you’ve been told to do. Anti-discrimination is fashionable, commercially viable, legally enforceable, and an easy way to get approval from women.

If you want to do something brave, try discriminating.

Try saying “no.”

Instead of jumping at the opportunity to help some tough girl live her best life and be a strong, independent woman who will brag about being manlier than men, try giving her the cold shoulder.

Then grab a brother and help him rise up.

Because men are failing.

Masculinity is failing.

If you’re angry about it, do something about it and stop playing both sides.

American women have thousands of laws, organizations, books, magazines, movies, television channels, gyms, websites and celebrities working to “empower” them. You don’t need to be Captain Save-a-Ho because American women do not need your help.

I’m not saying that women shouldn’t take care of themselves or learn self-defense skills or exercise. The historical reality is that the majority of women always worked hard. They worked in fields, milked cows, scrubbed laundry, and cleaned when cleaning was harder than running a vacuum. Women knew how to work hard without trying to be men or do everything men did. Women didn’t think “women’s work” was degrading until a bunch of bored Jewish women told them making money was more important.

If women want to stay in shape, let them Zumba. Leave them to their group exercise classes and yoga and things they actually feel drawn to and enjoy doing. Let women be women. Stop trying to redefine femininity by putting lipstick on masculinity.

I’m sure some women will read this and disagree. I’m sure it will make some women angry. Some of them will probably say they want to kick my ass. But that would just prove my point about how masculinized many American women already are.

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True Grit

The Coen Brothers greatest film is No Country for Old Men.  In 2008, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences endorsed it as such.  I would go as far as saying that *No Country* is one of the most important films of recent history. So rare is it that a work of popular art explores the most consequential issues of our time: the spiritual, moral, and demographic crisis facing Americans and Europeans around the world.  Even its title loudly proclaims the central subtext of the film. 

You know, if you’d have told me 20 years ago. I’d see children walking the streets of our Texas towns … with green hair, bones in their noses … I just flat-out wouldn’t have believed you.
—El Paso Sheriff, No Country for Old Men

The Coen Brothers greatest film is No Country for Old Men. In 2008, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences endorsed it as such. I would go as far as saying that No Country is one of the most important films of recent history. So rare is it that a work of popular art explores the most consequential issues of our time: the spiritual, moral, and demographic crisis facing Americans and Europeans around the world. Even its title loudly proclaims the central subtext of the film.

Two Jews, ostensibly of the purest priestly stock according to their namesakes, and a Celt, who named himself after an Irish King, have given this treasure to us, and it is impossible to believe that either party acted unwittingly in sounding these powerful and disturbing themes.

Country Bumpkins

As is well known, the Coen brothers are virtuosos of directing performances, and satire is bred in their bones. Humanizing their protagonists is often contrary to their goals. And though the Coens’ satires run from the broad (O Brother, Where Art Thou) to the relatively more nuanced (Fargo, most often their characters are caricatures.

In fact, it’s hard not to discern a deep misanthropy in their depictions. Whereas a director like Scorsese is sympathetic towards his protagonists (no matter however reprehensible they might be), the Coen brothers seem largely to have contempt for the characters they bring to the screen (except for the humor they provide). At best, the Coen Brothers’ characters are “lovingly” patronized and demeaned.

There are some exceptions to this rule, of course, most notably Gabriel Bryne (Tom Reagan), the protagonist of Miller’s Crossing. But here, Reagan is a cipher and his performance relatively forgettable, as if the directors, irritated by an attractive personality not their own, insisted on blandness and a sort of silence.

More typically, their subjects are regionally accented philistines, quite lacking in the sentience of the urban centers of non-flyover states; at best, they are bestowed with a sort of corrupt slyness or, alternatively, an innocence owed to their utter vacuity. Even the ostensibly lovable and folksy Marge Gunderson of Fargo, played by Frances McDormand, is a glorified bumpkin; she’s “wise” only in the most politically correct, earth-motherly sense of that term.[1]

Indeed, if it were not for A Serious Man and Barton Fink—in which neurotic Jewish intellectuals are lambasted—one might be inclined to perceive a certain spirit of “anti-Gentilism” in the Coen Brothers’ work.[2]

Whatever the case, I’m sure we can relate to the Coens’ send-ups of our benighted brothers (even if we think it should be we who criticize them, constructively).

The Native and the Alien

No Country for Old Men, a neo-Western based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy and set in the Texas of 1980, represents a major departure for the brothers.

First, both protagonists, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) and Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), are patently rural types; yet they are far from venal, buffoonish, or one-dimensional. In fact, they are, in their folksy way, quite charismatic. To be certain, they are flawed, tragically so, but in ways that are instructive and not merely demeaning.[3]

Let us take Moss first. From the onset, he is depicted as a “man’s man”: ruggedly handsome and able to handle a gun. He is far from perfect, of course; at many points, he seems to be a 18-year-old in a 45-year-old’s body; and it is his inability to control his greed that leads to his downfall. Yet Moss is, at his core, “decent.” Indeed, one could say that “decency” is his fatal flaw.

While hunting antelope one day, Moss happens upon the grisly results of a drug-deal gone wrong: bullet-ridden bodies are strewn left and right (including, quite pathetically, that of a dog), and the ground is soaked with blood. Moss discovers a mound of narcotics and a briefcase containing some $2 million in cash. He also comes across a wounded man in a truck, clinging to life.

Moss can’t help himself and takes the bundle of cash. But at great risk, he returns to the crime scene later that night to bring water to the dying man. This is not only a man Moss doesn’t know, but a Mexican drug dealer—a foreigner in race, country, and tongue, who, in all likelihood, has committed crimes even graver than the transport of highly destructive drugs to millions of Moss’ vulnerable countrymen.

This act of kindness, which ends in Moss being shot by some drug dealers seeking to retrieve the treasure, is the first of many studies in contrast between Moss and his non-Anglo opponent—the demonic Anton Chigurh, who is sent after Moss and the money on a bounty.

Here, we should note that the Coen brothers alter the character of Anton Chigurh in important ways in their adaption of McCarthy’s novel, and arguably make this figure both more terrifying and more symbolic. In the novel, Chigurh’s ethnicity is made deliberately opaque: he is described as a dark haired man with eyes “as blue as lapis.” For the role, the Coens cast the then-relatively unknown Javier Bardem, an actor who is masterful in crafting diabolical and inscrutable characters.

The stranger The stranger

The native. The native.

The Coen brothers describe their reasons for casting Bardem quite innocently. In the interest of serving the spirit of McCarthy’s narrative, they found an actor who seems as though he could have been from “outer space.” However, it is impossible to believe that these ethnically conscious and detail-oriented filmmakers were unaware of the racial undercurrents of No Country—a tragic story set against a backdrop of Mexican criminality and drug running. Bardem, a heavily accented and darkly featured Spaniard, amplifies this unspoken racial drama.

The name “Chigurh” is of ambiguous origin and possibly invented by McCarthy. (A quick Internet search reveals a few occurrences worldwide.) With the first name Anton and McCarthy’s description, the reader might believe that he’s Eastern European, or Russian. Supportive of this thesis is the novel’s and film’s first “coin flipping” scene, in which Chigurh, quite oddly, begrudges a small-town store clerk owner for having “married into” his property.

Is Chigurh possessed by a Marxist ressentiment? Is Chigurh not only a “foreigner,” but one bringing with him an “Un-American creed?” Might this character be Jewish? Or is the name “Anton Chigurh” a kind of code or pseudo-anagram for “Anti-Christ?”

Much about Chigurh’s symbolic status is revealed in the brief, clipped conversation he has with the guileless clerk. Chigurh flips a coin and then demands that his adversary “call it”:

Proprietor: I didn’t put nothin’ up.
Chigurh: Yes, you did. You’ve been putting it up your whole life. You just didn’t know it. You know what date is on this coin?
Proprietor: No.
Chigurh: 1958. It’s been traveling 22 years to get here. And now it’s here. And it’s either heads or tails, and you have to say. Call it.
Proprietor: Well, look … I need to know what I stand to win.
Chigurh: Everything.

1958 fell right in the middle of the Civil Rights movement in the South, one year after Little Rock, Arkansas, integrated its school systems and one year after the death of a young Joseph McCarthy, marking the close of “McCarthyism.” It’s difficult to hear that year and not sense that it marked an endpoint of Anglo-White hegemony in America. Does the coin arrive as a form of vengeance for this period of American history? As in: what comes around, goes around? Is this simple clerk, now powerless, being held to account for the sins of his fathers?[4]

The narrative of the film is driven by Chigurh’s hunt for Moss and the money, which Chigurh engages in with a kind of fanaticism and dedication that reveals he’s something more than a mercenary. (As one rival describes him, “He has principles.”) The chase also allows McCarthy and the Coens to paint a study in contrast between the two men.

The first divergence that comes to the fore is Chigurh’s and Moss’s respective resilience, resourcefulness, and ruthlessness. When wounded by gunfire early in the film, Moss is obliged to go to a hospital to have his wounds treated; there he lays in public view, vulnerable, bedridden, and open to discovery by his tormenters. Chigurh, on the other hand, is able to stitch up a more grievous and painful wound himself, secretly, safe from vying criminals and detectives, and with the skill of a surgeon. Throughout the film, the viewer is filled with a sense of gloom and dread: No matter how tough Moss might be, he doesn’t stand a chance in a battle with Chigurh; he is mere prey.[5]

To a degree, Chigurh is a reprisal of the largely mute (and less interesting) Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) from Fargo (who’s famously feeds Steve Buscemi’s character into a wood chipper). But Chigurh is something much bigger than a Terminator for the literati—he is something as invincible and unstoppable as death himself. Moss had hoped to use the stash to build a new life with his wife Karla Jean—that is, to gain riches scot-free and without consequences—Chigurh comes to exact the price.

The Coens also contrast the ways in which Chigurh and Moss are perceived by Americans, in particular the old and the young. Moss is generally respected by older Whites. On the run from Chigurh, Moss ventures into Mexico to get medical care, afterwards returning to America to protect his wife and, he naively believes, to kill Chigurh. When crossing the border into the States, Moss is dressed only in a hospital gown. The border agent, a formidable gatekeeper, is hostile to this seemingly demented man, but then softens and allows him passage when he learns that Moss is a Vietnam veteran. “Wilson,” he calls to his assistant, “Get someone to help this man; he needs to get into town.”

Chigurh, on the other hand, is regarded with fear by older White Americans, who are confused and cowed by his cryptic and rude assertiveness. This is evident in the first “coin-flipping” scene, discussed above, and is perhaps best exemplified by Sheriff Bell, who is quietly terrified.

In the film’s Second Act, Moss arranges to meet his wife in a motel in El Paso, where he hopes to give the money over to her and send her out of harm’s way. But Chigurh catches up to Moss before his wife arrives… Cryptically, this final confrontation occurs off camera. All the viewer sees is Sheriff Bell driving up to the motel, as a Mexican drug gang flees the scene in a pickup truck. The viewer is left to imagine what exactly happened in this violent standoff between Moss, Chigurh, and the gang. All is known is that Moss lies dead in his room.

After this denouement, Sheriff Bell decides (much like Moss at the beginning of the film) to return to the scene of the crime. He walks slowly, deliberately, towards Moss’s motel room… and the viewer sees that Chigurh is crouched, patiently waiting, ready to make Sheriff Bell his next victim. But when Bell opens the door, Chigurh has vanished, and all that remains in the room is Bell’s shadow against the wall. What has just happened? Did Chigurh, inexplicably, decide to spare Bell and slip out of the room? Or was this actually one of Bell’s dreams, or nightmares, in which he glimpses something that he is not quite willing to confront?

Whatever the case, shortly after Moss’s death, Bell opts for retirement rather than taking his chances against such a fearsome opponent. Bell is, in his words, “overmatched.”

The younger generation of Americans reacts quite differently to both Moss and Chigurh. After Moss is wounded by Chigurh, and is staggering across the Mexican border in seek of a hospital, he crosses the path of a group of twenty-somethings, who are, apparently, returning from Mexico where they were bar-hopping. Moss asks one of the kids if he could purchase his coat; the young men are repelled and distrustful, insistent on seeing the money before they proffer the coat, even though Moss is obviously wounded and in need: “OK, give me the money,” the twenty-somethings insist. “It’s right here. Give me the clothes.” “Let him hold the money,” the young man insists. After the exchange is made, Moss asks for the beer that one of them is holding. “How much?” is the insolent reply.

This pathetic scene is contrasted, quite deliberately, with a parallel scene at the end of the film. Chigurh has just tracked down Moss’s wife, Carla Jean, who is living at the house of her recently deceased mother. There, Chigurh engages in another round of existential coin-flipping with a terrified and helpless woman:

Carla Jean Moss: You don’t have to do this.
Anton Chigurh: People always say the same thing.
Carla Jean Moss: What do they say?
Anton Chigurh: They say, “You don’t have to do this.”

The fates again are not kind.

After leaving the house and driving off, Chigurh’s car is struck by another when he runs a red light (perhaps killing the other driver). Having pulled himself from the totaled car, Chigurh rests on the roadside with a gruesome compound fracture in his arm. The crash has attracts the attention of concerned Anglo-American teenagers. Like Moss, Chigurh needs to dress his terrible wound.

Anton Chigurh: What will you take for the shirt?”
Boy: Well hell Mister I’ll give you my shirt.

The boy then helps Chirguh tie a sling for his arm. Chirguh extends to him a $100.

Teenager: Well hell mister, I don’t mind helping someone out.
Chigurh: Take it. Take it. You didn’t see me. I was already gone.

The earnest boy nods indicating that he will do as instructed.

The contrast between the two rivals is drawn sharply. Chigurh is the stronger, more ruthless man, seemingly devoid of any hint of empathy or remorse. Yet he is pitied and pampered by xenophiles, who will literally give him the shirts off their backs (and who are not above taking a bribe to cover for him). Moss, on the other hand, is a vet, self-sacrificing and with a sense of duty toward his fellow human beings. Yet he is distrusted and disrespected by the youth of his own country. Chigurh survives. Moss dies.

Sailing to Byzantium

The death of Llewelyn Moss could be chalked up as another good man brought low by greed, or as a victim (though not an altogether innocent one) of the drug craze. But for Sheriff Bell, Moss’s death begins to take on the significance of the end of era, the end of his people and folkways. Bell touches on this feeling when he shares a coffee with the local sheriff of El Paso (Roscoe Boyce):

Roscoe Boyce: If you’d a told me twenty years ago I’d see children walkin’ the streets of our Texas towns with green hair and bones in their noses … I just flat out wouldn’t of believed you.
Ed Tom Bell: Signs and wonders. But I think once you stop hearin’ sir and madam, the rest is soon to foller.
Roscoe Boyce: It’s the tide. It’s the dismal tide. It is not the one thing.

It’s a remarkable scene that may be without precedent (outside some of Disney’s Fables, W.D. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, or Gone with the Wind.) When was the last time a Hollywood character complained about the degeneracy of America (or the South) and was not depicted as a crackpot, crank, fascist, or religious nut?[6]

One truly tragic aspect of No Country is that Bell laments the decline of his people and civilization, yet is himself an expression of it—a fact of which he seems dimly aware. From the beginning of the film, Sheriff Bell is terrorized by the rise of what he describes as a new breed of criminal, one that is a product of the times: brutal, psychotic, and remorseless. But he does not rise up to confront and defeat this evil; he does not, like Ethan in John Ford’s The Searchers, hunt down bad men, no matter the cost. Instead, he submissively retires, and fails to try to bring Chigurh to justice.

It is not just the green hair, the breakdown of community cohesion, the loss of a healthy distrust of the stranger—it is also cowardice and forfeit that signal the end for America. At least Old America.

Harder to discern are the Coen Brothers’ feeling regarding the Decline that they poignantly explored in their film. For instance, is it not possible to detect a certain sublimated joy in the destruction of the dumb, fatted cattle of rural White America? Early in the film, Chigurh actually kills his prey with a captive bolt pistol, an instrument used to stun livestock for slaughter. Is it not possible to detect a joy in nature running its course, as a man might gain some sublimated satisfaction in seeing a powerful lion take down an impala, knowing, on some level, that this is how, long ago, his own species survived—by being strong and merciless?

In the minds of the Coen brothers, is No Country for Old Men something like Django Unchained or Machete for epicures, revenge porn for people who prefer a Pinot Gris to a Budweiser (or a joint)? Perhaps this is true to an extent. But there does seem to be, however improbably, a strong undercurrent of pity—even longing—for White America.

Perhaps we should ask how McCarthy views his Anglo subjects? After all, despite the clever affects brought to the film by the Coen brothers, McCarthy is the true and final weaver of this tale. Is the countrified dialect of his characters a sign of McCarthy’s affection for his subject, or of mockery or merely verisimilitude? One should consider his background in this matter—a southerner from childhood (though one with Catholic, Yankee parents). McCarthy’s political views are unknown, though he has offered up this gem: “I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea.” If by “improve” he means “improved to live in harmony,” as it seems he does in this passage, I imagine the RadixJournal readership finds little to disagree with.

But certainly one would have to weigh No Country against his earlier works, most saliently the novel that is widely consider his masterpiece, The Blood Meridian published in 1985. Here, the main part of the story is a depiction of a band of western outlaws hired by regional leaders to fight the Apache. They end up indiscriminately and brutally massacring Indians and Mexicans, even the peaceful ones. While it is certainly a layered and complex novel, Steven Shaviro’s gushing review characterizes the way that the novel has been received.

Both [Moby Dick and The Blood Meridian] savagely explode the American dream of manifest destiny (sic) of racial domination and endless imperial expansion.

We might consider two possibilities. First, men change, as, indeed, does the world around them. Conscientious men are especially mutable, as they might have a varying sense of who is gaining and losing power. The idealism of younger man is replaced by the experience of life. Did Cormac change? And has he revealed this, esoterically, to his audience?

The second, related possibility is that perhaps McCarthy— simply being a universalistic moralist, and with no particular sense of allegiance—has moved on to describe the destruction of another people, facing a similar fate as the American Indians. It is interesting to note that one of the few meaningful physical descriptions he includes in No Country For Old Men is of the Indian carvings that Moss encounters out in the desert.

The rocks there were etched with Pictographs perhaps a thousand years old. The men who drew them, hunters like himself. Of them, there was no other trace.

All these things considered, I believe that perhaps the final scene of this film, rendered faithfully from the book, may contain the answer. Here, Bell, now retired, describes a pair of dreams he’s had the evening before. The script is worth revisiting in its entirety:

All right, then. Two of ’em, both had my father in ’em. It’s peculiar. I’m older now than he ever was by 20 years. So, in a sense, he’s the younger man. Anyway, the first one I don’t remember too well … but it was about meeting him in town … somewheres, and he give me some money. I think I lost it.

Second one, it was like we was both back in older times. And I was a-horseback, going through the mountains of a night. Going through this pass in the mountains. It was cold, and there was snow on the ground. And he rode past me and kept on going … never said nothing going by, just rode on past. He had his blanket wrapped around him and his head down. When he rode past, I seen he was carrying fire in a horn … the way people used to do, and I … I could see the horn from the light inside of it … ‘bout the color of the moon. And, in the dream, I knew that he was … going on ahead. He was fixin’ to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and cold. And I knew that whenever I got there, he’d be there. And then I woke up.

These dreams are best understood through an examination of their symbols.

What is the meaning of his father as a younger man? This, in my view, is emblematic of the healthier and vigorous generation that has passed. Bell’s generation—passive, permissive, and tolerant—is exhausted and senile. Thus, it is natural that he sees himself as an old, dying man, relative to his father who was of a younger, more robust, and healthier generation). In this context the meaning of the money is simple: Bell dreams of losing something bestowed to him, which expresses the anxiety of the prodigal son—or generation—who squanders the inheritance of his father.

In the second dream, I believe Bell is not merely encountering an ancestor but also a descendant, if not quite his own son. The young man is his prophetic dream is a “young man” of the future. What is the meaning of the moon-colored fire in the horn? There is a holy fire mentioned in the Yeats “Sailing to Byzantium,” the poem from which McCarthy’s book takes its name. (The first line goes: “That is no country for old men.”) Here, the Holy Fire represents a spiritual or magical force commanded by the “Sages” of Byzantium, a city that is the historical seat of Orthodox Christianity, the gate to the West, and the capital of the most abiding remnant of the Roman Empire.

The central anxiety of the poem is one of mortality and of Yeats’s concern that his art and impression in the world will not abide. Hence, he seeks Byzantium to gain the magic of its immortality. Here, in Bell’s dream, the moon-colored fire, I believe, can be taken to mean something similar. The father, who is emblematic of a descendent, goes ahead to rekindle the fire anew amid the cold and darkness. The civilization of Bell’s blood will come again. Hence, McCarthy does what his Irish kinsman Yeats desired in his poem:

Or set upon a golden bough to sing,
To Lords and Ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come

Therefore, the book and film are hopeful, if only wistfully so. Civilization will be rekindled amid the “darkness,” and the blood of Bell will survive by it. Arguably, one could say this dream is merely a vision of Bell’s personal afterlife; however, this seems unlikely given the attention paid to so specific a symbolism, as well as given Bell’s professed lack of faith in God, and given the broader themes of moral and cultural decline.

Let us consider the Coen Brothers intent with this ending. Are they also hopeful that such a civilization, rekindled by the blood of Bell, will be reborn?

Perhaps the relative ambiguity and esotericism of the scene is its guardian, and its true meaning, to the extent my deciphering is correct, is lost on the Coen Brothers? Yet I tend to give them more credit than this (especially since A Serious Man, with its suggestion of decline, seems inspired by themes in No Country for Old Men, only adapted to a Minnesotan Jewish community).

Certainly, there must be an instinct among sub-creators, like the Coen brothers, to attach themselves to art of great value and permanence, and to serve that art to the best of their ability, as its glow will invariably reflect on them. And one should remember the last line of Bell’s description: “And then I woke up.” Does this suggest that the prophetic dream is merely a fond illusion? The Coen Brothers, it seems, also have an alibi… Indeed, one could reasonably interpret the scene as a compassionate and sympathetic paean to a dangerous but dying beast, in much the way a New York Times columnist might laud the WASP Establishment for having the “goodness” and “virtue” to eventually relinquish its grasp on power. (One can have sympathy for a dangerous beast only when one is certain the beast is dying.) Or perhaps (who knows?) the Coen brothers are secretly onboard with us. After all, without a strong race and civilization, there would be no employment for its sarcastic critics!

In the category of “dark, unpleasant, and truthful,” No Country For Old Men may be the best film ever made. And by truthful, I also mean life-affirming. Hence, the Coen Brothers, as if interpreting the mysteries of a higher being, honor their priestly names.

Finally, if the famously evasive Cormac McCarthy ever denies this meaning I have put forth, be slow to believe him. The Irish are master liars (their kings, no less so). Perhaps Comac’s willingness to deceive is the only reason No Country became a film in the first place. So if you see him, be sure to thank him.[7]


  1. Outside of her traditionally male profession, and her success in uncovering the crime central to the film, Marge Gunderson’s relative sophistication and wisdom is indicated most saliently in her participation in a non-traditional relationship with her painter husband, where, it seems, she is the breadwinner. Hence, she becomes a sort of feminist hero set amid a landscape of venal, bumbling, and/or unsophisticated men.  ↩
  2. Using this logic, one is inclined to believe that the Coens’ ability for satire was probably encouraged by their early experiences growing up in Minnesota, just outside Minneapolis. Here, in a Midwestern and relatively less Judaized milieu, where many of the similarities and gradations that exist between Gentile and Jew in other urban areas are absent, Gentiles likely seem quite exotic to Jews (not to mention threatening)—and hence worthy of study. Perhaps the Coens’ childhood felt something like a wildlife safari? Certainly such a weaning would also heighten a self-awareness, present notably in A Serious Man. While Woody Allen describes a strongly Jewish milieu in most of his films, it is with greater affection and much less mockery. One should also consider that Minnesotan Jews are effectively “Jewish hicks” and can be lampooned for their lack of sophistication relative to say, New York Jews.  ↩
  3. Certainly, both characters also benefit from the Cowboy mythos, which 1950s Hollywood played a hand in bolstering, and for which Coen brothers clearly have a soft spot, as evinced by their other Western, True Grit (2010). Perhaps one day a Siegfried will be drawn from these Western Sagas (though certainly not by the hand of satirists like the Coen Brothers).  ↩
  4. The biblical demon Mammon is discussed toward the end of the novel in a scene where Bell and a Lawyer are both familiar with the name, through its reference in scripture, but have no sense of its meaning (doubtlessly indicating their distance from religion).  The coin, being a monetary unit, may be, in some ways, a reference to Mammon, who is the personification of wealth as an evil influence (as might also, more obviously, the satchel of money, which functions in this tragedy very much as the Nibelung Ring or the Cursed Golden Fleece).  ↩
  5. So invincible is Chigurh, early in the film he is picked up and hand cuffed by local police, suspicious of the captive bolt pistol he carries. Chigurh manages not merely to escape but also to kill his captor. (In the book, it is revealed that Chigurh allowed himself to be captured because he was intrigued by the potential challenge it proffered.) Chigurh evades and kills vying criminal and lawman alike, with cunning and impunity.  ↩
  6. Though perhaps the Coens were looking at Sheriff Bell and his companion somewhat askance. There seems to be a subtle “Church Lady” caricature occurring, a gentle mocking of two powerless, provincial men engaging in thoughts too big for their minds. Tommy Lee Jones—though perhaps I am imagining this—seems to struggle to keep a straight face when he says “the rest is soon to foller.” And what are Hollywood liberals to think of such lines? Can they really embody them? And are not these revelations unavoidably pathetic, coming from such impotent and outmoded men?  ↩
  7. There is an old Iranian saying: “It takes two Jews to cheat a Greek, two Greeks to cheat an Armenian, and two Armenians to cheat a Persian.” Perhaps this will have to be revised to include Irishmen somewhere along the hierarchy.  ↩

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