Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Types of Masculinities

I really like the schema that Elizabeth Meyer refers to in her article about the OC. It was introduced by R.W. Connell, who identifies four categories of masculinity. I am using Gossip Girl as an example since she uses the OC.

Hegemonic: heterosexuality, power, authority, and aggression.

I'd say Chuck Bass fits this mold. He's promiscuous, a billionaire, very sophisticated, and completely able to leverage his power and wealth to fit his needs. He also tried to date rape both Serena AND Jenny in Season One which has been apparently forgotten by the writers.

Complicit: Men who do little to challenge the patriarchal gender order, thereby enjoying its many rewards.

Dan Humphrey is like a less-geeky Seth Cohen, who we know is an outcast mostly because he says he is. Especially now that he's the stepson of a billionaire rather than his former life as a (cough) poor Brooklyn kid living in a giant loft in Dumbo and going to prep school on the UES. Dan isn't violent and doesn't use women like Chuck does, but he certainly reaps the privileges of being a good-looking white dude.

Marginalized: As far as I can remember there are very very few people of color in general on GG, and I don't think we've ever seen a person with a disability. Am I wrong?

Subordinate: There are several gay characters on GG, namely Serena's brother Eric and his ex-boyfriend Jonathan. I don't think they are necessarily seen as subordinate, although they definitely are minor characters compared to Chuck, Nate, Dan, and Rufus, and so have crappier storylines. Eric is often sort of a 'tragic' character; in the first season he tried to kill himself and was committed to a mental hospital, and this season (in a very stupid plotline) he and Jonathan were egged at 'the party of the year' by the mean girls at school.

In general, I think GG does a relatively decent job of dealing with gay men, since Chuck kissed a guy in one episode and did say it wasn't the first time-- something you never would have seen on the OC. 

What do you guys think? Do you think GG is more/less progressive than the OC in terms of representations of masculinity? (If you've never seen GG, feel free to substitute the soap/teen show/whatever of your choice).


  1. After reading your post, i agree, G.G. does a really great job covering many of the bases with the types of masculinities. Nate kind of flies under the radar, but I'd put him somewhere between hegemonic and complicit.

  2. Oh yeah, I totally agree, Gossip girl does cover many different types of masculinities, though it's true, I definitely have not seen a handicap on the show and haven't noticed any men of color on the show. In fact, I haven't really noticed any women of color on the show either besides an Asian in Blair's group of followers that doesn't ever really say anything.
    The O.C. did have a gay character (luke's dad) but they turned it into a negative story line and Luke was basically seen as a social outcast after his dad came out of the closet, so I think GG is more progressive in terms of representations of masculinity because at least they portray roles of subordinate masculinity in a more positive light.

  3. I suppose GG is more progressive. I mean I love both shows, but both aren't really exactly ground breaking with their gender roles. After all, most of GG current male characters fit into the 4 types of masculinities. And Nelly (the Asian girl) totally had a story arch! In season one, she was seen competing with Blair to get into Yale!