I liked this article from The Observer to how entertainment culture in the US is responding to difficult times- basically, escapism or wallow in the situation with grim reality.
Not only can this found in the UK, on many levels, including brand ones: thrift culture/back to basics v escapism and nostalgia, actually all dramatised to wonderful effect in this:
It's accross westerb culture in general.
Actually, you can see the wallowing or denial approach in all sorts of stuff. In the ageing population phenomenon in the western world, people of a certain age get frustrated at the way culture ignores them. They respond either with total denial and escapism, trying to fit in with the culture shutting them out, going for the mutton dressed as lamb approach:
Or wallow in it, with the grumpy old fogey, rebellious, sod the lot of you approach:
Increasingly though, there is the emerging third way, where individuals decide lifestage is irrelevant and choose to defined by attitude rather than age. They embrace the opportunities that good health, decent money and freedom give them:
It reminds me of all those King of Shaves discussion from the APSOTW project, about the male reaction to their loss of status and uncertain role in the world. Much of culture and the ads and stuff that reflect take the this way or that way approach:
The wallowing, reactionary rebellion:
Or going the other way:
But, like the Helen Mirren example for baby boomers, there is a third way. Both for austere times and for men. Instead of giving in to one cultural pressure or the other, brands can relieve tension with another answer, rather than following the behaviour already there.
I'm suprised we're not seeing more examples of the 'man of action', and I wonder what the modern version of that might be.
Back in the 1930's Superman worked as both independent hero, outside of the system who got things done, in a time when men felt emasculated, helpless and resentful of authority and institutions that restricted their freedom but didn't deliver on the other part of that deal - security and prosperity.
Marlboro man is another great example, as was the empowering, self motivated rallying cry of 'Just Do It' back in the late 80's early 90's when individual responsibility and merit were standards few felt they could live up to.
Of course, the idea of an earnest serious superhero probably isn't right for these ironic cynical times - or hold on, maybe it is?...., with the possible exception of the - tongue firmly in cheek - Iron Man, the string of comic book adaptations are pretty earnest and gritty. Not mention modern day hero icons without super powers:
Or even better, what about anti-heroes. Like Omar Little from the Wire, Christopher Nolan's Batman, Tony Soprano, Nucky Thompson from Boardwalk Empire or even Don Draper. Men who step outside the rules of the game to alter the status quo. They're morally ambiguous and contradictory, but they don't wait for permission, they don't worry for too long. They ACT. Something that isn't just an answer for masculine identity conflicts, but the helplessness we feel as the world around us collapses. Something that rubs against some of todays cultural norms, from the get rich quick for doing nothing of use myth that applies equally to the bankers, Peter Andre and sleb culture, to challenging the ruling elite that looked after each other while they fucked us all over. It challenges the convention of make sulking, while the world leaves them behind and champions men who..erm, act.
On the other hand, it doesn't have to get so serious. I wonder what someone like KOS could do with the subculture of real life superheroes. Not only would they be a vehicle to convey all sorts of angles on the above stuff, it could drip in irony, avoiding the blood curdling earnestness of the category and be, well, rather funny and maverick. Something that category badly needs. Something that would cut through. Something that implies, rather than tells.
Imagine tapping into the rich love for slightly uncomfortable mockumentaries where people don't know how funny they are, like The Office etc. Let's face it, these guys are already doing it.........