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Why Are So Many of Hollywood's American Macho Men Not American?

Gerard Butler shirtless Last weekend I took a dive into the bottom end of mainstream movie taste and rented Gamer, the unbelievably bad but kind of enjoyable sci-fi exploitation satire in which mind-controlled people are forced to participate in bloodsports.  The hero of the film is played by the genial and loutish Gerard Butler, who has spent the last few years as Hollywood's go-to macho dude (even though his breakthrough role was the titular Phantom from Phantom of the Opera).  But why do so many of America's favourite leading men come from overseas?

Butler is no great shakes as an actor, but he does an adequate job of filling in for one of Hollywood's favourite archetypes: The Macho Kill-Happy Hero Who Just Wants His Family Back, Or Wants Revenge On The Gods For Killing His Family, Or Something.  And when Hollywood wants to crank out one of these testosterone fests, they go to Scotland. Or Australia. Or anywhere that people look sufficiently white and jut-jawed.  Sam Worthington, the current contender, is Australian.  Mel Gibson.  Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Hugh Jackman.  How about the Batman franchise, one of America's most potent modern myths?  Christian Bale facing off against Heath Ledger.  I'm tempted to think that the only authentic masculine American idiom belongs to African-American actors.

Gerard Butler in sunglasses 

Gerard Butler, Man of Moobs

The best explanation I can come up with is that other countries have a better grasp on American's imagination than America does.  This is a function of America's cultural preeminence in the Western world over the last seventy years or so; we all look towards the States. We consume American movies, American music, American style.  Other countries have the debatable privilege of listening in while America talks in its sleep.

America's mass bends the continuum of the world's attention.  Our imaginations all slide down the slope of the gravity well it creates.  Our imaginations, and the Gerard Butlers of the world.







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Comments

Liline

it's true too on tv, though not necessarily in macho roles. Still, Simon Baker, Hugh Laurie, Owain Yeoman (big strong rigsby on mentalist), Ed Westwick...

Palinode

@Liline I forgot about Hugh Laurie. He's my favourite fake American.

sassystitcher

Why you gotta call my pretend boyfriend out on the moobs? He just wants his family back...or respect...or to rip up the guy who killed his family into teeny pieces...where's the love?

Lynnette

Actually, Mel Gibson was born in New York.

Palinode

@Lynnette This is true, but since Gibson moved to Australia as a child, grew up there and got his start in movies there, I'd consider him a safe bet for Australian.

Tiffany

Palinode, I think this means you need to make your career in Hollywood. You're a shoo-in. They need a Canadian non-American machoman.

Palinode

@Tiffany - Well, I'm about the same height as Mel Gibson. And I don't have moobs like Gerard Butler.

incognito

Titular. Heh.

helenel

Can we count Jason Statham? He's very actiony. And non-American.
Now, see, Vin Diesel is like the American version of Jason Statham. (I'm thinking "XXX" v. "The Transporter".)
Who is cooler? Statham by a mile.

Julie

What about Viggo Mortenson?? Granted he's half Danish, but he was born in New York.




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