A new male image is emerging on the motion picture screen - in today's movies, men can be both nurturing and masculine, says a film expert.
"We're witnessing a shift away from the Rambo-like warrior so prevalent a decade ago," said Sharon Swenson, coordinator of the film program at Brigham Young University. Swenson explained her appraisal of contemporary movies Friday during the International Conference on Gender and the Family at Brigham Young University."Moviegoers are also seeing a shift from the sensitive, witty and somewhat intellectual Alan Alda types audiences thought would replace the screen's macho male role models."
Instead of either choice, Swenson said she perceives a dramatic switch to on-screen males who affirm family and family values, particularly those that deal with nurturing.
"Sometimes the new screen male is obvious, as is the case with `Three Men and a Baby,' " Swenson said. "The message that men are good with children is clear. But the desire to nurture is also clear. Particularly with the Ted Danson and Tom Selleck characters, you see men who nurture each other as well as a baby - yet neither abandons his maleness. The nurturing is an addition."
It's also apparent in a movie such as "Willow" where an unquestionably nurturing male dwarf cares for a baby. The young romantic male lead who ultimately gets the baby also has nurturing qualities.
Other times the connection is not so obvious but is still there, Swenson said. She cited several examples:
- In "The Princess Bride," the hero Wesley assembles a motley crew: a giant, a drunken Spaniard trying to avenge his father's murder and himself, a pirate. Yet, unusual as they are, they take care of each other.
- A major part of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is the rediscovery of the father and the son. They work to save each other and find peace.
- Even the film "Pretty Woman" returns a father to the hero. While the movie also explores issues of romance, sex and money, Julia Roberts' character softens the Richard Gere character. When he makes an unexpected partnership with an older man, Gere creates a stand-in for his father.
- Bruce Willis is the original tough guy in "Die Hard," yet he gets involved fighting terrorists while trying to re-establish a tie with his wife and children. His motivation is to save his wife.
"What is encouraging during the past few years is that this very popular medium - with no deliberation, no self-awareness and no advocacy - says, `Let's remodel men's and women's roles and create a new window on the world.'
"Men can keep their sexual, romantic side, but they can nurture too, and in this way they offer a redefinition of what makes a family."
Swenson said some screen characters who made the switch to nurturing male have altered their images, and the public accepted the shift.
Arnold Schwartzenegger, the action hero of "Terminator" and "Predator," also found success in "Kindergarten Cop" and "Twins."