Cable Guys

Cable Guys: Television and Masculinities in the 21st Century

Amanda D. Lotz
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 251
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfmb8
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  • Book Info
    Cable Guys
    Book Description:

    From the meth-dealing but devoted family man Walter White of AMC's Breaking Bad, to the part-time basketball coach, part-time gigolo Ray Drecker of HBO's Hung, depictions of male characters perplexed by societal expectations of men and anxious about changing American masculinity have become standard across the television landscape. Engaging with a wide variety of shows, includingThe League,Dexter, andNip/Tuck, among many others, Amanda D. Lotz identifies the gradual incorporation of second-wave feminism into prevailing gender norms as the catalyst for the contested masculinities on display in contemporary cable dramas.Examining the emergence of male-centered serials such asThe Shield,Rescue Me, andSons of Anarchyand the challenges these characters face in negotiating modern masculinities, Lotz analyzes how these shows combine feminist approaches to fatherhood and marriage with more traditional constructions of masculine identity that emphasize men's role as providers. She explores the dynamics of close male friendships both in groups, as inEntourageandMen of a Certain Age, wherein characters test the boundaries between the homosocial and homosexual in their relationships with each other, and in the dyadic intimacy depicted inBoston LegalandScrubs.Cable Guysprovides a much needed look into the under-considered subject of how constructions of masculinity continue to evolve on television.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-0012-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Depending on what channel you tuned to on a Monday night in January 2010, US television offered very different versions of masculinity. Broadcast stalwart CBS alone provided a menagerie of contradictions. Its prime-time program lineup began withHow I Met Your Mother(2005–2014), a comedy that depicted six urban professionals negotiating their twenties’ transition from college to marriage and family life—the 2000s take onFriends. The series offered a solid ensemble of characters, but Neil Patrick Harris, in the role of Barney Stinson, often stole the show. Barney was renowned for his sexual conquests and love of finely...

  5. 1 Understanding Men on Television
    (pp. 19-51)

    There is no easy starting place for assessing men and masculinity on US television at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The past of this object of analysis is too expansive for simple summary and the limited existing research is too brief and haphazard to build a comprehensive picture of even general typologies from secondary sources. Although men were the central characters and figures in both fictional and news programming for much of the medium’s history, it was not until gender issues became a central part of social deliberations and the roles of men began adjusting in response to various...

  6. 2 Trying to Man Up: Struggling with Contemporary Masculinities in Cable’s Male-Centered Serials
    (pp. 52-81)

    This epigraph collects titles from a range of popular-press articles in the mid-2000s commenting about the changing faces and characterizations of men on television. Though these characters ranged from socalled antiheroes to so-called sensitive men, profound character depth increasingly became a hallmark of a subset of television storytelling in the 2000s. As Lynn Smith, writing for theLos Angeles Times, described it, “Original shows, on cable as well as network TV, are shifting attention to more mature and complex characters. The small screen is now crowded with charming, smart, confident, humorous grown-up men.”New York Timescritic Alessandra Stanley considered...

  7. 3 Any Men and Outlaws: The Unbearable Burden of Straight White Man
    (pp. 82-115)

    These men, whose tales animateBreaking Bad, Hung, andThe Shield, respectively, are protagonists in various stages of being undone. They are not necessarily bad men, or at least none starts out that way, but a series of choices—including engaging in illegal behavior—lead at least Walt and Vic far outside the moral bounds of society. In addition to these stories of three relatively “any man” characters, who break the law in an effort to provide for, restore, or maintain their families, are series about those who have less of a choice. Tony Soprano (The Sopranos) and Jax Teller...

  8. 4 Where Men Can Be Men: The Homosocial Enclave and Jocular Policing of Masculinity
    (pp. 116-145)

    The differences between male and female communication styles are a frequent topic for comedians. Women’s perceived need to talk about everything, in detail, ad nauseam, is often mocked in such routines—typically by the male comedians who dominate the field—while men in these “conversations” hear only the “wha-wha-wha-wha” of adult-speak inPeanutscartoons. But men talk too, and popular films and television have increasingly brought such talk into the open. Many comedic films of the early twenty-first century that Peter Alilunas calls “dude flicks” starring the “frat pack” and Judd Apatow’s “man-boys,” as well as the television series considered...

  9. 5 Dynamic Duos: Hetero Intimacy and the New Male Friendship
    (pp. 146-178)

    The eponymous Starsky and Hutch.I Spy. ThatOdd Coupleof Oscar and Felix.Miami Vice’s Crockett and Tubs. John and Ponch ofCHiPS. Bosom Buddies’ Henry and Kip.thirtysomething’s Michael and Elliot. Beavis and Butthead. Certainly, male buddies—and particularly crime-fighting teams—are nothing new to television screens. Consistent with the developments explored in other chapters of this book, however, new dimensions of the male buddy relationship emerge in twenty-first-century fictional series. Expanding the previous chapters’ consideration of interiority and the male psyche found in the male-centered serials or the anxieties revealed by the uncensored speech and jockeying for...

  10. Conclusion: Is It the End of Men as We Know Them?
    (pp. 179-194)

    I experienced a series of panic attacks as the fall 2011 television season debuted. I was embedded somewhat in the middle of the book-writing process—too far along to go back, but still a good distance to go—and suddenly it seemed the rest of the free world had figured out that something interesting was happening with men on television. Most of the hullabaloo centered on the fact that one of the most apparent “trends” in new television shows for that fall was that stories about men and issues related to their being men seemed central. No less than the...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 195-222)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 223-234)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 235-240)
  14. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    (pp. 241-241)